December Reading Wrap-up 2019

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
October was an awful reading month, November wasn't fantastic either and unfortunately the same pattern happened within December. I was only able to read six books in the month and most of them were short non-fiction reads or manga. My favourite books of the month include: Warriors, Witches, Women by Kate Hodges and Death Note.

*Warriors, Witches, Women by Kate Hodges (224 pages) ★★★★ (pub date: 4th Feb)
I'm always on the look out for niche and unusual non-fiction reads so when I saw this one all about various women (in the form of deities, goddesses and mythological creatures) I had to request it to review. Firstly, I love the illustrations throughout as well as the cover - it's a beautifully composed book. I like how the book is structured in terms of the categories, how each individual or creature has its own illustration and the easy to follow information. I think it's a fantastic and interesting non-fiction book about a range of unusual goddesses and mythological creatures from around the world.

History of Japan: A brief history of Japan - the Land of the Rising Sun by Eric Collins (104 pages) ★★★
Another non-fiction read was this short book all about the history of Japan in a very brief format. It was free on Kindle Unlimited so if you have a free trial or subscription then it's worth checking out. I didn't know much about the history of Japan so this book was very interesting and I think it's probably a great starting point for further reading. It was a very quick and easy read but I did find it a little repetitive in terms of certain words and phrases the author kept repeating. I think it needed editing and proofreading but overall, it was a good basic starting point and it was free with Kindle Unlimited.

Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata and Tetsuichiro Miyaki (392 pages) ★★★
Japanese culture and history has been something I've found to be fascinating over the past couple of months so I want to delve into the world of manga and the one that caught my eye instantly was Death Note. We follow Light Yagami, an excellent student, as he finds the death note which is a notebook dropped by Ryuk (one of the shinigami of death - gods of death). He discovers that he can see Ryuk and if he writes someones name in the death note, they will die. What follows is part murder investigation and part philosophising on the name of good vs evil, criminality, morality and consequences.

This is the first manga I've ever read and I loved it, from the illustrations and glimpses into Japanese culture to the dark plot and the reading experience. I also love the edition I have which is the 'black edition'. The only reasons I rated it three starts was because I didn't understand the actions of some of he characters and it felt a little cheesy at times but I do want to carry on with the series.

Japanese Mythology by Matt Clayton (88 pages) ★★★
Yet another short history book about Japan and this one is from the free series on Kindle Unlimited called Captivating Myths/Captivating History. It's another interesting, short and quick read all about the origins of Japanese myths, creation stories, gods and goddesses, one of which I was familiar with. As I said with the History Of Japan read, I think these books are good, very basic introductions to a subject but if you have some knowledge then it might be too basic. I'd recommend this series, from what I've read, if you can read it for free.

The Woods Volume Five by James Tyrion (112 pages) ★★★
I said I wouldn't continue with this series within my previous reading wrap-up but I was in another reading slump in December and wanted something quick and easy to read. At this point, all of this series has fused into one within my memory as they all carry on from one another. The thing I enjoy about this series is the art style as it's unique, colourful and a sci-fi that I don't hate! If you have Kindle Unlimited then you can read the first five for free which I would recommend.

Attack On Titan Volume One by Hajime Isayama and Sheldon Drzka (193 pages) ★★★
The final manga I read in December was such a popular title and it has to be one of the most unusual as we follow a dystopian world in which humans have retreated to a fortress as they try to survive attacks from the titans - they are gigantic human-like creatures that eat people...The art style is a little creepy and at times a little difficult to follow but it was an interesting read overall. This manga was definitely unique and I liked the story but I think it was a little too weird for me and I won't be continuing on with the series. Although it is a very highly rated manga on GoodReads so I think I'm in the minority of not fully enjoying this manga.

Have you read any of these books? What did you read in the month of December? 


Reading Review 2019

Sunday, December 29, 2019
2019 has been a mixed year of reading for me as I did read some of my all time favourite books, discovered new favourites and found a love for non-fiction but I also had a few reading slumps, DNF'd a lot of books and had a lower than average star rating for the year. Today's post is all about my favourite and least favourite books of the year as well as a wrap-up of my reading and my bookish goals for 2020.

Favourite Books of 2019
Let's start off on a positive note with my favourite books of the year, which I'll have to add as a bullet pointed list below as there are too many to write in-depth reviews about in this post but look through my previous monthly wraps to find more information.

  • The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch (fantasy)
  • Luck In The Shadows by Lynn Flewelling (fantasy)
  • The Priory Of The Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon (fantasy) 
  • Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (fantasy) 
  • From Here To Eternity by Caitlin Doughty (non-fiction)
  • Girls Of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan (fantasy)
  • Morgue by Dr Vincent Di Maio (non-fiction)
  • The Royal Art Of Poison by Eleanor Herman (non-fiction)
  • All That Remains by Sue Black (non-fiction) 

Honourable Mentions 

  • Red Sister by Mark Lawrence (fantasy)
  • Kings Of The Wyld by Nicholas Eames (fantasy)
  • Lady Killers by Tori Teller (non-fiction)
  • The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman (fantasy/YA)
  • Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroger (non-fiction) 
  • The Book Of Swords - Part Two (fantasy/story story collection)
  • Ocean Anatomy by Julia Rothman (non-fiction) 
  • The Missing Of Clairdelune by Christelle Dabos (fantasy/YA) 
  • A Pocket History of Human Evolution by Silvana Condemi (non-fiction)

Least Favourite + Most Disappointing Books of 2019

  • Melmoth by Sarah Perry (literary fiction)
  • From The Wreck by Jane Rawson (literary fiction)
  • They Mostly Come Out At Night by Benedict Patrick (fantasy)
  • The Colorado Kid by Stephen King (crime/detective)
  • Gather The Fortunes by Bryan Camp (fantasy/YA)
  • Ricochet Joe by Dean Koontz (sci-fi)
  • Messenger Of Fear by Michael Grant (fantasy)
  • The Wicked and the Divine Volume One by Kieron Gillen (graphic novel)
  • The Last by Hanna Jameson (dystopian)
  • Brightfall by Jamie Lee Moyer (fantasy/YA)
  • Swordpoint by Ellen Kushner (fantasy)

Reading Wrap-up 
2019 included some of my favourite books from the past three or so years since I managed to get back into reading with my all time favourite fiction read being The Lies Of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and my favourite non-fiction being All That Remains by Sue Black. I rediscovered my love for fantasy this year and that I shouldn't put off books that I think I'm going to like. I also loved so many non-fiction reads which was surprising as it wasn't a genre I used to read many books from but now I can't get enough.

