Top 5 Books I've Read During Lockdown

Sunday, September 27, 2020

2020 has been an awful year for everyone but the one benefit for me, has been the extra time for reading and the wonderful escapism and relaxation it provides. I reached my 50 book goal a few months ago and I recently reached my updated target of 100 books so I'm very happy with my reading progress for the year; however despite the number of books I've read, I don't have too many stand out favourites unfortunately. 

Hopefully the last few months of 2020 will include a few great books but for today's post I'll be sharing my top five books during the lockdown period (we're still in lockdown in Manchester and have been for most of the year) which ranges between April to September for myself and my fellow Mancunians. If you want to know what I'm reading, make sure you follow me on GoodReads!

Best Books 

Skincare by Caroline Hirons: a fantastic guide to skincare from the queen of skincare ★★★★★

The Memory of Babel by Christelle Dabos: a magical book series with dangerous powers, family deities and mysteries galore ★★★★

The Scottish Boy by Alex de Campi: an absorbing (and graphic!) LGBT gritty historical fiction ★★★★

Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach: a macabrely interesting book that everyone needs to read ★★★★★

City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker: a non-fiction read of a salacious and dangerous period of French history that reads like an incredible historical drama ★★★★


Honourable Mentions 

Blood Work by Holly Tucker: a gruesome but interesting look at the history of blood transfusions (aware of graphic animal abuse) ★★★★

The Passenger: Japan: a collection of essays on various aspects of Japanese culture that is interesting, eye opening and heart breaking at times ★★★★

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: a humorous, lighthearted and thoroughly enjoyable LGBT contemporary romance ★★★ (3.75)

A Burning Sea by Theodore Brun: an adventure filled series with battles, norse myths and friendship ★★★ (3.75)

Passport Ready by Anne Malambo: an essential guide to travel especially for women travelling alone ★★★★


If I had to recommend only one fiction and one non-fiction book from lockdown I think I would have to choose The Memory of Babel by Christelle Dabos and City of Light by Holly Tucker. I always receive  comments on my monthly wrap-up posts and social media about how many books I read so here are a few tips: 

  • Always take a book with you
  • Try audiobooks or e-books
  • DNF books you aren't enjoying
  • Manage your time to include reading
  • Try a book subscription (such as BookBeat or Scribd)
  • Set a goal of read X books per month 
  • Read shorter books, novellas or graphic novels
  • Buddy read with a friend or family member 
  • Join a book club or GoodReads 

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading during lockdown? 

September Beauty Favourites 2020

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

I have found so many fantastic new products over the past couple of months so I wanted to share my recent beauty favourites today which includes skincare, hair removal and an absolutely adorable advent calendar! If you've been following my social media (@ofbeautyand) then you'll have had a sneak peek of these products over the past month. Stay tuned for more favourites posts as well as my summer empties post which will be filled with mini product reviews!
*FFS Shaving Kit (from £9.95 per month)
I have reviewed a few products from FFS (formerly Friction Free Shaving) on my blog previously but I'm still loving their razors and natural deodorant. I love the rose gold handle (particularly with the personalised engraving) but I think that I like their new Iris handle even more! The Iris handle includes the same ergonomic, easy to use design and engraving option but the handle features a gunmetal and lavender colour combination which is just gorgeous! 

I love the razor design, colours and how sharp the blades are as it gives the most smooth and close shave without the irritation I've experienced from cheaper disposable razors. The kit can be purchased as a monthly subscription (or every two months) and you can add extras to your kit such as a natural deodorant, body scrub, body balm, wax strips or a shaving cream. I've tried the balm, deodorant and now the shaving cream; all three have been gentle but effective. If you're looking for a more eco-friendly shaving option, check out FFS. 
*Temple Spa BeCalm Soothing Face Mask (£28, 65ml)
Another brand that I've loved for a while is Temple Spa; I reviewed a few of their pampering and body care products back in 2017 and loved everything. I also adored their concealer and I'd highly recommend it as a brightening concealer, particularly for those with dry skin. Until recently I hadn't tried any of their skincare and I'm glad I have because, once again, I've fallen in love! 

The soothing face mask contains a blend of Mediterranean botanicals, aubergine, liquorice and apricot along with probiotics to soothe and nourish sensitive skin. I've been using it for around the past couple of weeks and I've noticed that after every use, my skin feels more comfortable, moisturised and softer. I'll definitely be using this mask often throughout the colder months when my skin needs a little more moisture and TLC. 

