*Home Improvement Plans + How To Find The Right Company in 2019

*Home Improvement Plans + How To Find The Right Company in 2019

Thursday, January 31, 2019
Image from 2LG Studio
For me, the star of a new year comes with various emotions and goals, some of which are those of wanting to start fresh. I think most of us what to make changes with a new year and some of those, for me, are related to our home. At the end of last year, one of the bathrooms was renovated which was not a pleasant process and next week, we're going through the same process again - I can't wait for it to be over as I'm never comfortable with builders in the house!

How To Find The Right Home Improvement Company 
There are various home improvement plans we have for the year including the bathroom which should hopefully be finished by the end of next week but before even getting to that stage it can be difficult. There are so many home improvement companies out there so it can be extremely difficult to not only find one within your area or budget but to also find one that will do a good job, has a great reputation and that is even available.

We're lucky enough to have a couple of lovely neighbours on our street that are well known, reliable and fantastic tradesmen so that wasn't a problem for us but if you do need to find a company then looking through various review websites such as Trustpilot is worth doing especially if you're looking for a larger jobs to be undertaken which probably isn't going to be cheap. Also checking out quotes from various companies, asking for recommendations from friends and family members as well as various apps which list tradesmen and companies could be a good place to start. Additionally, rather than a general builder or tradesman, someone who specialises in the project you want to be completed is something to look out for, along with images on social media or generally online of their work so you can see the standard they offer. One website that has great offers on home improvements is SEHBAC, specifically for windows, doors, extensions and conservatories.

2019 Home Improvement Plans 
As I've mentioned, the bathroom is being renovated next week and I'm sure I'll share a few snippets on my instagram (@ofbeautyand) but we are also thinking of renovating or knocking down and rebuilding the conservatory. It was built when I was around six years old or so which is twenty years ago...I think it's time for a change as it is definitely starting to show signs of it's age. The conservatory  is currently a mini home gym which I love but I think it would be great to have a new, larger and fresh space in place of the cold, rickety conservatory we currently have.

Do you have any home renovation plans for the year? Do you have any tips for home renovations in general or how to find a good builder, company or tradesman? 

*This is a sponsored post (AD)

Galentines Day Gift Ideas

Tuesday, January 29, 2019
Valentines day is almost around the corner! January feels like it has lasted for a year but also it seems like 2019 is flying by already somehow. However, with the start of February fast approaching, it's time to start thinking about valentines day and galentines day, the latter is the most important! 

I'm extremely lucky in that I have quite a lot of friends as well as three extra special friends who I've known for most of my life and I do feel as though I taken them for granted sometimes so galentines day is a great way to show how much you appreciate those friends who will always be there for you! 

I know that valentines day and galentines day are 'Hallmark holidays' but I still feel as though they are great excuses to treat those you love, whether it's your partner or friends, because why not! I personally love receiving gifts and I know my friends do too and it's a little more special if it's unexpected. Today's post features a range of gifts that would be ideal as a galentines (or palentines day, I've heard it being called) gifts. Thanks so much to Funky Pigeon, Simply Beach and Blue Flamingo. 
*Cocktail Candles - Pink Champagne (£9.99, sale)
Let's start with a couple of gorgeous and slightly more unusual gifts, both of which are from Funky Pigeon. Candles are an ideal gift for most and I love receiving them too as they instantly make any room so much cosier, warmer and more inviting which is definitely something everyone needs at this time of the year (it's currently snowing as I'm writing this post). For ever thrilling weather updates as well as blogger mail unboxings, follow me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand). 

There are so many candles out there and maybe your friends have tried many of them so why not opt for something a little more unusual in a cocktail inspired candle. The candle I was very kindly sent is the 'pink champagne' candle which not only looks gorgeous but it smells heavenly too. To me, it has a very fresh and fruity scent that's a little unique and it would be perfect for adding a little spring freshness into any home. It's currently on sale, along with a few other gifts in the galentines day section, so go, go, go. 
*Caroline Gardner Multi-Ribbon Notebook (£18.99)
There are so many gorgeous gifts to choose from, for a range of ages, preferences and tastes, on the Funky Pigeon website but one item that instantly caught my eye was this utterly gorgeous notebook (we all know how much I love a cute notebook). I haven't tried anything from this brand but I love the style of all of their items so I now need to check out this brand more throughly!

The notebook I chose doesn't just have such a cute cover and a simple and classic design but it also has multiple ribbon bookmarks which makes it look even cuter and makes it even more practical. I'm planning on using this notebook for family record keeping (such as family stories before they are forgotten) but it would be great for so many other uses too. If you have a friend or partner that loves stationery then definitely check out this notebook on Funky Pigeon as I think it will be a hit with so many stationery lovers, myself included. 
*Blue Flamingo Silk Scarf - Urban Life (£65)
The penultimate item within today's gift guide (there will be more valentines day inspired gift guides coming soon) is more on the luxury end of the spectrum so it would be great for those extra special friends, for a special birthday or as a Mother's Day gift as Mother's Day in the UK isn't too far away. I was very kindly sent the Urban Life silk scarf from the lovely people over at Blue Flamingo and I think it would make such a lovely, special and luxurious gift to give. 

There are a variety of designs to choose from (I think the Sloane Square design is my ultimate favourite of the design currently available) but I opted for the Urban Life scarf as I know that my mum will absolutely love it! I'm planning on giving my mum a little valentines day gift this year as she always gave myself and my sister valentines day treats growing up, whether it was chocolates or a toy so I think it would be a nice gesture to finally gift my mum something in return. 

The scarf is composed of 100% AA grade medium weight silk and it's a great size at 150cm by 65cm. I'm personally not a fan of huge scarves, maybe because I'm very petite so this size is ideal for me and also my mum. The scarf is so smooth and soft, it feels quite luxurious and it would make for a lovely, thoughtful gift this valentines and galentines day. You'll hopefully see a photo of this scarf as as outfit of the day soon...if the snow stops! 
*Ashiana Mini Stardust Pouch from Simply Beach (£14.99, sale)
The final item on my gift guide is another sale gift but this one is from Simply Beach which is a site I've been lucky enough to work with previously. Simple Beach has such a wide range of gorgeous beachwear, beach accessories and swimwear such as push up bikini, jewellery, footwear, bags and more so if you are jetting off to soak up some winter sun then look no further than Simply Beach, especially as there are currently so many sale items on their website! 

The pouch I received has one of my favourite designs to feature on any accessories or clothing which is stars. I have a tattoo of stars on my wrist so naturally when I find any item with stars, I'm instantly drawn to it and this cute pouch is no different. I love the design, it think it would be perfect as a beach clutch and it's a great size too; however I'm going to use it as a makeup pouch for my handbag as I love to keep everything organised and why not keep all of my makeup organised in an adorable star pouch! I can't recommend it (or the Simply Beach site) enough and I think there are numerous items that would make wonderful galentines day gifts on there. 

