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Retro chocolate bar lovers rejoice, Marathon bars are coming back

Marathon bar - Snickers
They’ll still have the same recipe as Snickers (Picture: Mars)

There was a beautiful time in the world, when Wham! were still making music, 99s still cost 99p, and you could leave your back door unlocked with no fear.

That all ended the day that Marathon was renamed Snickers in 1990, and it appears things have simply gotten darker and darker ever since.

Mars are trying to counteract this darkness, however, by bringing back the Marathon name for a short period of time.

The retro bars will be available in Morrisons stores for 12 weeks ( starting from September 9) before it goes back to Snickers.

Four will cost £1, and at 25p per bar that’s actually some pretty retro pricing too. That said, Mars haven’t confirmed what the price of the single Marathons will be.

Although it’s still going to be the exact same recipe as the Snickers we know and love, it’s always nice to hark back to a simpler time.

This is one blast from the past that people have been somewhat obsessed with since the rumour mill began turning on the topic. Back in 2006 – when Mars re-registered the Marathon name – it was widely discussed.

Just as Mars rebranded Starburst as Opal Fruits as a limited edition, fans were sure that the humble Marathon was coming back. However, it wasn’t to be.

Well, speculate no more chocolate lovers, for the gods have smiled on you. Get yours from Monday 9 September.

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Gorgeous table doubles as a succulent garden

Table doubles as a succulent garden
Plant parents, unite (Picture: Dustin Anthony/ Kickstarter)

Plant parents be warned, you’re about to be very tempted to make another unnecessary purchase.

A Kickstarter project has created a table that doubles as a succulent garden, so you have yet another way to add plants to your living space without cluttering it up with even more pots and stands.

The table – called BloomingTables – is made up of an acrylic tub that sits in a stand attached to legs.

You simply fill that tub with a layer of gravel (and activated charcoal, if you’re feeling fancy) then pop in succulents and cacti of your choice.

You won’t want to go for anything too tall, though, as the whole point of this little garden is that it doubles as a table.

Table doubles as a succulent garden
The glass top can be easily removed for watering (Picture: Dustin Anthony/ Kickstarter)

Over the top of your garden is a pane of glass that attaches with suction cups, allowing you to use the top as a coffee table or a spot to display your trinkets… or more plants.

When you need to water your succulent babies, you just pop off the glass lid, water, and place it back on. Easy.

The stand that your tub fits into makes sure the water won’t just leak all over the floor. No need to worry.

If you’re struck by a desperate need to have one of these in your home, you’re not alone.

Table doubles as a succulent garden picture: Dustin Anthony/ Kickstarter
Pop it near a window so your plant babies get plenty of light (Picture: Dustin Anthony/ Kickstarter)

The Kickstarter campaign has been fully funded by more than 200 backers, who pledged more than £30,000 to make BloomingTables a reality.

It’ll be a few months before the tables are made and ready for purchase, but you can still follow along on the updates through Kickstarter.

The creators say they were inspired to make the table out of their own addiction to bringing more and more plants into their homes.

‘We are so excited to share our love of plants with others through BloomingTables,’ they say. ‘As plant lovers, it wasn’t long before we were running out of places to keep our plants.

‘We wanted to find a way to bring more plants into our lives in a new and innovative way.

‘There are an abundance of stunning species of plants, and countless ways to create arrangements. However, there are limited options for the housing of indoor plants.

‘BloomingTables was born out of the idea that beautiful plants deserve beautiful homes. We have created a product that has brought character and joy into our home, and we want to share this experience with others.’

We reckon it’s only a matter of time before every cool interior design nerd has a garden table, topped with an array of coffee table books. We can’t wait.

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Strong Women: ‘I had heart failure at 27 – so a workout for me is walking to the shops’


Simone Gomez has cholangiocarcinoma – a serious heart condition that she was born with, but didn’t realise she had until she fell seriously ill in her 20s.

Now she’s on the road to recovery, but she has had to reevaluate her relationship with fitness because she can get out of breath just from walking.

‘I was born with a congenital heart defect,’ says Simone. ‘When I was at university, I kept falling asleep in lectures. I didn’t realise at the time, but I was having heart failure.

‘At age 27 I started feeling very unwell so went to hospital, initially nothing was detected so I was sent home but my mum took me to the specialist heart hospital and after tests I was diagnosed with heart failure.

‘The doctors said I was dying and needed to be admitted to hospital that night.’

Simone was terrified when doctors told her she would need an emergency heart transplant. The weeks of waiting to find a donor were almost unbearable.

‘I remember really well the morning I got a call from the hospital three months later, I was really scared but then they told me they’d found a donor heart.

‘Unfortunately I had a cold and it was decided I wasn’t well enough for the transplant – it was so disappointing, I dropped to the floor crying.

Simone Gomez
‘I couldn’t walk properly, I couldn’t move my right arm or hands and I lost my speech.’ (Picture: Simone Gomez)

‘The next week though I got another call from the hospital to say they had found another heart and this time I was well enough for the operation which was fantastic.’

Staying fit is crucial for Simone, but it is also difficult. Her condition also led to her having a stroke, which means simple movements can be challenging.

‘It is so important to me as I know I need to keep my heart strong,’ she says. ‘The stroke impacted my mobility, so I need to keep active to help this.

‘Personally I felt the gym put too much pressure on my new heart.

‘I didn’t feel my PT was giving me the type of help or advice I needed. I wanted to get some stamina and energy back, but the gym wasn’t the right way for me.

‘Also I suffer from anxiety so didn’t help having other gym goers looking at me which made me feel uncomfortable. So I found other physical activities I enjoy more, like walking with my partner and family and dancing.’

Simone has had to come to terms with her physical limitations and learn how to be kind to her body during her recovery. She has to know when to ease off and to find the benefits in the low intensity activities that she can do.

‘I remember being on the high dependency ward in Lewisham hospital,’ says Simone. ‘My mother was getting me ready to have a bath so she sat me up.

‘As she sat me up she had turned round for a split second. I fell back onto the bed – which made me laugh – but at that point I realised I had no balance. I also had no mobility on my right side.

‘I couldn’t walk properly, I couldn’t move my right arm or hands and I lost my speech.

‘Sometimes I wake up tired, walking can exhaust me but I do what I can,’ she adds. ‘I also play Let’s Dance with my partner, even doing housework or going to Sainsbury’s can be a workout for me, it all counts.

Simone Gomez
‘Sometimes I wake up tired, walking can exhaust me but I do what I can.’ (Picture: Simone Gomez)

‘Staying active helps to strengthen my heart and for me to get to know and understand my new heart. Its also helps me emotionally. It makes me feel good after knowing that I’ve done something positive that will benefit my health.’

For Simone, the hardest thing about her illness has been the emotional and mental side of recovery. Coming to terms with what had happened to her and contemplating her future was incredibly painful at times.

‘The hardest thing has been the emotional and mental side of the recovery,’ she tells us. ‘Dealing with all this in my twenties was so hard, I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. It was hard to accept being so young and going through this.’

Simone says she has even struggled with friendships as in the past she has had difficulty being open about her condition – even with the people who are close to her.

‘I found it hard to open up to friends, so they couldn’t really understand what I was going through, so some friendships drifted apart,’ says Simone.

‘My family and my partner see it all and it’s with them that I can share the ups and downs, they have seen me break down at my lowest points. I call my parents my comfort blanket, they have supported me so much.’

Simone’s family are a huge motivation for her, but alongside their support she also needs to do things for herself. Feeling like she still has purpose and direction is a huge driving force for her.

‘I love having a project that excites me,’ says Simone. ‘I did a media make up course at London College of Beauty Therapy which was amazing. I would love to be a freelance make-up artist in the future.’

Simone thinks it’s really important for people to become more aware of invisible illnesses: ‘Because I’m young and don’t look ill, people don’t think there’s anything wrong with me,’ Simone explains. ‘But I have good and bad days.’

