My CBD Experience with Luna + Leaf

Monday, November 30, 2020

CBD seems to have been the 'it' health and beauty ingredient of the year and it is easy to see why as it has rather fantastic claims and properties. I've reviewed CBD coffee on my blog previously and I've tried a couple of skincare products that include CBD as an active ingredients (both of which I loved) but I have never tried a CBD oil or supplement, until now.

What is CBD? CBD is derived from the hemp plant (which is related to the marijuana plant) and has been used to help alleviate the symptoms of many conditions or issues such as epilepsy and MS, along with potentially helping to reduce depression, anxiety, acne, sleeplessness and more. Many studies have tested the use of CBD for other medical conditions and it has been found to somewhat help with insomnia, Parkinson's symptoms, among others, although more research is needed.  
*Luna & Leaf 30% CBD Oil (£118) 
I have been interested in the claims surrounding CBD and it's effectiveness in terms of anxiety as well as sleep issues, both of which I have been trying to manage for years. I was very excited to try the Luna and Leaf CBD oil which was very kindly sent to me along with a journal, heavenly scented lavender bath bombs and an eye mask. 

Luna and Leaf have a trio of CBD oils available, ranging in percentage of CBD, from 10% to 30%, increasing in price with the higher percentage of CBD included. The oils are all legal in the UK, vegan friendly and organic - it contains organic coconut oil, which has many benefits of its own. To use, you spray the oil under the tongue (between one to three sprays) and each bottle contains approximately 83 sprays. 

I've been using one spray of the 30% CBD oil before bed almost every evening for the past couple of weeks - although I did forget to use it a few times! Using the oil itself is a quick and easy process and thankfully the oil is flavourless so there is no unpleasant flavour or aftertaste, in my opinion. My hope for the oil was to help reduce anxious feelings and to help me sleep a little better and overall I think it has, although I will definitely need to use it more and consistently to achieve more apparent and noticeable results. 

While I haven't noticed a huge difference, I do love the process of using the oil as part of my evening ritual and it has provided a slight calming effect which is a feeling, as a naturally very anxious person, isn't very common for me. My only negative is the bottle leaks very slightly, which might be a problem caused by shipping, but other than that I'm happy with the oil so far and I will definitely continue to use the oil to hopefully experience more of the benefits with time. 

Have you tried CBD? Will you be checking out the range of CBD oils available with Luna & Leaf? 

* AD - gifted item sent to me, not paid
Also please do your own research and ask your doctor before taking any kind of supplement 

Unisex Christmas Gift Guide 2020

Saturday, November 28, 2020
It is almost December so it is time to post my next Christmas gift guide which is filled with lots of gift ideas that I think would be great for anyone regardless of gender, age or your budget. Today's gift guide features a wonderful tea subscription box, pampering products (as always), a shaving subscription kit and a few handy daily essentials. For more sneak peeks, PR mail and unboxings, don't forget to follow me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand). I will also be posting my christmas giveaway on the 1st December on Twitter (@ofbeautyand) so stay tuned. 
*Creightons Body Bliss Bath Treats (£6)
Let's start with the pampering and body care gift ideas, beginning with this cute gift set from Creightons which includes four bath and shower gels in the scents: mango and papaya, coconut water, raspberry and pomegranate and vanilla and macadamia - the latter is definitely my favourite of the four, although they all smell heavenly. I don't think you can go wrong with a bath gift set at christmas especially when it smells as lovely as this set. Also, the price is fantastic (it is currently on sale for Black Friday at £4.20) so it would make a great secret santa gift! 
*Feather and Down Pillow Spray Duo (£6)
We all know by now how much I love all of the products and amazing gift sets from Feather and Down; I've been lucky enough to review many of their fantastic products on my blog over the past couple of years but I have also purchased their gift sets as presents too. One of my favourite sets has to be the pillow spray duo which includes their original and well loved pillow mist as well as the 'breathe easy' version, both of which I adore. I've used up so many bottles of their pillow mists and I genuinely cannot recommend them enough, along with the selection of amazing gift sets. 
*FFS Small Shaving Set - Peony (£20)
Another of my favourites brands (and one that will be included in my wrap-up of my 2020 favourites) is FFS, formerly Friction Free Shaving. I love their shaving kits, super effective razors and extras such as the shaving cream and natural deodorant. For christmas this year they have created a range of fantastic gift sets including a selection of their shaving kits (some of which can be engraved/personalised as an extra special gift) as well as small kits and tanning gift sets too.  