Roughly the first half of the year, especially the months of January, February and August were fantastic but the last three months have been filled with reading slumps and countless DNF'd books unfortunately. I almost fell out of love with reading over the past three or so month but my iPad, Kindle Unlimited subscription and short non-fiction reads are helping!

2020 Reading Goals 
I'm going to be publishing a full post all about my 20 goals for 2020 but as for my reading, I want to read more books that I've been putting off, longer books over 500 pages and I want to start reading more classics. The latter has been a goal of mine for the past couple of years but I haven't succeeded so hopefully 2020 will be the year I finally read some classics. I have a few on my TBR for 2020 including The Count Of Monte Cristo, A Tale Of Two Cities, Northanger Abby and a few others, as well as some classic fantasy reads. Lastly, my goal for 2020 is to read at least 50 books but I think it will be over that number as I typically read over 100 books per year.

Do you follow me on GoodReads

Have you read any of the books I've mentioned? Do you have any reading goals for 2020? 

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Latest In Beauty: Festive Edit 2019 + Hall Of Fame Box

Friday, December 20, 2019
We all know by now how much I love the Latest In Beauty monthly subscription boxes and I'm forever grateful that I'm lucky enough to review their boxes every month. The festive edit is even better than usual (I didn't know that was possible) as you'll receive a few extra treats in your December box such as discounts, exclusive offers, a surprise gift and a mini box of Lindt truffles! Additionally, if you're a brand new subscriber then you will also receive a free makeup bag too.

*Latest In Beauty - December 2019 Edit 
The December festive edit is beautifully packaged as always and the selection of products for the month is very diverse, from eye drops, beauty tools and dry shampoo to body products, skincare, toothpaste and tea. The brands for the month of December are great too including Unite, Klorane, Nars and more! I am always happy with the subscription boxes from Latest In Beauty I receive; for more reviews, check out the subscription boxes link.
Systane Complete Eye Drops 
If you've been following my blog or social media since the summer then you might know that I underwent laser eye surgery in July and for a couple of months before then as well as for weeks after, I had to use eye drops religiously up to six times per day. Thankfully I don't need to use them as often now but I do still suffer with dry eyes occasionally, which is a common side effect of LASIK.

I have a few eye drops and gels that I've been trying over the past few months and they all work fairly well but I'm still looking for one that is better than the rest. When I noticed eye drops on the list of products for the December edit, I had to try it as it's something I use constantly. They're great drops so far, especially as they are a little thicker so they tend to be better for my dry eyes.
White Glo Extra Strength Whitening Toothpaste 
Another product I use constantly is whitening toothpaste as I am an avid coffee drinker so it's something I need. I have tried this brand before and loved their products so I'm happy to have a travel size version of their extra strength whining toothpaste. I find that whitening toothpastes can be very hit or miss and most of them for me have been disappointing but this one is definitely worth trying if you're looking for an everyday subtly whitening toothpaste.

Tario Bath Soaks 
Baths and pampering at this time of the year are essential! The dark nights can affect your mood and the colder weather can impact your skin so soaking in the bath and pampering yourself is important. I love Lush and Bomb Cosmetics bath bombs but sometimes I like the use bath salts as the scent tends to last longer. These bath salts smell heavenly as they contain lavender and we all know how much I adore any product that is lavender scented.
Unite 7 Seconds Detangler  
When I saw this products on the website, I was instantly intrigued and taken back a few years in time to when I watched Fleur's youtube videos constantly and I'm sure that she raved about this product quite a few times so I had to try it. Although my hair is shoulder length, it is still very thick and can become tangled easily but I haven't found a detangler that truly works on my hair. Thankfully this one is a great option and along with The Wet Brush, as it allows my hair to become tangle-free almost instantly.
Klorane Dry Shampoo 
Klorane is a brand I've only tried one or two products from over the years but this French brand has a range of simple but intriguing products. I am a constant dry shampoo user as I only tend to wash my hair three times per week at the most so I'm always on the hunt for the best dry shampoo I can find. My favourite so far has to be a tie between the Colab dry shampoo range (although I prefer the original version to the latest variations) and the Lee Stafford keep It Clean dry shampoo. This option has a gentle formula that contains oat milk to fresh the hair and add volume and so far so good.
The Vintage Cosmetic Company Duo Pencil Sharpener 
The final product from the festive edit is a tool from The Vintage Cosmetic Company. I recently discovered that in all of my makeup bags and drawers, I don't have a pencil sharpener. Thankfully this one is ideal for both eyeliners and the larger Nars velvet matte lip pencils that I was daily in my  makeup routine. As I've mentioned, with a subscription to the December box, you'll also receive a mini box of Lindt truffles as well as offers, discount codes and more.
Now onto part two of my mammoth Latest In Beauty post and I'm reviewing their newest limited edition box which is the Hall Of Fame box. I love receiving the monthly boxes, especially as I'm able to choose all of the items in the box but the limited edition collections are even better as they are incredibly value for money! I'm always very happy when a new collection from Latest In Beauty arrives as they typically contain a plethora of amazing products from a range of fantastic brands and this box is no different.