‘If you know someone with a long-term heath condition maybe take time out to ask how they’re doing. And do some research to see how you can help support them.’

Simone is sharing her story as part of a new national campaign ‘We Are Undefeatable’. The campaign, backed by a collaboration of 15 leading health and social care charities, aims to challenge common misconceptions that people with long-term health conditions can’t be active.

Strong Women

Strong Women is a weekly series that champions diversity in the world of sport and fitness.

A Sport England study found that 40% of women were avoiding physical activity due to a fear of judgement.

But, contrary to the limited images we so often see, women of any age, size, race or ability can be active and enjoy sport and fitness.

We hope that by normalising diverse depictions of women who are fit, strong and love their bodies, we will empower all women to shed their self-consciousness when it comes to getting active.

Each week we talk to women who are redefining what it means to be strong and achieving incredible things.

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Fancy a treat? Restaurants in Chinatown give away 2,000 dumplings for free

Dumplings in a bowl and one held by chopsticks on a red/orange background
Fancy a freebie? (Picture: Getty)

Dumpling lovers, rejoice.

Ahead of National Dumpling Day, which takes place on Thursday 26 September, Chinatown has announced that 10 restaurants in the area will be giving away 2,000 soft, squishy treats to celebrate the occasion.

If you’ve only ever tried the classics – chicken, prawn, veg – then prepare yourself.

This dumpling feast will feature both sweet and savoury delights inspired by dishes from various Asian countries, such as Shanghainese xiao long bao to Cantonese sui mai, and Korean mandu to Japanese gyoza.

Each restaurant will offer one special dumpling for the day.

For instance, you can hop into Bun House to try a traditional custard bun, visit Yolkin for a dumpling-shaped macaron or swing by Dumplings’ Legend for a truffle pork xiao long bao.

If you prefer your dumplings deep-fried, look no further than Orient London, with its prawn dumplings.

The full list of the restaurants taking part and the dumplings on offer

Dumplings’ Legend: Truffle pork xiao long bao

Leong’s Legend: Spicy won ton

Rasa Sayang: Homemade fried chicken won ton

Orient London: Deep-fried prawn dumplings

Bun House: Traditional custard buns

Shanghai Modern: Pan-fried beef dumplings and pan-fried vegetable dumplings

Ichibuns: Mushroom and jicama Gyoza

New China: Grilled pork jiaozi

Olle: Korean beef mandu

Yolkin: Dumpling-shaped macarons filled with black sesame ganache

So, how do you score yourself a free dumpling?

Head down to Chinatown, near Leicester Square, on the day and visit any of the restaurants from noon onwards to nab yourself a taste of the Asian dish on offer.

Join the queue at a restaurant, eat your dumpling and on to the next one.

Be warned: the dishes are moreish (we have a feeling you’ll go back for seconds).

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I went on holiday with a Tinder match I’d known for a week


My phone buzzed at 2am. ‘Have you ever been to Barcelona?’ read his text. Twenty-four hours later, I was on a flight to sunny Spain hand-in-hand with a guy I had met on Tinder barely a week before.

It was only as the plane took off that reality hit: I was jetting off with someone I had only been on three dates with. Yet he’d been vetted by the world’s best wingman – Google – and I liked him an enormous amount, so what could go wrong?

I was also fresh out of a very toxic relationship and the surge of self-esteem from his endless compliments had become addictive, as was the idea that a decent looking bloke liked me enough to spend hours on a plane with me.

Samantha Kilford sits on a wall with a city vista behind her
Suddenly, somehow, our jaunty weekend away to Barcelona turned into a two-week vacation (Picture: Samantha Kilford)

This is the only way I can explain what happened next. Suddenly, somehow, our jaunty weekend away to Barcelona turned into a two-week vacation spanning Dubai, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

We sat on the beach in Spain, drinking wine and chatting, and danced salsa into the early hours. In Thailand, we wandered hand-in-hand round spice markets. In Bali, we shared candle-lit baths.

With my usual dates, I’d have spent hours perfecting my outfit, mentally indexing my fool-proof, charming anecdotes and pretending that I don’t suffer from crippling anxiety, insecurity about my looks or the fear that I am actually boring.

With Tinder Boy, all the dull formalities of dating went out the window: there was no time for such minutiae when there were sunsets to watch and empty roof-tops on which to slow dance.

However, forced to spend nearly every waking moment with each other, our flawless façades started to slip.

There really was nowhere to run. Very quickly, he saw me bare-faced, wearing my glasses as I donned my ugliest pair of pyjamas while brushing my teeth. I watched him work out which t-shirt matched his bright pink swim shorts.

We saw one another hungover first thing in the morning and coping with travel sickness.

We had our first argument in a Bangkok airport that led to us crying in front of each other for the first time. We dealt with delayed flights, traffic jams and battled the language barrier with hotel staff.

Samantha Kilford poses in a bikini beside a tropical swimming pool
I am an open book when it comes to romance, he was adamant love wasn’t for him (Picture: Samantha Kilford)

And in this intimate, domestic situation, it also became quickly apparent that we had absolutely nothing in common.

I learned that despite him being an entire foot and four inches taller than me, he loves being little spoon. I like my partner to be, well…big.

While I had been a shy, straight-A student, he had been expelled from every school in his city and was frequently in trouble with the law during his adolescence. It was a far cry from the suave businessman who had charmed me less than a week before.

I am an open book when it comes to romance, he was adamant love wasn’t for him and held his cards close to his chest often creating a somewhat hazy timeline of his past.

We were living in a bubble. Red flags that would have had me calling time on our romance back home were swept under the rug because, well, I didn’t want to be abandoned in a foreign country.

In Thailand, he blatantly checked out a girl’s rear in front of me after waxing lyrical about growing up around women and respecting females.

In a Malaysian airport, I saw him checking his ‘ex’s’ Instagram. He would later clarify it was another girl he had been bedding when he decided to try and woo me, but the damage had been done. The rose-tinted illusion of him as a modern-day Romeo was long gone.

Samantha Kilford poses on the end of a long boat in Thailand
I was clearly so desperate to feel desired that I rushed into it without considering the outcome (Picture: Samantha Kilford)

When we returned home, dating him became dull. His idea of a ‘date’ was staying in, having sex, drinking wine, watching a zombie movie and passing out on my lap.

Then one evening he was showing me something on his phone when a new Tinder match overtook the screen (days after boasting that he had deleted the app). I finally found the courage to call it quits after spotting an email confirming he had signed up for a SeekingArrangement account.

Up until this trip, the most reckless thing I had ever done was going back for seconds at the free sample stands in supermarkets.

But it did provide me with vital lessons in love. If someone is willing to jet off with you at the drop of a hat, they are probably running from something – and maybe so are you.

I was clearly so desperate to feel desired that I rushed into it without considering the outcome or whether I actually saw a future with him. I mistook what was really lust for the magic of love.

The spontaneity and thrill of travel offered something different from downing vodka cokes and then getting on the night bus all alone, drunk and disappointed.

There’s so much pressure to be spontaneous, to separate yourself from the millions of other lonely hearts swiping their way through dating apps. Apps can be a great way to meet new people but they make it difficult to focus on one person. You think Monday’s date is lovely, but then again, Thursday could also be the one.

They caused me to fixate so much on my love life that my attitude towards dating became pessimistic.

I’ve learnt to stop rushing in my search for ‘The One’. True love takes time and it can be brewed in a restaurant in England, in the cinema sitting in a Shoreditch cafe moaning about the weather – you don’t need to run off to the other side of the world to find it.

I want someone who makes me feel special whether we’re sipping daiquiris by the pool or looking at frozen pizzas in a supermarket.

Despite its dismal end, my experience has reaffirmed that I do not, and will not, give up on love. I crave the feeling of electricity, sparks, the poetic way that a kiss from your soulmate can make the world stop.