I was very kindly set their small peony gift set which I think is so cute and a great practical gift (we all know I love practical but aesthetically pleasing gifts). The set comes with their razor blades, peony handle, travel pouch, protector, shower holder and their very effective shaving cream. I think it would make a great gift for friends this christmas! I'd highly recommend checking out their sets (which also includes a mens gift set) as practical pampering gifts for friends and family. 
*Luna & Leaf 30% CBD Oil (£118)
Next up is the most expensive item to today's gift guide although they do have lower percentage oils at a lower price point; the 10% oil (£66) and the 20% oil (£88). CBD has become THE skincare, beauty and health ingredient of 2020 and it is easy to see why as it claims to help with depression, acne, anxiety and sleeplessness, among other issues. Early studies have shown many positive results involving CBD and I think would would make a great gift for those who already use CBD or are interested in trying it. I'll be reviewing this CBD oil fully in an upcoming post next week so stay tuned! 
*A Poem For Every Winter's Day edited by Allie Esiri (£14.99) and Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu (£12.99)

As well as CBD, another option I've found that massively helps my anxiety and restless mind is reading. Since January 2017 I've been an avid reader, something that I fell out of love with during high school and up to university but I'm so glad that I started again as it brings so much escapism, joy and entertainment. I think reading can be such a mindful, relaxing (depending on the book) and meditative practice that so many could benefit from. 

I don't have any IRL friends or family members that read to the extent that I do so I am always trying to gift books at every opportunity and Christmas is a great excuse! You'll see my end of year reading wrap-up as well as my favourite books of 2020 posts soon but in the meantime, the two beautifully designed books above are currently on my December TBR and I cannot wait to read them. If you want to follow along with my TBR and my ratings, make sure you are following me on GoodReads
*Teapro Tea Subscription Box - December 2020 (£18 per month) 
My penultimate gift idea is another unique subscription box, a tea subscription. I love herbal, mint, floral and green tea but I never really venture into new varieties, brands or blends so a tea subscription box is the perfect way to try new options! Teapro is a themed tea subscription box which includes four plastic free (yay!) tea pouches; the theme and flavours change each month so you'll always enjoy a new blend. Also, with your first box you will receive a free three piece glass infuser and cup. A educational information included in the box will enable you (or your gift recipient) to turn into a Teapro! Additionally, if you are buying a box as a christmas gift, you can have it gift wrapped with a personalised message. 

I was very kindly sent the 'black and yellow' December box which includes a unique selection of four black and rare yellow teas to try as well as a cork coaster. The teas included in the box are: Gold Dian Hong Pagoda Black Tea, OP1 Rukeri Rwanda Black tea, Supreme Meng Ding Yellow Buds Tea and High Mountain Wuyi Wild Black Tea. I've only tried the Gold Dian Hong Pagoda Black tea so far which was sweet, floral and subtle - an unusual but very calming tea. I can't wait to try the others which I'm sure I'll share on my Instagram Stories. Be sure to check out Teapro for all of your tea needs as well as their lovely subscription box which would make a thoughtful gift for any tea lover. 
*Smart Screen Antibacterial Cloth (£9.95)
Last but not least, I wanted to share and recommend a little stocking filler idea that is a great practical everyday essential. Smart Screen have created a luxurious feeling, antibacterial microfibre cloth that is perfect for cleaning your phone or tablet screens leaving them crystal clear and clean. The cloth is antibacterial (which is more than necessary in 2020), compact and easy to store as it comes with it's own pouch. There are many colours to choose from but I personally like the navy blue option I was sent. If you are looking for a practical secret Santa present, a stocking filler or a little something to add to a present hamper, look no further. Check out their fantastic Black Friday offer but hurry as it ends on the 30th November! 

What do you think of the gifts within today's gift guide? Do you have any gift recommendations? 

* AD - gifted items sent to me, not paid

*The Benefits Of Being An Introvert

Saturday, November 28, 2020
Image from Pinterest 
Collaborative post (AD - Paid)

In much of the Western world, we tend to value extraversion over introversion. As a result of this, those of us who are introverts can sometimes feel as if there is something wrong with us. The truth is that both introverts and extroverts have their benefit in society - if everyone in the world was an extrovert it would be a calamity of people fighting to be heard. Being the quiet person in the room and being able to enjoy one’s own company can have its advantages. Below are just some of the greatest benefits to being an introvert. 

Better listening skills 
While extroverts spend most of their time in conversations speaking, introverts spend most of their time listening. Introverts tend to make better counsellors because they fully absorb information people are telling them before formulating a response. A lot of extroverts confide in introverts because they trust them to listen. Introverts also tend to be better at keeping other people’s secrets. 

More observant 
Introverts can also be more observant of the world around them and can sometimes be better at reading people’s emotions. Your typical psychic empath is likely to be an introvert for this reason. Introverts almost always think before they say - they’re less likely to offend someone or embarass themselves by blurting something inappropriate out. 

