September – sunflowers and shielding birthday

September – sunflowers and shielding birthday

I was debating whether to write this post at all. Our household is still shielding, so I don’t have posts about the places we went or the things we did on our week off.

But the thing is, even though many people around us are going out and doing all the things, which is allowed now as we’re not under local lockdown, There are plenty of us who aren’t. It feels like we’re kind of under the radar now we’re in the minority, but we still have something to say. We’re still learning things, making connections, and enjoying the good things – even if that doesn’t involve going out, meeting up with people in person, and doing all the things we may have taken for granted before.

We’re still here. If you look in the right places, you can find that there are more of us. Doing that actually did me good, as did having a spring-clean of my feeds to remove people who think that the virus isn’t real, who believe their individual rights to do what they want are more important than helping to keep others safe, or who want to try and convince us that making informed choices about staying safe is just succumbing to fear and oppression.

I don’t want echo chambers, but neither do I want to see people promoting illegal gatherings, encouraging others to ignore measures to stop the spread of the virus, or behaving as though the lives of anyone who is not “fit and healthy” don’t matter. That’s offensive.

My not writing as often because we’re not going out and about this year just pushes us under the radar even more. So here’s my good things in September post!

The beginning of Autumn

I love Autumn. You won’t see me crying that Summer is over! I love it when the air is cold and fresh in the morning and you can get out the snuggly, fluffy things. I love the crisp leaves and the idea of new beginnings, that began as a child with the new school year, but has somehow followed mi into adulthood too. Ok, September is also my birthday month, so that’s a reason to like it, even if this year was a bit different.

There are still places to go where you can enjoy the nature – as far away from other people as possible, because sadly some people don’t understand about social distancing, or respect others who are clearly choosing to do it.

The birds don’t know what’s going on in the human world. They just carry on as they had before – in fact, studies have shown that some are singing more interesting songs now that they don’t have to compete with as much traffic noise.

Shopping

I know some people have had real problems with online grocery deliveries, especially during lockdown times. But Ocado has served us well. In September, they stopped selling Waitrose products, but at the same time started stocking M&S goods, which has been really good. I never shopped there before because they didn’t deliver. There are new foods to try, and I also ventured down the beauty and skincare isle!

And then of course there are Percy pigs and Colin the caterpillar!

I made the dangerous discovery that the Boots app works quite well with VoiceOver, and I prefer it to the web version with my screenreader. I may have got a little carried away, but fortunately I had the generous treat of some birthday money too! I stocked up on a few essentials, bought some new skincare to try, and treated myself to some makeup, including a Fenty cream highlighter, and some liquid eye shadows from Pixi and Too Faced.

The Body Shop brought back their vanilla pumpkin range, which I discovered last year that I actually liked! Usually I avoid everything with vanilla because it’s too sweet, but I like this fragrance and have already used up the hand cream! I still have a body butter and a shower gel on the go! I would link them, but they’ve sold out all ready. I’ll have another post soon about the Christmas ranges though.

Work

It was an interesting month at work because I pushed my boundaries and did a couple of new things. I was asked to speak about accessibility at a virtual meeting for local business owners, and I did a live interview on YouTube about my online English lessons for adults. The latter was new for me – the public speaking part of it wasn’t as scary as the fact that I didn’t know how many of the host’s rather large following would be there or watch later.

I’m really glad I did it though and it reminded me how sometimes it’s good to do things that make you feel a bit nervous or uncomfortable, because these things can help us to grow.

I also held my first paid webinar about helping businesses to make their Facebook posts more accessible to visually impaired customers. I hadn’t thought of doing one-off events like that, but I went with the suggestion and it worked out well, so I’m thinking about other topics for the future.

Week off and birthday

I didn’t tell many people about our week off because I didn’t want to answer the “where are you going” question for the millionth time. We had a week off at home. We didn’t do any work. We spent time together, cooked, read books, had time for hobbies, relaxed and recharged.

