Beauty advent calendars 2018 -what has got my attention so far?

I know, I know, it’s way too early to be talking about anything Christmas-related, but when one of my readers mentioned that they didn’t know beauty advent calendars were a thing, I thought I’d do a quick post about them, and which ones have caught my eye so far this year. The other reason for doing this now is that they can sell out really quickly, so it pays to be on the company’s mailing list if you want to know when something is going to become available.

I’m not planning to do a comprehensive guide – other people do really comprehensive ones, and they are usually the bigger bloggers who have been sent a bunch of them to unbox on their YouTube channels so you can see what’s inside.

I don’t have people beating down my door to give me advent calendars, but I am super-nosey and do watch this kind of videos to find out which one I want to get each year.

Which ones have I had so far?

It all started in December 2016, when I got the Body Shop’s calendar . I’d just got interested in the Body Shop’s products, and thought this would be a really good way to test out a bunch of them. There were a few things that I didn’t use, but overall there was a good selection of skincare, a few make-up bits, and a couple of tools.

Then later in 2017 I came across a Sanctuary Spa one that was being sold at a discount because it hadn’t been sold the previous year. This was shortly after my stay in hospital and I thought it would be a nice treat to do in the summer, especially as there was a good selection of bath products in there for pamper night. There were a couple of random fillers too, such as a pastry cutter, but there were plenty of lotions and body washes, and this one wasn’t as expensive.

In December 2017 I was really lucky and had two – one that I got myself and one that was a gift from my Mum. The L’Occitane one was full of fairly small samples, but then the price of the actual products meant that larger samples of them would have made the calendar even more expensive. I love these products and I had got them hoping that there would be Braille on the packaging, as there is with the full-size ones, but this unfortunately wasn’t the case. Still, I think I’ve used just about everything that was in there and having a one-brand calendar is a good way to check out a lot of products from different lines. L’Occitane usually does multiple calendars, so you can choose your price point. Whenever people are talking about this brand they seem to say “this would be good for your Gran!” but there are some lovely scents in there and I don’t think you have to be a grandma to appreciate them! I’m in my 30s!

The gift that I got was the M&S calendar – really reasonably priced, although you do have to buy a bunch of stuff from M&S to qualify to buy it. My Mum helped out with that! The lovely thing about this was that it had a range of brands in there, and introduced me to skincare brands such as Gatineau and Rodial. I also loved the fragrance in there and kept about 75% of the products for myself.

So what’s available?

Of course you can still get the traditional chocolate calendars. I’ve seen ones for wine, gin or other alcoholic drinks, food ones, ones with toys or other things to collect. Some only have 12 doors, but most have 24 or 25.

In terms of beauty, there is a lot out there, so it’s really important to think about what’s important to you. For example, I do wear make-up, but I go for the ones that are more skincare-heavy, because I know I won’t use the powder eye shadows or baked highlighters. If nails are your thing, there are some specifically for just nail varnishes. There are also ones that lean more towards make-up, with no skincare at all. Good if you have sensitive skin or don’t like to try out a lot of new skincare products. There are other calendars that focus more on bathtime, and I know there are ones for candles too.

They also cover all price points, from £10 to over £300! Obviously if they’re really cheap, like a tenner, the quality isn’t going to be amazing, but you certainly don’t have to pay hundreds of pounds to get a good deal. It can be a lot of money to pay out in advance, but even if you look at one around the £100 mark, it works at around £2.50 for products that would usually cost a lot more, so if you can save the money and would use the products, it’s a good investment.

Some people try to avoid the spoilers all together, but I’d rather forfeit the element of surprise and gain the satisfaction of knowing that I want and would use the things inside.

The other thing to consider is what you want in the end – do you want to really get to know one brand, or do you want something from a beauty subscription or department store that will introduce you to a range of brands?

What has caught my eye this year?

To be honest, I wasn’t that excited about the Body Shop® calendar last year, but I like what they’ve done this year. There are three calendars available at different price points, and they include new products, as well as ones that will be coming out for Christmas 2018. The most expensive one has 14 full-size products, and the most affordable one still contains a lot of the most popular products, such as the body butters and hand creams. You can find all three of the advent calendars here and if you want to see what’s inside, just click on each one to see the list of products.

