Lego is for adults too!

We use Lego for all sorts of things in our house.

When we needed to renovate the garden and change it from the overgrown danger zone of weeds and rubble to something that we could actually use, we built a Lego model to show how we wanted the end result to look. Sketching it out would not be useful to me, but if I could feel where things were going to go, I could have meaningful input.

When I was struggling with picture descriptions of technical diagrams on my course, we recreated them using Lego bricks. Descriptions are good enough most of the time, but sometimes you need a physical representation in front of you to get across a concept.

As a child, I created all kinds of things with Lego – not so much following how things should be built because I couldn’t see the diagrams, but creating my own. It’s a versatile, tactile toy – and there were horses too!

Now, as an adult, building Lego is also a fun activity for S and I to do together. You need good teamwork skills, especially when one person can’t see what you’re trying to build, or the steps that you need in order to get there.

You see it as an activity in team-building workshops, or even language learning classes, where one person gets to see the instruction pictures and the other has to build something based on the instructions from their partner.

That’s real life for us and it can be fun creating something together.

So that’s what we did on Christmas Day! We built the great hall from Harry Potter, and Hagrid’s hut, and a thestral-drawn carriage! (I had told S that I wanted to arrive at the wedding in a carriage drawn by fathiers, the mythical creatures from The Last Jedi. No chance of that seeing as fathiers don’t exist, but I have a thestral now!) And of course Buckbeak is adorable! But where was Fang?!

We laughed, we got frustrated when we thought one of the over 1000 tiny pieces was missing (it wasn’t!), we built something together, and we really had to think about how we communicated ideas – always a good skill to have. It was funny too that we both had the idea of buying Lego, among other things, for each other!

I’ve been to the great hall at Harry Potter world – you can read about it here. It was a lot of fun, but I think the best way to really understand how something like a building looks is to touch a shrunk-down 3d model of it. I don’t like touching random architecture in the real world – it’s often dirty, and in any event it doesn’t give you the whole picture – just lots of tiny, often insignificant random parts.

We created a slightly terrifying bendy snake, the great hall with all its tables and elaborate windows, impressive doors and arches, the tower with multiple levels, the phoenix, the huge roof beams, and all the little embellishments. Then there was Hagrid’s hut, with the pumpkin patch, the horrid executioner and poor Buckbeak, who was chained up.

Back of Harry Potter Great Hall and Hagrid's House Lego sets showing inside of buildings

I have read about some online text-based instructions for Lego. I think this is a really cool idea, but as we didn’t use them, I can’t review them here. I’ll certainly come back to it though if I get any sets and download the instructions so that I can try to do it myself. I wouldn’t get the colours right though unless maybe the colour sensor on my Seeing AI app could help me distinguish them.

I think the role of Lego in my life has changed now as an adult. I’m too old for the creative play that a child enjoys, but it definitely comes in handy for practical things, and I like the way that it can give a 3d representation of things from films that have previously only been described to me, or places that I’ve been loads of times, but still have no 3d image in my mind of how they look. Now we’ve built it, I plan to leave it up. Some people have pictures on the wall – so do I as it happens because my horses are a statement about what I like – but 3d scenes are also a lot of fun and a cool tactile addition to a room!

Thank you Lego, and thank you S!

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15 things you can do to have a Christmas that is better for the planet

I’m not going to do Blogmas this year, but I do have some Christmas content planned, and this is the first in my series of festive posts.

I’m not going to suggest things that are a good idea, but that I have no intention of doing myself. That seems a bit hypocritical, and I want to be real!

I think hand-made gifts are fab, but my craft skills are rubbish! I enjoy shopping, and we will have meat on our table this Christmas. But here are some things I do, or that I’ll be doing this year to make Christmas less of a strain on the planet.

1. Think how much food you really need

It’s easy to get carried away buying food, and nobody wants guests to go hungry. But if you end up throwing half of it in the bin, you’re wasting money and you’re also wasting the food. Buy a bit extra if you want to, but especially when you’ve got things with a short use-by date, think about what you and your guests are really likely to eat.

Following on from this idea, if there are things that nobody likes, don’t buy them just because of tradition. We don’t like Brussel sprouts or Christmas pudding, so I won’t be buying either of them!