Yes, I see people doing things that we would like to do, but each household has to do their own risk assessment. Sometimes just enjoying what you have and what’s going well is a choice, and I have a lot to be grateful for.

I chose to enjoy our time off and my shielding birthday, which involved flowers (sunflowers are my favourite), a home-cooked meal, messages from friends and family, presents, and chocolate cake!

How was September for you?

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

Good things in August 2020

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

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

New course

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

University results

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

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

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

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

Next module booked

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

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

New products

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

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

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

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

Portable neck fan

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

New platform to try

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

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

Chocolate owls

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

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

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

New Turkish friends

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

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

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

Duolingo

I wrote before about improving my Turkish on Duolingo.

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

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

Baking bread

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

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

How was August for you?

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Something adorable, somewhere new, something funny – good things in September

Another month is over – almost – and it’s time to think about the good things in September!

Something I haven’t done before

Wedding fairs! I didn’t even know that they were a thing, but they are a good way to find suppliers, check out venues, and get inspiration for the big day. I want to do a specific post about wedding fairs, but I went to three in September and had a good time chatting to local businesses, collecting information for my wedding planning spreadsheet, and eating yummy cake!

Something that made me smile

Have you ever heard of a fridgezoo? I hadn’t until I encountered one at a friend’s house! They live in the fridge and react to the light when the door is opened. Ours is a walrus, and he talks to you in Japanese any time the fridge door is open! He makes me smile and you can find him here! I think the idea is that they warn you if small children open the fridge door, but they can be fun for adults as well!

Something unexpected

It’s always nice to win something! I am part of Heidi’s Body Shop at Home group on Facebook and she did a prize draw for a lovely set of shower gels. I was very happy to hear that I won the draw! If you want to check out Heidi’s group, you can find it here.

Something to do with nature

Autumn is here! It’s my favourite season because I’m not really a fan of the hot weather. I like the way that autumn feels like new beginnings – probably because that’s how it always used to be with the thought of going back to school. I like the cooler temperatures, and the way you can feel nature preparing for the winter. I like walking through the woods and feeling all the crunchy leaves. I like making pumpkin soup and getting out the cosy fleeces and woollies for snuggly evenings on the sofa with a good book and a big mug of hot chocolate!

Something adorable

There were two contenders for this, but we’ll go with the first one – all the animals that I met at the Miller’s Ark open day! You can read about our visit here, and you can see me with baby Lavender the donkey on this post! I need more donkeys in my life!

Somewhere new

I haven’t got round to writing up this post yet as we only did it at the end of last week, but we booked an alpaca walking experience for my birthday. I’d never come up close to an alpaca before and didn’t really know what they look like, so I was happy to find somewhere where you can go and meet them, feed them, and take them for a walk! You’ll be able to find out more about Humphrey the alpaca in one of my October posts.

Something to celebrate

September is my birthday month, so I took the whole week off at the end of September to celebrate it! I joked with my mum about getting old – because I’m in my late 30s – but really, getting old is a privilege. Not everyone is able to. So I never see it as a depressing thing – rather a chance to spend time with people I care about, share some cake (this year it was Harry Potter), and make good memories.

Something new to try

One of my birthday presents was this hair treatment from Kiehls. I might not have picked it up because it says for chemically processed hair or excessive heat styling – neither of which apply to me – but if you have long hair and want to give the ends some love, this is a good thing to try. I often use hair masks and rinse-out treatments, but this is one that you just comb through and leave in. It’s not cheap, but you don’t need much, and it doesn’t leave your hair feeling greasy.

Something delicious

On my birthday S and I went to a new Lebanese restaurant and found it was a really good choice. I can highly recommend the Lebanese House in Newbury. You can order main dishes, but we chose a selection of smaller dishes to share. I found plenty that I could have despite my allergy, and the mocktails were very good too!