Deeper connections 
Due to being good listeners and good observers, introverts are able to form deep connections with others. Introverts aren’t great at small talk, but tend to thrive when engaging in deeper conversations. Introverts often make interesting conversation partners and intimate partners in a relationship. Getting through to introverts is the hard part - many of us take a while to open up and are less trusting. As a result, introverts have smaller friendship circles than extroverts - however the quality of those friendships tends to be greater. 

More independent 
Introverts get their energy from being alone and can often be much more productive when by themselves. As a result, they can be much more independent, not always relying on the help of others. While this can sometimes result in introverts taking on a little too much themselves, they are never likely to be seen as a burden by others and can be viewed as low maintenance. 

Good leaders 
While many leaders tend to be extroverted, sometimes the best leaders can be introverts. Introverted leaders tend to listen to the opinions of others and make team members feel more involved in decisions. They can handle a lot of the work themselves without relying on others and can be more observant to individual team members’ needs. 

How to be a better introvert
Introversion is often confused with shyness. While most shy people are introverts, not all introverts are shy. Confident introverts are able to use their listening skills, observing skills, deep connectedness, independence and leadership skills to benefit society by being great counsellors and engaging conversationalists. By learning to be confident in one’s own ability and one’s own opinions (while still having the same awareness of others), you can lead a very successful life as an introvert.

Are you an introvert? 

Christmas Gifting with Wolf + Gypsy

Thursday, November 26, 2020
December is nearly here and with it comes chocolate joy every morning, festive music and a rush to find the right present for friends and family. There are a few gift ideas that are easy and safe options such as pampering products, food gifts and fragrance but I think jewellery is another fantastic option, especially when it looks as beautiful and luxe as the wonderful pieces from Wolf & Gypsy. You may have already had a sneak peek of this beautiful necklace on my Instagram stories (@ofbeautyand) so make sure you're following for more unboxings, PR mail and sneak peeks. 
*Wolf & Gypsy Sixpence Necklace (£114)
I don't think you can go wrong with a piece of beautiful jewellery, especially when it is unique and packaged well so I think Wolf & Gypsy is a great place to look for jewellery gifting ideas. I was very kindly sent the stunning sixpence necklace which is also available in silver as well as numerous chain lengths but I opted for 18" - a great mid-length necklace. 

The necklace is inspired by a 1914 sixpence, a British coin in circulation for hundreds of years, which has traditionally been a symbol of good luck. The sixpence was thought to bring good luck to a bride on her wedding day and it remains a good luck charm even today. The coin within the necklace is enclosed in an arc which makes it look minimal and effortless but also very luxe. 
I think the necklace looks very beautiful, especially the gorgeous gold option I was kindly sent - it is composed of sterling silver plated with gold vermeil. It catches the light beautifully and looks perfect worn alone or layered with other necklaces. I've been wearing it constantly as it is such an easy, goes-with-everything necklace. As well as being a gorgeous piece of jewellery, it is also a more ethical option as Wolf & Gypsy use recycled precious metals, conflict-free gemstones, eco-friendly packaging and they donate for every sale. 

I'm very happy with my beautiful necklace but I think that any of the gorgeous pieces of jewellery, from necklaces and earrings to rings, bangles and vintage items, would make luxe and special gifts this Christmas. 

But it gets even better as you can use the code: OFBEAUTYAND to get 10% off your order, including items in the sale!

What do you think of the sixpence necklace from Wolf + Gypsy? Will you be taking advantage of their 25% off discount code? 

* AD - gifted item sent to me, not paid and not an affiliate code 

Latest In Beauty - November 2020

Tuesday, November 24, 2020
It's time for my monthly review of the wonderful Latest In Beauty Box; this months box was themed around pampering products which I think is ideal for not only this time of the year but for lockdown pampering too - which is something we all need more of! I receive the boxes to review but I genuinely cannot recommend them enough and I've purchased a couple of the limited edition (and amazing value) boxes previously. 

*Latest In Beauty - November 2020 (£12.95 per month)
As always you can choose up to six products for only £12.95 per month and the selection is added to each day so there's always a new item to add to your box. The range of items is fantastic, as it is every month on Latest In Beauty; from high end makeup, skincare and beauty tools to supplements, body care, toiletries, haircare and more. As well as a treat for yourself, the box would make a fantastic Christmas gift for beauty lovers. 
*KVD Go Big or Go Home Mascara 
I'll start with the two high end makeup products from the November selection that I immediately added to my box! I have tried both of these products already from previous Latest In Beauty boxes and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a couple of backups as I love both! It is a very black, volumising mascara that makes my lashes look fuller, thicker and curled instantly. 

*Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Do Me Baby 
If I could only wear one lip product for the rest of my life, it would have to be the Nars velvet matte lip pencils as not only are they easy and quick to apply but they are also comfortable, lightweight, pigmented and the longevity is amazing. I cannot recommend both makeup minis enough especially if you are looking for long lasting and long wearing products. 

*Umberto Giannini Flowerology Coco + Rose Hair Mask 
Moving onto a couple of hair treatments, the first has to be the most beautifully packaged hair mask I've ever seen! It also has an absolutely heavenly scent of soft powdered roses which is a scent I'll always enjoy. The mask claims to be an intensely moisturise boosting treatment for those with dry and dehydrated hair which definitely describes mine so I cannot wait to try this mask soon. 

*Aveda Damage Remedy Hair Repair
The 'hall of fame' product for the month of November is the Aveda Damage Remedy Hair Repair which is a hair treatment featuring 98% natural ingredients and a well loved reputation. I typically tend to add the monthly hall of fame products to my box as they're always higher end product(s) or from a brand that I've wanted to try for a while. I've tried a few Aveda products but I definitely want to try more so I'm very interested to give this product a go. 
*So Eco Angled Eyeliner Brush
You can't have too many makeup brushes, right? I have so many that it might have become a minor problem but I can't resist adding another to my collection especially when it is is vegan friendly and has  copper details. I've tried many brushes from this brand and I've been very happy with all of them, particularly the longevity and how well they stand up to use over the years as well as washing. 

*Nilaqua Oatmilk and Honey Hand Sanitiser 
Last but not least for my selection is a very useful product to have in 2020 - hand sanitiser. I've never used so many hand sanitiser than I have since March! The Nilaqua sanitiser comes in two scents: fresh watermelon and oat milk and honey. It is vegan friendly, alcohol free and it is approved by the NHS so I had to add it to my box as an everyday essential in 2020. 
Finally, I wanted to mention the upcoming Black Friday markdowns that will be live on Latest In Beauty from midnight tomorrow. The Black Friday offers will include up to 40% off, a plethora of beauty products on offer and two boxes that will be exclusive to their Black Friday offers - you don't want to miss out! 

Have you tried any of the products I've reviewed? Will you be checking out the Latest In Beauty Black Friday offers on Thursday? 

* AD - gifted item sent to me, not paid

Autumn Wellbeing with Lighthouse Clothing

Monday, November 23, 2020
Autumn is my favourite season for so many reasons; the beautiful changing colours, cosy clothing, comforting hot drinks and a wonderful chill in the air but the autumn and winter months can also be a time of the year that includes SAD or seasonal affective disorder as well as a general gloomy feeling. However, there are lots of wonderful aspects of autumn and seasonal activities that can boost your wellbeing such as shinrin-yoku - the Japanese concept of 'forest bathing'. 
The idea of forest bathing was created in Japan in the 1980s and has become an integral aspect of the Japanese approach to healthcare and wellbeing ever since (Japan has one of the highest life expectancies in the world). Various studies, conducted in Korea and Japan, have found that spending time in nature has a calming effect on the nervous system, can reduce stress and anger, help to manage anxiety and also lower blood pressure - even after only a short time spend surrounded by nature. I love spending time on autumnal walks and it is definitely something I've missed during lockdown so I will be taking up the forest bathing as often as I can. 
*Lighthouse Iona Coat - Khaki (£59.95) 
We mustn't let the gloomy and constantly rainy English weather prevent us from forest bathing and it's many benefits! A durable, waterproof coat is all that is needed, well perhaps a pair of boots and a cosy jumper too. I was very kindly sent the very warm and toasty 'Iona' coat from the lovely people over at Lighthouse Clothing which is ideal for the damp autumn weather we've been having recently in Manchester, although to be honest, it is like this for most of the year! 

The Iona coat features a cute striped lining which is insulated, super soft and padded to keep you warm on your forest bathing adventures. It is also waterproof (essential year round in Manchester), windproof and breathable. If the coat wasn't practical enough already, it has two large pockets and a secure internal pocket with a zip for your valuables. 

I adore the colour of this coat, it is an autumnal dusky moss green that is perfect when paired with a tshirt, black jeans and boots. I also love the cut which is much more flattering than most waterproof coats! I opted for a UK 8 and it fits me perfectly; additionally the coat length and sleeve length are fantastic too, even though I'm very petite. 