2. Defrost your freezer before Christmas

If your freezer is full of ice, it will take more energy heat and you will have less room for food. Defrosting it before you buy your Christmas food means that you’ll fit more in there!

3. Be creative with left-overs

Don’t just throw food away because you have some left over. Think of other things you can make such as turkey curry, or home-made soups with left-over vegetables. If you didn’t eat all the fruit you bought, make some smoothies. If nobody finished the cheese board, cheese and crackers makes a good snack on its own.

4. Don’t leave lights on all the time

If there’s nobody there to enjoy them, you’re wasting electricity. Lights left on overnight when you’ve gone to bed are a fire hazard and outside lights can be confusing for wildlife.

5. Consider giving someone an experience or doing an activity with them

If you think your gift might end up at the back of a drawer, never to be seen again, maybe you can give someone an experience. This could be connected to their hobby, something new to learn, a new experience that you think they would enjoy, or something that they can do together with you. In our busy lives, sometimes gifts that involve spending time together are the most meaningful because you make memories together as well.

6. Use recycled or recyclable wrapping paper

Shiny paper with glitter can’t be recycled and it has to go straight in the bin after it’s been ripped off. Nothing with cellotape on it can go in the recycling. If you don’t use half a roll of cellotape, it’s easy enough to pull it off and then, as long as the paper is recyclable, it can go in the recycling. Just make sure you’ve removed any ribbons or other things that can’t be recycled.

Some people are now avoiding using cellotape altogether.

7. Consider using things other than wrapping paper

There are lots of options. Last year I bought a material sack for some of my gifts. This can be used for storing things or reused the following year. The same applies to gift boxes – I have a stack of them from 2 years ago that are now used for other things.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ll still be wrapping presents, but I am going to make better choices with wrapping paper this year.

8. Try to buy locally from small businesses

I love Christmas markets, and they are ideal for this. Not only do you have the benefit of finding some unique gifts that you won’t see in stores, but you can also support smaller local businesses at the same time.

Again, I have bought and shipped presents, especially when buying specific things like books, but I get some gifts from the Christmas market too.

9. Rent a Christmas tree

I didn’t even know this was a thing, but apparently there are garden centres that let you rent a Christmas tree and return it in January. The tree comes with a root and is growing in a pot, so after Christmas it can be returned outside.

There is an ongoing debate about plastic or real trees – plastic is bad for the environment, but killing loads of trees and not replanting them isn’t great either. We have had the same plastic one for the last five years and it will be good for many more, but if you want a real tree, renting one that can go outside again in January seems like a good idea to me – and I love that smell of real trees!

10. Grow your own Christmas tree

My Granddad used to do this. We brought the tree inside in its big ceramic pot, and after Christmas it was replanted in the garden. All was good – until the day the dog got tangled in the wire for the lights and pulled the whole thing over, covering the carpet with soil. The dog and the tree were unharmed, but my Nan was clearing it up for ages! But anyway, the idea of a tree that isn’t just chopped down for Christmas has always appealed to me more, providing you have space for it in the garden.

11. Recycle your tree

IF you are going to get a real tree that has been cut down, many councils offer recycling schemes so for unwanted trees. Just make sure you take off any tinsel or sparkly things before putting it out for recycling.

12. As well as the reindeer, think of feeding the birds

I was always convinced that we should put dog biscuits out for the reindeer. Maybe that was my not so subtle way of saying I knew what really happened to the food for Father Christmas and Rudolph!

The reindeer might not enjoy your tasty treats, but the birds will, so at this time of year when it’s harder for them to find food, why not put something out for the birds as well?

13. Take re-usable bags when you go Christmas shopping

For reasons mainly to do with accessibility, I do most of my shopping online. Yes, there is more packaging this way, though all the cardboard goes in the recycling or is used for disguising the shapes of awkward gifts. If I’m doing an order from a particular shop, I try to get everything that I want from that shop in one go. It cuts down the postage costs, but it also usually generates less packaging.

But, if you are going to the high street or Christmas market for your shopping, remember to take a bag for life with you. It’s not just that those 5p charges mount up, but one shopping trip can generate a lot of unwanted carrier bags.