Something I’m grateful for

Feeling better! I’m definitely grateful for that! I will be having treatment and tests for a while yet, but my medication was changed last week and I feel so much better for it. I don’t feel tired all the time or that I just want to curl up and tell everyone to $*%!. I still need to be checked to make sure it’s ok for me to stay on the medication longer-term, but I feel much better than I have been, and I’ve got some of my energy and motivation back – which makes me happy!
So, what have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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August 19 highlights – afternoon tea, friends, and a new owl bag

August was a bit of a tough month – for two years running! In some ways I’m happy it’s September, and not just because September is my birthday month. Some good things happened in August too though, so I’ve decided to write about them here!

1. Friends

I didn’t tell everyone at first about the hospital incident that resulted in my first aid post, but when I did, stop hiding and open up a bit, people were lovely. I had visitors. I caught up with people whom I hadn’t seen in ages. I had lovely messages. I had friends invite me round and give me a lift so I didn’t have to spend as long on my own the first night S was away. I don’t actually mind being on my own – I used to live on my own – but when you’ve been rushed to hospital in the middle of the night … things always feel worse in the night time.

Life gets busy and we don’t even mean not to keep in touch, but if you don’t make an effort to do it, you don’t get round to it, or it ends up taking ages. I didn’t enjoy the hospital experience, but it did remind me that I have a lovely network of people around me.

2. Replacement bag

My owl bag gets a lot of comments because he’s a bit unusual. I talked about him first a couple of years ago. We fixed him once with a new strap because I’d been carrying too much around, but his feathers were starting to get frayed at the bottom, the stitching round his ears was coming undone, and the metal that kept him together was starting to wear through. So S got me a replacement.

Apart from being an owl, and therefore fitting in with all my other owls, I love the tactile design with the textured feathers, the eyes and the sparkly beak!

3. Sushi restaurant

Thanks to someone who was only here for a visit, we discovered a new sushi restaurant. It’s delicious and I actually went 3 times in August! I’m not usually a fan of fish, but there are other types of sushi too. It’s always good to try out new places! Two more sets of friends want to try it out, so no doubt we’ll be back in September too!

4.New walking pals

I’m still having tests and can’t do some of my usual fitness activities, but I’ve found a few new people to go walking with for some exercise and fresh air. It’s so good to get out in the nature, especially on days when it isn’t so hot.

5. Securing my place on my next module

This academic year I’m doing the second half of my first year of my degree because I’m part-time. The first two modules came one after the other. The ones for October both start at the same time – so I’ll have more to do, but a longer break in the summer.

I had booked onto my 3rd IT module a while ago, but then I needed something else at the same level. Most other people going down the IT route did an entire module of maths, but I couldn’t bring myself to do that, so I chose a linguistics module as well.

This is one of the nice things about an open degree. I’m doing it so that I can use the knowledge I learn at work, rather than to apply for specific jobs, so I can customise it to make it as interesting and relevant as possible. As I already work in the language field, I think something related to this will be more useful than maths.

6. Wedding preparations

We didn’t make a lot of headway with wedding preparations – our August kind of got taken over by other things. There was a venue that we were considering. As it turned out, it didn’t offer what we were looking for, but we had a lovely meal there and a walk, so it was still a good day out.

7. My first afternoon tea

It’s taken other blogging friends to open my eyes to what’s about in terms of afternoon tea. I thought it was all about the tea, but most places will let you swap out the tea for coffee – this had me more interested in the idea, as did the fact that there were savoury as well as sweet treats.

Anyway I was talking to one of my friends and we decided to do an afternoon tea for her birthday. I’ll probably write a full post about it, but it happened in August, so it belongs in the August highlights.

8. Rain!

I know, I know – some people aren’t happy about it. But I really struggle with the heat, especially wen I’m supposed to be working. I’m more of an autumn kind of girl. So a couple of times this month I was doing a happy dance because we finally got some rain, which meant that things cooled down a bit.

I know it’s not so much fun for the people further north who had the floods. We didn’t get anything like that in the south and after a second lot of really hot weather, I was happy about the rain. Everything smells so fresh and alive afterwards too!