*Temple Spa Glowcolic (£20, 150ml)
Another product that would be ideal for the colder months is their new glycolic acid toner which is designed to resurface, exfoliate and renew the skin. I've tried quite a few glycolic acid toners, I think this is probably the fifth I've tried over the past year and so far, so good. The toner comes in a handy pump bottle, it hasn't irritated my skin and the result so far have all been positive. 

Since using the toner every other day (as I used to have sensitive skin and I don't want to potential irritate it by using too much), I've noticed an improvement in the texture and clarity of my skin. If you are new to acid toners and you're looking to start with an effective but gentle option from a brand that has won 'best luxury skincare brand for 2020' then definitely check out the Temple Spa Glowcolic toner. 
*Temple Spa Be Gone Kind-Hearted Cleansing Creme (£21, 150ml)

My favourite product from the three I was very kindly sent is their cleansing creme which I was surprised by as not only do cleansers not excite me in the way that new acid toners or treatments do but it also looks a little nondescript. However do not be fooled, this cleansing creme is a superhero in disguise! The creme contains vitamins A and E, probiotics and the Temple Spa Calmaderm complex which is designed for those with sensitive skin. 

The cleansing creme has the most unusual but incredibly smooth and silky texture that glides over the skin effortlessly so there's no scrubbing or irritation while cleansing. Not only does it feel wonderful on the skin but it leaves it feeling incredible too. Since lockdown my skin has gone a little haywire and since using this cleanser my skin has calmed down, it feels much more comfortable and the dryness I was experiencing over my breakouts has reduced. If you have normal to dry or sensitive skin then this little unassuming cleansing creme will be your best friend during the upcoming colder months and I know that I'll be purchasing it in the future - it is a magic in a tub! I'll be including this wonder product alongside my other current skincare favourites as part of my upcoming autumn skincare routine and favourites so stay tuned. 

*Bomb Cosmetics Bathe, Sleep, Be Merry and Repeat Advent Calendar (£19.99)

Last but definitely not least is my first advent calendar of the year and it has to be one of the cutest I've ever bought or received! I'm lucky enough to be a Bomb Cosmetics ambassador so I was very kindly sent this adorable advent calendar and I couldn't be happier with it. It contains 24 mini products to try including handmade soap, bath blasters, bath mallows and bath creamers, all of which smell divine. I have been using some of the products over the past couple of weeks and my favourites so far have to be the pink pamper soap and rose bath creamer (which looks so beautiful) but I can't wait to try the others. Make sure you are following me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand) for more sneak peeks into the advent calendar as well as reviews.

Have you tried any of these products? Will you be picking up a beauty advent calendar this year?

New In: Mio Skincare

Sunday, September 20, 2020


Back in the carefree days of 2015 (I can't imagine what that was like) I was very kindly sent a few products from Mio Skincare; since then I've adored their Liquid Yoga Bath Soak, so much so that I purchased it myself a couple of years ago and I've purchased the correlating room spray which smells wonderful. Five years on and the products have had a little makeover with a brand new packaging design as well as new and improved vegan formulas!

*Mio Liquid Yoga Bath Soak (£28, 200ml)

I'll start with my favourite product of the four I was kindly sent and one that I've been loving for the past five years, Liquid Yoga. The bath soak contains a new 100% natural fragrance as well as a blend of cannabis seed oil, herbs and mineral salts, to ease the mind and relax the body. In addition to the new natural fragrance, the formula is now cruelty free and vegan which is fantastic. 

The scent of the previous version was a very heady mix of menthol or mint and herbs which I absolutely adored and it just became stronger when added to water. The new bath soak has a much more subtle, sweeter scent which I love also; however I do wish it had the same sinus clearing punch as the previous formula. Every time I use the bath soak it instantly relaxes me, releases muscle tension and it helps to clear my mind, which isn't an easy task. 

*Clay Away Body Cleanser (£18, 200ml - sale)
Next up, a body wash with a difference. The Clay Away body cleanser is a 2 in 1 body wash and body mask which is something I haven't tried before. It contains witch hazel, green tea, green clay and willow bark extract, among other natural ingredients to deeply cleanse, smooth and purify the skin leaving it thoroughly pampered. Using this body wash as a quick and fuss free body mask definitely makes my bathroom feel a little like an at-home spa, without the price tag!