14. Think about whether you want to send Christmas cards

I haven’t sent Christmas cards for years now. It’s nice to receive them, especially from people far away who you don’t see all the time, but it can get a bit much if you send them to all of your colleagues/customers/local friends.

If you are going to buy cards, can you find some out of recycled paper? Can you do some good at the same time by supporting a charity? Can you get them with no glitter or sparkly things so that they can be recycled if the recipient doesn’t want to keep them?

I have cards from when I was about 5 years old, and generally keep them if someone has gone to the trouble of making one or getting one Brailled. But you can’t keep them all.

Some people suggest e-cards, but if I’m not familiar with the site, I am dubious about clicking the links – there have been cases of emails posing to be e-cards that really unleash a virus or download spyware as soon as you click the link. So I don’t recommend sending e-cards – but how about just sending a personal message to people on one of the hundreds of channels we now have available, or making time to meet around Christmas time?

After all, good things come out of spontaneous Christmas meet-ups! I should know – the fact that a group of our friends couldn’t find a suitable date was how I ended up suggesting S and I meet up on our own nearly five years ago! He invited me to dinner and things went from there!

15. Recycle Christmas cards

If you have cards that you aren’t going to keep, look at which ones are recyclable and pop them in the recycling.

Another way of doing this is something my Nan used to do – if you find some with nice pictures, cut the picture out, use it as a gift tag next year, and recycle the rest.

There are plenty of other things that you can do. I specifically haven’t mentioned some of them because I don’t plan to do them, but I think every little helps, and if we all do even a few of these things, it can make a big difference.

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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!

More from Unseen Beauty

If you’d like to get my catch-up emails, usually once a week, you can sign up using this form.
The emails contain news of my new posts, other things that I’ve enjoyed (podcasts, posts from other bloggers, interesting articles etc), and any UK shopping information that I think my readers might like.

Blogmas 2018 – happy Christmas

It’s the last day of Blogmas! I managed the 24 days of blogging again!
A couple of times I nearly missed the deadline – usually at the weekend, because it’s easier to write posts when I’m already sitting at my desk in work mode!
I hope you’ve enjoyed the Christmas content this year. I’ve certainly enjoyed putting it together, as well as reading other people’s blogs and following their Christmas Vlogs.
I’m not going to write a long post today because I don’t imagine there will be a lot of time for reading. I would however like to thank all of my readers for reading, liking, commenting on or sharing my posts this year. I’ve gained new followers and got to know existing ones better. I’ve found out that some people were reading my posts even when I had no idea that they were! I’m going to talk more about this year on the blog in my 2018 round-up post, but I just wanted to say a quick thank-you here, and to wish everyone a happy Christmas and all the very best for 2019.
I also need to announce the last gift in the giveaway box. Remember that the giveaway is open until 31st December, and you have a chance to enter on each 2018 Blogmas post. So after all the Christmas activity has died down and you’re looking for something to do, it’s not too late to send in a few more entries!
So, whatever you’re doing, have a wonderful day!

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 – the final product for the giveaway box – it’s the Oils Of Life™ Intensely Revitalising Facial Oil – 30ml, which is worth £30.
Glossybox – seems it’s a day for the face oils! In Glossybox we got Mitchell & Peach Flora No.1 Fine Radiance Oil.

> 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 have been 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
8. Luxie Beauty highlighter brush
9. Himalayan charcoal face mask from the Body Shop.
10. Oils Of Life™ Intensely Revitalising Facial Oil

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 – it’s ok to take some time out or ask for help

