December products – haircare, chocolate bodycare, and Harry Potter bath products

Dec 18 empties

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with empties this year. I want to be a bit more selective – so if something was just ok or I’ve talked about it before, I probably won’t mention it again. I think I’ll limit them to 15 items too so that they don’t get too long!

1. Hotel Chocolat body lotion

This chocolate body lotion was amazing! I mentioned it a couple of months ago when I got it for my birthday, but I wanted to mention it again here because it’s such a lovely range and I’m looking forward to trying out more of the products. Hotel Chocolat is only really known for its main product, the chocolate, but this lovely gentle and delicious-smelling skincare is well worth a mention as well.

2. Caffeinated shampoo and conditioner

I managed to get hold of one sample of shampoo and to of conditioner, which given the length of my hair, worked out well when I used them all together. The idea with this is that the caffeine stimulates the hair follicles, so it’s really something you would need to use for a longer time before you could say whether it was working. Still, why does something that does a good thing like that have to smell so bad? Really, it was awful! That combined with the tingly sensation that you get if you use a mint scalp massage treatment. I’m not convinced. I would love the benefits that this promises, but I’d have to slather on something nice afterwards like a hair mist or my mango detangler. This felt more like something you endure for good results than a pleasant treat for the hair.

3. Guava hand cream

I said how much I liked the guava body butter from Korres, and I picked up the hand cream in the same scent as well. These are nice, generous tubes, and out of the two hand creams I’ve tried from Korres, I liked this guava one more. Partly because the guava scent was more prominent, but I felt it was a bit more nourishing too. I try out a lot of hand creams and something has to be good for me to buy it again, but I would get this again!

4. Naughty elf

Want a cosy night in? Get yourself a naughty elf from Lush! Well they seem to have sold out now, but see if he comes back in the Christmas 2019 collection. Anyway, I heard about the naughty elf bubble bar in a review, and as bubble bars are my favourite thing from Lush and I love citrus scents, he sounded right up my street! I find with bath bombs, you have to add bubble bath too, but these are just a treat on their own. You could snap him in half if you wanted to get another bath out of him. He apparently looks a bit like Father Christmas and is not how you’d expect an elf to look. Also he turns your bathwater red!

5. Spot zap fix

Not at all glamorous. Maybe you don’t have those monthly hormonal breakouts, but if you do, this zap fix is just the thing. It’s like a pen with a roller that you apply to clean skin and I haven’t found anything that takes breakouts down as fast as this. I’ve already got another one – two in fact because they were on Black Friday half price! It says it’s for teenagers, but I don’t really care if it does the job.

6. Korres hair mask

I have talked about this hair mask before, but although there are a lot of hair masks that I think were nice enough, this is one that I go back to. It comes in a tube, which means you don’t get the product wet by dipping into it. It contains almond and linseed extracts, so isn’t floral, like some masks. It also contains shea butter to help your hair stay moisturised and protect against split ends. It also claims to control static and prevent frizzy hair, although this isn’t a problem I have, so I can’t say how true this is.

7. Nails Inc hand mask

I hated this so much! It was sticky and smelled of alcohol. The hands were modelled on someone whose hands are twice the size of mine. I won’t be buying this again! It wasn’t particularly cheap either, and there are much better hand masks on the market.

8. Elizabeth Arden Prevage serum

I got a mini sample of this Prevage serum in a bag of free products after stocking up in the Feelunique Black Friday sale. This has become my favourite place to buy beauty and skincare! 50ml of this costs £170, and it’s not something I would usually go out and buy, but it was by far the best thing in the free gift. It is packed with antioxidants, apparently the most powerful antioxidant available today, and primarily helps the skin to fight the effects of environmental aggression. It was a sample, and I therefore couldn’t use it long enough to say whether it really made a difference, but as serums go, I enjoyed using it. I doubt I would shell out £170!

9. Banana shower gel

I have mentioned this before, but I get the feeling the banana range is mainly known for the haircare. There are other things as well though such as the body butter and the shower gel that are also worth checking out if you prefer the fruity scents.

10. Aveda shampoo

I got this cherry almond shampoo when I was on the Lookfantastic site, spending my Glossy points. I wanted to try something from aveda because I’d heard good things about the brand. It’s a 98% natural lightweight shampoo with cherry blossom and almond oil to clean your hair and leave it silky and glossy. I’m not very faithful to shampoos, but I’d pick this up again.