So long as my match is happy to keep it exciting every now and again, I’m perfectly content.

Last week in Love, Or Something Like It: Single people can teach us all about relationships

Write for Love, Or Something Like It

Love, Or Something Like It is a new series for Metro.co.uk covering everything from mating and dating to lust and loss, to find out what true love is and how we find it in the present day.

If you have a love story to share, email rosy.edwards@metro.co.uk

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What does having an anxiety disorder actually feel like? It’s very different to just being a worrier

Illustration request - How to use your inner monologue to overcome anxiety
Having an anxiety disorder is different to just feeling worried (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

We’re talking about mental health more and more, which is great, but it’s also causing a lot of people to be quite flippant with the term ‘anxiety

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is extremely different from our everyday concerns; everybody gets anxious, and everybody has worries – both are extremely regular and part of being human. It’s totally normal to be fretting about an event or occasion or plane trip or hospital appointment, but what about when those little worries are actually an enormous part of your life, and even start controlling it?

GAD is more common than you might think, with 3 million people in the UK estimated to suffer from an anxiety disorder.

Tossing around casual mentions of anxiety when you’re not a sufferer yourself is not only a bit cruel, but also hugely downplays the actual suffering that anxiety causes.

Counselor Peter Klein confirms this (and he specialises in treating anxiety, so would know), explaining that people with GAD ‘often have a persistent sense of inner restlessness that can make it impossible to feel a sense of calm. If someone with GAD sits down to rest they will often start worrying or be self critical for not being “on the move”. Their anxiety is further fuelled by a constant overestimation of many of life’s challenges, which makes many benign events appear like catastrophes waiting to happen.’

So, yeah, it’s a bit more than just getting nervous before you start a new job.

Amelia Eve-Warden tells Metro.co.uk that the feeling of anxiety for her is ‘as if something bad is going to happen to you in whatever circumstance, place or situation’. Not fun.

‘I could be sat in a meeting in my office with my loving teammates and feel like I’m internally dying,’ she says. ‘As soon as this implants in your brain, the panic hits, and you struggle to breathe, start to sweat and feel that you will either faint or be sick.

‘You feel as if you’re being put into a tight box and can’t get out.

‘It’s an endless feeling of ‘am I about to die?’ and it’s normally due to the enhanced emotion of panic that can escalate at any time, for no reason.’

This sounds really overwhelming – and it is. People with GAD find that it consumes most of their waking moments, and as Peter explains, anxiety ‘inflicts a lot of pain and damage in many people’s lives’.

Peter says: ‘Often sufferers miss out on relationships and job opportunities while having great difficulties maintaining any kind of existing relationship and generally finding joy in life.’

As much as anxiety is usually categorised under a problem with mental health, just like depression, it can also be physical.

Sufferer Robyn Henderson tells us: ‘When I’m anxious my stomach is in knots, I get rabbit-in-a-headlight eyes where I stare into space, and I go on an autopilot until I’m out of that wave. This often leads to feeling sick, being unable to eat, and sometimes panic attacks. Sometimes – especially the day after I’ve had alcohol – I’ll have these symptoms without any real situation or scenario to pinpoint the feeling on.’

Anxiety and worry are often differentiated by associating worry with something a lot more tangible (a meeting, a date, a trip, an event etc) whereas anxiety is far more of an overwhelming sense that something bad is about to happen at any moment.

Just like we’ve learned to not be flippant with our use of references to having OCD, it’s time to settle down and be realistic about using the term ‘anxiety’.

Those who have it are going through a real struggle, and your flippancy about choosing an outfit isn’t helping them be helped.

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health, you can find a qualified local counsellor in your area with Counselling Directory. Mental health charityMind also offer counselling services, and you can call The Samaritans on 116 123 (UK and ROI). The NHS even have a little quiz you can take. If you can, visit your GP for further advice. To talk about mental health in a private, judgment-free zone, join our Mentally Yours Facebook group.

Need support? Contact the Samaritans

For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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What is a VSCO girl and are you one?



Not sure about you, but we’re fairly done with the idea that anything a young woman does is ‘basic’.

That’s why, when a meme pops up that celebrates these low-key misogynistic categorisations, it’s a time to rejoice.

That’s exactly what’s happened with the term basic, which has evolved into the trend for young women being called – and happily calling themselves – VSCO girls.

It all started from the popular app that allows people to edit their photos and add hazy, cute filters to their Instagram feeds.

From there, a whole aesthetic was born, but instead of being weaponised in the way basic was, it was actually young women owning the term, and enjoying being part of a group of likeminded people.

So, what is a VSCO girl?

According to Seventeen, a VSCO girl is ‘preppy but laid-back, beachy, trendy, and basic’.

Much of the look is centred around mid-range brands, and bright and pastel colour palettes, making becoming a VSCO girl accessible for a teenager, and something that translates well on social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

Part of being a VSCO girl also means being environmentally conscious, as well as a self-awareness about the memeable nature of how they present themselves. It’s a cute style, and one that young women aren’t afraid to say they like. In short, we stan Gen Z.

However, you don’t need to be Gen Z, or even a girl, to be a VSCO girl. Find out if you are one with this handy quiz.

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Cult Beauty launches its first-ever advent calendar

Cult Beauty advent calendar with the products in front of it including Huda Beauty, Iconic, Laura Mercier and more
It contains £680 worth of goodies (Picture: Cult Beauty/Getty)

Nothing signals that Christmas is coming more than the release of beauty advent calendars – because what better way to celebrate the upcoming holidays than to treat yourself to a small gift every day, until the big day?

There is myriads of options to choose from in 2019; from the super exclusive (and super expensive) from Liberty to the slightly cheaper, but still equally brilliant offerings, from Glossybox and lookfantastic.

A newbie this year is Cult Beauty, which has just launched its first-ever advent calendar, worth £680.

If you prefer to use the same brand all the time, then this probably isn’t one for you, but if you’re open to mixing things up and discovering new products, you’re going to love it.

The retailer is the beauty version of ASOS, meaning you get a variety of stuff at a good price, with brands such as Laura Mercier, Nars, Ouai, 111Skin, Huda Beauty and Dr Dennis Gross Skincare up for grabs.

There are 25 doors, but behind the final door you will find not one, not two, but 10 products, plus an extra little treat.

Everything in the Cult Beauty advent calendar

    • Alpha H – Liquid Gold (50ml)
    • Natasha Denona – Mini Bronze and Glow (4g)
    • Dr. Barbara Sturm – Deluxe Eye Cream (5ml)
    • Odacite – Aventurine Kiss Lip Serum (2ml)
    • Glow Recipe – Travel Size Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer (20ml)
    • Ouai Haircare – Deluxe Leave in Conditioner (25ml)
    • Paula’s Choice – Travel Size Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (30ml)
    • Therapie – Travel Size Protect Bath and Body Oil (30ml)
    • Drunk Elephant – Deluxe T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum (5ml)
    • Augustinus Bader – Discovery Size The Rich Cream (15ml)
    • Virtue – Perfect Ending Split End Serum (20ml)
    • Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare – Deluxe C + Collagen Deep Cream (15ml)
    • Iconic London – Full Size Iconic London Illuminator (13.5ml)
    • Sunday Riley – Deluxe Good Genes Glycolic Acid Treatment (8ml)
    • LIXIRSKIN – Deluxe Vitamin C Paste (30ml)
    • Beautyblender – Beautyblender Bubble (Single Sponge)
    • Susanne Kaufmann – Deluxe Moisturising Mask (15ml)
    • Shani Darden Skincare – Deluxe Texture Reform (10ml)
    • 111Skin – Deluxe Space Defence Bright Eye Lift Gel NAC Y2 (7.5ml)
    • Laura Mercier – Travel Size Translucent Loose Setting Powder in ‘Glow’ (9.3g)
    • Huda Beauty – Power Bullet Matte Lipstick in ‘El Cinco de Mayo’ (3g)
    • Nudestix – Nudies Bloom in ‘Cherry Blossom Babe’ (7g)
    • Milk – Cooling Water (34g)
    • Jo Loves – White Rose and Lemon Leaves Votive Candle (35g)
    • Anastasia Beverly Hills – Travel Size Brow Gel in ‘Clear’ (2.5ml)
    • Fresh – Deluxe Soy Face Cleanser (20ml)
    • Hourglass – Deluxe Mineral Veil Primer (3.6ml)IT Cosmetics – Deluxe Confidence in a Cream (7ml)
    • Nars – Deluxe Powermatte Lip Pigment in ‘Starwoman’ (2ml)
    • Omorovicza – Deluxe Miracle Facial Oil (5ml)
    • Too Faced – Deluxe Damn Girl! 24-Hour Mascara (5.7ml)
    • Zelens – Deluxe Transformer Instant Renewal Mask (10ml)
    • Patchology – FlashPatch Illuminating Eye Gels (1 Pair)
    • Zitsticka- Single KILLA (1 Patch, 1 Swab)
    • Cult Beauty – Gift Card (£25) 