What do you think of the gifts featured in my galentines day gift guide? Will you be celebrating valentines or galentines day this year?

January Reading Wrap-up 2019

Monday, January 28, 2019
I wanted to start of my first reading wrap-up post of the year with some of my reading goals, the first is my GoodReads reading goal for 2019 which I've set at a much more reasonable 50 books; however as I read 190 books in 2018, I will probably surpass my 50 book goal. Another goal of mine is to read more classics and longer reads that I've wanted to get round to for a while which is why I've chosen a couple of the books in todays wrap-up, along with some of my new Christmas books.

My BookBeat audiobook subscription has come to an end (I will be paying for it in the future) so for now, I'll only be reading physical and e-books; that means that there will be less books in each wrap-up post but I am surprised by how many books I've read this month. If you don't have time to read then definitely listen to audiobooks as they are so convenient to listen to in the car, while cooking or cleaning and before bed.

I managed to read eight books this month, six of which were fairly short, one book at almost 500 pages and finally, one over 500 pages, the latter is a book I've wanted to read for months, The Lies of Lock Lamora. Does anyone else put off reading a book because you think you're going to love it or is that just me? January was an amazing reading month overall with three books that I utterly adored and will probably make it to my favourite books of 2019: The Lies Of Lock Lamora, Working Stiff and Luck In The Shadows!

The Little Book Of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont (208 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
The first book I finished in January 2019 was one of my christmas presents from my sister, The Little Book Of Feminist Saints which features so many incredible women, some of which I hadn't ever heard of. There are two pages per person in this book which includes a short description of their life and achievements along with a gorgeous illustration. I adore the illustrations and cover as well as the small size which made it very easy to take on the go - that's another tip for reading more, along with listening to audiobooks, always take a book with you.

I loved how quick, easy to read and informative this read was and the illustrations were gorgeous! I did recognise maybe 50% of the women in this book but it's awful that I didn't know about others, all of which pushed boundaries and made a difference in some way. The author of this book must be North American as most of the women featured were American or if they were from another nationality, they were connected to America in some way. I feel as though the American women were prioritised, such as Julia Childs who had a larger section of information than Queen Elizabeth I, which just doesn't seem right to me, if I'm honest. I think it would have been better if it was spilt into genres or countries so everyone gets a fair share of the book. However, I adore non-fiction reads like this that are quick, interesting, entertaining and a little quirky so I'd definitely recommend this non-fiction read featuring so many inspiring women that everyone should know about!

The Lies of Lock Lamora by Scott Lynch (624 pages) ★★★★★
I have wanted to read this book for maybe over a year but I've been putting off reading it as I know that I'll adore it; however I decided that January would be the month that I'd finally read it and it definitely didn't disappoint! I have the gorgeous limited edition 10th anniversary cover which is so beautiful - I have already bought the next in the series!

We follow the orphaned talented trickster and thief, Lock Lamora as he is sold, trained and quickly enlisted in The Gentleman Bastards, a group of misfits, thieves and con-artists who steal from the rich and keep the money for themselves. The setting is utterly stunning and very vivid with a Venetian theme (which I adored) and to me it had an Assassins Creed vibe to it (Assassins Creed is my all time favourite game series). Just to give you can idea of the setting: glass bridges, tunnels underneath the graveyards, Venetian canals, dangerous creatures lurking in the water and a den of thieves underneath a temple.

I utterly adored the character of Lock as well as all of the other Gentleman Bastards, the schemes they plot, the deep friendship they share and their training which we get glimpses of through flashbacks to Lock's childhood training with Chains. The feel of this book was everything I wanted, I loved the plots and schemes throughout and I adored exploring this world as well as the cunning, nefarious and brutal characters within this read.

Typically I tend to read very quickly and I get a little disheartened and bored if a book is too slow or too long but this was a book I wanted to savour, read, live in (maybe not...), watch and play as a video game - why hasn't anyone adapted this for the screen in some way or as a video game! This read just kept getting better and better (and sadder and sadder) but I completely fell in love with it. It's one of the very best fantasy books I've EVER read and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I've already bought the second book as I can't wait to spend more time with these characters.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry (273 pages) ★★★
Another book I received for christmas was Melmoth which is inspired by the story of Melmoth the Wanderer, the original is a gothic novel written in 1820. The book begins with Helen Franklin being given a strange collection of documents which seems to cause distress to everyone who reads it. It also follows her dreary life and the life of her very unusual, disturbing neighbour as well as a couple of academics who are her only friends in Prague. We explore the various letters and documents that Helen was given so we go back in time and meet various new characters, the most memorable being Jospeh, so to me it just felt very disjointed and all over the place.

I was very interested in the premise so I couldn't wait to start it, especially as it's a relatively short book and I love to read as much as I can each month. Sadly, the book started off very slow and I didn't feel very compelled to read it but thankfully it did pick up a little at the half way mark. However I was just a little bored throughout the book. I also didn't know that it looked back in part to the occupation of the Czechoslovakia during the war which is a time in history that I never want to read as it's just incredibly heartbreaking (I personally read for entertaining/enjoyment, not to feel upset etc) and I had to study the first and second world wars in school so much that I just don't want to spend my free time reading about it, if I'm honest.

The one interesting and atmospheric element of the book was Melmoth herself as she is a very disturbing omen and she is present wherever despair, death, wickedness, disease and distress can be found. Her character alone saved the book for me as it was the only compelling character. The book itself felt like a collection of short stories about Melmoth that were jumbled together and I didn't understand flow between them. However I did like the final 25% of the book the most and it had some utterly heartbreaking and emotive moments. I would definitely recommend it if you like slow, beautiful writing featuring difficult topics of grief, loss, illness and guilt. However between the beautiful moments of writing and emotion were pages and pages of slow, slightly boring sections sadly. Everyone seems to love this read so I'm probably in the minority of those who didn't love this read.
The Visitors Books and Other Ghost Stories by Sophie Hannah (106 pages) ★★★ (3.75)
Last year I read my first Sophie Hannah read which was a new Poirot story and I really enjoyed it so I wanted to read more from her. I saw this very short and cute little hardback on World of Books so I had to buy it. It contains four short stories all of which have a sinister, eerie or supernatural element to them that manages to have a twist with so few pages.

All of the stories were so quick and easy, I read the book in the space of a car journey (it would be perfect to get into reading again, for a readathon or if you are in a reading slump). My favourite story of the four is definitely the title story, closely followed by the last story, All The Dead Mothers Of My Daughter's Friends. I loved this little collection, I'd definitely recommend it (the book itself is gorgeously designed too) and I will be reading more from Sophie Hannah.

The Man In The Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill (145 pages) ★★★ (3.5)
Since reading and loving The Woman In Black a couple of years ago, I've read quite a few more of Susan Hill's books but sadly I've been disappointed by all of them; however I still wanted to read more as I do like the eerie atmosphere she creates. In The Man In The Picture we follow a Cambridge professor who is uncovering the eerie, dark secrets of a painting and how the painting seemingly affects everyone who views it.