11. Philip Kingsley conditioner

This isn’t a brand that I’d usually reach for, but I got the body-building conditioner in my Glossybox advent calendar. It was nice enough as a conditioner, though I can’t say that I noticed increased volume in my hair or that I would run out and get it again.

12. Strawberry cupcake shower gel

This was something else that we got in the Glossybox calendar. Some people would find this too sweet, but the whole range is based on desserts, so you expect them to be sweet. My favourites from this brand are the lemon and cherry ranges, but I was happy to use this strawberry shower gel too.

13. Fuji green tea shampoo and conditioner

We got this purifying shampoo and hydrating conditioner in the Body Shop calendar. The only reason I wouldn’t get these again is that I like other hair products from the Body Shop more, and out of the two I probably preferred the conditioner for hair that needs a bit of nourishment. If you’re looking for something from the Body Shop and you don’t like the fruity ranges, this would definitely be something I could recommend.

14. Rituals Hamam shower gel

I got a small sample of this in the December Tili box. I like Rituals scents, but this one knocks you out with the eucalyptus! Fine if you have a cold and need to clear the airwaves, but I think otherwise I’d choose one of their other scents!

15. Harry Potter bath bombs

I got a set of these for Christmas. I’m not sure if they were limited edition from Superdrug as I can’t find them now, but if you get them, be warned! They are a bit of fun, and the designs are cool, but the cauldron one turns your water black, the golden snitch one makes it look as if you’ve been bathing in urine, and the Gryffindor one makes it look as though you’ve been bathing in blood! Just so you know! They are very big and smell quite good. In fact, I was blissfully aware of the strangely coloured water until it was pointed out to me later, but I think I was at a distinct advantage not being able to see it!

So, what products have you enjoyed recently?

Discounts and offers

And finally if you’ve made it this far – just a reminder that I have some affiliate discount codes for you:

Feelunique – 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.

Glossybox – you can get 20% off your first box by using my code KIRSTY-RGE when you place your first order on the Glossybox site.

Ocado – if you would like me to send you an invitation to Ocado, just fill out your details using the form below. You will receive a £20 voucher for your first shop, and a free smart pass, which gives you free deliveries for one year (minimum spend applies).

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An afternoon at Hogwarts – Harry Potter studio tour

It’s been on our list of things to do for a while, and on Tuesday S and I went to the wonderful world of wizardry in Watford! We drove to Watford for an afternoon of spells, magic, and snowy owls!

Outside you can see the wizard chess pieces, which are enormous. I was only able to reach a hoof. Ok I’m not very tall, but they weigh around 226 kg, so you can imagine how big they are.

If you need a signed tour or one with audio description, these are available, but you need to book two weeks in advance because people are brought in specifically to do them. We booked quite spontaneously and wanted to go during our week off, so we didn’t have audio description, but S described what he was looking at, and there was also a lot of information available on the digital guide. The guide is mainly interviews with people who worked on the film, designers, make-up artists, directors, and the cast themselves. A person with no sight will not be able to interact with the guide independently as it’s a touch screen, but it certainly saves someone else with you from doing a lot of reading!

I think my favourite interviews were with the animal trainers – no surprise to anyone who has been reading my blog for a while. How they trained the dogs that played Fang, how the ravens were easier to train than the owls, and how a large hare patronus was actually a deerhound in a glowing coat. The owls took six months to learn how to carry the letters. In dangerous scenes, part of it was done with real owls, but when it came to an owl flying into a window, the real owl flew through an open window, and the bit where it connected with the glass was done using special effects.

Yes, I loved all the information about the animals, but it was also good to hear from the characters themselves about what it was like to basically grow up on the set during the 10 years in which the films were produced.

Everyone seemed really passionate about their work and about getting every little detail right – every prop, costume, and set. It didn’t just seem like a job to them. They wanted to recreate the Harry Potter world and make it as good as it could be on screen.

You watch a short video first, and then you are taken into the great hall, where so many important scenes took place. The floor is made of real York stone – they needed something robust that would stand up to so many feet walking over it. You then visit other places such as Dumbledore’s office, the potions classroom, the Weasley’s house, the night bus and Diagon Alley with its cobbled streets.

