Christmas

Christmas Gift Guide for Women

Yesterday we published our ‘Christmas Gift Guide for Men’, so we thought it only fair to share a little gift giving wisdom for women too. Besides all of the beautiful candles, and festive food and drink available, we’ve created an overview of some of our favourite gifts for women, ranging from the affordable, to the more exclusive. With our help at The Amazing Blog, we hope that you’ll be able to find what she desires, creating the perfect Christmas gift (and giving you some last minute inspiration too!)

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Let’s get started with something that won’t make you dig too deep into your pockets. All That Jazz is a specialist (and certified vegan) nail care brand, providing professional manicure and pedicure products. Founded in 2013, the company has been our go-to when it comes to nail care, especially since we loved their Caribbean Collection (see the blog post here). With their core range consisting of 36 on-trend shimmer colours, they have created their own game-plan, with a long-lasting base coat and choices of super quick drying top coat, matte top coat and top coat, specifically designed to magnify and smoothen glitter colours. Used by countless celebrities and thousands of nail technicians, this is a brand you can trust.

Bringing out four seasonal collections each year, The Designer Collection is our absolute favourite! This is the perfect add-on for Christmas, as the colours are glittery and powerful, inspired by the works of iconic fashion designers. Combining elements of runway glamour, four unique colours are created, from the timelessly chic, shimmery blue of Vivienne, through to the metallic red Coco. The collection also contains a cool nude, Vera and our favourite, the sparkling silver Betsey. The best part? This professional nail lacquer won’t break the bank. Click here to purchase The Designer Collection for just £11.97.

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Another modest choice is from Heathcote & Ivory. Established in 2000, in London by Denis Aaronson, this brand is passionate about creating beautiful products with wonderful ingredients. Their colours, textures and patterns combine an eclectic mix of novelty, with British pedigree. Their forward-thinking design celebrates the role of women in ‘making Christmas happen’, where retro Christmas wrapping designs, sparkle and glamour greet the spirits of traditional British Christmas.

A perfect gift for her is their Vintage & Co. Baubles & Belles Festive Bath and Body TinThe packaging is a Christmas dream, elegantly designed with a festive pattern and finished with a beautiful pink hand-tied bow. Containing three bathing delights infused with orange-peel oil, this is the perfect company for the relaxing self-care holidays. The gentle cleansing shower gel has a silky texture that lathers well, and the scented crystal bathing salts with sweet orange essential oil fill the bathroom with a delicious (and festive) fragrance. Finally, the softening body lotion enriched with almond oil and shea butter locks in the skin’s natural moisture, perfect for any New Year party. All three products are scented with spiced rum, pomegranate, red berries and orange zest, and are guaranteed to give the fragrance of Christmas. Click here to purchase a Baubles and Belles Festive Bath and Body Tin for £15.

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One of the sweet delights of Christmas is that there is always a beautiful scent in the air. That said, it is sometimes difficult to know how to blend fragrances together, something that Aqua Oleum can help with. This brand’s knowledge of oils spans over three generations, with over 30 years of experience in providing top quality oils, at reasonable prices. Managing Director, Julia Lawless, well known as an author and expert in aromatherapy, personally ensures that every product is of top quality - so an Aqua Oleum gift is sure to be one that will not disappoint.

Their Blending Notebook (£28) is ideal for anyone passionate about creating their perfect scents, giving clear and concise introductions into the art of blending. Introducing theory guidance and formula ideas, it is a great way to track and develop your own aromatherapy elixirs at home. Containing all essential information, journal pages to write your own formulations, a glossary of key essential oils and a perfumery chart with notes on how to train your nose, this notebook is great to get you started. It is also beautifully designed, gold foiled and singer sewn bound. To get started right away, combine this with their Clear Head essential oil for just £5.22 (10ml). It helps with breathing (particularly if a Winter cold sets in) and works to penetrate and soothe your sinuses. Equally, their Festive Joy for £6.07 (10ml) is just as great, with a heart-warming, rich, and spicy scent that is comforting and uplifting, the perfect natural room fragrance for the festive period.