*Latest In Beauty Hall Of Fame Box (£32, worth £180)
The Hall Of Fame box contains twelve products from a variety of brands, many of which are more on the higher end of the spectrum, such as Marc Jacobs, Clarins, Aromatherapy Associates, Nars and Jurlique, among others. The collection is based around some of the best loved products of the year and some of the most coveted brands. I think it would make an amazing Christmas gift or a treat for yourself after dealing with all of the festive madness.
Jurlique Rose Hand Cream 
Let's start with one of the body products which also happens to be one of the nicest smelling items in the box too. I have tried a few products from Jurlique, including their rose skincare range, and I've loved everything so I knew I would love this hand cream too. I find that rose scented products can smell a little...old fashioned to be it kindly; however, I love this scent. The hand cream itself is lovely and I know it is an item I will use daily through the upcoming winter months.
Show Premiere Dry Shampoo 
I haven't heard of this brand before but I'm always interested in trying a new dry shampoo, particularly when it is packaged so beautifully. I love the bottle for this product and so far it has worked fairly well on my hair although I do prefer my Colab or Lee Stafford dry shampoo, if I'm honest.

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm 
As well as new to me brands, the box also contains a few products that could be described as cult classics or well loved products within the beauty industry and the Clarins Flash Balm is one of them. It is an instant pick-me-up for the skin as it brightens and helps to reduce the look of fatigue. I haven't been able to try it yet but I can't wait as it is such a well loved and raved about product.

Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Oil 
Last but not least for the body products is a gorgeously scented bath and shower oil from Aromatherapy Associates. They make some of the most luxury and heavenly scented bath oils out there and I cannot recommend this one enough.
Shiseido Ultimate Concentrate
Now onto a few skincare items and the first is from a brand I have wanted to try for a while but this is my first Shiseido product. The serum contains vitamins to help protect the skin against the effects of the environment, stress and blue light. This product has won so many awards, it's almost unreal!

Murad AHA/BHA Cleanser 
Murad is just another skincare brand that I've heard great things about but I need to explore it further. The cleanser is designed to be an intensive, deep cleaning product that removes impurities, exfoliates the skin and leaves it looking smoother and more youthful.

Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant 
In the first few years of blogging Dermalogica was one of the only brands that everyone was talking about and I did try some of their sensitive skincare range which I loved - even with the horrendous eczema I had at the time but I haven't really tried anything since. I do remember loving this product and also finding it a little odd to use as it is a powder exfoliant that you mix with water to create an exfoliating liquid.
Lipstick Queen Nothing But Nudes Lipstick - Sweet As Honey
I have been loving the Frog Prince lipstick from Lipstick Queen for a year now so I was very happy to find a lipstick from the brand within this collection. Firstly, let's take a moment to appreciate the gorgeous box and packaging of this nude lipstick as well as the very satisfying magnetic closer. I have the shade 'sweet as honey' which is a pale pink nude on my lip and sadly the shade is too light against my skin. Although I love the packaging and the texture of the lipstick as it feels like a nourishing balm.
Nude By Nature Perfecting Primer 
Another item from the box that I haven't heard of before is this foundation primer from Nude By Nature. The primer combines natural active ingredients to help reduce the signs of visible ageing while helping your makeup last longer.

Nars Smudge Proof Eyeshadow Primer 
The second primer in the box and one of my all time favourite makeup items, is the smudge proof eyeshadow primer from Nars. I have been using this eyeshadow primer for years so I'm very happy to have a new mini version as mine is almost entirely gone now! This is the only eyeshadow primer that actually works for my deep set/hooded eyes.
Marc Jacobs Velvet Noir Mascara 
The penultimate item is a very exciting addition to the box as it's a luxe mascara! I have wanted to try the Marc Jacobs makeup range since I was launched a few years ago and while I have tried a couple of their eyeliners, I haven't tried anything else. This mascara is fantastic and a welcome addition to my collection as I recently had an end of the year sort out of my makeup!

Eyeko Eye Do Liquid Liner
Eyeko is a brand I've tried many liners and mascaras from as it's what they are well known and loved for so I knew I'd like this liquid liner. I've started to wear more eye makeup since my eczema has disappeared entirely from my face for the whole year and I'm loving using liquid liner again.

Have you tried any of these products? What do you think of the festive edit or the Hall Of Fame box? 


Luxury Christmas Gifts

Thursday, December 19, 2019
Today's post is sadly my last Christmas gift guide of the year (where has the time gone?) and it's my luxury gift guide. Thanks to the lovely and generous people over at Nordgreen, Lace and Favour and Yes I Want It for the gorgeous, luxury gifts within today's post.

Also don't forget to enter my latest giveaway on twitter for your chance to win a set of three Real Techniques makeup sponges and a Harry Potter bath bomb. The giveaway ends on the 21st so you still have time to enter - it is UK only. I will also have a few new giveaways which will be live in the new year as well so make sure you follow me on twitter (@ofbeautyand) to find out when the giveaways are live.
*Nordgreen Philosopher Watch - Gold (£169)
It wouldn't be fair of me to choose a favourite product from today's post but if I was pushed to answer, I would choose this beautiful watch from Nordgreen. I've been lucky enough to review one of their watches previously on my blog and I also cannot recommend the Native watch and Infinity watch enough along with one this! I have the gold, 40mm option but it also comes in gunmetal, rose gold and silver as well as a range of leather and nylon options in a variety of shades. You can also purchase this watch, along with additional straps within a gorgeous gift bundle.
The watch comes in a sleek gift box so aesthetically it would make for a beautiful and luxe gift this Christmas! I have always adored a rose gold jewellery and watches but since receiving a few gorgeous gold pieces from Daisy Jewellery this year, I've started to love the way gold jewellery and watches look as they're always elegant and timeless.

I have the Native watch which is similar to this one but one of the main differing design aspects that I love with the Philosopher watch is the conical shaped and elevated watch case which makes the watch stand out subtly, compared to my other watches. I also like the larger face, minimal style and the comfort, despite the weight and size of the watch.