This time last year I was talking about dealing with Christmas stress, and I seem to have come full circle!
It’s a fun time of year, but there’s also a lot to do, and different people will struggle with different things. I love organising things, but I know other people get stressed out by it. Not being organises stresses me out more! Sometimes you have a lot of people in one place for a number of days – people that you wouldn’t normally see, never mind stay with for a few days. Some people are worried about cooking for extra people, whereas others don’t mind the cooking, but hate the supermarket a week before Christmas. Some people are just tired after driving around to what feels like endless events/parties/school plays/meetings with friends/activities. Some people just don’t feel well – they’ve been busy and then get run down and catch a cold the day before Christmas Eve.
It’s too easy to divide people up into those who love the Christmas period with all its festive activities, and those who don’t!
You can still enjoy it, but feel a bit jaded by the time it gets to a week before Christmas.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that it’s important to ask for help if you need it.
I don’t mean the practical stuff – that’s important too, but I’m better at asking for a specific favour to fix a practical problem.
With other things though – if I’ve been feeling frazzled or stressed out, sad or overwhelmed – my usual plan is to just plough on through and not tell anyone. If I am not feeling ok, I usually just withdraw anyway and nobody even notices there’s a problem. I don’t intentionally hide it, it just doesn’t always occur to me to share.
That might be the only way if there really is noone around to help, but usually there is someone, even if we don’t see it straight away. In any event, when there is a partner or friends and family members who would love to help if they knew how, it’s good to let them.
Sometimes they can help by taking on a task that is causing you stress, or at least sharing it. Maybe the thing can be avoided all together or done in a different way.
Maybe it’ll just help people to know why you need a long bath and some alone time.
Maybe they didn’t realise there was a problem because different things stress out different people.
Maybe you just need a hug!
Whatever it is, it can sometimes feel like there’s a lot of pressure, particularly on social media, to be seen to be having fun and the “best Christmas time ever”. But sometimes, for whatever reasons, it doesn’t feel like that. And that’s ok.
So if you can’t wait for Christmas and you’re excited and happy, that’s great! But if you’re not, you don’t have to struggle on your own – whether that’s because of life events that make you not feel like celebrating, or just all the little things that mount up and make you want a bit of time out.

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 – It’s product 9 for the giveaway – a full-size Himalayan charcoal face mask from the Body Shop. The mask absorbs excess oil and purifies skin to leave a healthy glow.
Glossybox – this was cool! A fat eye stick from Eyeko. They’re available in 3 shades, and they’re a twist-up crayon eye shadow. I have a number of these, but none from this brand, so I was happy to try out a new one!

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
8. Luxie Beauty highlighter brush
9. Himalayan charcoal face mask from the Body Shop.
Product 10 coming tomorrow!

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 -10 things you can do to make Christmas more accessible for visually impaired friends or family members

After my last list post seemed to go down well, I thought I’d look at some things that people can do to make the festive season more accessible for friends or family members who are visually impaired. Of course everyone is different, so what I might find helpful might annoy someone else, so I’m just writing these from my perspective.
For a lot of blind or partially sighted people, the Christmas period is a lot of fun, just the same as it is for everyone else. However, if you’re out of your familiar surroundings or there are a lot of people around, tasks that people may do without thinking too much on a normal day can become more complicated because the surroundings are more busy or less predictable. So an offer of help might be welcome! And the best way to find out if someone needs a hand is to ask!
So here are just a few ideas!
1. Try to make any card or gift tags accessible. This is less of an issue if someone will be around to read them, but if you have time, there are services that print labels or cards in Braille, or you could learn to do it yourself. Just make sure that the person can read Braille first, as not all blind people can.
2. If Braille is not an option, typed messages are better than handwritten ones. There are apps that can read printed text – I usually scan and sort our post this way. Some are starting to decipher handwriting as well, but on the whole, you’ll have a better success rate with something that has been typed. Or, if you want to send a message, you could use channels that the person already uses such as email/Facebook/Twitter/Whatsapp, so the person can read your message independently.
3. Blindness and sensory sensitivity don’t always go together. In my case, they do, which means it’s hard for me to stay in a really noisy environment for a long time. Don’t take it personally if someone needs a break from the noise. If you’re organising event, could there be a space that’s a bit quieter away from loud music for anyone with sensory sensitivities?
4. Don’t let people go hungry at buffets. I’m more direct about what I want now, but I have gone hungry at buffets before because nobody offered to help and I didn’t want to be annoying or to struggle as I didn’t know what was there. You may also need to be aware of any food allergies or preferences if you’re making up a buffet plate for someone.
5. Offer to help with serving food. I am happy to dish up plates in my own kitchen, but if there are people sitting round a big table and serving themselves vegetables etc, I usually accept the help because there are so many other things on the table.
6. Games aren’t always accessible or fun! I guess this is a bit controversial because some people would rather everything is accessible. I don’t want people to stop doing things that they would have enjoyed just because I can’t join in, and I’d personally rather sit something out and observe (or look at my phone!) than try too hard to make something accessible, resulting in it taking twice as long or requiring so much concentration from me that it’s no longer fun. On the other hand, some games can be adapted with less hassle so that blind people can take part.
7. Invite – don’t assume. Just because a blind person may not get the full experience, such as going to see Christmas lights being turned on or attending a performance, they may still be interested in going to be a part of what’s going on. Some won’t – but you won’t know unless you ask. You can also build in more accessible elements to the trip, and some theatres and cinemas also offer audio description, which means the blind person can listen to an audio track of what’s going on.
8. Try to be mindful about not moving things. When a waiter comes to my table, I usually pick up my glass and have a drink. So if things are brought or taken away, nobody moves my glass. The reason I know where things are is because I remember the last place I put them! Also, if you’re at someone’s house, don’t leave unexpected trip hazards or random glasses of wine on the floor where people may need to walk!
9. Don’t overstep boundaries with guide dogs. Guide dogs have special diets. Many are allowed treats, but it’s up to the owner to decide when, how many, and what they can have. Don’t give treats to guide dogs without asking!
10. If someone has unwrapped a gift from you, it might not be obvious to them what it is! Be prepared to tell them, because whilst I will say “thank you” for a gift even if I have no idea what it is, it’s a bit embarrassing if I don’t know what I’ve got! You can avoid that awkward moment if you just volunteer the information yourself!
Most importantly – relax and behave normally! Making someone’s visual impairment into something of a big deal can actually make things more uncomfortable for everyone. Most people have strategies for getting round problems, and they can also ask for help if needed.
Is there anything you would add?