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If a new fragrance is what you’re looking for, then we introduce Ancienne Ambiance. Already lovers of their Goddess Waters, we were keen to try their new Mini Colonia Gift Set. Providing luxury gifts with paraben-free quality ingredients, Ancienne Ambiance products are free from animal testing and encased in recyclable packaging.

The Mini Colonia Gift Set contains five 15ml limited edition mini roll-on perfume gift bottles, the perfect scent selection to propel your spirits. Different scents for different days, complementing your clothing and making you feel good. Although we like all five scents, our favourite is Colonia IX (nine) - an exotic, woody and oriental fragrance, blending cedar and sandalwood with a hint of patchouli. It genuinely smells like Christmas! Staying true to the origins of niche perfume, all scents are hand-produced in limited quantities (in France), with the finest ingredients. Packaged in a handcrafted purple-golden gift box, this luxury gift delivers the perfect Christmas spirit (and the box can be reused at a later date). Purchase the Mini Colonia Gift Set here for £60.

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Last but not least we introduce April Aromatics. Since trying their Rose L’Orange Eau de Parfum in August - the perfect scent for that balmy summer - this organic scents and cosmetics company has been one of our favourite fragrance houses. Founded by Tanja Bochnig in New York, the brand delivers natural perfumes with pure extracts that create inner well-being. Their perfumes are also pure and natural, and no animal ingredients are used.

We were therefore excited to try their Tempted Muse scent, the ideal present for Christmas. Packed in a silver shimmery, elegant box, it immediately put us into the most festive mood. Inspired by the nectars of the gods, with sweet fruity golden extracts of frangipani and jasmine, this perfume is uplifting and aphrodisiac. Purchase your own Tempted Muse for a loved one for €169 (30ml) here.

There you have it, five brands that have hopefully given you some inspiration for the special someone you are struggling to buy for! Whether they love nail varnishes, home fragrances or perfumes, we’re sure she’ll be opening her presents with a big smile.

Christmas Gift Guide for Men

With just eight days to go until Father Christmas arrives, we can’t quite believe how quickly the season of giving has come around. We’re not yet at the stage of panic buying; however, it has to be said that most of us at The Amazing Blog, are beginning to cut it fine with our present ideas. If you too are struggling, then this week we will be providing some last minute gift guides, helping you to spend less time worrying about the tricky receivers to buy for (we all know someone), and more time enjoying the festivities. Today we start with ‘Gifts for Men’, ranging from grooming products to technology and accessories. Grab a mince pie (and a glass of something nice), and let us do the research for you.

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Firstly, we introduce The Bluebeards Revenge - a shaving and grooming company who provide products that promote a sustainable grooming routine, as opposed to the quick rush (and inevitable cuts) from using mass-market products. We previously reviewed their Ultimate Sea Salt Spray (see here), and so we were thrilled to try their Soap Stack Kit. True to their promise of creating products that are neither cheap cans of mass-produced products nor designer creams that are more akin to moisturisers, this set consists of three expertly produced soaps.

Ideal for any wash or gym bag, these soaps are unique in many ways. Primarily, the three scents are the perfect balance between providing a less feminine smell, while also promoting hydration and comfort. The first, ‘Classic Ice Soap’ is a modern twist on the British barbershop fragrance, a welcome scent that provides manliness and moisturisation simultaneously. Secondly, ‘Big Blue Bar of Soap for Blokes’ has a simple and fresh scent, and thanks to the bright blue colour, stands out amongst the sea of other generic products. Equally, ‘Cuban Gold Soap’ is ideal for days when an exotic aroma is needed (calling all Monday mornings!) With inspiration from the Caribbean, this soap packs a punch, and as a result of the unique shape, it is easy to handle, and unique to the eye. To make life even easier, these soaps come packaged in an aesthetically pleasing box, which coupled with the attractive colours, makes for a ready-made present. These soaps lather well and help to invigorate the body. To gain optimum benefits - use from head to toe, either in the bath or shower. The Bluebeards Revenge are also strictly against animal testing, and these soaps are both vegetarian and vegan-friendly - the perfect grooming gift that doesn’t involve a generic body spray or cheap aftershave. The best part? The Soap Stack Kit is affordable, at £13.99. Click here to see for yourself.