9. First customers for my new business

My new website EwK Services went live earlier this year. As I split out my businesses, some customers that wanted my translation or language services automatically transferred over to EwK Services, but it also got its first project that had nothing to do with my first business. For me, that was also a reason to celebrate.

10. New fan

Things only tend to break when you’re using them, and that was true for my fan too! It broke during that really hot spell that we had in July and I didn’t get round to replacing it until we had another really hot spell in August.

The one I bought wasn’t the most amazing in terms of power, but it’s small, portable, and can follow me around the house when I’m struggling with the heat. It’s a tower fan, so it doesn’t take up much space either.

The other nice thing was that it was available from Ocado, so I could pick it up with my groceries! I really like the fact that Ocado does home products and toiletries that you can just add to your basket along with your food.

The fan and I are now firm friends!

How about you?

My favourites posts used to be all about the things I’d bought. I have bought some things and I do plan on writing a couple of products posts in September, but good things can also be a walk in the nature, a good book, time with friends, or just taking some time out for self-care. This month I’ve had to take things a bit easier due to health reasons, but going at a slower pace and taking time to recover has also made me appreciate people, and the little things more.

How about you? What were your August highlights? Let me know in the comments!

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Good things in April 2019

I got a bit bored with my favourites posts because they were all quite samey, and often focussed on beauty products, which I know is less interesting for some of my readers. So I thought I’d try something else now, to make the posts a bit more varied. So here are my April highlights!

Something I bought

I’ve already been raving about my coffee machine! I’m really glad I got it!

I needed a way of keeping track of the capsules because I can’t read the pods. My first idea was to stick Braille labels on the boxes (text recognition apps don’t work so well on them). Anyway the idea with the Braille worked well enough, but it did look a bit untidy with all the capsule boxes.

Then I discovered some trays that slide out for your pods. The ones I bought hold 60 capsules each, and you can stack the trays if you want to have more than 6 types of coffee. The trays have raised squares to keep the pods in place. They might move about if you’re not careful, and you do need to put them in properly so they don’t get stuck. I now have a Braille list that sits on top of the trays. I’ve numbered the lines and written down which coffee is In each line of each drawer. I can still keep track of them, and it looks tidier in my coffee area – or coffee shrine as a friend recently called it!

Something I tried

Can you believe I’m still getting through advent calendar products? One of the things that was new to me was the almond milk and honey body lotion. I knew about the body butter and the body yoghurt, but I hadn’t come across the lotion before. It’s similar to the yoghurt, but it comes in a tube, so is arguably less messy and a bit more hygienic.

I like this gentle range and find the cream cooling as well. Sometimes my allergies cause a reaction on my skin too and I like something gentle like this for times when my skin has been irritated and needs something soothing. I was already a fan of this gentle formula, but I didn’t know about the lotion – so I’m happy they put one in the advent calendar.

Something I did

I’m all about the online networking. When you’re visually impaired, it really creates a level playing field. You don’t have to care if someone’s giving you eye contact, keep your place in the queue for coffee or see where the nearest toilets are. You don’t have to find your way to places you’ve never been before, or shell out on taxis because there’s no sensible way of getting there with public transport. I would do these things too, but I like the freedom I get from networking from my own desk, and have met interesting small business owners from other parts of the world that way. It’s less hassle, and as it’s not one of the first things I tell people, half of the people I speak with don’t even know I’m visually impaired. It’s not relevant for the discussions we’re having and as far as I’m concerned, not the most interesting thing about me.

Having said all that, I am aware that having an international business does mean that I don’t get to meet many new people locally. Yes, I have my friends, and I meet other people through them sometimes, but a lot of the people I used to meet in London were somehow either on the journey to work, or through work. I don’t have that now.

I decided to look for a local group of business owners. I quickly discounted any that sounded pretentious or that expected people to meet at 6:30 in the morning – because who can even put a sentence together at that time? I can’t! But I have found a Facebook group now and pushed myself out of my comfort zone by signing up to a face-to-face meeting too.