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 – yay it’s a body yoghurt! These are a bit lighter than the body butters and absorb quicker. This one is in the moringa scent – something that we’ve already had in the calendar and another floral product. Banana would have made me happier, but I’m still happy to get a body yoghurt.
Glossybox – today we got a deluxe sample of the Zelens Transformer Instant Renewal Mask. I’ve never tried anything from this brand, but I’ve heard great things about it, and it’s high-end skincare,so always nice to try a sample size before splashing out. The mask contains hyaluronic acid and sesame protein to plump and tighten the skin. This is a fairly small tube, but as the full size is £100, I’m not surprised! I’m looking forward to trying this out!

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
8. Luxie Beauty highlighter brush
Products 9 and 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 -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.

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 MUA Cosmic Vixen palette with 15 eye shadows.
7. Karmameju konjac sponge
8. Luxie Beauty highlighter brush
Products 9 and 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 -keeping fit this Winter with free, described work-outs

I don’t know about you, but around Christmas time there are more tasty treats on offer, maybe extra glasses of mulled wine or mince pies. So many of us plan to start a fitness regime in January, but really we don’t need to wait until then!
When I stopped my3-hour commute, which involved about 40 minutes walking each way, I knew I’d have to do something about staying fit. I wrote in my post about what I do to try and stay fit – including putting fitness training into my calendar like a meeting that I have to attend, and regularly spending time on the exercise bike and cross-trainer.
My sprained knee from the accident in August has meant that I had to limit some of my exercise activities for a while, particularly the workouts that involved putting my full weight on a leg that probably wouldn’t have taken it, but I’m getting back into it now because the joint needs exercise.
So taking some positive action around exercise doesn’t have to wait till January. You can join a gym, but there are plenty of other things that you can do at home too.
As someone who is visually impaired, one of the problems that I’ve come across is a lack of accessible home workouts. There are loads of videos on YouTube, but they often don’t describe what the person is doing very well, so if you can’t watch them, you can’t really follow along. This is frustrating.
You may remember a while ago I did an
interview with Mel from Blind Alive, who developed a series of accessible work-outs which you can do without being able to watch what the trainer is doing. All of the workouts come with text descriptions of the exercises, as well as individual sound tracks to describe each exercise or position in a bit more detail.
I’ve done the cardio ones and the weights ones so far, but I’m now going to be trying some more because Mel from Eyes Free Fitness is offering a really generous gift. From 21st November to 31st December 2018, all of the work-outs on Blind Alive/Eyes Free fitness are free. The company is closing its doors at the end of 2018, and before then, Mel would like as many people as possible to benefit from the workouts.
I’ve just downloaded the stretch workout, as well as some for yoga and Pilates, which are things that I’ve always been meaning to try and never got round to.
I’ve paid for some of these workouts in the past and I can confirm that they are really accessible, and the positions and exercises are described with words, in a way that I can follow. I would have got round to buying more of them even if they hadn’t been available for free, and I’d encourage anyone who is interested in accessible, described workouts to take a look at the Eyes Free Fitness site.
I downloaded the workouts straight onto my laptop from where I usually transfer them to Dropbox so I can have them with me on my phone wherever I am. There is also an app, which I’m told is accessible, although I can’t review it because I haven’t downloaded it yet.
Although the workouts are available for free, you can make a donation via Paypal, and I know a lot of work went into making these training programmes, so if you are able to give something, I would encourage you to do so. It’s not mandatory though in order to download the workouts.
This post was aimed a bit more at my visually impaired readers, but even if the workouts aren’t relevant to you, there are plenty of small things that you can do for self-care during the Christmas season. These include things like going for walks, which is a great way to clear your head as well as being a chance to get fresh air. Whatever else you may be drinking, try to make sure that you get plenty of water too. You may be having some late nights, but try and get a couple of early ones too so that you can catch up on your sleep.
What else will you be doing for self care in the next few weeks? 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 – I didn’t even know the Body Shop did 100ml hand creams, but there is a limited edition one in the British rose scent. The formula of these hand creams is really gentle and nourishing, and whilst rose isn’t usually my go-to fragrance, I’ll be happy to have this on my desk this Winter because my hands do get really dry.
Glossybox – today we got a highlighter brush from Luxie Beauty. I’m not actually familiar with this brand, but it says the brushes are hand-crafted using vegan and cruelty-free materials. As there is a highlighter palette in the giveaway, I’m putting this in as well.