As I've said, I've been disappointed by the previous three or so books I've read by Susan Hill as they were a little boring but thankfully I really enjoyed this one! I loved all three settings in this book, especially Venice and I loved the sinister Venetian carnival atmosphere as well as the mystery and supernatural elements. Out of all the Susan Hill books I've read, I can definitely recommend The Woman In Black and The Man In The Picture!

Bloody Scottish History: Glasgow by Bruce Durie (95 pages) ★★★ (I'm being generous with three stars, it's much closer to two stars!)
Within 2018 I started my ancestry research again as it's something I've been looking into for years but I haven't looked into my mums side of the family until 2018 and I found a veritable army of Scottish relatives from around Scotland including Glasgow (as well as Aberdeen, Paisley, Midlothian and Stirlingshire) so I wanted to learn more about the city of Glasgow. There are so many of these books available for various cities around the UK and they are all very short and seemingly quick to read.

Sadly, I was just a little disappointed by this read and I think part of that is my own fault as I'm not very familiar at all with Scottish history so many of the events and terms were new to me (and not very well explained within this book). I did find some of the sections very interesting, especially from the halfway mark, including the witch trials, Jospeh Lister (and the other medical/epidemic sections of the book) and the specific events that happened to the city itself. However, I just didn't click with this book, the writing didn't flow in an easy to read way and I probably won't buy any more from this collection sadly.
Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek (270 pages) ★★★★ (4.5)

There are a couple of book genres that I loved in 2018 and they include: medical non-fiction and books around death. One of my favourite books of 2018 was Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty which is all about Caitlins life, her career and everything you could want to know about death, cremation and working in the death industry so I naturally wanted to read more books in that genre.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was more cremation focused but this one is very visceral, gory, graphic and goes into detail about autopsy, dissecting the body and everything that goes along with that including performing an autopsy on decomposed remains, a pregnant woman hit by a bus and drug users, to name a few. It will not be for everyone, naturally, and even for myself (I'm not squeamish at all and I grew up with slightly graphic medical books on our bookshelves), it was a little difficult to read at times.

However, I found it very interesting and gave me so much information I had previously no knowledge of, although most is very specific to the US and in the UK procedures/terms etc may differ. I liked learning about various processes involved in an autopsy, behind the scenes of the duties of a medical examiner and about Judy Melinek's life/career, which I was left in awe of, if I'm honest.

I experienced numerous emotions and thoughts while reading this book from interest, shock, awe and sadness; I'm not one to cry while reading but there were moments of sadness throughout this book. However the section that made me stop, cry and carry on reading was towards the end of the book where the author describes her experiences of the world trade centre terror attack, dealing with the personal ramifications and with the bodies or fragments of the dead...it was very moving, shocking and heartbreaking. Overall, I cannot recommend this book enough!

Luck In The Shadows by Lynn Flewelling (479 pages) ★★★★ (4.5)
I was going to read the second Tudor Queens book by Alison Weir in January (hence why it is included in the photos) as I adored the third in the series last year but by the time I got round to it, I just wasn't interested in it at that moment in time so I opted for another fantasy read, Luck In The Shadows as I've wanted to read it for so long!

We follow Alec as he encounters a cunning, intelligent and mysterious thief while he's locked in a dungeon but his new companion, Seregil, breaks them out and Alec soon becomes his apprentice in a swashbuckling, magic filled adventure. I loved the settings throughout the book, it felt very vivid and real. I also adored the relationship between not just Alec and Seregil but the deep and loving friendships in the book as well. There seems to be a focus on romantic relationships in all books but I loved that there was so much heartfelt and genuine friendship in this book.

I liked the vivid world, the increasingly magic elements and the action/adventure throughout as well as the mystery! I've already bought the next two books in the series and I'll probably be reading them both within February - thankfully it's a six book series.

I haven't read anything from this author before but this series has nothing but praise for it online so I had to read it in January, even though it is more than a little similar to another read this month, The Lies Of Lock Lamora. Lock definitely has some similarities to Seregil in terms of the thievery, cunning and scheming...as well as the disguises. I didn't intend to read two similar fantasy books one after the other but I absolutely adored both of them and I think they'll both end up on my best books of 2019 list!

Overall, there were a few disappointing books including Melmoth and Bloody History - Glasgow. However, there were three books I utterly adored and I think they'll end up on my favourite books of the year list which includes: The Lies Of Lock Lamora, Working Stiff and Luck In The Shadows, all three of which I cannot recommend enough...read them now.

Have you read any of these books? Do you have any reading goals for 2019?

Samantha Clayton's 21 Day Challenge ft. Herbalife

Saturday, January 26, 2019
One of my goals for the new year was to get back into exercising which I stuck to fully last year, up until the last three or so months of the year. I made a rather impulse purchase of a treadmill this month and I've been using it almost everyday alongside some of the exercise videos from Herbalife ft. ex olympic sprinter Samantha Clayton.

Before the end of the year I was challenged by Herbalife Nutrition to take part in their January 21 day challenge by using some of their products as well as taking part in the exercise videos created by Samantha Clayton that consisted of 7-10 minute exercise videos per day. The first two weeks were a beginner level and the last week was a little more difficult but considering the exercising on my treadmill that I was also doing, I decided to just stick to the beginner levels. Also, I've definitely lost a lot of my stamina so the beginner levels were the only ones I could fully stick to!
I was very kindly sent a range of their shakes, protein bars, water bottles, activewear, tea and more which I'm very grateful for. I have been wearing their activewear often throughout the month while on my treadmill, on my crosstrainer and while taking part in the videos when I could. The video are so easy to follow and you can as well by checking out the Herbalife blog! You'll see some of the Herbalife products in my Veganuary wrap-up too so stay tuned for that.

I have to admit that I did have a bit of a rocky start to the month in terms of a lack of motivation, the struggle to get back into my exercise routine and I've been switching to a vegan diet this month (you'll be able to read about my veganuary favourites and my experience in an upcoming post). Additionally some of the products from Herbalife weren't vegan but I have been using the *Herbalife Cafe Latte Shake consistently throughout the month and I've been loving it. I use the shake to replace one meal (usually my lunch or breakfast) once a day. If you've been following my blog for a while then you'll have seen my reviews of a couple of other flavours but this one is probably my favourite.
My experience has been a little bit rocky with some ups and a few downs this month but overall, I think I've made a good start to the year in terms of exercising and eating well after having a fairly treat heavy diet for a few months at the end of 2018. Due to the treats I did manage to put on 3lbs which doesn't sound like too much but on my tiny frame, it is quite noticeable to me so I did want to loose it and so far I've lost 2lbs which I'm very happy with, especially considering I haven't been able to stick to the exercises as fully as I aimed to. I do feel a little fitter, toned and healthier overall but I don't feel as though the results are very visible yet so I am going to stick to my healthy vegan diet and exercises for the rest of the year.