Nordgreen watches aren't just beautiful pieces to own or gift to someone special, as they are also a way for you to give to charity as well with their Giving Back Program. For each watch purchase, the customer can choose from three charities to give back to with a donation on their behalf from Nordgreen! You have less than one day left to order in time of christmas so go, go, go! 
*Amara Rose Gold Crystal Vine Of Leaves Bracelet (£45)
Sticking with the theme of beautiful accessories, I was very kindly sent a couple of jewellery pieces from the lovely people over at Lace and Favour, including this divine rose gold bracelet. The bracelet came in a sleek gift box and the bracelet itself is so beautifully, I'm sure it will be a lovely surprise for anyone to receive this Christmas! As well as the gorgeous rose gold option, it's also available in gold and silver.

I love the vine of leaves design as it seems to flow down the bracelet. I also love the combination of the sparkly cubic zirconia crystals and the gleaming rose gold metal as it looks almost glistening and metallic next to the skin. The bracelet is definitely a little too large for my teeny tiny wrists but I think for most people it would fit really well.
*Ivory and Co Bentley Cubic Zirconia Wedding Bracelet (£50) 
The second and final item from Lace and Favour is a sweet silver and cubic zirconia bracelet which like the first gorgeous piece, comes in a sleek gift box. This second bracelet is also the same length as the first at 18cm but it is available in a short 16.5cm length as well which would probably fit me far better. The bracelet is rhodium plated which means that it has an anti-tarnish coating for more durability and longevity.

The rose gold Lace and Favour bracelet is beautifully sparkly but this one is even more so especially when it catches the light - then it seems to shine! Lace and Favour have a wide range of wedding jewellery, wedding veils and accessories to choose from but many of their gorgeous jewellery items would make great wedding as well as christmas gifts too, in my opinion, such as the two stunning bracelets I've featured in today's post.
*Daisy London x Estee Lalonde Luna Necklace (£99)
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to receive a couple of pieces from the first Daisy London x Estee Lalonde collection and I still adore both pieces (especially the Sunburst Shield Necklace) so I was very happy to be able to choose another item for today's luxury gift guide. The second collection created by Estee is equally as gorgeous as the first with the same themes of celestial and organic shapes combined with beautifully balanced pieces that can be worn alone or layered together.
The Luna necklace is 18ct gold plated sterling silver and can be adjusted to the lengths of 16 inches to 18 inches. The necklace, as with the other heavenly pieces I've received from Daisy London, came wonderfully packaged with the magazine, tissue paper, gift bag and a small gift box so you have everything you need to present a special gift this Christmas.

The necklace design is so beautiful, I love the moon symbol and the raised edges of the necklace. The length is perfect and it looks even better when combined with the short chain from Daisy London. I never used to love gold jewellery or layering necklaces but the divine pieces from Daisy London and Estee have changed my mind! I can't wait to try more from the range - I have my eye on a ring and earrings so hopefully they'll be in the sale soon! Check out Daisy London to see more of the collection and their range of fantastic jewellery gifts.
*Positive Message Bulb and Lamp (£44.99)
Last but not least for my luxury gift guide is a homeware item which is unlike anything I've seen before and I think it would make a fantastic gift for those who've moved house, students or any of your gift recipients who are redecorating or renovating. I love to receive practical gifts, especially homeware gifts and the more unique the better so this lamp and bulb tick all of the presents buying boxes. I have the 'happy' option but there are lots of others to choose from as well such as, home, love, dream and live.
Each bulb shines with a different colour and the 'happy' option has a warm orange glow to it which I love! The bulb is a unique, vintage looking Edison bulb which I'm always drawn to as it makes the lamp stand out and become a feature in the room. I haven't found a bulb like this one before with mini neon lighting inside of it and I'm sure that most gift recipients wouldn't have seen anything like it either!

The bulb is unique itself but as is the stand that it comes with as it is composed of copper and marble! I love the combination of the almost vintage copper pipe and Edison bulb with the sleek light grey marble and the orange neon lightning - it's all such an interesting combination. I currently have the lamp in our home office and I love the way it looks on my desk especially as I can add little extras such as candles on and around the base.
I haven't been able to get a great photograph of the lamp in action as it is very bright (it has LED filaments which means that it will last much longer at 25,000 hours of light) but hopefully you can get an idea of the brightness and how the lamp works in the video below (make sure you play it on the 1080p). Overall, I'm so happy with the lamp, particularly as I've wanted a change from the regular old lamp I had before and now the space looks so much brighter and more contemporary, rather than a slightly stuffy office! Make sure you order by 1pm tomorrow on Yes I Want It to get your delivery in time for christmas! 

What do you think of the items within my christmas gift guide? 


*Looking for luxury on the slopes? Introducing the All-Suite Resorts Ötztal apartments

Thursday, December 19, 2019
Tucked away in the centre of the snow-covered Ötztal Valley in Austria, you’ll find the beautiful newly built All-Suite Resorts Ötztal apartments. These are highly modern apartments for anyone who wants to experience a luxurious stay during their ski holiday… I mean what else do you really want after a long day speeding down the slopes? As Kristall Spaces, property developer, explains these apartments were designed with today’s traveller needs in mind by providing “a freer and more individual experience”. Their aparthotel concept offers the privacy and amenities of a home away from home and the comfort and luxury of a hotel.

This innovative concept allows travellers to choose the services they want, only paying for what they really need. For instance, travellers “are no longer tied to a faceless half or full board experience and will be able to order breakfast, lunch or dinner in the restaurant, to be delivered to their apartment or by the swimming pool.” I mean, how good does it sound – to have your food delivered to you whilst you are unwinding at the pool?
Or you could even be relaxing at the spa centre. There are heated indoor and outdoor pools, bathing ponds, various saunas with panoramic mountain views and relaxation areas. I’d say that after a long day of skiing, snowboarding, hiking or tobogganing, I’d spend a good few hours recharging at the spa. The Oetztal Tourism website showcases all the activities you can do on and off the slopes before heading to the spa (or ditch the slopes and spend all day at the spa!).