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For a man with a newfound grooming routine, a durable wash bag is undoubtedly next on the list. We turned to a brand that we know and love and discovered Morris & Co.’s ‘Refined Gentleman Washbag’, which we think fits the bill perfectly. Part of the brand Heathcote & Ivory, Morris and Co. similarly specialise in creating unique and detailed lifestyle products. We have previously featured both Heathcote and Ivory’s Inflight Essentials and Christmas Gifts Set, so were excited to try a lifestyle product aimed at the male market. Thankfully we were not disappointed!

The Refined Gentleman Wash Bag is the ideal gift for a man that is looking for some luxury. The wash bag itself is generous in size, fitting full sized products in, with ease. Thanks to the use of a zip, it also opens and closes easily, and uses vegan leather, which ensures it is wipeable, and therefore easy to keep clean. The real standout of this product is the Acanthus print, inspired by Morris & Co.’s first wallpaper design. As the primary showcase of the brand’s plan to create large-scale wallpaper designs, we like this historical link, as well as the elegant and unique finish. The inner fabric is also wipeable, made from 100% polyester, meaning any spillages can be quickly rectified. To purchase a wash bag for the gentleman in your life, then click here, where you will find The Refined Gentleman Wash Bag available for £24.

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For a gentleman that enjoys a tipple, we also came across Morris and Co.’sThe Refined Gentleman Hip Flask’. Designed with the same embossed pattern as the above wash bag, this hip flask is a classy addition to any inner pocket. Although it is slim enough to fit most pockets, it contains enough room to hold approximately 200ml of liquid. Once again, the fabric is vegan and wipeable, meaning any sticky alcohol spillages can be removed with ease. It comes packaged in a simple, and elegant box (yes - we look for presents that are easy to wrap too), and we think it would make a great present alongside the Wash Bag or would be equally welcomed with a small bottle of your receivers favourite spirit. Either way (or neither way, as it is equally lovely on its own), you will find it on the Heathcote and Ivory website for £22 - a reasonable price for a present that is durable, and sure to be well loved.

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For something a little more outlandishly festive, we came across Lime Lace. Stockists of stylish home accessories, gifts and furniture, their website offers an abundance of gifting options, from artwork to lighting and cushions. It was, however, the candles that caught our eye, in particular, The Christmas Jumper Candle the perfect balance between Christmas kitsch, and clever design.

This candle adds a little festive spirit to any room and will be sure to make your receiver smile. We must confess that we were concerned by the prospect of this candle looking too novelty, however, we were pleasantly surprised by the enormous amount of detail. The wax has been carved to look like intricate wool, and the addition of the glitter is an excellent way to jazz up any table or mantlepiece. The detail even goes as far as to emulate red stitching around the cuffs and hem, and we were pleased to discover that the glitter is non-transferable. Gone is the worry of packaging a present, only to find a product that has become distinctively less glittery in the process. Additionally, you’ll find the outer box easy to wrap, although we think it would look lovely when wrapped in cellophane, with a red ribbon bow. The size of this candle also surprised us, at 11x12cm, a decent dimension to create an optimum festive atmosphere, without being overbearing. To send a little Christmas cheer of your own, purchase a Christmas Jumper Candle here for £16.95.

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Finally, for the gadget lover in your life, we discovered Orbitkey. Founders, Rex and Charles, started the company after they decided enough was enough when it came to key organisation. Initially, it took just 30 days to gain 5,000 supporters, and with bases in Melbourne and New York, the success is now notable. Based on the concept of making key storage less bulky, we were keen to try the brand for ourselves.