Make sure you’re on Santa’s nice list this year, because it might just help you score the one calendar that features a special prize.

Should you open a door and find a gleaming golden ticket, then you are the lucky winner of £1,000 Cult Beauty points, which you can use on the site to buy anything you want.

The wait list opened on 5 September but be prepared to fork out the cash – the calendar costs £195.

You could also put it on your early Christmas wish list.

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Cat who was at risk of being put down for not being ‘pretty’ is now an Instagram star

A woman saved a cat with Downs Syndrome from being put down after discovering the kitten wandering around in the street
Willow was found wandering the streets when she was just five weeks old (Picture: Caters News)

Meet Willow, a very special kitty who has gone from wandering the streets to being an Instagram star.

Lori Farris, a 50-year-old special needs teacher, was leaving a student’s house one day when she spotted a tiny, dirty kitten on the doorstep.

That kitten followed Lori to her car, so she scooped her up, gave her a clean, and took her to the vet.

When she was taken in, little Willow was covered in fleas and had a bloody nose and eye infection. She looked a little unusual, too.

The vet told Lori that Willow’s unusual looks meant she would likely have been put down had she gone into a shelter, simply for not being ‘pretty’ enough for anyone to adopt.

‘The vet thought she seemed healthy other than her face and mouth – she said it was like feline Down Syndrome,’ said Lori.

willow the cat with a facial deformity has found fame on instagram
Willow was born with a facial deformity (Picture: Caters News)

‘The vet said that the shelter would surely euthanize her since she wasn’t ‘pretty’ so I decided to keep her.’

It’s worth noting that cats cannot have Down’s Syndrome. Willow seems otherwise healthy, so she may have simply been born with a facial deformity.

She was lucky to be taken in by Lori as it can be tough for cats with unusual looks to find loving homes.

Thankfully she quickly bonded with both Lori and her dog, Ella the boxer.

Now, Willow has racked up more than 136,000 followers on Instagram, who all flock to see her wearing different flowery hats. She’s living the life of a social media star.

A woman saved a cat with Downs Syndrome from being put down after discovering the kitten wandering around in the street.Lori Farris, 50, from Florida, USA, came across Willow, now two, and was warned by vets an animal shelter may have put her down for not being pretty.Lori, a special needs teacher, said: One day when I left a students house there was a tiny, dirty kitten on the doorstep and she followed me to my car
Willow has thousands of followers on Instagram (Picture: Caters News)

Lori said: ‘Willow loves wearing her different flower hats and her Instagram has had a great response.

‘I think people like her because she’s a symbol of love, kindness and being beautiful even though looking different.

‘I’m OK with people saying that she’s weird looking because she is but I don’t like when people call her ugly or gross.

‘She’s a wonderful little cat in every way and I’m so glad she’s in my life.’

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Vagina is not a dirty word – so say it

Vagina, vagina, vagina (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Whether it’s Kourtney Kardashian’s advice on grooming your ‘hoo ha’, quizzes about your ‘lady garden’, or even products advertised for your ‘v-zone’, it feels like the world will go to absurd lengths to avoid saying the big, bad word: vagina.

There’s a sense that the word itself is ‘dirty’ or ‘wrong’.

Dr Jen Gunter discovered that Twitter wouldn’t allow her to pay for a promoted tweet in which the word ‘vagina’ was used – even when selling her new book, The Vagina Bible. Twitter have since said that the word ‘vagina’ was not the issue.

A recent report from the Eve Appeal reveals that less than a fifth of parents say ‘vagina’ when talking to their daughters about their genitals, with those who don’t stating that they didn’t feel it was ‘appropriate’ to use this language with their daughters until they were aged 11 or older.

Let’s get this straight: Vagina is not a dirty word. It’s not inappropriate to use. It’s not gross, wrong, or weird. It’s definitely not a swear word.

Using cutesy words in place of the correct, anatomical word to describe body parts isn’t just highly annoying, it’s dangerous.

We need to know the correct terms for our bodies and feel comfortable using them. That’s especially true for children.

When you teach your child to call their genitals a ‘cookie’, ‘minky’, ‘hoo ha’, or whatever twee term you deem acceptable, you’re inviting confusion should the worst happen.

Children should be taught from a young age about body autonomy and the area that other people are not allowed to touch without consent. They need to have it explained that if an adult or another child touches their genitals, they need to tell a trusted adult immediately. They need to know that this is unacceptable.

If a child is taught that even the word for their vaginas is bad to say, they’re going to feel they’re in the wrong for discussing issues. If they’re brave enough to say to a teacher or parent that someone has touched their ‘cookie’, it’s all too easy for that adult to misunderstand or dismiss their concerns.

Every time I hear someone refer to their ‘kitty’ and not mean their actual cat, I want to dunk their head down a toilet (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

We need to say vagina so that we can be clear when we talk about sexual assault. We need to be clear because it’s hard enough to speak up once – we can’t add to that challenge by making them figure out how to code their language or needing them to explain and reiterate what exactly they mean by ‘private parts’.

It’s important to say vagina beyond the context of reporting sexual assault, of course.

If our culture hammers home the idea that saying vagina is wrong – which it does, every time an article refuses to use the word, every time product packaging seems scared of it, every time parents blush at it – we send the message that vaginas themselves are bad, dirty, and meant to be kept secret, and that talking about them at all is something associated with deep shame.

Research from Ovarian Cancer Action suggests that young women are putting their health at risk thanks to the fear of saying ‘vagina’. Women aged 18 to 24 feel so embarrassed talking about their vaginas that they would avoid making a doctor’s appointment if they experienced issues, instead preferring to just privately Google their symptoms.

‘Saying vagina won’t kill you, but avoiding saying it could,’ said the charity.

So that’s the serious stuff.

Also important is how absolutely stupid we sound when we reach for any word we can to avoid saying ‘vagina’.

Every time I hear someone refer to their ‘kitty’ and not mean their actual cat, I want to dunk their head down a toilet. I am struck with a need to point and get everyone to gather round, as I shout, over and over ‘she means vagina! She’s talking about her VAGINA! Oh my god. She has a VAGINA. Everyone, there’s a vagina here!’.

We’re adults here. We know that under our clothes we’re all naked and that most of us have genitals of some description. It’s not a secret or something you can only allude to with winks and nudges.

Adults have sex, too. That’s not a secret either. Sometimes vaginas are used for that. Other times they’re just completely standard body parts just hanging out and doing their thing.

When you talk about your ‘minky’, you infantilise something that’s adult, and you infantilise yourself.