Something else that I’ll be keeping an eye on is the first calendar from Glossybox, with £300 worth of full-sized products. I’d like to know a bit more about what’s in there, but it will feature products from NARS, Crabtree and Evelyn, Bare Minerals and Real Techniques. It will cost £99, but £75 for subscribers, who receive a monthly beauty box. It’s not available yet, but if you are interested in signing up to become a subscriber and getting 20% off your first box, you can use my code KIRSTY-RGE when you place your first order on the Glossybox site.

Finally, there’s the Feelunique calendar. I’m not actually sure whether they did one last year, but I’ve been using this site more and more because of the good range of products on there, the fact that it’s accessible to me as a screenreader user, and the big sales that they have. The calendar will be worth £250, cost £75, and include brands such as Caudalie, Makeup Forever, and REN. Possibly more of a skincare one? Not sure, but if you’re interested, it’s worth getting on the mailing list to find out when it goes on sale in October.

Also, if you find anything you like before then, you can get £10 off your first Feel Unique order by going onto the site using my affiliate link. This offer is open to new customers only, and the minimum spend is £30.

So, will you be getting an advent calendar this year? If so, which one? Do you have a favourite one from previous years? Let me know in the comments!

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Hand-made tactile cards with Braille inside

I have a big plastic box that’s full of cards. Cards that people have made for me, that have special messages inside, or that I just can’t bring myself to throw out. The oldest ones are a birthday card that a teacher made me when I was five, and a card I made for my grandparents’ anniversary that has a smiling piggy on the front. I’m not sure about the connection between wedding anniversary and smiling piggy, but it made sense to me at the time.

I like receiving cards, but as many of them feel the same, I really appreciate it if someone goes to the trouble of finding one that is tactile or which has Braille writing inside. However, this isn’t always easy to do, and although I think there’s a bit more on offer now than when I was a child, most of the cards in the shops don’t have any special features that can be appreciated by someone with partial or no sight.

Understanding what’s written inside is another thing. It’s easier now that I live with S, but in the days before Facetime, I remember trying to get an image of a card with my phone so that I could text the message to my Mum and find out who had sent me money in my Christmas card!

That’s why I was interested to hear about Lynn Cox and her range of tactile Braille greetings cards.

I first met Lynn through an online forum for self-employed visually impaired people. I wanted to find out more about the cards and tell you about them too, so I arranged an interview with Lynn.

Lynn also sent me a sample of her work. Knowing that I love dogs, it’s one of the dog range, which can be made up for any occasion. The dog on the header image is on a Christmas card. Mine was on a Valentine’s card, and the design can also be used to go on other cards such as birthday, thank you etc.

The first thing I noticed was the perfume scent coming out of the envelope because these tactile cards are scented too!

The dog is running after his ball, and I can feel his furry outline – his legs as he’s running, his waggy tail, his furry snout, and his ball.

The message on the front and inside is in Braille and printed on the card. Lynn’s details are on the back, also in Braille, and personal messages for the recipient can be added on request.

I think it’s such a lovely idea and would encourage anyone with blind or partially sighted friends, children, colleagues or family members to check out Lynn and her cards. The cards start from £7, (there are additional charges for larger or custom-designed cards). That’s not much more than what you pay in the shops, and when you consider that you’re buying something that is hand-made and with additional touches that you can’t get in the shops, I think it’s very good value.

Here’s what I found out when I Skyped with Lynn a couple of weeks ago! It’s a good thing we skyped too – there was a lot of snow that day!

Why did you decide to start making tactile greetings cards?

I decided to make the cards because there were no quality products out there for people to buy if you wanted something tactile, scented, or with large print or Braille inside.

Also, as an artist, I was using my skills to exhibit artwork but none of it was affordable for people to have as a day-to-day product.

Can you describe one of your cards in terms of tactile features, writing inside, scent etc?

The dog one is a popular one. It’s a dog playing with the ball, running along with his mouth open.

I use Contrasting coloured paper for the card, and then draw with wool to create a line image of the dog and the ball. I like to look for very fluffy wool for the dog. He wears a little leather collar with a bell that jingles, and has a leather ball – so you have a variety of textures, the smell of the leather, and the sound of the bell. I also use little gem crystals to decorate the ball.

I like to use shapes that are easy for people to recognise by touch, such as the Christmas tree with a star on top. I also like to experiment with textures. I have a card with a guitar on the front, and I use metal for the strings.

