Lifestyle essentials: products & services – our latest finds

One of the most popular elements of the A&G website is the products and services we have nicknamed lifestyle essentials. If you are an A&G regular, you’ll know this is an area of our free online magazine that we feature regularly. So here are our latest finds that we’ve tried recently and can heartily recommend to you…

I can’t believe it’s not leather!

In all honesty, I cannot tell the difference between leather and the microsuede uppers of these vegan friendly sandals. The microsuede – a soft material made of millions of fine polyester fibres – is so realistic.

These Calim cross-over sandals (available in Chestnut, Black or Zebra print) have a moulded base which is very cosseting for your feet and they are generously sized – I’m currently enjoying wearing size 8 with ease even though I am more like an 8½.

I’ve happily sauntered around Sainsburys in them, danced in them while listening to Greatest Hits radio, and done a 100 yard dash to escape a sudden thunderstorm and not come a cropper. The wide cross straps offer comfort and support and an added bonus is that they look rather on trend styling-wise.

They are available from a company called Bedroom Athletics and cost £30. Check out their website for more info

Coffee pod recycler

Lifestyle essentials: products & services - our latest finds  Coffee pod recycler - really works and only £9.99

Another brilliant suggestion from my friend Bumble. She and I are coffee fanatics and here is a truly practical solution to recycling the coffee pods so many of us use every week.

No working parts to go wrong, you simply place the used coffee pods into the EcoPress one at a time, press down to compress your used aluminium coffee capsules, rinse and pop into your recycling bin at home.

The EcoPress bucket (which is dishwasher safe) will hold the coffee grounds of up to 10 aluminium coffee capsules. And the grounds can be sprinkled on your garden because they contain several key minerals for plant growth — nitrogen, calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, magnesium and chromium – and they help attract worms which are great for soil aeration.

Dualit £9.99 More info

Another innovative idea from Joseph Joseph

I’ve already raved about Joseph Joseph hygienic cutting boards and here’s another great idea from this quality brand. The award winning Totem Max Waste & Recycling Bin.

It has different compartments for your food waste, general waste and recycling so you can easily separate it out with just one space saving unit. There is also an integrated odour control with replaceable carbon filters, so no more smelly bins.

Available in various sizes. More info here

Cards in a tin

If you like playing bridge or are looking for a great gift for a friend, then look no further.

Cards in a Tin is a travel pack containing two packs of luxury playing cards in navy and duck egg. It’s always useful to have a pack handy – to take on holiday, use for impromptu games with the grandchildren or a game of solitaire.

From Bridge in the Box £20 More info

After the rain…

We older women would probably count a really hydrating hand cream as an essential rather than a luxury. I know there are so many on the market and they probably all have approximately the same benefits, so our choice may sometimes be influenced by the fragrance.

I’ve been using After The Rain by Arran Sense of Scotland, for a couple of months now. I keep it by my computer so that I remember to regularly moisturise my hands. This particular handcream contains active plant ingredients to promote deep hydration that lasts up to 72 hours and helps reduce the signs of ageing (essential with my wrinkly old hands!)

I find it really effective and, as a bonus, a very gentle lime, rose and sandalwood fragrance wafts up to my nose as I type. But how to describe this fresh floral fragrance to you? Well After the Rain was inspired by the scent of a summer garden on the Isle of Arran following a rain shower. Hopefully that will give you some idea. £12. More info

Letters from Lockdown

I often listen to Radio 4 when I’m in the kitchen ironing or prepping supper. The other day I heard newsreader and presenter Natasha Kaplinsky talking about how, each day after homeschooling her children during lockdown, she would ask them to write a letter to a relative to find out how they were coping.

After a while, she and her kids started writing to famous people – including Mary Berry, Ed Sheeran, Malala and even the Pope.

Makes fascinating reading… all profits go to Barnardo’s, of which Natasha is the current President.

Kindle £4.99 and paperback £7.49. Buy your copy here

How to stay tranquil….

Last week I treated myself to another handwash from the M&S Apothecary range – this time I went for Tranquil, which is made from essential oils of cypress, armoise and thyme – ingredients that all have a calming, soothing effect.

Stylish packaging that won’t shame your bathroom or loo, vegan and very reasonably priced. See the whole Apothecary range here.

Happiness guaranteed

One of the wonderful (and, as it turns out, long lasting) gifts I was treated to for my birthday last month was a bouquet of fragrant flowers from Bloom & Wild.

They arrived in a flat cardboard box in the post with protective net over the buds. There were enough flowers for two vases and I was thrilled with them.

But I was even more delighted when I spotted the card that came with the bouquet, which explained there were two more bouquets to come over the next few weeks.

When the second bouquet arrived it felt like such a treat. After about four days however, I noticed that a couple of the stems were drooping. Ordinarily it wouldn’t have bothered me because I probably should have trimmed the stems after a couple of days or refreshed the water. But it occurred to me that it was a good opportunity to test out Bloom & Wild’s claim that “If something isn’t 100% perfect, our Customer Delight team will always go the extra mile to make it right.”

Well I am delighted to report that I got a very fast response to my email and that the Bloom & Wild team kept their promise. Not something to be sniffed at when you think of the rubbish customer care so many companies and organisations offer us these days (try contacting the DVLA for example!)

Someone you know got a birthday coming up? Well there’s a £10 off offer on their website at the time of writing. Check it out here

More lifestyle essential products can be found here