It is a perfect practical and cosy waterproof coat that is also flattering in its shape, unique in its colour and ideal for autumnal walks in the forest. I have many coats and jackets (it's one of those things I can never have enough of) and this one is by far my favourite practical coat. I couldn't be happier with my new and cosy coat and I'd highly recommend it - it would also make a great practical gift this Christmas. Check out Lighthouse for more gorgeous coats as well as a range of womens, mens and childrens clothing. 

What do you think of the Iona coat from Lighthouse? Will you be taking part in any forest bathing this autumn? 

* AD - gifted item sent to me, not paid

Black Friday with Gaston Luga

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Black Friday is just around the corner although many deals have started early online this year. Gaston Luga have a fantastic site-wide offer of 20% off everything for Black Friday which is an amazing deal. Their fantastic Black Friday discount will run from the 13th to the 30th of November so you have plenty of time to browse either for yourself or for Christmas gifts. However, in addition to the 20% site-wide discount, with the code beauty10 you can get an extra 10% off your order - 30% off in total
*Gaston Luga Classy Backpack (RRP £95 - sale price £76)
One of their gorgeous backpacks I wanted to recommend is the 'classy' backpack in black which I was very kindly sent. The backpack features adjustable shoulder straps, a hidden back pocket and padded interior that fits most 11" to 13" laptops or tablets. It also has a very classic Scandinavian minimalist design which I adore and it is very comfortable to wear unlike almost every other backpack I've worn. The size is fantastic as it fits everything I need including my iPad, books and essentials so I think it would be ideal for commuting, students or for travelling (when it is safe to do so). 

I cannot recommend the Gaston Luga Classy Backpack enough; however there are so many others to choose from including numerous colour variations of the classy backpack and a mini version too. There are also a range of larger backpacks, toiletry bags, tote bags and more so you are bound to find gifts for friends and family this Christmas (or treats for yourself!) on Gaston Luga. 

As well as the 20% off discount and my extra 10% off discount code (beauty10), you will also receive a a free cardholder with every purchase and free delivery!

What do you think of this amazing Black Friday offer? 

Shay + Blue QVC TSV: November 2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020


The festive season is right around the corner and so are a plethora of deals this November! Today's post is all about an amazing value deal with Shay and Blue and QVC which will be revealed this evening at 9pm on QVC; click the link to watch it live later today. Within the live event the incredible TSV (or today's special value) deal will be revealed which features three beautiful fragrance sets that I think would make lovely Christmas gifts this year! Head over to Shay and Blue as well as QVC to sign up for early access and to have a look at the other wonderful gift sets on available. 

The TSV deal features three incredible sets to choose from, including English Cherry Blossom which is the set I was very generously sent - I can't resist anything cherry blossom scented, especially when the set look as beautiful as this one does! Each set contains a full sized fragrance as well as the accompanying shower oil and lotion. The collection has an additional surprise, a 10ml preview of the latest fragrance launch, Tallulah's Camellia, which is their new fragrance for 2021. 

I was very kindly sent the *Shay and Blue English Cherry Blossom Collection (£48.96), the individual components of the collection can be purchased separately or as part of the incredible QVC TSV deal. The collection has a whole looks utterly beautiful, I adored the packaging and the scent itself is heavenly. As much as I love the set I received (and that I've been using non-stop), I think the other two collection sound amazing too. 
The Shay & Blue English cherry blossom fragrance contains notes of: bergamot, green mandarin, fig, cassis, honeysuckle, black cherries, iris and woody notes, all of which combine to create a wonderful blend of musky florals and rich fruity notes that is ideal for autumn. I think it is a very timeless and classic fragrance while still feeling vibrant and youthful yet sophisticated. 

Along with the fragrance, the collection includes the corresponding hand and body lotion as well as the rich almond shower oil. I've been using the beautiful and luxe hand lotion everyday while at my desk and it has been a miracle for my hands. As you may know if you've been following my blog for a while, I used to have awful eczema flareups on my face and hands; unfortunately it has reappeared on my hands which are now perpetually dry and sore so a rich hand lotion is always needed. The hand and body lotion smells divine, it doesn't irritate my eczema at all and it leaves my skin feeling comfortable, moisturised and super smooth! 

Last but definitely not least might actually be my favourite product from the collection, although I do love all of the items and I cannot recommend them enough. The new and upcoming Tallulah's Camellia fragrance, which is included as a 10ml spray in the collection, is such a unique and uplifting fragrance which has managed to steal the show from a range of fantastic products. The fragrance is very difficult to describe and I don't have anything quite like it in my fragrance collection; it is sweet and floral but crisp, refreshing and unexpectedly comforting. It is definitely on my wish list for 2021. 

With the value of the collection at over £100, it is a deal you can't miss! Don't forget to head over to QVC at 9pm for the reveal. Also, you can now order the collection from tomorrow and you can then select the collection (or one of the other scents) to be delivered again three months later - a top up delivered straight to your door! 