Your vagina doesn’t need to be all cute and inoffensive, and neither do you. You’re an adult. You can take up space and exist. Your vagina can too, and that involves calling it by its proper name. It’s a vagina, hear it roar.

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Environmental charity gives away 10,000 planting kits to help Londoners get started with gardening

Three different plants in pots on a green background
Grow your own (Picture: Getty)

Looking after plant babies is fast becoming one of the biggest trends of 2019 and it’s no wonder, when you consider the mental health benefits of gardening, as well as the positive impact it has on the environment.

If you’ve never gardened before, it can be difficult to know where to start; which seeds to buy, how often to water your plants and where to place them in your home to ensure they get the optimal amount of sunlight.

In an effort to help Londoners go from gardening novices to experts, the environmental charity Hubbub will be giving away 10,000 free planting kits as part of a new campaign.

The initiative, dubbed #GiveItAGrow has been organised with the Mayor of London, and aims to make the city – and people’s living spaces – greener by providing people with the information and products they need to get going.

The kits will be given out next Saturday (14 September) and each one contains wildlife-friendly crocus bulbs, native wildflower seeds and parsley and basil seeds, as well as growing matter (compressed organic coir brick).

The selection of seeds is three-fold; it will provide you with beautiful plants to surround yourself with, you will be able to use the parsley and basil in dishes and the flowers will offer a space for bees and butterflies to hang out (if you place the pot outside).

You will also get a leaflet – made from recycled coffee cups – with basic gardening tips.

Pick up a kit from selected Starbucks and B&Q stores, or swing by IKEA Greenwich, but be quick – it’s first come, first serve. Starbucks is also offering people the chance to collect used coffee grounds, which can be used to fertilise the soil.

‘London’s population is predicted to reach 11 million by 2050 so it’s important we invest in supporting new and existing green spaces, which are vital for wildlife and the overall environment, as well as our mental health and well-being,’ said Trewin Restorick, CEO and founder of Hubbub.

‘While parks and large gardens are great, the planting kits are about showing Londoners how greening up even the smallest of spaces can reap benefits by connecting them with nature and improving the environment.’

The initiative follows a recent poll by Censuswide that revealed 74% of Londoners believe green spaces improve the capital, and that 60% of people want to learn more about growing plants at home.

‘Over the years I’ve grown vegetables, herbs and fruit in the smallest, most unlikely spaces from my tiny one bed flat in Clapham,’ said Jack Wallington, a gardening designer.

‘There is nothing more rewarding than podding a pea or plucking a radish grown from seed to eat with your dinner, yet I’ve found most existing advice for growing produce is totally disconnected from the realities of London life.

‘To help, I’ve shared some of my top tips for growing at home even with no garden at all!’

Got a particularly dark flat? Don’t worry, we have put together a helpful guide on how to keep your plants alive with minimal sunlight.

To find your nearest collection point, visit the campaign website where you can also find additional information and videos from gardening experts Kate Bradbury and Jack, as well as tips on how to reduce waste by creating plant pots from household items.

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These star shaped pimple patches are an acne game changer

These star shaped pimple patches are an acne game changer
Time for acne positivity (Picture: Starface)

Aside from the physical side effects of having acne, the mental toll it takes can also be debilitating.

There’s a sense of shame in having the skin condition, that leaves you feeling you should cover your face and hide away from everyone as a result.

That’s the exact opposite of what Starface are trying to achieve, with the new skincare brand aiming to create acne positivity with their hydro-stars.

The star shaped patches are designed to be worn on top of your spots, so instead of concealing them with a load of makeup, you accessorise them and help them at the same time.

These star shaped pimple patches are an acne game changer
Aren’t they adorable? (Picture: Starface)

Hydrocolloid dressings are small patches that you pop onto a pimple when it starts to grow a white head. The dressing will absorb the fluid, as well as stopping you from picking and scratching the spot and protecting it from bacteria.

They need to be applied on clean skin and with clean fingertips, but other than that you just let them do their job.

You leave them on for around six hours, and when it starts to look pretty much opaque you take them off and see the results. Make sure to take plenty of Starface selfies while they’re doing their job, too.

These star shaped pimple patches are an acne game changer
The hydrocolloid patches should reduce the redness of your pimple (Picture: Starface)

They’re not yet available in the UK (but we can imagine they will be soon), but for our US readers, it’s $22 for a pack of 32 patches in a sweet little pack.

One review on the Starface website says, ‘I used a star on my most recent blemish and it went away MUCH faster than usual! The fun, protective patch stopped me from picking at my skin and gave it time to heal. The hydrocolloid is such a nice added bonus!’

Given that the patches are cruelty free, vegan, Leaping Bunny certified, and safe for pregnant and breastfeeding people, there are a fair few other added bonuses too.

If you’re looking for a more discreet option, you can opt for these ZitSticka patches. However, why not go loud and proud with the fact you have spots? After all, we all get them, and adorning them with yellow stars is way more fun than trying to pretend they don’t exist.

MORE: Environmental charity gives away 10,000 planting kits to help Londoners get started with gardening

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Mum who asked people to send birthday cards to son with skin condition says he has received 3,000 cards so far

Split image of 13-year-old Rhys who has a skin condition, seen here sat on a sofa in one pic and covered in bandages in the other photo
The teenager has received thousands of birthday messages from all over the world (Picture: SWNS)

A few days ago, a story emerged of a mum asking people to send her son cards ahead of his birthday in October.

Rhys, who turns 14 next month, suffers from a severe skin condition known as epidermolysis bullosa, which causes painful blisters and sores and has also made his fingers fuse together. It also means Rhys is constantly in pain – so much so that his mother feared he was ‘giving up on life’.

In an effort to make her son feel better, Tanya Williams asked strangers to cheer him up with birthday messages and to show him that he’s not alone – and the response has been incredible.

This morning, 3,000 cards were delivered to Rhys’ house – which is in addition to the thousands of well wishes left on Facebook – and his mum says it’s made him ‘really, really happy’.

‘It’s just been crazy. A post van came today with stuff for Rhys, it’s just been mad,’ Tanya, from Bolton, said.

‘I’ve had thousands of messages on Facebook, people turning up at the door.

‘I don’t know whether I’m coming or going, but Rhys is in his element. He’s at home opening the cards with his best friend. He is absolutely loving it.

‘He is opening each card and reading it, and he’s got his friend opening them too.

‘He is taking his time with each one which is why it is taking so long. He’s just so overwhelmed with it.’

Close-up of Rhys Williams from Bolton
His mum was worried that her son was ‘giving up on life’ (Picture: Bolton News/SWNS)
14-year-old Rhys Williams sat on his bathtub, with his body covered in bandages
Rhys suffers from a painful skin condition that makes his skin blister and develop sores (Picture: SWNS)

The cards have come from all over the world – from the UK to Qatar and even from across the pond in the US.

Organisations have also gotten in touch to offer their help, including the local football club Bolton Wanderers FC, who have offered Rhys the chance to act as their mascot.

While he’s excited about it, the young boy is actually a Liverpool fan.

Tanya is thrilled about the outcome, which has made her feel ‘overwhelmed’.

Tanya said: ‘It’s gone worldwide.

‘He’s been on telly in Chile. He got a card from Qatar today, and loads from America. It’s just gone everywhere.

‘I just want to say thank you. That’s all I can really say at the moment, I’m so overwhelmed by it all.

‘He’s sitting at home opening cards with his best friend and he is really, really happy.’

Happy birthday, Rhys.

What is epidermolysis bullosa

Dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DEB) is a rare inherited skin disorder. The skin of those who have DEB is more fragile than normal.

Minor injury causes blisters which often leave scars when they heal. DEB is not an infection, it is not contagious and it is not due to an allergy.

There is currently no cure and treatment focuses on tackling the symptoms, providing pain relief, and preventing infection. It is caused by faulty genes which produce collagen, a strong protein in the fibres that holds the skin together.