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
8. Luxie Beauty highlighter brush
Products 9 and 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 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!

This post may contain affiliate links.

Blogmas 2018 – why do we associate robins with Christmas?

So, a question that went through my head the other day is – why do we have the Christmas robin? Not the Christmas pigeon or the Christmas crow?
I mean, they’re everywhere at Christmas time. On Christmas cards or pictures, and we have a few on our Christmas tree as well.
So I decided to try and find out.
Most of the articles I found made a link between the red breast of a robin and the red uniform worn by postmen in the UK in Victorian times. In fact, our Royal Mail postmen still wear red jackets or red shirts today. Red is considered a royal colour and also a colour that is seen on the Union Jack.
Christmas cards were just becoming popular during the Victorian period, and as the postman brought your cards, the association was made with the robin, which led to robins being depicted on the cards as well.
It also led to the postmen being called robins, although this name isn’t used nowadays.
I also learned that robins like to live in areas where there are big trees and hedgerows. As we started planting hedgerows to mark out the borders of our fields or gardens, robins and people started living closer together – or rather, the robins were encouraged to move closer to the humans. There are more species of birds around in the Summer, but in the Winter, the birds would need to find something to eat. When snow covers the ground, it makes it harder for birds to find food, which sometimes makes them bolder. They’re hungry and they need to find food. So it became more common to see robins on snowy scenes, which may have also contributed to their popularity on Christmas cards.
If you want to give the robins a helping hand in the Winter, they like berries or chopped apples, and mealworms. Especially if the ground is frozen over or there is snow, it’s important to give them access to water as well. Putting water out is good, but you also need to check that it hasn’t frozen over. If you put dried mealworms out, you can also soak them in water to help the birds get moisture in their diet.
Whether or not our affection for the robin has something to do with the Christmas association is unclear, but the robin was voted in 1960 as our national bird.
Have you seen many robins this year?

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 moringa shower gel. We had a shower gel a couple of days ago – I don’t mind another one, but it would have been nice to see some of the fruity products instead of another floral one. There are lovely ranges such as grapefruit, strawberry or raspberry – would have been good to see one of those instead. But never mind, this is a full-size one and I will use it.
Glossybox – this wasn’t something I’ve ever seen before – in fact I didn’t know that this brand did lip products. It’s the Inc.redible jelly lip quencher from Nails Inc. It’s a tinted lip balm in stick form with avocado, vitamin E, and rice bran oil. It doesn’t have a specific taste, but it is gentle and creamy on the lips.

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.