The English Cherry Blossom collection is now sold out! However, the beautiful Black Tulip and Blackberry Woods are both still available on QVC.

Have you tried any fragrance from Shay and Blue? Will you be checking out the amazing TSV on QVC? 

Current Wish List ft. Goddiva

Monday, November 16, 2020
Images from Goddiva, Temple Spa and Neom
Collaborative post (gifted)

Black Friday is just around the corner, with a variety of stores starting their sales early this year which has been tempting me to spend! Thankfully during the first lockdown I didn't spend very much (apart from reduced e-books and a few essentials) so now that Black Friday and Christmas are fast approaching, my wish list has started to increase and my resolve to reduce my spending is crumbling!

Christmas Clothing 
As well as a range of soft and cosy knitwear that is always on my wish list at this time of the year, I also have my eye on a few sparkly tops and shiny tops that I think would be a great festive options for Christmas Day. Goddiva is a fantastic site for all of your festive and New Years celebrations as they offer a range of beautiful dresses, sequinned tops and accessories as well as a selection of beauty items, gift ideas and occasion wear. 

Beauty & Wellness 
My wish list for all things beauty, skincare and wellness is a little ridiculous this year as there are so many amazing Christmas gift sets on sale currently. One bundle deal that I've been interested in for quite a while is the Neom Wellbeing Pod Collection which is an essential oil diffuser accompanied by their blend of essential oils. Additionally, there are a couple of items from Temple Spa on my list including cream foundation base, along with the 'stoke of genius' mascara, the latter I've tried before and loved.

Which products, clothes or gift sets are on your current wish list? 

*Switching To A Freelance Career

Sunday, November 15, 2020
Image from Pinterest 
This is a sponsored post (AD)


If you've been following my blog for a while then you may know that I started blogging back in 2012 and at the time it was an outlet for my thoughts and opinions on the beauty and skincare products I was using. However, it has evolved into much more, including my main form of income and while I am incredibly happy with the progress of my blog, it wasn't something I ever imagined I'd do or be able to earn money from. 

I have a psychology degree and freelancing writing was a career I hadn't even thought of at the time; I never thought I'd be paid for blog posts or articles I'd write (although I am very grateful for all of the brands, PR companies and magazines I've worked with over the past seven or so years). While I didn't set out to be a freelance writer, it came naturally to me and it was an organic progression from my blog. I love what I do (I'm currently looking at other career paths currently though or study options alongside freelancing) but it has had it's ups and downs. In today's post I wanted to share some of the resources I'd recommend and tips for those wanting to switch to a freelance career or those who want to add a freelance opinion in addition to a 9 to 5 job. 

Online Distance Learning
Online learning is becoming even more popular during lockdown when most people are spending much more time at home. If you are thinking of switching from your 9 to 5 job or if you want to add on a freelance option to your current career, then gaining the skills you'll need beforehand is a great place to start. There are so many online courses that could be help start your freelance career (whether you want to explore freelance writing, photography, journalism or marketing, for example) including social media, writing, photography and business courses, among others. 

However, the freelance breakthrough course provided by The Blackford Centre is a fantastic all-in-one beginners guide to learning the basics of switching to a freelance career which is something I wish I'd had back when I started my blog in 2012 - I had no idea what to do, especially when blogger and brand collaborations started a few years later and there are still things I'm learning eight years on! The course covers 14 different modules on topics including: freelancing essentials, managing your projects, setting your rates, how to get repeat business and much more. Within each module there are a range of topics as well as a task at the end of each section, followed by a final exam at the end of the course. The breakthrough freelance course also comes with a certificate when you've successfully finished the course which would be a great addition to any CV and your freelance portfolio or media kit. 

The Blackford Centre is an online learning website with such a wide variety of courses from anatomy and physiology, criminology, counselling, event planning and digital marketing as well as a few more niche options that I haven't seen on any other online learning website such as dog grooming, dog training, private investigation and street photography. There are many options you could pursue based on your interests, future job prospects or new career. I'm personally most interested in the floristry, copy writing and creative writing courses based on my hobbies and interests. 

Home-study courses, such as those available with The Blackford Centre, are fantastic for so many reason. For example, you can study at your own time and pace within the comfort of your own home, you can receive an accreditation that you can add to your CV, all of the courses are very affordable, you receive online study material along with a printed edition and you have a 60 day money back guarantee with The Blackford Centre, which gives you plenty of time to decide whether the course is right for you and your current career path or new freelance career. 