Portraits were used in different ways by different directors, but what we didn’t know before was that many of them were based on crew members, including one guy and his … you guessed it …dog!

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of dogs, here’s another fun fact – Dobby’s ears were based on a dog called Max, who used to hang out under the designers’ desks!

Halfway round we stopped in the café for a butterbeer – well we got the drinks that we wanted and shared a butterbeer, which is actually cream soda with butterscotch on top. I was glad I tried it, but I preferred my coffee!

There are three gift shops throughout the tour. One at the beginning/end, one in the forest, and one at the railway platform. They sell different things, so if you see something you like, you need to buy it in the shop where you see it. I ended up with quite a few things to remind us of our day, including an owl mug (of course!), a Gryffindor top, and a chocolate frog for my slider bracelet. I also got an enormous chocolate frog – which is cute in its own little way and I don’t want to eat him – but I’m sure I will!

I was conflicted about whether to take my white cane or my crutch with me. As S was guiding me, I couldn’t manage both, so I opted for the crutch because I thought we’d be doing a lot of walking. I was definitely glad of it by the end! The staff were helpful and friendly. Other tourists didn’t care and shoved into it several times. It’s good I am not putting too much weight on it now. I resisted the temptation to give people bruised ankles, but it made me think of how difficult it must be for people who genuinely have balance problems or need a crutch/cane for support. People really don’t pay attention to where they’re going.

If you are blind, I would recommend trying out the audio described tour, although I can’t tell you anything about it. I had a good day and was able to get a lot out of it from the descriptions, information, and sound effects. If you like a really hands-on experience, this may not be as good for you as most things are behind bars and you are asked not to touch, and I’m not aware of any touch tours, but I don’t think you need this because there are other ways to enjoy the experience, such as the interviews and the sound effects.

The most impressive thing for S was the huge model of Hogwarts, which is the last thing you come to before leaving the tour. You can walk all the way around it and see every little detail of all the parts of the castle and its surroundings. Every external shot of the castle was filmed using this model, and it kept being remodelled as new parts of the castle were described in the books. This is until the final scenes when parts of the castle were destroyed – that was done with computer graphics so no harm came to the actual model.

I think my favourite part was the enchanted forest – partly because it’s about animals, but also because it was a more immersive experience. You could feel the forest flor under foot, and hear the animals and the wolves howling. You’ll see buckbeak and a centaur as you walk through. Watch out though if you’re not a fan of spiders, because you know that a massive one lives in the forest!

Around the exhibition there are 6 stamp machines, which you can use to collect six stamps to go in your Harry Potter passport. It’s good because the stamps are raised and I could feel them, especially basic shapes, such as the snitch and the 9 on the platform 9 3/4.

If you want photo opportunities, you can take your own, such as pushing a trolley through the wall on the platform, or sitting in the flying car. You can also get pictures in robes for a wanted wizard poster, or you can sit on a broom and watch the scenery as you fly over.

I certainly hadn’t realised how different the wands were. You could buy them in the shop, and there were also wands on display. I knew they were all unique, but not that they were made of so many different materials with different shapes. Also, we learned that the real wands had to be reinforced with strengthening material to make them safe when the actors were using them.

It was a fun day out and I’d recommend it to anyone who loves Harry Potter and who wants to spend a few hours in his world! The tour takes around 3.5 hours, although apart from the first room and the video, you can go at your own pace. I like this because then you’re not stuck with a big group the whole way round, and you can spend more time on the things that particularly interest you. Also if it’s a bit too loud, like the fight with the death-eaters, you can move on. Or if you’re really interested in something, you can spend a bit longer finding out about that.

I’ve actually only read the books and not seen the films – I thought they had not been audio described. Amazon Prime has them with audio description, But it appears only in the US. Grr! Hopefully that will change, but it didn’t matter for the tour as I knew all the characters and film plots. In fact with the books I think you get inside the characters’ heads more, but that’s a debate for another day!

Afterwards we stopped off at Nana’s, a Lebanese restaurant nearby. We got a mixture of small dishes and I can highly recommend the baba ghanoush (smoked aubergines with tahini, garlic, and lemon!)

Have you been to the Harry Potter Studio tour? If so, what was your favourite part?

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