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Starbucks Disneyland releases a Maleficent frappuccino for Halloween

starbucks releases maleficent frap
She’s evil, she’s chic, she’s a Starbucks drink. (Picture: Discover the Magic/Instagram/Disney)

Your favourite contoured queen/evil fairy has just been turned into an iced beverage.

In the lead up to Halloween, Starbucks’ Disneyland branches will be serving up Maleficent frappuccinos And they’re not as wicked as you think.

The drink isn’t the shade of Mal’s signature black robes (just imagine that colouring in your entrails), nor does it pay homage to her bold red lip.

You might also be startled to find there are no edible black horns surfacing from the cup.


So what’s in the more-magnificent-than-Maleficent concoction?

The purple base is made up of vanilla bean cream, blueberries and diced dragon fruit, which is topped with matcha whipped cream.

It also contains a hell of a lot of sugar, which is the most wicked thing about the beverage.

At least with the Unicorn Frappuccino the colourful link was clear cut, but this one doesn’t exactly scream drinkable dark magic. If this drink had to be categorised by Angelina Jolie’s filmography, it’s a bit more Kung Fu Panda with a sprinkling of Shark Tale.


The coffee chain is also selling another Halloween-themed beverage in their Disneyland Resort branch, the Dr. Facilier Elixir. This one blends layered chai, iced lemonade and passion fruit tea.

This might have most of you – even seasoned Disney lovers – scratching your head, but here’s a hint: he’s a shadow man with hauntingly spindly legs.

While this description might match the build of say, 2,000+ creeps you’ve tried to avoid in the bar, it’s a character from 2009 Disney film The Princess and the Frog.

If you’re planning a trip to the golden state, the Disney-themed Halloween menu is available until October 31 at Disneyland Park in California and in Disney California Adventure Park.

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When you have OCD, horoscopes can become a harmful dependency


The line between OCD and superstitions, belief systems, and quirks can look a little blurry.

Let’s say someone wears the same shirt to every football game, believing that if they don’t, the team they support will definitely lose.

Is that so different to the person counting ceiling tiles over and over, under the belief that a failure to get the number right will make bad things happen?

Most of us hold beliefs that don’t stand up to logic or empirical evidence; some more acceptable than others.

Having religious faith, having superstitions, knocking on wood to cancel out bad luck, owning a pair of lucky underwear – these are all considered pretty standard.

The general consensus is that even if our beliefs aren’t logical or provable, they’re not a cause for concern.

That’s unless you have OCD.

The belief that an act will make you safe or prevent something from happening is a part of OCD – the NHS specifies that those with OCD will experience obsession (intrusive thoughts that repeatedly enter your mind) followed by intense anxiety and distress, which leads to repetitive compulsions as an attempt to self-soothe.

Chloe* is a 26-year-old account executive living in London. She’s lived with OCD since childhood and says that in ‘bad’ periods in recent years horoscopes became an unhealthy obsession.

‘I had lots of different apps so I would just check them all to see what they each said, then read into them in the most extreme way,’ Chloe tells us.

‘If one said to avoid conflict I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone in case it turned into an argument. I’d be so scared to talk because my horoscope app had said that if I did, everything would go wrong.

‘There was one time when an app told me conflicts in relationships might arise. I was dating someone at the time so I just didn’t message them the entire day because I was so certain they were going to dump me.

‘If my horoscope said anything I could read as a bad day, I went straight into obsession mode and would do all my old compulsive behaviours – I mostly do checking and counting – to protect myself.

‘It didn’t matter if a horoscope was positive. I just went on to a different app and looked at what they said in case there was something wrong.’

It’s not that horoscopes and astrology apps are to blame for Chloe’s OCD spiral, but that they’re an easy shape for OCD patterns to mould into.

‘I can tell pretty quickly if I’m having a bad spell,’ Chloe tells us. ‘On a good day I can look at a horoscope and I’m fine. If I’m struggling already then I’ll spin everything into a negative and obsess over it.

‘It’s something easy to obsess over because it gives my thoughts more weight. Normally my OCD will make me think that “something bad” will happen, but if anyone challenges that I can’t explain what it would be or why that would happen. With horoscopes I can point to astrology and say ok, well if I don’t do these things it will result in losing money because that’s what my horoscope says.’

Horoscopes can provide a prime breeding ground for unhealthy dependency and altering behaviour to fit what’s recommended.

They can provide reassurance, allowing checking them to become a self-soothing compulsion.

Claire Bogen, 32, is a publicist who was diagnosed with OCD in her twenties.

Her intrusive thoughts tend to be about things she can’t control, while her compulsions act as a way to ensure something will or will not happen.

Horoscope series for Platform
When does a belief in astrology become an obsession? (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

‘So for example, when my boyfriend and I were split up, I would tell myself I had to win a game of squash (which I play regularly) and he’d come back,’ Claire explains. ‘I go through periods of making promises to myself via wishes, horoscopes, achievements. I’m very superstitious.’

Claire initially looked to horoscopes to create a sense of control. She found reassurance in the form of positive predictions for the day ahead, but when her OCD flared up she found herself becoming obsessive.

‘During bad bouts of anxiety, I cannot leave the house without checking my horoscope,’ she explains. ‘If I knew what was going to happen then it was a reassurance.’

Horoscopes tend to be positive. As Claire puts it, it’s pretty unlikely that a horoscope or astrology app would tell loyal readers that they’re ‘going to die today’.

As with so many behaviours, those with OCD have to regularly question whether what they’re doing is harming or healing – whether they’re treating stress with genuinely relaxing actions or doing the compulsions only for the momentary high of relief.

When Amber*, 21, became interested in astrology, she had to carefully manage the relationship between horoscopes and the OCD she was diagnosed with at 16.

‘My OCD manifests itself primarily in harm intrusions, existential ruminations, obsession with numbers and their supposed ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ attributes,’ Amber tells us.

‘For many years I was unable to do anything in an odd number because in my mind, odd numbers meant unlucky and would mean that my family would come to harm.

‘With the type of personality I have and the type of OCD that I have, horoscopes have the potential to become a triggering point for me if I don’t check my own thoughts.

‘It’s a new way to look at the world and a new way to understand myself and as long as I don’t let myself dwell so much on what one certain horoscope might say, I do find it quite comforting.’

Amber is in therapy, and so is at a place where she’s able to take a step back and look at whether her interest in horoscopes is under control.

‘I haven’t altered my behaviour [due to horoscopes] because I am at a stage in my OCD recovery where I know it would be a slippery slope to go down,’ she says.

‘I generally check my sun sign horoscope most days but I use the time passages app at the end of the week rather than the beginning to protect myself from dwelling on what might happen and instead reflect on what did happen.’

Self-awareness and checking in is essential in OCD recovery, and that includes reflecting on any thought or behaviour that becomes a consistent part of your life.

Horoscopes aren’t an evil force that need to be ditched entirely. They can provide comfort, a way to assess everyday life and self-reflect, and meaning to all the things that are out of our control.

People with OCD will know that any behaviour can become unhealthy. The trick is in knowing the line between enjoyable interests and beliefs that are causing you distress.

Professor Stephen Palmer, a psychologist at the Centre for Stress Management, explains: ‘A key element of OCD is that your ritualistic thinking and/or behaviours are disrupting your life and maintaining anxiety.

‘The questions to ask yourself would be: Am I taking the horoscope too seriously? Am I ruminating about the horoscope’s predictions? Am I using my horoscope as a distraction as it helps to temporarily reduce my anxiety? Does your anxiety increase when you have been unable to read your horoscope?’

If you feel that your relationship with horoscopes may be unhealthy, talk to a therapist rather than assuming that because your obsession isn’t harming anyone, it’s okay to continue. Even if checking horoscopes relieves anxiety in the moment, the repetitive action could cause you further distress in the long term.