Although Orbitkey have a plethora of different options, we particularly like the Orbitkey 2.0 Leather. This design comes in a vast array of colours, from simple black and stone to more eye-catching sage and tan. In a nutshell, this product provides a way to hold up to 7 keys, organising them, preventing them from scratching and providing a durable and lightweight finish. Now, of course, this product is not merely limited to men, but we particularly think the concept is perfect for men who often carry keys in their pockets. We were astounded by how convenient this product is, not just for protecting the keys, but also other ensuring other items in pockets and bags are equally protected. Orbitkey have also considered the inevitability of needing to add car keys separately, which can be done utilising the slim D-ring at the top of the leather strap. We tried the Orbitkey in Charcoal with Grey Stitching, which has proven to be popular in the office - especially among the male members of our cohort. There is also the option to monogram the genuine cowhide leather, which screams present giving to us (although you may be pushing it this week). We get the impression that design and ergonomics are paramount to this brand, which only extends further into the stylish and sleek box that the product arrived in. To encourage organisation for a man in your life, see the Orbitkey website here, where you will find this design for £35.59 or £46.23 with monogramming.

So there we go, five products that have hopefully given you a little inspiration for any gift giving nightmares. Perhaps you’ve even found a little something that you’d quite like yourself (when is it too late to add to your Christmas list exactly?) Be sure to check out the rest of our guides this week for even more inspiration, or for those of you who are indefinitely organised, perhaps these could be potential gifts for the New Year. Happy shopping!

MicroBarBox - Chocoholic's Chocolate Cocktail Box

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It might only be Wednesday, but that doesn’t stop us dreaming of Friday at The Amazing Blog! We were thrilled to discover British company, MicroBarBox, as their novel cocktail boxes allowed us to indulge in a cocktail (or two) from the comfort of our own homes. The concept of a ‘bar in a box’ is a great one, the liqueurs and spirits you need to create delicious after dinner drinks are delivered straight to your door, and with several different versions, you can choose your box dependant on whether you’re a gin, vodka, whisky, or prosecco lover.

We decided to give the Chocoholic’s Chocolate Cocktail Box a whirl. This decadent delight contains a plethora of alcoholic and chocolatey treats, including Coole Swan White Chocolate Liqueur, Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur, Sweet Potato Chocolate Moonshine with Chilli, Bramley and Gage Cherry Brandy, Baileys Orange Truffle Irish Cream Liqueur and Wild Chocolate Vodka - all of which come in 50ml measures. In addition to that, you get 35g of Fudge Kitchen Classic Chocolate, as well as 40g Divine White Chocolate. What more could you ask for? They have created our liquid ‘chocolate heaven’! Although completely acceptable as a way to treat yourself, this box would also make a perfect Christmas present for your loved ones. The boxes are elegant, encasing the chocolatey goodies in black packaging, with pink and white lettering. If you have the willpower to save these treats, then they will also be great additions to your beverage collection.

These can either be mixed in your own experimental way, or you can follow the cocktail serving suggestions to create some fabulous chocolate cocktails. Our favourite was definitely the Winter Wonderland cocktail, which contains the Coole Swan White Chocolate Liqueur mixed with 1/3 of Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur. Perfect for a cosy catch up on wintery days! Everything you need is combined in the box, just add some ice for a refreshing bonus. For £35 you can order the Chocoholic’s Chocolate Cocktail box here or browse the selection of other boxes here. NB: the box contents are regularly updated so your contents may be different (although equally delicious!)

In order to always keep your selection updated, you can even become a Cocktail Club member, and get your monthly Cocktail box delivered straight to your door. The lovely MicroBarBoxTeam have also created a discount code for you, our readers, which you can use when purchasing their Chocoholic’s Chocolate Cocktail Box. Simply use the code “AMAZING10” when placing your order. Enjoy!

Friday Favourites: Festive Gins

The second weekend of December is here, and we think that justifies a festive tipple or two. As gin lovers at The Amazing Blog, we were thrilled to come across six new spirits - we're certainly never averse to a spot of gin tasting in the name of research! Whether you're a connoisseur or not, we're sure that you'll find a suitable botanical to mix with your favourite tonic, add to a signature cocktail or gift to a gin lover in your life.