Something I read

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

This is a series of 8 books and I originally found out about them through another blog, though it was so long ago unfortunately I can’t remember who it was so that I can tag them.

I’m glad not to be living in central London now, but reading about it makes me feel a bit nostalgic. Without giving anything away, the books are based on the life and adventures of a young police officer who ends up getting involved in the supernatural cases in a world where the gods of the River Thames are actually people some of the time, ghosts are real, and magic is a thing that can be learned.

Normally I stay away from any crime or detective books. I’ve worked in the criminal justice system and it bugs me when things aren’t true to life. It’s way less glamorous than the TV series make it out to be. But in real life there is no old house where people go when they’re working on supernatural cases, so I had no expectations of it being like real life and could therefore just enjoy it for what it was – a story.

It does make sense if you read the books in order – many of the characters appear again and you build on the knowledge as you go along. However each book is a story and a case that can stand alone.

We listened to the audio books, and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, who narrates the Audible versions, does a really good job.

Something I watched

Star Trek – discovery

I wasn’t a Star Trek fan before, but S persuaded me to give it a go and yes, there are action scenes, but I hadn’t realised how much more depth there is in terms of learning about the characters, understanding different cultures, moral dilemmas, and teamwork. Also, this was set before the original series, so it doesn’t matter if you start watching it with no idea what comes next!

I’m not good at TV reviews and I don’t want to post any spoilers, but I would recommend it if sci-fi is your thing – or even if it isn’t!

Something I ate/drank

Pong! You’ll have to wait to see the review, but I signed up for a monthly cheese subscription called Pong, where you get a selection of cheeses sent to you by post each month. It’s a good way to try new things.

Something I learned

In this module of my Open University course we’re starting to work with Python, which I’m enjoying a lot more than the horrid drag and drop visual programming language that we had to work with in the last module. Ok, it’s only the basics at the moment, but this makes more sense to me, and that makes me happy!

Somewhere I went

We decided to make a day of the blogger event that I was invited to in Reading, and we also visited the Real Greek for lunch.

Something random that made me smile

I know that I probably don’t drink enough water. I know that I should probably do something about that – running on coffee alone isn’t the best, especially with the hot summer months coming up.

So I had the idea of putting a pint of water on my desk in the morning and refilling it in the afternoon. If it’s there next to me, I found that I am drinking it. If I don’t make the effort to put it there, I generally don’t bother.

So just changing my habit and making the effort is actually helping me to drink more water! I also decided to get this owl drinking glass so there’s one more owl in my collection!

What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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Good things in November

I’m trying to get my November favourites in before the end of November because tomorrow is the beginning of Blogmas! It’s a bit shorter this month because some of the things that I’ve been enjoying will get their own post as part of my Christmas content. I’ve been enjoying getting ready for Blogmas over the last couple of weeks, so I suppose that is a kind of favourite before I’ve even started!

1. Mango products!

We went for dinner with some friends who clearly know me very well! We hadn’t seen them for a while and I was given my birthday present – some delicious mango chocolates, which are not in the picture because by the time we got round to taking it, they had already been opened or eaten, and a selection of products from the Body Shop’s mango range. I think someone has been reading my blog!

There were firm favourites such as the mango shower gel, the mango body butter, and the mango body yoghurt – all of which I can definitely recommend. I also got the mango lip butter, which contains mango oil and smells good enough to eat, and the mango body scrub, which I hadn’t tried before, but which is a soluble sugar scrub. I don’t usually use physical scrubs, but if I do, this is the best type because it’s grainy and you get the scrubbing action, but because you’re using sugar particles, they dissolve and don’t stay around.

So all in all I’ve been walking around smelling like a giant mango!

We talk a lot about the Body Shop®’s festive scents, but if you know someone likes a specific line from the Body Shop, you can just as easily put together a lovely gift from that line.

2. Feelunique pick ‘n mix

I won’t talk about this at length because I wrote a post about it, but I enjoyed finding another way to try out some new products to test on the blog!