Do you put Braille in all your cards?

All of the cards have messages in Braille and large print. There’s usually something on the front, such as “happy Easter”, something in the middle, and my contact details on the back.

How about the message inside the card?

I can add a personal message, either in Braille or in print if you send it to me with your order.

Do you send the cards directly to the recipient?

It’s up to you. I can either send it back to you, so that you can post it off yourself orgive it to the person, or I can send it directly to the recipient.

Do you send the cards internationally?

Yes, my cards go all over the world, although of course sending them internationally does mean that I need to know a bit further in advance as the post will take longer.

What other occasions do you make cards for?

My Mother’s Day cards are usually flowers or hearts. I spray them with some perfume as well. This won’t last for ever, but it’s nice for the recipient when they first open it. I put a man’s scent in if it’s for a man.

If you want one of the designs I already have, like the flowers or the dog, you can change the message on the front. If you want a whole new design, that would take longer and cost a bit more because it would be custom-made.

I think this is the first scented card I’ve come across. What do you do for Christmas cards?

I have an oil that smells like a Christmas tree. It’s pine with clove and a hint of ginger.

Do you make all of the cards yourself?

Yes, they are all hand-made. No two are ever exactly the same because I’m always on the look-out for new materials to use.

Why do you go for simple shapes?

I want people to be able to recognise them without having to ask what they are. You get some Christmas cards with a fire in the grate, a mantelpiece with cards on top and Christmas decorations hanging from it. But if there is too much detail, the individual shapes can get lost.

Do you have any special Easter cards?

I have one with 3 Easter eggs on it, all made of different materials. One of them has a fluffy chick coming out of it.

Then there’s an Easter bunny with a big fluffy tail and long ears.

How do you make sure that the shapes are right?

I use things like reindeer toys or cuddly toy owls. I still remember what a lot of things look like and tactile props like the toys help me to check things like reindeer antlers!

What cards do you want to make in the future?

I want to do a cat one! I love animals and a lot of my normal artwork is around animals such as horses and sheep. I also like doing musical instruments.

Where can people find out more about your cards?

You can go to my website. Or, if you want to ask me a question, you can send me an email.

Thank you Lynn for letting us know about your cards and I highly recommend that you go and check her out if you have anyone to buy cards for who is visually impaired. And yes, if my friends and family are reading this, I’d love to get one!

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Blogmas day 24 – happy Christmas in 23 languages

So, I’m not going t to write a lot today because I know people will be busy getting ready for Christmas and probably not have a lot of time for reading blogs. However, as a language lover and language teacher, I wanted to end with a link showing you Christmas wishes in the 23 languages of the EU. You can find it here.

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a little box that contained one of the L’Occitane perfumes. A lovely way to end the calendar.

In M&S there was a primer. Really, a primer for Christmas Eve? It’s not the last day of the calendar, but still I think the nice sparkly nail varnish would have been better behind this door! Ah well, it was ok, but not as nice as the primer from a couple of days ago.

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 22 – winter holiday tag

I don’t often do tag posts, but it’s Christmas and I want something light-hearted for today’s blog post – so here we go!

I was nominated by S & J from the Cozy Den – go and check them out if you haven’t already! They’re doing Blogmas too!

What is your favourite holiday tradition?
Hmm that’s a tough one because I love the time leading up to Christmas with all the fun of decorating the house, buying and wrapping presents, Christmas baking and visiting Christmas markets.

What are your favourite go-to winter lippies?
Hmm, I have so many. I have a lot of festive reds, and I like something with a satin finish or with “moisturising” on the label because my lips can get really dry this time of year.

What is your favourite winter scent?
It has to be a real Christmas tree. We don’t have one, but my grandparents did when I was a child and I loved that pine smell so much. Now, whenever I smell it, I immediately think of Christmas!

What is your go-to winter fashion trend?
I don’t have one, but I’m not one of those people who stand around in the cold with a skimpy dress and no coat! I love to be warm, so winter is a time to get out the fleeces, fluffy blankets and cosy jumpers! I’ve got a couple of really nice scarves too – a thick wool one, and one with an a sparkly owl that hangs from the middle.

Your all-time favourite holiday song?
I want something really original for this one! I know – last year there was a funny video doing the rounds on Facebook with goats singing Christmas songs! Wait, I need to find it now! Here! Merry Christmas from the goats!