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Firstly, we discovered Conker, based in Bournemouth and known as Dorset's first gin distillery. They pride themselves on being free from traditional constraints, instead, evolving their Dorset Dry with meticulous testing and tweaking; producing a gin that has a strong focus on quality, rather than industry expectation. We don't mind admitting that we were dubious as to whether this approach would produce a suitable outcome, but in fact, the delicious taste of this gin speaks for itself, proving this assumption very wrong. Whether distilled traditionally or not, we are suitably impressed.

Despite their no-fuss approach, Dorset Dry is still a classic dry gin. The fresh taste is thanks to the use of ten unique botanicals, including Dorset elderberries and samphire, as well as handpicked New Forest gorse flowers. We were pleased to see the use of local ingredients, including British wheat spirit and New Forest Spring Water, both adding subtle and different flavours. We particularly enjoyed the light and refreshing taste, still smooth enough to be consumed neatly over ice, or equally enjoyable when mixed with a good quality tonic. We also found it works well with a dash of ginger ale, for a spicy and fresh tipple. Purchase Conker's Dorset Dry here starting from £21.50 (350ml).

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If you're a traditionalist at heart, then Hayman’s may be the gin brand for you. Producing gin since 1863, Hayman’s have a wealth of knowledge, passed down between generations. This has unearthed a brand that is committed to championing traditional methods, and through priding themselves on creating truly English Gins, Hayman’s have produced a collection of delicious spirits, that certainly stand out amongst the crowded gin market.

For us, sloe gin optimises December and Christmas, the ideal tipple for an evening spent by the fire (or perhaps Father Christmas’ spirit of choice). We tried Hayman's Sloe Gin, a handcrafted spirit that is distilled using a fifth-generation family recipe. Thanks to the use of English wild-forage berries, this gin has a plummy aroma and fruity taste, particularly popular among those of us with a taste for almond. Made from harvested English sloe berries and Hayman's English Gin, the ingredients are steeped for four months, giving a broad and bursting flavour. Due to the lower alcohol content of 26% ABV, this gin is delicious when consumed on its own, or when mixed with prosecco, for a party worthy Sloe Royale. We must also mention the packaging, launched nationwide in Marks & Spencer; the bottles are wrapped in limited edition paper, perfect as a gift for gin lovers, or merely to add a bit of festive cheer to your spirit cabinet. To purchase your own Sloe Gin for £26.00, head into a local Marks & Spencer store or visit the Haymans website here.

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Despite the name 'London Dry Gin', it is not only manufactured in the UK. Strane introduced us to their Swedish offerings, made at Smögen Whisky, a small craft distillery on the Swedish west coast. As a whisky company, we found it interesting that Strane have applied their whisky process to gin making, focusing heavily on the blending process. Launched in 2014, Strane's blending process is designed to ensure that each gin has a distinctively different outcome, with different proportions of botanicals added to each of the three offerings. What impressed us, is the quality control of this small batch company, trialling and testing on a constant basis to re-balance the final product.

We tried two of Strane's gins: Strane Merchant Strength 47.4% ABV and Strane Ultra Uncut 82.5% ABV. Both are handcrafted in small batches of around 45 litres and are mixed by master blender, Pär Caldenby, who ensures each of the three gins is mixed precisely. Merchant Strength has an intense depth of character thanks to the use of juniper, coriander and mint. Strane also include two secret botanicals, one local, and the other, typical of the ancient trade of the armed merchant ships. Although we can't spill the names of these ingredients, we certainly enjoyed the gin with a good quality tonic and a classic lemon garnish. Strane's Ultra Uncut gin is an explosion of strength, yet is still a delicious gin to be consumed with a good quality tonic. Thanks to the use of cinnamon, sweet almond and sage, this gin has a botanically strong taste, which is rich in juniper, and heavily citrusy with notes of lemon peel and garden mint. Try it for yourself here for £33, or if you're feeling less adventurous, try Strane's Merchant Strength for £39.83 here.