Thanks so much to Herbalife for the fantastic activewear, goodies and the videos with Samantha Clayton which have definitely given me the push to start 2019 in the right frame of mind and with more motivation to exercise consistently - I don't think I would have had that if it wasn't for this challenge.

Do you have any healthy eating or exercising goals for 2019? Will you be checking out Herbalife products or the exercise videos?

DegustaBox - January 2019

Friday, January 25, 2019
The new subscription boxes for January 2019 are coming through and one of my favourites is DegustaBox. I love receiving their boxes as they always contain so many new products and items I haven't tried before; however as I've switched to a fully vegan diet (apart from a couple of items I still had in the fridge and needed to use up), I hoped there would be a few vegan or healthy items in the box - thankfully there were!

*DegustaBox - January 2019 
Firstly, the design of the box has changed a little for the new year and I really like it! The theme for the January box is 'recovery' which is very apt for the new year and January especially with the excesses of December. The theme and items within this box couldn't have come at a better time and I'm so happy with the content of this months box! As always if you use the code KVAA2 on the DegustaBox website then you'll be able to get your first box for only £7.99.
*Ryvita Protein Red Quinoa and Sesame (£1.59)
Let's start with sadly my least favourite item, to get it out of the way. I've tried Ryvita products numerous times over the past few years, mainly because my mum loved them so there were always packets in the house, but they just aren't for me. I know you can top them with a plethora of toppings but to me, they are just so dry and unappealing. However, my mum has tried them and she likes this flavour so maybe it's just me! One of the things I adore about DegustaBox is that they always include a range of new items or at least new flavours, such as the Ryvita slices.

*Kallo Corn Cakes, Rice Cakes and Lentil Cakes (£1.30 each)
Another item in a similar category are the corn and rice cakes from Kallo. I've tried the stock cubes from this brand and loved them but I haven't tried anything else. I have received all three of the Kallo 'cakes' in my box as I'm lucky enough to be a DegustaBox ambassador but you will only receive one of the three in your box - either the corn, rice or lentil cakes.

I've only tried the lentil cakes so far, as they sounded the most interesting and unusual to me (also I love the packaging design). The lentil cakes are nice and I love that they are a good source of protein which as a vegetarian/vegan is important to consider. Additionally, there are only 30 calories per cake which is something I always look out for.
*PBfit Peanut Butter Powder (£0.75)
Next up is a fantastic addition for me personally as I've wanted to try a peanut butter powder for so long and I've had a couple of variations in my Amazon saved list for months. There are two sachets within the box but you can only purchase a tub, rather than sachets. The reason I wanted to try powdered peanut butter is because it contains less fat and calories than 'normal' peanut butter - I don't know why. I'm definitely going to be adding this to my porridge to see if it works or not!

*Pick Up! Milk Chocolate Biscuits (£1.69)
Another sweet treat in the box is a pack of the Pick Up! biscuits which I've passed onto my sister as she loves these biscuits. I've never tried them but she absolutely loves them so I know they'll be a hit with so many people; however I'm not a biscuit person (don't hate me)...

*Hartley's 10 Cal Jelly Pots (£0.75)
I love finding low calorie snacks as I'm always trying to keep within a certain range of calories per day so low calorie snacks are ideal for me. They are suitable for vegetarians and I've finished both already....I loved the black forest gateau flavour but it is a little artificial. I also liked the lemon cheesecake flavour but it is quite sour. I would definitely buy both in the future though.
*Liobites Freeze Dried Apple Crisps (£1.50)
I have tried the smoothie bites from this brand so I couldn't wait to try these crisps - I do actually love fruit crisps! While I did like the apple crisps in terms of the flavour, however they were quite soft and I wasn't excepting that from 'crisps'. I would definitely check out this brand in the future though as I did like the smoothie crisps.

*Pipers Crispeas Matar Paneer (£1)
Another fantastic low calorie snack that contains protein and fibre. I love the packaging, it's a vegetarian snack (I wish there were more vegan snacks) and it is delicious. They have a very mildly spicy flavour (not hot though) which is perfect for me as I can't stand anything spicy!

*YES! Fruit and Nut Bars (£1.20)
Along with Liobites, this is another brand I've already tried and I love it. I received the three bars including: dark chocolate, sea salt and almond then coffee, dark chocolate and cherry. Lastly, there is the lemon, quinoa and chilli bar, which I won't be trying as to be honest, that combination is not for me! I adore the dark chocolate, sea salt and almond bar though.
*Miso Tasty Original Ramen Noodle Kit (£3.50)
The most expensive item in the box is the noodle kit which is another item that was included in a previous box. It contains noodles, sesame oil, seasonings and toppings. I think it's a great all in one meal kit that's great on it's own or you can add extras to it.

*Willy's Apple Cider Vinegar (£2.95)
Last but not least is a product that I like the packaging of and how different it is to all of the other items in the box. I definitely do not drink apple cider vinegar, as some people can but I do use it when I make vegan ranch dips so I'm very happy with this item!

Overall, I think this box is probably one of my all time favourites from DegustaBox as it contains so many snacks that are low calorie, lots of vegetarian items and a couple of products that I've wanted to try for a while, including the peanut butter powder and jelly pots.

Don't forget to use the code: KVAA2 to get your box for only £7.99!

What do you think of the first DegustaBox for 2019?

January Beauty Favourites

Wednesday, January 23, 2019
I can't believe that we have almost reached the end of January already! January is such an odd month as everyone is trying to readjust after the time altering period in-between Christmas, new year and starting work again. Anyway, today's post is all about the products I've been loving throughout the gloomiest month of the year, from new beauty items to health and dental products.

*Dentyl Mouthwash (£3.29, 500ml) 
Let's start with the products that I've been using the most throughout January and also the end of December! I was very kindly sent a couple of bottle of mouthwash from Dentyl just before Christmas and I've been using them since. I should definitely spend more time on my gum health and teeth in general but it's an area I seem to neglect a little (perheps from being terrified of anything dental related from childhood dentist visits which still haunt me).

However, a product that is very quick, easy and fuss free to use but that can help reduce plague, protect enamel and help combat cavities is a good mouthwash. Dentyl is a brand I've tried a couple of times over the years and it's one I always go back to as it's alcohol free so it doesn't string or burn in the way that most other mouthwash options do.

I've been using the 'smooth mint' and 'fresh clove' variations since just before christmas and while I like both, my favourite has to the 'fresh clove' flavour as it is very mild and gentle - I have sensitive teeth/gems and almost very single mouthwash I've tried has burned in some way but thankfully neither of these do. I cannot recommend them enough!
*Freshly Pro-Repair Hand & Nail Treatment (£13)
Along with the Dentyl Fresh Clove Mouthwash, another item I've been using everyday since a couple of days before Christmas is the amazing Freshly Hand and Nail Treatment. It isn't a thick cream as I thought it would be but a lightweight lotion with a pump dispenser so it's very quick, easy and mess free to use. I've been keeping it on my desk for weeks and it has helped reduce the dryness and tightness of my hands so far this winter!