‘If reading a horoscope introduces certainty into your life then it may reduce anxiety,’ explains Stephen. ‘Repetitive thought and behavioural rituals temporarily reduce anxiety. Paradoxically, carrying on with them actually helps to maintain their anxiety in the long-term.

‘That’s why we would encourage our clients and patients to reduce or cease their rituals. But it can be tough in the short-term so if a person can’t just stop then we would recommend cutting back how often they undertook their rituals.’

Going cold turkey can be impossible, especially when your obsession is in the form of a socially acceptable superstition. You can reduce your dependency on horoscopes, absolutely, but you can’t entirely escape chats about people’s star signs and astrology pages in your favourite magazines.

What you can do, however, is learn not to give horoscopes’ predictions too much power.

Just as part of recovery is realising that you are not responsible for any bad thing that happens, and that you are not responsible for fixing the world through checking or counting, it’s essential to know that you can read horoscopes without believing they are entirely correct and all-knowing 100% of the time.

You can’t control everything – even by obsessively checking the meaning of the stars’ positions.

‘My OCD is very much wrapped up with control and horoscopes remind me that I don’t have total control,’ says Claire. ‘Some things are up to the universe.’

*Names have been changed. 

Need support? Contact the Samaritans

For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.

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Mum spends just £115 transforming her bathroom into a tropical paradise

Dawn Flanagan, 50, from Essex
Dawn Flanagan set herself a challenge of doing up her bathroom on the cheap (Picture: Caters News)

Looking for a weekend DIY project? Take a leaf out of this mum-of-two’s book.

Dawn Flanagan, 50, had grown tired of her ‘boring and dull’ bathroom and decided to make it into her own private oasis.

She first clad the bathroom on the cheap five years ago and had been looking for inspiration ever since to find a way to brighten what had become a dark and dull room.

Dawn, from Essex, decided that – with a budget of just £115 – she would transform her bathroom into a tropical paradise, fitting the art deco and 1950s style in the rest of her home.

She began by inserting mirrors to create the illusion of more space, then introduced more than ten different artificial plants to turn her bathroom into a lush forest.

A mum-of-two has transformed her bathroom into a tropical paradise
For just £115 Dawn transformed her bathroom into a tropical paradise with mirrors and artificial plants (Picture: Caters News)

To make the space more jungle-like, Dawn draped artificial leaves around the room and applied a waterfall mural by the shower.

The end result is pretty incredible.

Dawn said: ‘I got the pictures and shower art from The Range, costing around £13.

Dawn Flanagan's bathroom with a waterfall mural in the shower
A waterfall mural makes the bathroom a peaceful oasis (Picture: Caters News)

‘The plants were from Ikea, costing around £36 with more leaves from eBay costing around a fiver.

‘I also got a £7.50 message board from EBay as well as mats and a jug which added £14. The wooden flooring was about £40.

‘I’d never imagined it would be so popular – it’s only my bathroom!

Dawn Flanagans bathroom now
We’re into it (Picture: Caters News)

‘Before it was dark and dingy. My shower was over my bath, and it looked small.

‘I needed to think of a way to maximise the space I had and to make sure it looked interesting.

‘Now it’s like the tropics in my own house!’

Cost breakdown:

  • Plants and leaves: £41
  • Message board, mats and jug: £21.50
  • Flooring: £40
  • Pictures and mural: £13

Total: £115.50.

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You can now enjoy a glass of wine and a cuppa in one

Tea & Wine infusion
Tea plus wine – the dream (Picture: Pernod Ricard)

2019 has been a year of unlikely product combinations. We’ve had everything from the delicious Pringles-flavoured ramen and croiffles, to the hideously cursed Branston Pickle-infused tea.

Which is why we’re either excited or terrified by the latest one. It involves two of our all-time favourite drinks – but will they pair well?

A simple Google search of ‘tea and wine’ might have you running for the hills, or the hills that don’t feature a tea plantation and vineyard. There are forums, Reddit threads and homemaking blogs packed with tea and wine homebrew recipes and images of vats filled with cloudy amber liquid.

Fortunately, French winemakers Pernod Ricard have just released a slightly more professional blend of the timeless drink.

The Australian-made ‘Tea & Wine’ range includes two varieties, a 2018 unoaked Chardonnay infused with Chamomile and a 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon infused with Chai. Mmm, we can almost smell the cinnamon.

A bottle will set you back just £12, however it’s currently available only in Australian liquor store Dan Murphy’s.

‘We experimented with many ways of infusing the delicate notes of tea into wine and finally after years of research discovered the best method to find the perfect integration,’ said Tea & Wine spokesperson Helene Herges.

So, yeah. Everything has changed.

When your day has been rough as guts, you can skip the whole evening charade. There’s no need to sip demurely from your tea cup as you eye your comically-large wine goblet, knowing full well you’re hitting that after dinner. Now, you can simply treat yourself to both beverages the minute you walk in the door.

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What is a karmic relationship and how do you know if you’re in one?

Illustration of a couple hugging
It’s passionate, but painful (Picture: Ella Byworth for Metro.co.uk)

Having relationships with people is fundamental to our well-being, but there are different types – and it can be hard to define them.

There are those that will change your life forever, and then there are those that seem incredibly important while you’re in them but that, once over, fade away until you can’t remember why you were with the person to begin with.

Perhaps you’re just f***-buddies or it’s a casual fling that you both know won’t last in the long-run – or maybe you’re a polyamorous couple, enjoying several romantic connections with more than person at one time.

One relationship type that is less spoken about is the ‘karmic relationship’.

You might never have heard the term, but the scenario is actually quite common. Fundamentally, it’s a passionate yet inherently difficult relationship that you have to work really, really hard to maintain.

So much so that you’re not sure it’s worth pursuing – even though you’re madly in love – and it will teach you important lessons about love.

Here are the signs that you’re in a karmic relationship.

It makes you feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster

Are you happy one day but miserable the next? Does this keep happening week after week?

A karmic relationship will draw you in so deep that anything that rocks the boat, even a minor argument, will feel like a massive issue that upends your entire world.

You have an instant connection with the other person

People often talk about a having an instant connection, but this isn’t the kind you see on Love Island.

This is a life-altering, deep down in your bones, meant-to-be kind of spark. More often than not, people in karmic relationships are also very attracted to each other from the word go.

While you can absolutely fall head over heels for someone straight away, love takes time to develop. What you’re feeling is most likely extreme lust, and it’s important to know the difference.

There are problems early on

This goes beyond fighting about what to have for dinner; if one person is more dominant than the other, or you are constantly fighting and then making up, it’s possible you’re in a karmic relationship.

This can also appear in the form of your partner being controlling, obsessive or just plain mean.

As a side note, remember that controlling behaviour is also a warning sign of an abusive partner, so be careful and consider whether this is a bigger issue that you should deal with now, before things get worse.

Arguing is normal, but a loving partner will never make you feel bad about yourself.

It’s very hard to end the relationship, even if you want to

You’re on again, you’re off again – over and over and over.

One or both of you might want out of the relationship, and yet you can’t resist staying (or getting back together). You’re like magnets.

You might feel addicted to the relationship or dependent on the other person and your connection to them. Some people also feel afraid of what will happen and who they will become once the relationship is over.

Your partner is selfish and not interested in your needs

They want to go out, so you do. They want to stay at home, so you do. They want you to jump up and down while holding a teacup, so you do.

OK, the last example is extreme, but the point is that karmic relationships usually rely on a delicate balance of one person being self-serving and the other doing whatever they can to keep them happy.

You don’t feel secure in the relationship

A healthy relationship makes you feel safe, loved and cared for.

If you’re worrying about the state of your relationship or are always concerned that it will end and that your partner will leave you, it’s karmic.

The relationship is doomed to end

There are exceptions to every rule, but karmic relationships will usually end.