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Finally, thanks to Esker Spirits, we were transported to Scotland and introduced to two final additions to our (ever-growing) gin cabinet. With a desire to create premium spirits, Esker's first distillery was housed in a humble back garden shed, which has now impressively evolved into a distillery on the Kincardine Estate. As a family-owned distillery, ingredients are sourced from the local area of Royal Deeside, and it is the silver birch sap, in particular, that is characteristic of their unique spirits. Thanks to this ingredient, Esker Spirits have a classic yet distinct flavour, distilled traditionally in a copper pot still, creating delicious gins that we couldn't wait to try.

Firstly, we tried Esker's Traditional Gin, with citrusy notes, thanks to the use of orange peel. This is a refreshing gin, with floral undertones that are characteristic of rosehip and heather flowers. We found this gin is best mixed with a good quality tonic (we liked it with elderflower tonic especially) and the citrus flavour really pops when served with a small amount of orange peel. It is also delicious when added to prosecco, add a cordial of your choice, and wow your party guests with a delectable (yet simple) cocktail. Equally, if you're looking for a spicier alternative, then Esker's Honey Spiced Gin is the answer. Thanks to the use of pink peppercorn and cassia, this gin has a warming kick, enough to warm the cockles after a long week at work. Although this can be served with traditional tonic, we enjoyed it immensely when served with ginger ale and orange peel, the ultimate long drink to accompany an evening of present wrapping. Purchase Esker's Traditional Gin for £36 here, or Honey Spiced Gin for £35.30 here.

How's that for some gin cabinet inspiration? Whether you're searching for a gift, a companion for your festive cocktail recipes, or even a spirit to put hairs on your chest - we're sure one of these gins will be your answer. Enjoy!

Sana Jardin - No. 5 Celestial Patchouli Perfume

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A specific scent can immediately change your whole mood, bringing good memories back or creating new and exciting ones. This is why we at The Amazing Blog love exploring new fragrances. It’s so interesting to see how each person’s skin interacts, and the different perceptions of the very same fragrance. For that reason, we were thrilled when Sana Jardin, the world’s first socially conscious luxury fragrance house. What we love about Sana Jardin is that their mission is not only to provide a long-lasting scent, but also to help empower women all across the globe.

We first fell in love with this natural perfume brand Sana Jardin when recently reviewing their Discovery Set (see our blog post here). This is their range of 7 Eau de Parfums, presented in discreet and elegant bottles which were launched in Harrods in 2017. In collaboration with IFF Master Perfumer Carlos Benaim, these Sana Jardin perfumes were created, unfolding the healing power of natural oils while primarily using some of nature’s most exotic scents, without the use of artificial colourants, parabens, phthalates or formaldehydes.

To keep this never-ending love story going, we asked to try No.5 Celestial Patchouli. Its rich intense smell creates a notion of soft cinnamon bark and leather, with a bit of Australian sandalwood and of course, the slightly sweet but dominant smell of patchouli. It then unfolds to reveal rose and jasmine, as well as Moroccan orris root and the fruity aroma of osmanthus. As these full notes mingle, a deliciousness is revealed, we would go as far as to say making you feel more balanced, relaxed, empowered and harmonised. The packaging is exquisitely designed and we love the magnetic top on the bottle, all of which adds to the luxurious feel. All in all, we think that this fragrance creates an all-round feel good factor. No.5 Celestial Patchouli can be purchased at Harrods, or here at £95 for a 50ml bottle or £180 for an 100 ml bottle.

We must also mention the brand’s founder, Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed, who created this luxury brand as a vehicle for social change, empowering low-income women. Her brand is the force behind The Beyond Sustainability™ Movement, a movement to impact lower-income women, not with the use of charity, but rather through commerce. The opportunity comes from recycling floral waste into products which end up being sold locally and nationally. Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed is proud to call this process a true flower revolution. So why not join the change, and empower women to ‘flower to power’? This movement already supports 3 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. Sana Jardin is not only about having a powerful scent but is also focused on making a change! For further information, visit the Sana Jardin website or have a look at @sanajardin on social media.