Freshly is a brand that was new to me in 2018 and it very quickly became one of my favourites as it's natural, vegan and their products are all fantastic, including this gorgeous hand and nail treatment. The treatment, unlike other products of this kind, isn't greasy, heavy or slow to absorb so I can continue to work without worrying about getting hand cream on the keyboard.

*Freshly Micellar Water (£13)
Another Freshly product I've been using consistently, although not as much as the hand cream, is the micellar water which contains green apple, organic Aloe Vera water and cucumber extract, among other lovely natural ingredients. I used to use micellar waters constantly a few years ago but I've switched back to makeup removers in the form of cleansers and my 'makeup eraser' towels instead. However, micellar waters are such a quick, easy way to remove makeup before cleansing and they're great for travelling too. I'd definitely recommend this one (and all of the Freshly skincare products I've tried) as it doesn't irritate my dry, sensitive skin.
*Unearthed Organic Protecting Day Serum (£24.99)
Now for my final favourites, I'm including a couple of products that I've been using for the past week or so and typically I wouldn't include items without having used them for a few weeks but I've been so impressed by both of these serums recently! I've been using them every single day since I received them and they have helped my skin go from dry, flaky and uncomfortable to smooth, soft and moisturised.

Both serums come colourfully packaged with an easy to use pipette dispenser and a lovely scent! The day serum has a fresh, almost minty scent to it which I love! It feels moisturising and nourishing on the skin but it doesn't ever feel greasy, heavy or tacky which some facial oils and serums can be. It's perfect for underneath makeup, unless you use too much, as it protects the skin against pollution, blue light and it has just the right amount of moisture.

*Unearthed Night Serum (£24.99)
My favourite of the two though is the night serum as it's a little richer with a slightly floral and citrusy scent to me but it's very subtle so if you are sensitive to scented products then I don't think either of these will be too much for you. The night serum contains jojoba oil and it claims to provide anti-redness protection which is ideal for me as I do suffer with eczema and the redness that goes along with it.

Since the weather has turned very wintery here in Manchester (we've had snow all of yesterday), these serums have been miracle workers for my skin and without them both, I think my skin over the past week or so would have been a dry, flaky and irritated mess! If you do have sensitive and or very dry skin then I think that both of these serums would work very well for you as they have done for me. I'm sure you'll see these products again on my blog as part of my winter favourites post which will be live at end of March.

Have you tried any of these products? 

Dry Shampoo For Your Clothes?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Today's post features quite an unusual product and one that I've been trying on and off since Christmas. The Day 2 Dry Wash Spray is pretty much dry shampoo for your clothes which is something I've never come across before! I was very kindly sent three of their variations, the original, delicates and denim, just before Christmas so today's post is a little late...I'm still only just getting out of christmas mode.

*Day 2 Dry Wash Spray - Original (£7.50)
The first option is the 'original' which is designed to remove occurs from clothing (using their new malodour technology), restore the shape/softness and helps to reduce wrinkles from clothing so there's no need to iron each item. The product claims to save a full load of washing (60L) per bottle which is amazing as it saves water, electricity and time. Each bottle should last for around 25 uses so if it works for you then it could save a fair amount of water and money.

Firstly, I love the packaging design and it sounded to good to be true from the claims but it's so easy to use. The first spray I tried was the denim spray but the original is great for everyday items such as scarves, coats and hats which are used multiple times per day but aren't items that I tend to wash that often. I actually don't think I've ever fully or deeply washed a scarf, hat or coat...maybe this is just me?
The first spray that I tried was the *Day 2 Denim Spray which is specifically designed for denim items and helps to protect the denim fibres, protect the denim colour and slows down the fading process - the fading of my black jeans is ridiculous so I'm hoping this spray will help in the long term. I wear jeans constantly and I tend to wash them every week or two, depending on how often I've worn them so this product sounds ideal for me to refresh them between washes.

To use the spray, you just spray the product evenly over the item, smooth out the creases and leave to dry for around 30 minutes. I tried it on my jeans and after 15 minutes, they were still a little damp but after around 30 minutes, they were dry, smelling lovely (the product has a detergent scent to it) and the creases had disappeared! I am very impressed with the denim version!

I was also very kindly sent the *Day 2 Original Spray in the mini 75ml size which would be ideal for travelling with and the *Day 2 Delicates Spray which is designed for wool, knitwear and cashmere but it is not suitable for use on silk, suede and various man-made fabrics so check their website. I haven't tried either of these two just yet but I'll update this post when I have.

Have you heard of the Day 2 Sprays? Will you be buying or looking into these sprays?

My Geek Box: January 2019

Monday, January 21, 2019
Subscription boxes are some of my favourite pieces of blogger mail to receive as I just love the mystery of opening the boxes to reveal the contents! I've reviewed numerous subscription boxes on my blog already from food and beauty boxes to wax melts, crafting and lifestyle boxes. One box that I review consistently on my blog is the amazing DegustaBox and if you are looking for more of my subscription box reviews then check out All Subscription Boxes as I review boxes there as well. 

*My Geek Box - January 2019 (from £17.99)
One box that I always love to receive and one that is a little unusual (in the very best way) is the My Geek Box. I've been reviewing them on the All Subscription Boxes website for a while but I will also be reviewing the boxes on my blog as well now. The boxes come nicely packaged, I love the simple box design and there are always a great range of items in the box, in terms of the fandoms included and the category of the items. 
The January box contained so many items, even more so than usual! One item that I always love to receive in subscription boxes are mystery boxes and there are not one, not two but three within this box which I was very happy to see! The first and most personally exciting mystery box is The Simpsons box which contains a cute keyring. I received a stick of radioactive waste keyring from the nuclear plant (if you didn't know, The Simpsons is one of my all time favourite TV shows). 

The other two mystery boxes are from Kidrobot (which is a character I am not familiar with at all) and a Marvel Spiderman mystery box which contained a cute (well as cute as Venom can be), Venom plushie. Usually mystery boxes contain keyring or vinyl figurine but I'm glad that there's a plushie in one of the boxes. 
There are two wearable items within the box, we typically receive one in the form of a t-shirt but within the January box, there was a pair of socks from the manga/anime Death Note. I recently started watching the anime on Netflix and I'm liking it! However, I'm not a fan of long socks and that's what is included in the box. The second wearable is a hoodie and I have the medium size which is definitely too big for me. I am a UK 8 so the hoodie doesn't fit me, so I'm passing it onto a friend as I know that they will love it. It's a really nice design actually with a subtle Space Invaders print. 
The final item is a figurine and it's from a collection that I've received a figurine from previously - it might have been from another My Geek Box. The figurine is from original Harley Quinn character which I remember from the Batman animated series from the 90's (I was obsessed with that animated series growing up!). I really like the design of this figurine which is designed by Amanda Conner for DC. 