*Mio Active Skin Routine Duo (£36, worth £45)
Lastly, a great value product duo designed for those with an active lifestyle in need of a couple of highly effective products to add to your gym bag. The Dive In body wash contains coconut to hydrate as well as orange and eucalyptus oils to invigorate the senses and refresh the skin. After using the heavenly scented body wash, the Muscle Motivator cooling gel is the ideal accompaniment to a difficult workout as it helps to cool and soothe the skin.

Have you tried anything from Mio?

Gift Idea: Prestige Hampers

Thursday, September 17, 2020

I've been lucky enough to work with the lovely people over at Prestige Hampers previously (back in 2018 which seems like a lifetime ago!) and I adored the hamper I was kindly sent so I was very excited to work with them again for another hamper review. Christmas is less than 100 days away and even though it may seem like the year has completely passed us by in no time, it is quickly approaching. 

*Simply Delicious - Prestige Hampers (£99.99 - sale)

They have an enormous range of hampers to choose from in a range of styles, designs and for every occasion as well as every budget! I was very generously sent their impressive Simply Delicious hamper which is currently on sale, as most of their hampers and gift sets are, so you can beat the Christmas shopping rush and start looking for gift options now. 

Their hampers come in a range of sizes, from smaller gifts between £19.99 to £44.99 to medium sized hampers between £49.99 to £64.99 and finally, larger hampers (which look the most impressive and luxurious) priced between £74.99 to £329.99. The Simply Delicious hamper is a luxurious hamper that would be an ideal gift for a family, household to share or as a luxury birthday gift for any foodie in your life. 
There are so many delicious offerings within the hamper from tea, coffee and wine to biscuits, crisps, preserves, snacks and of course, lots of chocolate. There can't be a celebration without chocolate! In terms of dietary requirements, there are vegan options in my box but there are also exclusively vegan hampers too, along with gluten/wheat free hampers. If you are unsure of your gift recipients diet, there are also fresh fruit hampers, brownie boxes, vegetarian pastry boxes and every kind of chocolate gift or hamper you could imagine. 
Not only are there a wide range of items within the Simply Delicious box (the peppermint creams, Yorkshire crisps and coffee were my personal favourite items; the chutney, savoury biscuits and wine were my parents favourites) but everything is contained in the most beautiful handmade wicker basket. The basket is well made, sturdy and I will definitely be re-using it to store cosy blankets and throws in over the upcoming colder months! 
While, all of their gifts and hampers look incredible (the chocolate bouquets look so unique and would make for very unusual but amazing birthday presents), I think that the wicker basket hampers look especially gorgeous and luxurious. They not only provide a selection of delicious treats to share with family and friends but they provide a re-useable wicker basket that would make a cute autumnal home storage basket. They also look like a very impressive, expensive and substantial gift!
If you're looking to a gorgeous hamper to give to a special someone this christmas (or as a luxurious and unique birthday, anniversary or celebratory gift), look no further than Prestige Hampers. They have a hamper and foodie gift for every occasion with options for various diets and budgets too. Choose from a selection of not only elegant hampers but also birthday cakes, fresh fruit hampers, alcohol gifts, chocolate goodies and more unusual options such as a 1kg sausage roll, brownies, candy/sweets, pastries, cheese gifts and many more. 



Have you tried any of the hampers from Prestige Hampers? If not, would you consider buying one this christmas? 

*5 Ways To Save Money This Autumn

Monday, September 14, 2020

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September is #Secondhand September which has started to make me think about my shopping habits and spending recently. During lockdown (we are currently still in lockdown in Manchester), I surprisingly didn't resort to retail therapy as I thought I would (not going to lie, I'm quite proud of myself). However, I do still want to cut back on my spending and save a little as many aspects of life are very uncertain in our current situation. I hope today's post gives you a few tips on how to save a little money over the next few months and if you have are tips of your own, leave them in the comments below!

Use What You Have & Upcycle 

Firstly, reusing and upcycling items, instead of purchasing new products. Using up products instead of throwing them away is one of the easiest options to save money. If you follow me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand) you may have seen my empties sneak peeks (my empties posts will be live at the end of the month) showing some of the items I have used up over lockdown. I used to be one of those people who would use up half a product and then move onto another or buy something new but having a basket in the bathroom that I am fill up with empty products definitely gives me the motivation to use up the half finished products I already have rather than spending money on new items - it is very satisfying throwing everything away when it is full!


Shopping Secondhand

Secondhand September is underway and while it isn't necessarily going to help you save a lot of money; it can help reduce your spending compared to buying new items when you need to. Shopping secondhand is also far better for the environment and is a more sustainable way to shop. Sustainability and environmentally conscious shopping is something we all need to be more mindful of in 2020. 