Do you prefer to travel during the holidays or stay home?
I have spent a couple of Christmases away with some friends on the Isle of Wight, but I prefer to stay at home.

Your favourite winter skincare must haves?
Erm, all of the stuff from my advent calendars? If I can’t have that, then all the things you need for a pamper night – a relaxing bath, followed by a face mask. Not to mention something to take care of the lips, like a mango or pink grapefruit lip balm from Burt’s Bees!

Your favourite winter hair care must have?
I’d say the banana hair mask from the Body Shop!

Your favourite winter activity?
Either going to Christmas markets or going on wintry walks!

Your must-have winter beauty product?
I think this was meant to be make-up, but skincare is important too if you want to look your best!
I was really impressed with the night cream from Gatineau and as their skincare collection is on half-price at the moment at Feel Unique, I treated myself to it! There’s loads of other stuff in the sale at the moment, so if you are in the UK and want £10 off your first order, you can use my affiliate link!

Do you love the snow or hate it?
I love it when I don’t need to go anywhere and I can build a snowdog in peace! It’s not so much fun when you are struggling home from work, all the trains are cancelled and you need to queue for ages in the taxi queue because the snow has melted and frozen over again!

One item on your wish list this year?
I didn’t actually make one, but I am pretty sure that Mother Christmas got me a new office chair – more about that next year!

Your favourite holiday treat?
Holiday food would be turkey with all the trimmings. But I think they mean something more indulgent than that – I’m not a fan of the traditional Christmas desserts, but I do like a slice of chocolate log!

Holiday shopping finished before December or last minute?
Somewhere in between. This is the latest I’ve ever been this year because the last present arrived today, but that’s just because I had an extra idea. Mostly I’m done by mid-December.

I’m not going to tag anyone, but if you feel like doing this tag, feel free to post your link in the comments!

The calendars

In L’Occitane there was a shower oil. I prefer the shower gels, but it was still a nice product.

In M&S there was a primer – I didn’t use it today because I had a can’t-really-be-bothered-with-a-lot-of-make-up-day, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it compares to my Benefit or Elf primers!

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 21 – how much do you know about reindeer?

When I was a child, I used to insist that we left something out for Rudolph and the other reindeer, not just Father Christmas. I thought they would rather like dog biscuits, so they got some of Cindy’s shapes! (It was just a coincidence that my guide dog shared the name with the dog with whom I grew up!) The shapes were always gone in the morning, so reindeer must like dog biscuits, right? Much more interesting than a plain old carrot?!

I didn’t know much about reindeer then!

A few days ago, I came across a blog post with 12 facts about reindeer. I’ve used it a couple of times in my lessons, and I thought I’d share it with you too!

I hope you enjoy it and learn something about Santa’s friends!

Do your children, or did you as a child leave food out for the reindeer?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was a Verbena handcream. It seems a bit more lightweight than the others, but I love that lemony scent!

In M&S there was something that will be passed on to Mother Christmas – a face oil! I don’t use them, but 19 hits and 2 misses so far is not at all bad for a calendar!

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 20 – 10 December favourites!

So, as I usually do my monthly favourites at this time of the month, I thought I’d share December’s as part of Blogmas.

1. Firstly I’d like to mention my phone. It’s a joint birthday and Christmas present from S and it means that I now have a main phone and a really old one that I can use for video calls at work. I didn’t want the newest model or anything, but I did need a faster one and one with more space for all my books and music, so I’ve really been appreciating my phone since I got it in September.

2. I don’t have an office secret Santa because I work for myself, so I bought myself a silly present today. I wasn’t actually looking for this, but when I saw it, it kind of sums me up – love owls, hate mornings and stupid behaviour so maybe I do have irritable owl syndrome as it says on this mug! I got it for myself anyway!

3. The next thing is something I got for Giving Tuesday and I was alerted to it from the lovely Kerry from Kerry Life and Loves – go check her out if you haven’t already! She said in one of her posts that Radley was doing a collaboration with the Dogs Trust and they’d brought out a range of backpacks and coin purses with the usual Radley dog, plus a range of other dogs based on real dogs at the Dogs Trust. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I got the retriever purse! It’s out of stock at the moment, but you can sign up to be notified when new stock comes in.