Overall, I was very surprised by the huge number of items within the box - there are six full sized items which I'm very happy with. My favourite items from the box have to include The Simpsons keyring and Venom plushie, from the mystery boxes. I also like the Harley Quinn figurine and the socks! If you love geeky things or know someone who does then definitely check out the amazing My Geek Box as they are such great value for money, in my opinion. 

What do you think of this subscription box? 

Burts Bees Giveaway with Wow Free Stuff

Sunday, January 20, 2019
Today's post is very short and sweet! I'm letting you know about a giveaway with Wow Free Stuff in which you can win a gorgeous Burt's Bees 'A Bit Of Burt's Bees' set. The set you can win contains their famous and well loved beeswax lip balm (which I adore) and the hand salve.

Burt's Bees is a brand that I have loved for years and I've tried both products within this set, I cannot recommend them enough. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is head to the Wow Free Stuff website and enter the form (which will need your email address). There are twenty ups for grabs and the giveaway ends on the 1st February so you have a while to enter.

Will you be entering the giveaway? 

*Image from Wow Free Stuff
*This is a collaborative post

*Winter Workwear Ideas + Quiz

Friday, January 18, 2019
Images from BonMarche 
Winter is definitely here with snow falling around the country but obviously the Manchester weather reuses to take part and stays resolutely rainy, as always. However, it's still very chilly and it's made me realise that I don't have any fully winter proof clothing, particularly more formal clothing. I personally work from home currently but from my time at university, I know how difficult it can be to dress more formally for the winter months!

Dressing for winter and seasonal transition periods can be pretty difficult, especially with the weather we have in England which can be gloriously sunny, then pouring down and maybe throw in some hailstone too...in England it's best to prepare for all weathers which isn't very easy. Winter coats, boots, cosy knitwear and even wellington boots would all make great winter workwear wardrobe essentials.

BonMarche have created a 'what workwear style suits you?' quiz that can you access below which might help you to find new pieces for your workwear wardrobe and make the process of shopping for your workwear this winter a little easier. The quiz only takes a minute and at the end you can shop the style you've been assigned.

I have taken the quiz and I received the 'Karen Brady Power Dresser' result and to be honest I actually love most of the items within the 'get this look' section. BonMarche has such a wide range of clothing from loungewear, pyjamas, causal clothing and great workwear options that I think would be ideal for a range of jobs. Whether you work in an office, at a school, in retail or if you work from home, you'll find something on BonMarche. Opting for items that can be paired with many items, classic pieces and essentials that can be worn again and again will make that rush in the morning a little easier; additionally planning your outfit the day before can save time!

I may currently work from home but that doesn't mean that I don't need to fully get dressed as I would do for a 'normal' or office based job, for example. My typical work day outfit consists of jeans, a thick and cosy jumper and a very warm coat, if I have to take photographs outside, for example. There are so many items I could choose from on BonMarche, you can see some of my ideas above and I also have my eye on pretty much the entire knitwear range as cosy knits are staples of my winter casual and workwear wardrobe!

Have you taken part in the above quiz? What do you think of these winter workwear ideas from BonMarche? 

*Images and quiz from BonMarche
*This is a collaborative post

The CoffeeBrewer

Thursday, January 17, 2019
I don't know about you but my mind is still in christmas mode and I'm struggling so much with getting back into taking photographs, editing and writing which is why my blog has been a little slow recently but thankfully my brain is now realising that it's the new year and I need to be productive. I was very kindly sent this coffee set just a few days before Christmas Day and I've been dying to try it since, especially as it's packaged so beautifully.

*The CoffeeBrewer by Grower's Cup (£15.95)
The set contains a ten piece selection of coffee from various regions such as Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Ethiopia and Brazil (three of which are organic). Everything is so well designed, packaged and put together so it would make a great gift idea for coffee lovers, especially those who love camping, travelling, road trips, festivals or hiking etc as there's one unique aspect to this coffee set - all of the coffee varieties come in pourable, portable bags!
The single estate coffee comes in a freshly roasted coffee grounds format so you don't need any other equipment or tools to make the coffee from this set which is one of the reasons why it would be great for on the go or travelling/camping because the only item you need is a kettle or even just a flask of hot water. The pouches are well designed, easily portable and very quick to use; additionally each pouch contains enough grounds for two cups of coffee (20g - 22g of coffee per bag).

The full description of the instructions are on the back of each bag and the strength of the coffee is stated on the front too so all of the information is very clear. The process of making the coffee is very quick, easy and simple but it can be a touch messy if you're not careful when pouring the hot water. I'm such a coffee lover so this set was perfect for me and I think it would be ideal for the people in your life who also love coffee as it's a bit more of an unusual gift idea.
I've only tried the coffee from Brazil so far which is fair-trade (I'm trying to make more ethical and environmentally friendly purchases in 2019). I usually drink lattes so strong coffee is a little different for me but I loved it on the whole. I added unsweetened almond milk to the bag, sugar to my mug and it was great although I think it does have a slight plastic taste to it which I also found was the case with the Tassimo pods I tried years ago.

Overall, I think it's a fantastic, award winning coffee set that would make an ideal gift for coffee lovers. The unusual format of the packaging makes it perfect for travelling, on the go, festivals or for camping. It is easily portable, quick to use and there are a variety of flavours and strengths available in the set. I think the price is amazing for what you get in this beautifully designed set and you can easily purchase it from Amazon.

Will you be trying this set? Do you drink coffee? Would you purchase this set as a gift?

*2019 Home Renovation Ideas

Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Image from Apartment Therapy 
I have mixed feelings about the start of a new year as I have so many plans and ideas but it can also be a little nerve wracking too; however I am very excited for some of our home renovation/redecorating plans and ideas for 2019. I love redecorating and organising, it's a great way to refresh your home for the new year.

New Bathroom
At the end of 2018 we had one of the bathrooms renovated and now we're looking at changing the others as they haven't really been updated in maybe ten years! I have to admit that my inspiration is from Pinterest aesthetic level bathrooms with lots of storage, white rectangular tiles (or panelling) and blush pink everything! Just imagine the instagram photos...

Marble is another Pinterest and admittedly former blogger obsession and I do still love the effect! The Marble Store has such a wide range of marble worktops for your kitchen or bathroom. They also have a selection of other materials such as quartz, granite and glass but my favourite has to be the Carrara marble worktop.

Home Gym
Next up is one of the most immediate plans as I've finally found the perfect treadmill and the conservatory would be the ideal location for a home gym as it already contains my well used crosstrainer. Over the past three or so months my exercise routine has been pretty much non-existent and as I live in the rainiest city in the UK, a treadmill is a great indoor exercise solution....if I'll use it is another matter entirely. One of my 2018 goals was to improve my fitness and lose weight which I actually stuck to for the most part and that is very impressive for someone who did everything to avoid PE classes throughout school. I want to re-start this goal for 2019 and lose some of the Christmas weight I've managed to put on.