It’s fiery and exciting whenever you’re together, but like a volcano, you never know when your connection will erupt and destroy everything.

Karmic relationships are far too tumultuous to be maintainable, but you learn from them and move on – which is exactly what they are there for.

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Why you should book a break to New Brunswick in Canada

moose cove
Taking a break from kayaking at Moose Cove (Picture: Lynn Houghton)

A gargantuan flower pot shaped rock with trees on top instead of flowers?

Rivers that – I know this sounds crazy – flow backwards.

Sea caves carved out of cliffs by thousands of years of high tides and weather erosion?

I mean, I was looking forward to fabulous lobster in this Maritime province but couldn’t have imagined the surreal things that exist here because of the supernatural high tides.

In fact, it’s difficult to get my head around the many unusual natural occurrences that take place along the Fundy Bay.

Why here? Mainly it’s because of the crazy tidal events that occur twice a day – activated by the sheer size of the Atlantic Ocean and the gravitational pull of the moon.

hopewell rocks at high tide
Hopewell Rocks at high tide (Picture: Kevin Snair)

Kevin Snair, Interpretive Guide at the Hopewell Rocks, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Not many know that 160 billion tonnes of water flow into this closed bay, with no way of escape at the end. And then flow back out at every tide – this is the equivalent of every drop of water that goes over Niagara Falls in one year and nine months.’

This amount of water creates a tidal rise of well over 30 feet and happens every 12-hours and 26 minutes. So, beachcombing at Cape Hopewell at low tide is where you see how water, wind, and rain have eroded the rock. There are beautiful, twisted and strange shapes all created by the sculpting of water and weather.

The other beauty of Cape Hopewell is that it’s been named a Dark Sky Reserve. Multi-talented Kevin also teaches night photography at this very special spot, teaching people to capture great spectacles like the Milky Way and Northern Lights.

Rare viewing of Northern Lights at The Hopewell Rocks (Picture: Kevin Snair)

But, honestly, how can you beat kayaking in, out and around carved-out sea caves? Kayaking anywhere is awesome because of being able to view everything from the perspective of a duck.

Paddling is organised from St. Martins by the brilliant Red Rock Adventure. Setting out from the harbour is incredibly relaxing. Once out at sea, it is mesmerising to take in the gorgeous red sandstone cliffs but even more fun to actually navigate into the caves. However, you should be prepared for water to drip on your head.

Moose Cove, where we stop for a break, was given this name by the First Nations people. It refers to the story of a mother moose giving birth at low tide, then being carried up to the shore with her newborn during high tide. A natural fairy tale of sorts.

St. Martins was formerly famous for its ship-building (learn more at the tiny Quaco Museum) and is also located near the beginning of the Fundy Trail. There are hikes along the length of the trail which entail three days of trekking. Tiring perhaps, but a magnificent way to explore this incredible coast.

sea caves at st martins
Sea caves at St Martins (Picture: Lynn Houghton)

The popular cruise port of St. John has a bit of magic about it, too. The St. John River flows to the sea but, at the start of high tide, appears to actually flow backwards. So much water is flooding in from the ocean, and going in the opposite direction of the river, it reverses the rivers natural flow.

This phenomenon has been given the name Reversing Rapids. The spot where this occurs was once a waterfall in days gone by but, as water levels are now higher, is submerged and creates freaky whirlpools.

Whale watching is something else that is extraordinary in the Bay of Fundy. Cold deep waters attract many species of sea life which, in turn, attract humpback whales, minke whales and even the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

breeching whale in new brunswick
A breeching whale (Picture: Lynn Houghton)

Try whale watching from St. Andrews Harbor, located within shouting distance of the state of Maine and famous for being a refuge for loyalists escaping the Revolutionary Way. Tour operators take participants out in zodiacs to get up close and personal with these amazing creatures of the
deep. It is an adventure of gigantic proportions.

Speaking of marine creatures; fishing, particularly for salmon, is big in a province with so many rivers.

Fly fishing is a tricky business to learn, so I booked myself in for a lesson on the Miramichi River. If you have a great instructor, like I did, it’s great fun.

Fly fishing on the Miramichi River-032b
Fly fishing on the Miramichi River (Picture: Lynn Houghton)

Steve Smith, Master Fly Casting Instructor, took me through the paces and even taught the knots needed for tying the fly and hook onto the line. It was really exciting to have a go in the river, even if I am not good enough to catch a fish.

There are loads of moose in the Miramichi area so visitors should keep their eyes peeled when anywhere near marshy, lowland areas. These solitary animals are amazing to see up close if for nothing else than their size.

What to eat while you’re there

Foraging is a ‘slow’ experience that is rising in popularity in vast, forested areas like New Brunswick. This ultra-fresh food perfectly complements newly caught lobster and seafood.

Chris Aerni, head chef at the Rossmount Inn located in the Chamcook Mountains, is quite a fan of all things fresh. During spring he gathers fiddleheads, chickweed, violets and more. Everything found is then used for that night’s meal.

Blue fin tuna at the Rossmont Inn
Blue fin tuna at the Rossmont Inn (Picture: Lynn Houghton)

Try the inn’s naked lobster (poached) or the blue fin tuna which is barely cooked. For those who have never eaten fiddleheads (curled fronds of a young fern), you must have them floating in butter with a bit of pepper.

At Grand Manan Island’s Dark Harbor they harvest a sweet seaweed called Dulce. It is turned into seasoning which is used liberally on most things in this province.

Where to stay and how to get there

There are direct flights to Halifax, Nova Scotia with several airlines. It is about a two-hour drive
from Halifax to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy.

I stayed at the St Martins Country Inn, formerly the Vaughan shipbuilding family’s mansion. The Victorian decor is divine, and the grounds are stunning with spectacular gardens.

Frontier Canada offers seven nights in New Brunswick from £1,255 pp with returns flights on WestJet from London Gatwick, including two nights at St Martins Country Inn, two nights at the Hopewell Rocks, two nights at St Andrews, one night in Halifax and one night in Miramichi plus car rental, GPS and one tank of fuel.

For more information visit: www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca and www.destinationcanada.com.

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You can preserve the tattoos (and skin) of your loved ones

Save My Ink Forever creates 'everlasting memorials' by removing people's skin and tattoos after they die
Save My Ink Forever creates ‘everlasting memorials’. (Picture: Save My Ink Forever)

In most situations, displaying a human being’s preserved skin in your house would cause quite the stir. It might elicit the odd Buffalo Bill or Leatherface comparison, a phone call to the police or maybe even a bit of nostalgia.

Cleveland-based mortuary Save My Ink Forever is working to achieve the latter.

Inspired by the connection between people and their tattoos, father-son duo Michael and Kyle Sherwood devised a business to preserve them.

The unconventional memorial service involves excising the tattoo from the body soon after their death, with the funeral parlour being sent a ‘recovery kit’ from the Sherwoods in order for the tattoo to be excised as soon as possible.

Picture: Save My Ink Forever Tattoo preservation
A shoulder design preserved by Save My Ink Forever.
(Picture: Save My Ink Forever)

After the treatment process, the preserved piece is paired to a frame to suit the ink design, and fitted with UV glass. The full process takes three months and costs between £800-£1300 depending on the size of the tattoo.

‘People put ashes in urns on mantles and visit stones with their loved one’s names on them. Why not keep their tattoos as a memorial?’ Kyle told 9news.com.au.

Customers can ensure their loved ones are in good hands. The Sherwoods are third-generation funeral directors and licensed embalmers, and say that their process doesn’t interfere with the cremation or funeral process.

The two have been offering the service since 2016, and have serviced hundreds of customers in the US.Their services are now available in the UK and Canada on tattoos that were professionally done.

They do admit that over the years, they’ve received some alternative requests. They’ve turned down requests to preserve face and genital tattoos as well as create book covers and lampshades using the skin. Um, thank goodness.

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