Plus, the location couldn’t be any better. The ski shuttle is right at the apartments’ doorstep and the lovely village of Oetz is a few minutes away. With all of these incredible features, it comes as no surprise that these apartments have won the Best Residential Development in Austria at the International Property Awards 2018/2019. Let’s pack our bags and go?

*Images from Oetztal 

DegustaBox - November 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Today's post is a little late as I've been very busy with christmas preparations and my christmas gift guides - if you are looking for a last minute gift then check out my gift guide posts for ideas! Speaking of gifts, a subscription to the DegustaBox service would make a fantastic and practical gift that keeps on giving. I think it would be great for students, families, foodies and anyone who loves snacking! Use the code: DTPL4 to get £5 off your first box!

*DegustaBox - November 2019
The theme for the November box was 'winter warmers and festive' which is perfect for this time of the year and there were so many fantastic products in the box that are ideal to share. The items range from alcohol, snacks and drinks to vegan options and items to share. The number of vegan items included within the DegustaBox selections each month has been great on the whole this year but the first few boxes of the year and the December box (review coming soon) were amazing.
Woodstar (250ml, £4)
Let's start with the drinks and one of the more expensive items within the box. If you subscribe to the box which includes alcohol then you'll receive this item. This item will be available to purchase from Fortnum and Mason and Sainsburys from January. It's a blend of berries, botanicals and cocoa to create a mild alcoholic drink with a surprising depth of flavour and richness.

Rebel Kitchen Dairy Free Organic Chocolate and Hazelnut Mylk (£1.60)
Next up is an item I knew I probably wouldn't like and sadly I was correct. I've never liked milkshakes or chocolate milk, if it was dairy free or not and unfortunately this is an item I won't be buying. I love both chocolate and hazelnut but within this drink, it just wasn't for me.

Double Dutch Cucumber and Watermelon and Cranberry and Ginger (75p per can)
With this item, you'll receive both the cucumber and watermelon and cranberry and ginger flavours. They are tonics and mixers that can be added to cocktails or mocktails over the festive period; alternatively you could just drink them on their own.

Pure Leaf Matcha (£8.99 each)
Last but not least for the drinks within the November box and it's the most expensive item too. You will receive one of three available flavours which include mint, ginger and pure. I have tried matcha drinks before, such as the amazing Teapigs elderflower matcha drink but I haven't tried to make my own. I'm not sure that I'll like the ginger flavour but I do want to try both the pure and the mint flavours. I now need to buy a matcha whisk so I can try them properly!
Duerr's Half Sugar Seville Orange Marmalade (£1.39)
Next up are a few breakfast and lunch items including the Manchester made marmalade by Duerr's. You'll received either the half sugar version or the fine cut option within your box. I received the half sugar version and while I like all varieties of jam, I'm not too keen on marmalade. However, I love the packaging and my mum loves this marmalade on toast!

Real Handful Trail Mix (£2)
I personally love granola for breakfast, when I'm craving typical breakfast items but I want to start making my own and I think these trail mix packs would be great as either an on-the-go snack, it can be added to yoghurt or mixed with other ingredients to make granola. You'll receive either the strawberry or blackcurrant varieties. I personally love the strawberry version the most.
Pop Snack Bars (£1.49)
I also like to eat snack bars as either an on-the-go lunch or for breakfast with my coffee. You'll receive one of two flavours within the box - I received the peanut butter and dark chocolate option which was so delicious.

Cheeky Monkey Peanut Butter Puffs (£2.29)
My favourite item from the box is a tie between this snack and the final item, reviewed below. I really didn't think I'd like this snack as is doesn't sound too appealing if I'm honest but they were so delicious and moreish - I almost couldn't stop eating them! I will definitely be looking out for these in the future.
Mr Lee's Noodles (£2.50)
Last but definitely not least is a noodle pot from Mr Lees - you'll receive one of two flavours in the box. I received both, as I'm lucky enough to be a DegustaBox ambassador. The Zen Garden Vegetable pot was vegan and I'm glad it was because it was so delicious. It is a very mild snack but I loved the flavour and I will definitely be looking out for this option in the future.

The November box contained a very wide range of items from vegan 'milk' drinks and snack bars to unusual snacks, breakfast items and lunch options. Don't forget that you can use the code: DTPL4 to get £5 off your first box. My review of the December box will be live soon - it's one of the best boxes of the year!

Have you tried any of these items? What do you think of the November DegustaBox?


*What Are the Pros & Cons of Laser Hair Removal?

Tuesday, December 17, 2019
Image from Pinterest
If you’re removing body hair, there certainly is no shortage of options available - and you’ll probably want to consider all of them before you come to a decision. Shaving - is a quick, easy and painless way to get rid of body hair, but the hair can quickly grow back within a matter of days. Hair removal creams - can dissolve hair to give you smooth, silky skin in minutes, but they tend to have an unpleasant smell. Waxing - a bit more painful and usually more expensive than the two options above, but with longer-lasting results. Electrolysis - inserting a super-fine needle into each hair follicle, sending an electric current that kills it. It’s painful and time consuming, so if you want to stay as far away as possible, that’s understandable.

Finally, laser hair removal - an increasingly popular, semi-permanent hair removal option that causes damage to the hair follicle to reduce hair growth. After a few sessions, most clients can cancel their waxing appointments and throw away those razors. And, it’s not that painful either. But before you sign up for your first session with the laser, read on to learn more about the pros and cons of laser hair removal.

What are the pros? 

Less or no need to shave 

Laser hair removal might not get rid of all your body hair forever, but it can certainly do a good job of making sure that hair growth in any problem areas is drastically reduced. So, if you’re shaving your legs every other day, with laser hair removal you might find that you only need to shave every few months, for example, if at all.