New Doors
The penultimate home renovation idea is to upgrade some of our doors, especially the front and back doors which haven't been replaced for over ten years. There are so many options to choose from with varying prices, styles and colours. If you're based within Cheltenham, doors of all styles can be found at Albany Windows and Doors.

Lastly, our garden! You'll have seen some of our garden in my outfit photos but one thing that's missing from it is a plethora of beautiful flowers. I adore our cherry blossom tree but besides that there aren't any other flowers so I want that to change in 2019. Certain flowers are also great for wildlife, bees and butterflies and I'd love to bring more wildfire into our garden besides the adorable squirrel that likes to eat everything in sight!

Do you have any home renovation/redecorating ideas or plans for 2019? 

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest

Top Ten Books + Audiobooks of 2018

Monday, January 14, 2019
Firstly, I read 190 books and audiobooks in 2018 so this post is going to be a little long and I will be cheating...I can't stick to only ten, I have to include a tonne of honourable mentions for the books and audiobooks I read as well. I also wanted to mention that I'm very harsh with my ratings, even though I probably couldn't write a book, so if a book gets four or five stars (as some of these books have) then it's pretty exceptional.

Lastly before I move onto my top books and audiobooks for 2018, I wanted to explain my reasons choosing some of the books that I have. Some of these reads were amazing and they received a star rating of four or five stars so naturally they are on this list; however, other books received a good three stars and they're still on this list, that's because they've stuck with me since I read them.

There are two books that are tied at the very top of the list for my best books of the year and they include: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty and The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, both of which I would include on the list for my favourite books of all time!

Next up are a few books that are tied at the third(ish) spot on my list includes the following reads: A Winters Promise by Christelle Dabos, Girl Squads by Sam Maggs and A Hero Born by Jin Yong, all of which were four star reads. If you're looking for a great YA magical fantasy read then check out A Winters Promise, for an empowering read all about amazing women then pick up Girl Squads and lastly, if you want a classic asian adventure novel then look no further than A Hero Born.

The next books I'm going to mention are pretty much all on the same level and they include: A Discovery of Witches, The Death of Mrs Westaway, An Unwanted Guest and Flame In The Mist but I think that the first three in the list are my favourites and the books I'll recommend to everyone.

Honourable Mentions
I'm cheating and I'm going to include a list of honourable mentions for the physical and e-books I loved in 2018 including: Career Of Evil, Crucial Interventions, The Last Hours, Alone Time, Ace of Shades, Blackwing, Children of Blood and Bone, Women of the Raj, The Belles, City of Lies, A Gathering Of Ghosts, Wrecker, Bottled Goods and Neverwhere. I think that out of my honourable mentions, my favourites are Blackwing (dark fantasy), Career Of Evil (detective/crime), Bottled Goods (literary fiction/magical realism) and Neverwhere (YA urban fantasy).
Now onto my favourite audiobooks of 2018, all of which I listened to on BookBeat which is the most amazing audiobook subscription service as it's so easy to use and you don't pay per book, you pay a set fee each month which means that you can listen to as many audiobooks as you want in that month! I am definitely going to be paying for the subscription myself in the future as it's just fantastic.

As I said, I'm very harsh with my book ratings and even more so with audiobooks - I don't know why! Most books and audiobooks receive a three out of five stars from me which is a good rating but it isn't amazing. However, some of these audiobooks received four stars from me which is rare and those include: Bloody Brilliant Women, Rebecca, Witchsign, Spellslinger and Shadowshow, however the latter isn't on my favourites list despite it's rating as it's now become completely forgettable sadly.

My favourite non-fiction audiobook is definitely The Ravenmaster which was such an interesting and informative read. Very few non-fiction audiobooks end up on my best books list as I tend to forget them quite quickly and that is also the case with The Ravenmaster but I'd still recommend it, along with these fantastic fiction audiobooks: A House of Ghosts, Awakened, Jane Eyre and The Ashes of London.

I only have a few honourable mentions when it comes to the audiobooks I've listened to and those include: Challenge Accepted, Frankenstein and Napoleon, the latter is a fantastic non-fiction audiobook that I'd definitely recommend.

Have you read any of these books or audiobooks? 

*Winter Haircare Tips 2019

Sunday, January 13, 2019
Image from Glaminati
Winter can be a particularly tough time to maintain silky smooth hair as exposure to the cold elements will reduce the moisture in your hair, often leading to damage. On top of this you may be blow drying your hair more often which can cause further harm. All this dry air leads to split ends and dandruff which can be a nightmare! Here are some actions you can take to help prevent damage and care for your hair to keep it looking beautiful in winter.

Cut Down on Heavy Heat Styling 
Gone are the days where you can let your hair dry quickly in the sun, letting your hair dry naturally will take a long time and could put you at risk of catching a cold. When the temperatures outside are cold it’s easy to want to use more heated tools, but you need to use these carefully to prevent hair damage. If it’s warm inside then you’re better air drying, if not then only use a hair dryer on a low setting, don’t hold it to close to your scalp and be patient. If you usually use a curling iron, try out some natural curls and waves or a ponytail.

Shampoo Less Often 
If you usually wash your hair every day and find you have dry hair, try cutting down washing it to every two or three days. Washing your hair too frequently will strip your hair of its natural oils and reduce its moisture, leaving it dry and more likely to become damaged. By extending the period between washes to two days, your hair will keep more moisture and remain healthier. If leaving it two days between washes does not show any improvement, try three days. If you don’t want to leave it that long you can try using a very small amount of shampoo or simply just using condition when washing your hair.

Reduce Hair Dye 
The winter is a good time to give your hair a break from dyeing and bleaching. Blonde or platinum hair does look amazing but it can damage your hair at a time when it’s particularly vulnerable in the winter months. If want to mix up you colours then clip in hair extensions work great as an alternative to dyeing, or you can stick to darker colours until the weather is better.

Stay hydrated 
Your body needs to stay hydrated and so does your hair to remain shiny and prevent split ends. You won’t find yourself feeling as thirsty in the cooler months, but you need to keep drinking a lot of water to help encourage hair health and general good health. Drinking water also helps prevent skin dryness which causes scalp itchiness and dandruff in the cold weather.

Wear the Right Hat 
Wearing the right hat can really make the different in an outfit, and they’re also a great way of protecting your hair from the harsh cold winds. Try to wear a hat with a silk lining, silk is hypoallergenic and helps to prevent hair damage, whilst rough fabrics like cotton can actually cause breakages. If you don’t have a silk lining, try placing a silk scarf underneath the hat so that it keeps your hair protected.

Don’t Go Outside with Damp Hair 
Not only will wet hair put you at risk of getting a chill, it can cause a lot of damage to your hair. If it’s too cold then your hair could even freeze and put it at a high risk of breakage. Double check that your hair is dry before leaving the house to help prevent damage.