3. Toffee apple

This is really random and I hope my dentist isn’t reading this – but S brought me home one of these after bonfire night and I was intrigued to try it because I’d never had one before. The sweetness of the sugar and the crunchiness of the apple – I don’t want to think of how many calories were in that, but I’m glad I tried it!

4. New shampoo

I usually try out new shampoos and conditioners together, but on this occasion I just got the Aveda almond cherry shampoo when I was putting through a Lookfantastic order to claim my Glossy points. I thought I’d give it a go and had been meaning to try something from the brand for a while. I should really get the conditioner as well, but I was happy with Its performance and love the cherry scent!

5. Tili Urban Jungle

I don’t usually shop at QVC, but from time to time they bring out beauty boxes. The Urban Jungle box costs £20 and contains 11 products. The shower gel alone can cost £10 when it’s not on offer, so provided you would use most of the things in the box, it’s a good deal. I gave away the dry shampoo and the eye shadow, but even so, it was still worth my while and a chance to discover some new brands.

6. Completing the first part of my first module

I couldn’t bring myself to write that getting my first assignment in was a favourite, but we covered an interesting range of topics in the first module from website design to databases to creating sound media content. Some things weren’t new to me, whereas others really made my brain work (yay for binary and hexadecimal calculations), but all in all it was a good block and I passed my first two assignments!

The current block is not as much fun for me, but I am just focussing on getting it done so that I can move on to something more interesting and relevant.

7. More work on the house complete

It’s a work in progress and we have more plans for things that we want to do, but after my accident in the Summer, getting a bannister for the stairs came higher up the priority list. I didn’t have an accident on the stairs, and I can walk around unaided most of the time, but the leg is weaker and I don’t trust it yet, so having a bannister instead of the open stairwell makes me happy!

8. Shout out to our postman!

I do a lot of my shopping online, which only increases as Christmas approaches. Most of the delivery drivers are fine – apart from the ones that don’t knock even though you’re in, or the ones that leave a card saying “We left your package either on your property or with a neighbour” – very helpful!

I guess our postman sees more of me than many of his customers, but it’s the little things – he knows I have to make a dash down the stairs and also that this is harder for me at the moment, so he doesn’t just drop the parcels and run – or even worse, take them back. Time is money, but he waits. He also knows I’m visually impaired and usually says how many packages there are, rather than just handing me the bottom one and hoping I’ll realise it’s actually a stack of boxes. Just little things that make life easier.

What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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

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

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

Birthday and family time

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

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

New finds – skincare and make-up

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

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

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

New finds – food and home

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

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

Studying

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

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

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Giveaway

Don’t forget that the Autumn giveaway is open until 7th October. Click here if you want to see what you can win and how to enter.

Newly discovered and favourite things in August

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

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

1. Masktime

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Turkish

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

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

4. Apple micellar water and lime toner

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

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

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

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

5. My favourite serum ran out

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

6. Happy

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

7. Up close and personal with the owls

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

8. Body Shop club card event

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

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

9. Grapefruit bubble bath

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

10. Sorbet maker

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

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

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May favourites – haircare, keeping fit, and fruity chocolates

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

Haircare

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

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

Make-up

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

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

Owls, wolves and dogs

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

Bath and shower

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

Lifestyle !

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

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

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

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

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

Fragrance

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

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

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New and favourite things in April

I want to make these posts a bit more than favourites, so from now on I’m going to be talking about new things, things that have made life easier/better, as well as the usual favourites.

Bluetooth headset

My old headset was doing well – it was held together with sellotape on both sides, but one day it refused to charge any more and I knew I had to get a new one. I needed something that’s comfortable, because I wear a headset a lot of the time, something with good sound quality, a microphone, and for it to be wireless. The last headset I got was a gaming one – I’m not a gamer, but a lot of the requirements are the same.
Having a wireless one is good because although I usually sit at my desk, it gives me the freedom to pick up my wireless keyboard and work anywhere in the house without having to take my laptop along. This is also good for Dungeons and Dragons night because my stuff is easily portable and the added bonus is that nobody can see what I’m writing because there is no screen involved!