Tips
  • Plan Ahead: Along with learning new skills and having the basics, planning ahead before any career switch is important; including when you want to make the change, finances, a potential list of clients and project or article ideas, to name a few. Create a spreadsheet, write lists, brainstorm ideas - I personally find that writing down ideas and lists is key to staying organised and productive while working from home. 
  • Make A Career Out Of Your Hobbies: Starting a new business or freelance career can be daunting so why not look into ways of making your hobby into a career or additional project; whether it's crafting, calligraphy, photography or poetry. Find a passion, learn new skills to help promote and sell your work or ideas and have a little patience. 
  • Patience: When I started my blog and freelance career I never thought I'd earn any money from it but with time, dedication and patience, the blog opportunities and work started to appear. I think there's a misconception about bloggers or freelance writers, that it is an easy job but getting to the stage of working with brands/PRs consistently and having a set rate, is difficult! 
  • Network and Promote: Self promotion can feel a little awkward and it's something I've experienced and had to try and overcome as a blogger and freelance writer. Creating social media accounts, a blog and a media kit or freelance portfolio of your work and sharing with potential clients can be a great way of drawing interest and work. Don't be shy to promote your hard work or ask for your worth. 
  • Gain Relevant Experience or Skills: Online learning courses, an internship or part time job in the area you want to freelance in might be a good opportunity to gain the new skills and experience you'll need. Skills such as being able to use photoshop, proofreading and writing can all be improved with online courses, time and practice. 
  • Taxes: There are many aspects of freelancing and blogging that aren't as glamorous as events and PR mail - those aspects include taxes. The self assessment tax form is something I dread to fill out each year and that is solely because it can be quite (ermmm...very) confusing but if you earn any money from blogging or freelancing (even if it is a tiny amount over the year), you need to let the government know. 

Are you a freelancer? Have you participated in any online learning courses? 

*Three Self Improvement Hobbies

Saturday, November 14, 2020
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With lockdown 2.0 in full swing, I thought I'd share three of my top self improvement hobbies to try out over the next month. The process of self improvement can be very different for each individual as we all strive for different goals but I think all three of these options, in some way, can help towards self improvement. I think having an activity or two that focuses on yourself (either your goals, physical health, mental health or skills) can be quite therapeutic and provides structure when the lockdown days seem to blur into one another. 

Distance Learning 
The first option is great if you want to learn about a new topic, improvement your knowledge in a certain area for your career or if you want to gain new information or qualifications towards a future job. I've been using online distance learning services for the past four or so years, through a variety of websites and I've thoroughly enjoyed not only the courses themselves and learning new information but also having the satisfaction of completing a course, gaining a qualification and having a new certificate to add to my CV. 

The Distance Learning Centre is an online distance learning provider with a variety of courses to choose from; they are the leading provider of distance learning in the UK! They currently offer over 250 courses which include GCSE courses and A Levels as well as courses focusing on education, business, social media, human resources and psychology. Additionally, they have a few courses with special offers and bundles including game development, web design and Microsoft office courses. 

There are many courses that would be fantastic to take part in to improve your job prospects and to add to your CV such as the Microsoft office bundle and IT essentials; along with many others that you could take part in to pursue a specific career in the future including: interior design, writing, photography, event planning and even cake making. I think online distance learning is a fantastic form of self improvement that has the added benefit of not only learning something new but it can be added to your CV, potentially help you start a new business or career and you may discover a new passion. 

Exercise
I think we are all a little tired of the push to lose weight, start exercising and getting rid of the lockdown indulgences but I think we need to be a little more kind to ourselves. We are living through a pandemic after all, it is a little stressful, to say the least. However, I find that having a goal of exercising a couple of times per week with no goal of losing weight in mind, can be very beneficial, not only physically but mentally too. 

I was one of those children who did everything possible to get out of PE lessons. Rounders? No. Running? Absolutely not. Dancing? Nope. I hated it all and would somehow stealthily sneak to the back of the queue or crowd during every lesson so I didn't have to take part and inevitably embarrass myself. Thankfully I've found a couple of exercise options that aren't strenuous and I can do them at home, while watching TV which is the only acceptable way to exercise. I use my crosstrainer, I follow along with a yoga video or I FaceTime my sister and exercise with her (we usually end up talking or complaining about exercising, rather than exercising). While I don't enjoy exercising on the whole, I do love the accomplished feeling it provides and it helps to move around instead of sitting down all day, which is what I'd normally do. 

Reading 

Since January 2017 I have been reading non-stop and I've found it to be such an incredible form of escapism which has been helping my anxiety immeasurably. I read a book or listen to an audiobook almost everyday - before bed, while cooking, as I edit photos or in the car. Reading not only makes me feel quite accomplished when I finish a book but studies have found that reading 'strengthens' your brain, builds your vocabulary, helps to prevent age related cognitive decline (such as Alzheimer's), reduces stress and helps to reduce symptoms of depression. 