It’s available for all your problem areas 

And, you can get laser hair removal done anywhere on your body. Whether you’re tired of removing hair from your legs, arms, stomach, bikini line, underarms, or even on your face, laser hair removal can zap hair anywhere. There’s no limit - just maybe keep it away from your head!

It’s not painful 

Most people who have laser hair removal treatment done say that it’s not very painful. Typically, it’s more painful than shaving but less painful than waxing, so if you’re used to having regular waxing appointments, you’ll be fine. The best laser hair removal practitioners will always use ice or another numbing agent to help make you more comfortable before the procedure is started - plus, you’ll begin to feel less and less pain the more sessions that you have.

What are the cons? 

It can take a while 

First disadvantage - successfully completing laser hair removal treatment can take a while. Most people need to have anywhere between three and eight sessions depending on the size of the area to be treated, and you generally have to wait around six weeks in between treatments to promote healthy healing and avoid causing any damage to your skin. However, unless you’re in a massive rush to be hair-free, then it’s certainly worth the wait.

It Gives You More Time To Spend On Yourself 

Beauty techniques take time and effort, so if you spend a lot of time shaving your legs then you won’t have the time to enjoy other, more relaxing treatments such as a massage, cupping or even something truly indulgent like a Turkish bath. By using a time saving technique like laser hair removal you’ll have more time to enjoy luxury treatments like these and really pamper yourself.

It’s not as effective on darker skin tones 

If you are dark-skinned then bear in mind that laser hair removal might not work as effectively on you. This is because the laser picks up on the contrast between the colour of the skin and the pigment in the hair follicle. Similarly, if you have a light skin tone but very fair hair, this could also be cause for trouble. Typically, the treatment works best on those with light skin and dark hair. But even if you don’t fit into that category, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t try - book a consultation with a laser hair removal specialist to discuss your options. As you can see, most of the ‘cons’ are more likely to be mild inconveniences when it comes to getting laser hair removal - the cost and the time taken are both definitely worth the end result.

As with all procedures, it’s important to make sure that your laser hair removal is carried out by a trained professional. An untrained technician could lead to burns or even permanent scars on the skin - so always do your research, read those past reviews, and check qualifications and licenses before you book. If you’ve found a price for laser hair removal that seems too good to be true, then bear in mind, it probably is!

Have you tried laser hair removal? If not, would you look into it?


*6 ways to decorate your porch for Christmas

Monday, December 16, 2019
Image from Pinterest
It’s the most wonderful time of the year and if you’ve not yet got your decorations up, then what are you waiting for? Perhaps you have, but you seriously lack some festive lighting and decor on the outside of your home? If you’re looking to provide an outdoor display that will have all your neighbours green with envy, here are six ways to decorate the porch of your Manchester home for Christmas.

Use fake snow 
A lot of us will often hope for a white Christmas, and on occasion, this has happened in December. However, it’s not always guaranteed and to have to navigate snow when travelling over the festive period, is a little frustrating. So how about some fake snow that’s fuss-free and you can simply hoover it up once you’re done. Sprinkle fake snow over any of your outdoor plants that are sheltered so that it doesn’t get wet and make a mess. Lay it around your Christmas decorations, whether that’s a light-up reindeer or Santa himself. It helps to add to that festive feel and is a great thing to use for the children, who’ll love decorating the porch with fake snow.

Fairy lights give instant festive vibes 
Fairy lights are a win-win, no matter where you put them around your home. Use your home’s roofline to hang fairy lights and ensure you’ve got plenty of meters to play with. Most of these can be plugged into the mains, but you might want to see if any solar panel options are available to save on the electric. Make sure that they’re plugged in and secure if they’re coming in through a window or door. Choose whether you want warm or cool lighting and if going for coloured, make sure it matches the rest of the porch decor.

Include a wreath on the door 
Most porches will look pretty sparse when it comes to the door and so the perfect Christmas accompaniment for your door is a wreath. There are a few ways that you can hang a wreath to your door. Ribbon is a great way to secure one when your door is to thick to use any else to hold the wreath in place. When using ribbon, measure the ribbon to the point where you want the wreath to hang and attach stick-on hooks to the back of your door for the ribbon to be tied around. This helps support and keep the wreath in place. Look out for wreath-making opportunities in your local area too!

Use removable white spray for a frost effect 
To provide that festive feel without the mess, you can get sprays for your windows that can produce a winter frost. Most are easily removable so have fun by spray painting the corners of your windows, both in your porch and around the rest of your home. It also gives that extra feeling of comfort that you’re inside a warm home while it’s cold outside. This artificial snow spray usually comes in a can and not harmful to the household environment, so feel free to let your children have a go at applying it to the windows. Make sure you’re watching over them to ensure they’re not getting it anywhere else other than on the windows!

Hang garlands around pillars 
Garlands are a great touch to any outdoor decorations, and although they usually hang around stair bannisters or the fireplace, they do well outside too. If you have any pillars or outside fencing, then wrap the garland around or along them to create a more decadent look. Weave some fairy lights into it too, and this helps to light up your display when it gets dark. Artificial garlands are easier to manage, but you might want to create your own garlands, especially for the holidays. After you’re done with them, you can take them down and utilise them for other parts of your outdoor space. When removing artificial garlands, make sure you give them a good shakedown and let them dry before you pack them away. You don’t want to find anything living there that ends up making its way into your home. With fairy lights on too, it can make for a warm nesting place for various wildlife. 

Giving your porch a Christmas makeover is something that should be included when decorating your home for the festive month. Use these tips to help transform your outdoor space and to create a winter wonderland that can be enjoyed by all that drive or walk by your home over the holidays.

How do you decorate your home for Christmas? 