Do you have any haircare tips or product recommendations? 

*This is a sponsored post
*Image from Pinterest

Best Beauty Products of 2018

Friday, January 11, 2019
2018 has been a fairly good year (check out my 2018 highlights post) and I've discovered so many new products that I've been loving for months! The products range from items I've bought, subscription boxes goodies and products I was kindly sent throughout the year. There's a variety of products to talk about from haircare, indulgent bodycare products, makeup, skincare and more.

Haircare & Bodycare 
Let's start with the most recent haircare favourite and that's the Percy and Reed Wonder Balm which I received in the gorgeous LookFantastic Advent Calendar (it was one of my favourite pieces of blogger mail ever!). I haven't tried much from Percy and Reed but this balm has been fantastic for my dry, frizzy and unruly hair as it manages to tame frizz (on the whole), smooth my hair and make it feel incredibly soft!

One of the most indulgent and divinely scented bath products is the Feather and Down Melting Shower Cream, I cannot recommend it enough. Feather and Down has to be one of my favourite brands of the year and it all started with my love for their gorgeous pillow mist which is another product I'd highly recommend.
I have a couple of other haircare favourites including the best dry shampoo I've ever used! I have tried so many dry shampoo options but none of them worked for my dark hair until I tried the heaven sent Colab Dry Shampoo which was created by Ruth Crilly at A Model Recommends (I love her Youtube channel, she's so down to earth and informative). The Colab Dry Shampoo helps to eliminate oil, boost volume and stops my hair from looking like I've dowsed it in hair oil.

My final haircare favourite of 2018 is one that I loved so much, I bought two! I previously had The Wet Brush in an animal print design but I've replaced it with this cute purple one and I cannot recommend it enough. As I said, I have dry hair and it's fairly thick so it is prone to horrendous, 'I might have to cut my hair' level of tangles but this brush makes detangling and simply brushing my hair so quick, easy and painless.
Now onto my body care and pampering products and let's start with the most luxurious and moisturising shower gel I've ever used, the Freshly Nourishing Shower Gel. Freshly products are natural and suitable for vegans which is amazing; they are also very gentle but effective. A shower gel might seem like an unusual and simple product to be raving about but this one leaves my skin so incredibly smooth and moisturised!

Another body product that has a very similar effect is the Lush Ro's Argan Body Conditioner which smells heavenly, leaves my skin so smooth and helps to keep dryness at bay. I adore Lush products, I need to start using them more as I used to use their products almost exclusively a few years ago and I need to get back to it.
There are two body lotions that I've been loving throughout 2018 and those include the most divinely scented body butter ever, the Crabtree and Evelyn Lavender and Espresso Body Cream (which I cannot get enough of) and the equally as gorgeous Rituals Magic Touch Body Cream, both of which I cannot recommend enough, especially for this time of the year. I am so lazy when it comes to using body lotions and creams, I don't know why, but both of these are so lovely to use. If you're looking for a body cream that smells amazing, leaves your skin super soft and doesn't leave a heavy or greasy residue on the skin then look no further than these!
Let's start with one item that mixes skincare and makeup to create an amazing BB cream for those with incredibly dry skin as I do, the Dear Klairs Illuminating BB Cream from Koja Beauty. I was kindly sent it months and months ago and I've been using it pretty much very single time I wear makeup as it's the easiest, no fuss option. Another BB cream I've been loving is the Skin 79 BB Blemish Balm which I received a sample of in a LookFantastic box and I had to buy the full size!

One of the most important skincare items, for me, is my moisturiser. Eczema has many awful 'symptoms' but one of the most inconvenient (as well as the burning irritation, flakiness, inflammation) is the perpetual dryness which makes finding a deeply effective and gentle moisturiser so important but this year I've found three that my skin loves.

The first, and my favourite of the three, is the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream. It is a brand I've wanted to try for ages and I'm so grateful to the lovely people at LookFantastic as this full sized cream was part of their advent calendar in 2018. I also loved the Advanced Moisture Boost from Vitage which came as part of an amazing blogger mail package and it's a cream I'm finally finishing now. The final moisturiser is the Rio Rosa Day and Night Cream, all three of which I'd definitely recommend especially if you have very dry and sensitive skin as I do.
Makeup & Tools
I love applying my makeup, it's such a relaxing process but removing it can be a little annoying especially as I have to wear waterproof mascara thanks to the ever drizzly Manchester weather but there's one product that I have used numerous variations of all year that has been helping me remove my makeup with just water in seconds! I utterly adore these microfibre cleansing cloths, the original being the Makeup Eraser one (I believe) but every variation I've tried has worked so effectively for removing every little trace of makeup, even stubborn waterproof mascara. My latest variation is the fantastic Magnitone Cleansing Cloths which I cannot recommend enough, particularly if you have sensitive skin as I do.

Another long term favourite of mine is the Essence Fixing Powder which I've bought at least three of so far as they are so cheap but so effective at setting my makeup, blotting oil and keeping my makeup looking fresh for longer without making my skin looking dry, cakey or overly powdered. Essence is probably my favourite cheaper makeup brand and I will definitely continue to use their products.
I've mentioned a couple of products that I've loved from the LookFantastic Advent Calendar and I have another, the Lipstick Queen Frog Prince Lipstick which is actually green in the tube but it transforms into a beautiful, berry pink on the lips that's fairly natural and gives the lips a very fresh, hydrated and youthful look. The longevity is far better than I thought it would be and I've been using it constantly since receiving it at the end of November. Another lip product I've been using consistently is the Dr Lipp Elderberry Tint which I think I received in a LookFantastic box a few months ago; it's a gorgeous berry tinted lip balm that's ideal for everyday.

For brows, or more specifically brow bone, I've been loving the Eylure Brow Luminizer which in one swipe adds a gorgeous natural, glowing sheen to the skin - it's perfect for an inner corner, cupids bow and brow bone highlight in seconds. Lastly for makeup is a newer addition from the French brand, Avril. As I've said, Manchester receives a lot of rain so I always have to use waterproof mascara but so many of them are incredibly difficult to remove; however, I've found the solution - Avril Waterproof Mascara. It gives me natural fluttery lashes that can survive an English winters day but it is easy to remove with my makeup removing microfibre cleansing cloths.

My final 2018 beauty favourite is one of the most long-lasting nail polish duos I've ever tried, the Sally Hansen Miracle Gel Polish and Top Coat. I received a red shade and top coat from this range as part of my 'beauty guru' box from Latest In Beauty which I adored; so I had to buy another shade! I purchased the Frill Seeker shade from Fragrance Direct and it's the only polish I've been using for months. The polish combined with the top coat can last on my nails for over a week and after that it only had minor chipping which can then last for another few days! I will definitely be purchasing more shades from this range!

Have you tried any of these products? What were your 2018 beauty favourites?