4. I was happy with my Red Carpet lipstick from Elf, so I got 2 more – Wine Tour and Touch of Berry. One is moisturising and one is satin – I don’t like lipsticks that really dry out your lips, so always look for ones that moisturise. These are a good price too, even with the shipping.

5. Blogmas! It’s been fun, although I struggled most at weekends and on days off where I try to spend as little time online as possible! I’m wondering whether I joined the party too late – so many people are doing Blogmas this year that I’m way behind with all the content that I wanted to read. I wonder if other people feel the same? I wonder if Bloguary or Blogpril would be better in terms of getting more people to see the content? I don’t know, but I have enjoyed taking part, coming up with Christmassy ideas, and of course reading the content that my blogging friends have been putting out.

6. Clinique make-up. I was kindly sent some money for Christmas from someone who is probably reading this, so thanks again! I’d heard really good things about the Clinique chubby sticks, so I got the sculpting highlight and the cream contour. Anyone who has been following my blog for a while will know about my love for cream rather than powder products, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed with these. Yes, you have to blend them well, and yes, this is a pain if you can’t see what you’re doing – but it’s much less of a pain than dealing with fall-out from powder if you can’t see it’s there, so this type of product has meant that I can do a lot more with my make-up than I did before. I’ve tried Clinique skincare before, but not the make-up, and I think it’s really good quality.

7. If you get the Latest in Beauty subscription box, they usually put in a couple of little free samples. Today was truffles and I very much approve of those, but what I wanted to tell you about was a little sample of the Lavera night cream. I liked it so much that I got the full-size one. Firstly it was the smell, which I loved, but I was also pleased to have found an organic cream that also left my skin feeling wonderful and soft.

8. Hot chocolate. Just because it’s winter and you can’t go wrong with a big mug of hot chocolate when it’s cold and you’re snuggled up in the warm. We like the Whispa one or Options orange sachets.

9. I’d never heard of Shay and Blue before, but I really liked their blood orange perfume that came in the M&S calendar. I would like to try out more citrus scents from this range in the new year – once I’ve used up some of the wonderful things from the calendars!

10. Time off! I love it! I spend so long in front of my laptop that a couple of days offline this week have done me the world of good! I’d definitely recommend it!

So, what things have you been enjoying this month?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was a shimmering cherry lotion – something I haven’t tried before, so I’m looking forward to that. I love a cherry scent!

In M&S there was a Pixie lip gloss. The only thing I’ve tried from Pixie is their glow tonic, so it’s good to have a look at one of their lip products too.

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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Blogmas day 19 – Christmas markets

So, do you know what the number one thing that you should do is when you’re planning a trip to a Christmas market? Make sure the Christmas market that you want to go to hasn’t been cancelled!

We didn’t do this, so we turned up in Reading at the place where the market should be, only to find no market! Not good! We did manage to find out online that it had been cancelled, but the information wasn’t easily available.

Anyway, I did find a stall with a lady selling some very cute owl rings, so not all was lost, and we kept with our original lunch plan of going to Comptoir Libanais (Lebanese canteen.

We ordered two starters and two mains, which we shared. We had grilled haloumi, pastry parcels with fetta, spinach and pine nuts, followed by a mixed grill and a chicken tagine (I actually wanted the lamb one, but they couldn’t take out the peppers). The restaurant was quite busy, always a good sign, and I would definitely recommend it and go back again.

After that we went to a Christmas market that had not been cancelled – the one in Winchester. It takes place in the grounds of the cathedral and there are plenty of stalls selling home-made gifts, food, mulled wine, Christmas decorations, and other hand-made goods. I was sorry I was so full from lunch because the food smelled great, but I couldn’t eat any more!

I did however find a cute little wolf pendant, a doggy cheese board (so a wooden board in the shape of a terrier for serving cheese), a cheese wheel for Christmas, a chocolate snowman from Holland, and I got a cup of mulled wine too – because that’s a fun thing to do at Christmas markets!

There was also the chance to go ice-skating, although we didn’t do it!

Have you been to any Christmas markets this year? If so, which are your favourites?

The calendars

IN L’Occitane there was another soap – not my favourite find, but they definitely last longer than the lotions and shower gels!

In M&S I got my first Leighton Denny nail varnish, and a 12ml one at that! This will get me in the festive mood later!

How about you?

Christmas tree in Stockholm

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