*Improve your home with a retractable roof

Friday, December 13, 2019
Image from Pinterest
I wish I was more of a winter person, but I’m just not a big fan of rain, wind and grey skies. Why am I living in England? Good question. To be fair, I don’t mind rainy days if I’m spending them inside my house, snuggling up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and watching Mean Girls or anything alike. I just wish I could be enjoying the outdoors whilst being inside in the warmth – I know, it seems impossible, right?

Actually, it might be possible! Scratch that, it is possible. I found the perfect way to live my Hannah Montana fantasy and have the best of both worlds with a retractable roof in my garden. “What even is that?” another good question, but this one I’ll answer. A retractable roof is usually a retractable awning that can be installed in your garden, alongside with other outdoor structures, if that’s what you are going for, to create a perfect outdoor space which you can use all-year-round.

I must say that I’m a big fan of pergolas with retractable roofs. Don’t get me wrong, traditional pergolas are gorgeous and add so much style to any garden, it comes as no surprise that they were listed as a top landscape trend in 2019 by the National Association of Landscape Professionals. However, pergolas with retractable roofs are the next level of traditional pergolas, and when equipped with side glass screens, these modern pergolas are the holy grail of outdoor structures.

This article on Better Homes deep dives into what a pergola is and highlights the pros and cons of traditional pergolas. The main downside of traditional pergolas is the fact that they only offer shade protection and can’t really be used when it’s raining or are not comfortable solutions when there are strong winds. This is where pergolas with retractable roofs, which are also known as louvred pergolas, come in handy.

You might have seen louvred pergolas in commercial spaces, such as restaurants or cafes, but there is no rule that says you can’t have one in your own garden. These innovative pergolas are, as Designer Shade Solutions puts it, “designed to protect outdoor areas in changing weather conditions.” If it’s warm and sunny outside, louvred pergolas offer you protection against UV rays but still allow you to enjoy the sunshine to its fullest and, if it starts to rain, their roof will close to offer you protection against the rain. Designer Shade Solutions create bespoke louvred pergolas for homes and commercial outdoor areas all around the globe, so if you are looking to improve your home with an outdoor structure with a retractable roof, visit their website at

What are your thoughts on traditional and modern pergolas? 

This article was written by Carolina Neves, lead copywriter at Ad Lab, a marketing-agency based in Bishop’s Stortford. She loves to write about anything lifestyle and travel related whilst daydreaming about all the things she could do to give her home an uplift.

*How to prepare your home for Christmas

Thursday, December 12, 2019
Image from Pinterest
So, you’ve decided to host this year’s Christmas dinner – good on you! After years of having Christmas at your parents’ place, you’ve decided that you can give back a bit and let them enjoy a Christmas dinner where they are not the ones cooking and hosting. Plus, how difficult can it actually be? They make it look so easy…

You’ve been researching about how to host the perfect Christmas dinner party and this is when it hits you – all the little things you need to think about to make it close to perfect, how to get the house ready, the decorations, how many people are coming around and their different dietary requirements, the budget… “What did I sign up for?” you ask yourself. Now, it’s almost mid-December and there is no going back. Let’s just dial it back a bit, there is no need to panic – I’ve put together a list of things to do to prepare your home for Christmas to guarantee you’ll sleigh Christmas dinner (without having a meltdown).

Declutter your home, thank me later
Having a big clear-out is highly important to reduce your stress levels, even more during the festive season when you’ll have lots of people around and lots of things anywhere and everywhere. If you already have little space, imagine what it will look like during Christmas dinner with your guests and all their gifts… and then imagine it again if everything was decluttered and organised – how beautiful! An article on Psychology Today highlights all the benefits of clearing out unwanted/unneeded stuff in your house and besides reducing stress, decluttering is also great for feeling confident about your decision-making skills and is energising. So, go around your home and sell, throw away or give to charity anything you don’t need or want.

Deep clean like there is no tomorrow
Who said that deep cleaning should only be done in Springtime? Now, it’s the time to do one last deep clean of the year and, since you’ve got guests coming around, that should give you more motivation to make your home sparkly clean. This article on Momtastic emphasises the need to at least give your bathroom a good clean and advises to schedule any large cleaning jobs, such as having your carpets cleaned, for now “before the craziness begins.”

Make your home nice and toasty
The last thing you want to do is running around trying to figure out why your radiators have let you down and aren’t working properly when you have guests around and during Christmas… this just sounds like a nightmare and one that could happen if you don’t prepare your home for the cold months. The Handy Squad, a London handyman service, has written a blog post all about winter-proofing your home during these chilly times and they advise to draughtproof your windows and doors and to service your radiators. These are two easy tasks that you can effortlessly do at home!

Get into the Christmas spirit
If you haven’t put up your Christmas decorations, this is the right time to do it! I’d recommend going for a colour theme and planning it around your room’s current colour palettes. Put on some Christmas songs whilst you are decorating to feel even more excited about this festive season! Once you’ve organised your home and prepared it for the merry times ahead, there will be less things to worry about and everything else will fall into place. Now, it’s just time to think about what desserts to make for the night and how much mulled wine is too much (answer: there is never too much mulled wine!).

Do you have any tips to prepare your home for christmas? 


Women's Christmas Gift Guide: Part Three 2019

Tuesday, December 10, 2019
We're quickly approaching Christmas but I still have a few christmas gift guides to help those of you who need to buy gifts for friends and family this year. For more gift ideas, check out my previous womens gift guides, mens gift guide and stocking filler gift ideas posts. Today's post is my third, but not my final, women's gift guide of the year featuring a range of gift ideas from heavenly scented haircare, natural skincare and a unique subscription service to a beautiful 2020 diary.