So, I was complaining about needing a new headset and S ordered one as a surprise – from, a site I hadn’t heard of before – scan.co.uk .
This is the one I got and I’m very happy with it.

a plastic storage box”

I don’t have the link for this, but we were in a craft shop looking for something else, when we came across some large, shallow plastic storage containers and I decided one of them would be perfect for my make-up.

It’s not that I have any embarrassing stories. I didn’t colour my eyes in with the bright red lip crayon because it felt like the eye crayons. I’m careful about knowing what everything is and labelling everything, but having set compartments for eye products, lipsticks, blushers, highlighters etc just makes everything quicker to find, and who doesn’t want to make life easier?

Make-up

Around Easter time I had some time off and I did a bit of make-up shopping.

I got the Clinique highlight and contour sticks for Christmas and discovered that they do a blusher too. There’s a range of colours – I got the plumped up peony. These are quite expensive, but they go on smoothly, are easy to blend, and you get a decent amount in the stick. They all feel the same, so I have marked them, but I think they are a good product and there are about 3 other colours if you want to have a choice.

I also tried one from another brand – Isadora, which is slightly cheaper than the Clinique one. I got the English rose blush stick, and these cream blushers make life so easy, particularly for people who can’t see what they’re doing. I’ve tried sticks, tubes and pots of products, but I always come back to the blusher sticks. You just have to remember to blend them properly!

I’ve already complained about the horrible eye shadow in my March empties, but I did get a couple more that were better.

I’d heard about 3ina make-up and I was interested to see that they did a selection of cream shadows too. I would say these are mid-range in terms of the price, but after applying this for the first time, I was told I needed another coat. Adding another coat did make it look better, but then because it’s cream to powder and there were two coats of it, it was a total pain to get it off again! Maybe in future I just need a thicker coat. This is definitely a formula that I can work with – it’s nice and creamy and goes on easily, but it seems the colour pay-off isn’t great and it’s therefore not as good as some of my similar ones that are cheaper. I’ll definitely use it, but probably won’t get any more.

I also got a Revlon Colorstay crème shadow, which was fine. It’s a bit firmer than some of the other creams, a bit like the Maybelline Color tattoo ones. I prefer the application of the 3ina one, but the Revlon one looked better afterwards and didn’t need a second coat.

Going back to the more high-end products, I picked up a Nars lipstick because I’d read good things about the formula and I like a satin finish that doesn’t dry out your lips. You can see the range here.

Skincare

A while ago I talked about the Body Shop® Oils of Life cream because I got a sample of it in the 2016 calendar. Last year I then got the full size because it’s such a lovely cream, especially in the Winter/early Spring when the weather is cold and your skin gets dried out because of being in heated buildings all the time. It’s not the cheapest night cream that they do, but if you feel that you want to give your face that extra bit of nourishment, I can really recommend this.

Haircare

I try to take good care of my hair, and I don’t use straighteners or other heated stylers on it, but it occurred to me that I could protect it by getting a blow drying spray because even in the Summer, I have to dry it to some extent because it’s so long. So I picked up the Percy and Reed perfect blow dry make-over spray. It’s one of those products where you can’t see the benefits, but protecting my hair from heat damage has to be a good thing.

I’ve never tried any haircare products from Molten Brown before, but I got a couple of samples in a beauty box and I really liked them! This is the <a href="https://www.moltonbrown.co.uk/store/bath-body/shampoo-conditioner-sets/purifying-hair-care-set-with-indian-cress/WBB319/#BVRRContainer&quot; purifying set for all hair types with Indian cress. I only had little 30ml testers and the full size is quite pricy, but this stuff is amazing and my hair was so soft and silky afterwards! Here’s where you can get the full size set.

So, have you tried any of these things? What have you been enjoying this month? Let me know in the comments!

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