I've personally found such joy in reading fiction, learning new information through the non-fiction I read and it has helped not only my anxious thoughts but it also helps me to relax in the evening. Additionally, I love writing book reviews and sharing my thoughts within my monthly reading wrap-up posts. Almost every time I publish my reading wrap-up posts, I receive comments such as: How do you read so much? The short answer is, I read so much because I love it. I think we should all make time for the things we love, that bring us joy and that can also be beneficial in many other ways. 

Do you have any self improvement tips or hobbies? 

*Three Steps To Future Proof Your Home

Thursday, November 12, 2020
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The current political chaos and the pandemic has many of us thinking about the future; whether it is rearranging events, planning ahead for 2021, changing careers, future care for older relatives or looking at future-proofing your home. Today's post is focusing on options and ideas to future proof your home as we pass through various stage in life, lifestyles changes and mobility or health concerns that can affect the way you live your life. 

Smart Tech
One of the most useful home improvements we've made over the past year has been to start utilising 'smart home tech' which includes app-operated tech which connects to our central heating and lightbulbs around the house. We use the Hive system which has been fantastic and makes managing the heating and lighting very quick and easy - even when we are away from home. I cannot recommend the Hive system enough and we are definitely going to be looking into more home tech in the future! 

Home Improvements & Mobility Needs
Home improvements especially if they are important, urgent or essential are needed for future proofing your home. However, home improvement can also include: removing stud walls to create an easy to navigate open plan space, switching to non-slip flooring, adding mobility aids to the bathroom or house lifts for disabled people within your household, installing ramps at the entrance doors and you could even purchase moveable partitions to create separate but easily changeable spaces. The lifestyle and needs of your household will change with time so preparing for those changes is one of the most important aspects of future-proofing your home. 

Energy Efficient Alternatives 
Energy saving and environmentally friendly alternatives such as energy saving light bulbs and efficient appliances, as well as energy efficient heating and windows can all help to future proof your home and save money in the long-term. Upgrading an ineffective heating system and improving areas of your home (such as windows, doors and attic spaces) that cause the most heat loss, can be a great first step. Although smaller changes including switching to more energy efficient appliances is a quick option with a smaller price tag. Additionally, improving insulation and adding solar panels to your home are also eco-friendly options to consider. 

There are many alternatives, products and options to consider when future-proofing your home such as redesigning rooms to make them more accessible, adding a smart security system and decluttering and living a more minimal lifestyle; however all of these steps will change as the needs and lifestyle of your family also changes but preparing and considering all of the options for home improvements will ensure you are well informed for making any changes that are needed. 

Have you made any changes to future proof your home? 

*How To Get Your Home Ready For Winter

Thursday, November 12, 2020
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Winter is fast approaching but don't panic (just yet) as there's still time to get your home ready for winter and the upcoming festive celebrations! I love the cosiness of the autumn and winter months, especially as I work from home and I can enjoy all of the cosy homeware, candles and festive decor all day! Today's post features a few tips and ideas to get your home cosy and christmassy in time for the festive season. 

Cosy Homeware 
Candles, cosy blankets, comfy cushions, cookie scented diffusers, cuddly throws and of course, Christmas decorations can make any room wonderfully cosy and inviting. I love to add rustic, wooden and old well loved decorations to our home over the autumn and winter months to add cosiness and comforting nostalgia to an otherwise minimally decorated home. I'd also recommend the addition of a beautiful seasonal bouquet; I cannot recommend the gorgeous range of floral arrangements from Haute Florist enough. 

Christmas Decor 
We've been using the same decorations since I was very young which makes Christmas and the well loved decorations that come along with it, all the more special and heartwarming. I love our combination of old worn decorations that have seen many Christmas seasons and our decorations that we've purchased on holiday and more recently - they are guaranteed to make our home look cosy and ready for winter instantly. 

Heating & Energy Saving Alternatives 
Heating bills can soar over the colder months so making changes to improve or update your loft insulation and potentially switching to a more energy efficient boiler might make all the difference to your bills this winter. Draft proofing your home can help too, along with changing your furniture so that it doesn't block and absorb the heat from your radiators.

Accessibility & Home Improvements
Lastly, home improvements before the busy festive season are essential, especially if your older relatives are staying over during lockdown or the festive season. Accessibility and mobility need to be considered with any older relative and various home improvements can be installed easily such as rails within the bathroom and stair lifts at home. Certain improvements might be an investment but future proofing your home might be a great option in the long term. 

Do you have any tips to make your home ready for winter?