*Lee Stafford Ultimate Hair Mask Set (£10)
Let's start with the cute haircare gift sets on offer from Lee Stafford this year, both of which would be great gifts for friends, younger cousins and as secret Santa gifts! The first gift idea is a set of hair masks from Lee Stafford that include the coconut, cactus crush, hair growth, choco locks and argan oil hair masks so there's something for everyone. If you want to gift a beauty set this year but want to choose some thing a little more unique, check out this wonderful and inexpensive gift set.
*Lee Stafford Coco Loco Set (£14)
The second and equally as cute gift set from Lee Stafford is the Coco Loco set which includes the full sized Coco Loco shampoo and conditioner, along with a handy travel wash bag. Lee Stafford is such a nostalgic brand for me and I have loved their products for years, especially their shampoo and conditioners. I cannot recommend the 'poker straight' and 'here come the curls' ranges as well as their 'keep it clean' dry shampoo, the latter I've already reviewed on my blog. If you like to gift beautifully presented but practical beauty gifts then look no further than the gift sets from Lee Stafford which are available online and in Boots.
*Bubble T Shower Gel Subscription (£5 per month) 
Another beautifully designed gift is the new Bubble T shower gel subscription service which, for £5 per month, delivers to your gift recipient two shower gels per month straight to their door. The fragrances are exclusive each month and my personal favourites so far have to include the vanilla chai tea and the pink lemonade scents. I love the packaging of the products as well as the subscription box idea and the heavenly scents. You can enjoy a free starter pack (while only paying the £1 postage charge) so you can try two of their shower gels for yourself!
*Ark Skincare Hero Collection (£38)
I've already raved about Ark Skincare products on my blog for months so I can't think of a better brand for the perfect festive vegan and cruelty free skincare sets than Ark Skincare. Some of my favourite products of theirs includes the gorgeous Age Defend Replenishing Moisturiser, Triple Action Exfoliator and the Skin Protector SPF 30 Primer. They offer a wide range of skincare gifts for all ages and all budgets this christmas so you're bound to find a stocking filler or gift for yourself or someone special.
The Hero Collection contains three of their best selling products including the pre-cleanse and makeup remover, hydrating beauty mist and the primer I mentioned previously. I think this gift set is ideal as either an introduction to the brand, a great travel sized skincare gift set or as a beginners skincare set for those who aren't sure which skincare products or brands to try. They have a great selection of other gift sets too such as the more luxe Age Defend Sleep Collection and the Luxury Skin Perfectors Collection to their inexpensive mini skincare products and mini duos which would make ideal stocking fillers for beauty and skincare lovers.
*Boxclever Press 2020 Perfect Year A5 Diary 
I think beauty, skincare and pampering gifts are perfect, practical and safe gifts to give to friends and family but another great gift for this time of the year is a cute diary, calendar or stationery essentials and the gorgeous pieces on Boxclever Press are to die for! If you didn't already know, I'm a stationery lover and hoarder so I want pretty much everything on their website! I'm one of those people who has to have a diary, notebooks and to do lists to stay organised and productive so if you also know a fellow stationery lover, definitely check out the gorgeously designed products from Boxclever Press.
I love the design, from the pen holder, tabs, the layout of the diary to the shades throughout, to do list pages and the size, which is great as both a desk diary and for a handbag, if it's as large as mine! Keeping a dairy and notes is one of the easiest ways to stay organised and having a cute diary is even better.

The 'Perfect Year' diary for 2020 I was very kindly sent can be purchased as an A5 size as well as the A6 size and part of a couple of cute stationery gift sets. The 'Perfect Year' range also includes a family calendar and the diary is available in a divine blush pink shade (that looks like my perfect diary, if I'm honest). You can currently purchase the A5 diary at a reduced price and you'll also receive a set of free sticky notes but hurry as the offer ends soon!
*Gaia Sleep Set (£40)
Last but not least for today's gift guide (my next one will be a luxury gift guide so stay tuned) includes a selection of incredibly beautiful gifts from the brand, Gaia. I've only recently discovered this brand but I've not only instantly fallen in love with their divine packaging but also their products, particularly the sleep spray, body butter and moisturiser, all of which I have been using non-stop since I received them! I don't think I've instantly fallen in love with a brand this quickly for a long time and I cannot recommend their beautiful products and gorgeous gift sets enough.
The first gift set I wanted to recommend and review is the Sleep Collection which not only comes beautifully packaged but it contains three lovely products, including the very effective sleep mist, body butter and the sleep balm, along with a wash bag. I utterly adore the packaging for all of their products but I think that my favourite has to be a three way tie between the cute cracker, the skincare trio tray and this cute wash bag! I think this set would be a thoughtful gift for new mums, those with stressful jobs or people like me who struggle to fall asleep - the sleep mist has definitely been helping!
*Gaia Lip Balm Christmas Cracker (£10)
Next up is the most adorable Christmas cracker I've ever seen! I love the idea of beauty christmas crackers as traditional crackers are always disappointing and include items no-one wants. This little crackers comes with a cute lip balm inside but there's also an option that includes what I'm sure is a heavenly scented bath oil. I think this cracker, or the bath oil version, will make ideal beauty stocking fillers or as luxe christmas crackers for friends and family on Christmas Day.
*Gaia Facial Range Trio (£83)
Last but definitely not least is probably my favourite set of the three, although it is a very close call as all of them are utterly beautiful and smell heavenly. This skincare trio not only comes with three lovely skincare essentials including a cleansing balm, exfoliator and moisturiser (the latter is definitely my favourite so far) but it also comes with a wooden stand for the products which is something I haven't seen before. I adore skincare, especially when you add in a heavenly scent, natural ingredients and beautiful packaging but also include a wooden stand to keep them looking pretty and organised and I'm in love!
As I've mentioned twice already, the moisturiser is my favourite product of the three so far and the one I've used the most as not only does it smell lovely and look cute on the little tray but it leaves my skin feeling soft, smooth and comfortable which is all I want during the colder winter months for my skin. This set is on the pricey side but christmas is a time for giving and being generous! This gift set, and any of the others mentioned in today's gift guide, would make lovely gifts for all friends and family this year! There will be a short video to accompany today's gift guide coming very soon so stay tuned.

What do you think of my gift ideas?