Review Your Bills + Shop For Better Deals

Shopping for better deals, whether you are shopping secondhand, looking for a discount code or switching providers, can all save you a little money which all adds up! Switching electricity, internet, insurance, phone or gas providers, for example, might be a little bit of hassle but it could potentially save you quite a significant amount of money. 


Make or Grow Your Own

Making your own 'fakeaway' dinners, upcycling old furniture, growing your own herbs or vegetables are not only more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives but can save you extra cash too. Takeaways can be quite expensive, if there aren't any offers or discount codes, so why not make your own. Growing you own vegetables or herbs may take more than a little time but it is so satisfying to be able to eat what you have grown in your own home. Also, if you want to change piece of worn out furniture, why not upcycling it instead of purchasing something new? Gardening and upcycling may also turn into rewarding new hobbies!


Cutting Costs 

Making a list of your expenses and cutting costs where you can is great for not just saving money but it means that you can keep track of your spending which in turn may make you more mindful about your spending habits. I've started to write down all of my purchases each month and while at the time small and inexpensive items don't seem like a problem, when they are totalled at the end of the month, it can add up to more money than you'd thought. 

Cutting costs can also take the form of energy saving and more environmentally friendly lighting. Inui are leading LED lighting specialists offering a wide range of LED lighting for commercial, industrial and domestic use. LED lighting can be a cheaper option and it can typically last longer than traditional light bulbs which may also save you money in the future!

Do you have any money saving tips? 

*5 Tips To Declutter For A New Season

Sunday, September 13, 2020
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The best season of all is coming up and I couldn't be more excited! The start of any new season always fills me with renewed optimism, energy and motivation for all of the exciting opportunities and seasonal changes. I love to change my clothing, makeup, skincare and decor at the beginning of a new season, especially autumn with all of it's cosiness, and it is also a great time to declutter and re-organise. 

Store Away Clothing/Homeware  

The first thing I do is to sort out my skincare, makeup, wardrobe and daily homeware - I love sorting out and reorganising! I store away all of the items I use that aren't seasonally appropriate within storage boxes above my wardrobe or the attic to make room for more season-ready items that I'll be using more often. I think vacuum bags would be great for storing away items, especially linens and clothing. 

Alternatively, if you simply don't have room in your home for excess items or items you want to sell in the future then a self storage unit might be the solution. Magenta Storage offers inclusive self storage that is simple and straightforward. Whether you want to declutter your home, store items to sell or if you are moving, they have units all around the country so you may be able to find a storage facility local to you. 


Sell, Swap or Donate

After sorting out, I typically divide everything into three categories: donate, sell or give to friends/family. Selling items isn't quite as easy as it used to be given the current pandemic we are unfortunately experiencing, however local for sale or swap facebook groups are a fantastic way to make a little money from your unwanted items or swap for something you want. I've personally found these groups to be very quick and easy options for selling larger items which not only helps to declutter but brings in a little extra cash too. However, always be cautious! 


Upcycle What You Have

Bringing new items into your home isn't the only option when you want to update a room or your wardrobe for a new season, you can alter what you have. Whether it's an old piece of furniture, a worn out jacket or an old fashioned vase - make, mend and upcycle what you have! Upcycling not only saves money and potentially gives you a new hobby but it also means that you aren't bringing in what could be clutter in the future into your home. I'm always wanting to throw away items (my style and decor is very minimal) but by altering or using items in a new way, they can have a new use and look. 


Secondhand September

However, if you are in the mood to spend, why not shop secondhand? September is #SecondhandSeptember so look online for vintage stores, eBay, Depop or charity shops for secondhand bargains. I've been trying (and succeeding for the most part) to stop buying fast fashion and to create a more minimal wardrobe. Shopping secondhand is a great way to shop in a more environmentally conscious and sustainable way, which is something I think we all need to do. 


Embrace Minimalism 

Lastly, try to embrace minimalism. Living a more minimalist lifestyle may seem a little daunting at first but I think it is easier if you start with small steps. The first is realising, keeping track of and noting which items you wear or use consistently and others that you very rarely wear or use. When you have that in mind, sorting though each room makes it more manageable to narrow down your possessions to only the items you love or use consistently. It can be a long process and I'm definitely still in the middle of my goal to a more minimalist lifestyle and home (especially being a blogger, it can definitely be a little tricky) but take it one step at a time. 

Do you have any decluttering tips? Have you used a self storage unit?