Colder climes, happily, mean more great excuses to stay indoors and read.

It's no secret I'm a homebody, and I've been getting back into my full swing obsession with reading. Our work book club is in full force again and I'm FINALLY starting to make my way through my backlog of 'must reads' - a bit of a hangover from the summer. So, there's plenty to talk about in this post! Here are some thoughts on what I've been reading -

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Laura was new to me, as was this title - this was actually a pick from our work book club. It was absolutely a page-turner and a really easy read (I got through it in a day and a half whilst still spending time with family), but for me this was just a little TOO close to the structure and narrative style of Gone Girl. Thrillers aren't really my preferred genre hence the lower score, but I am really glad I got the chance to read it, as I would never normally have picked it up. It's definitely simplistic writing that helps keep the pace motoring forward, and is complete with a double twist, which is always fun.

Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba

This book is so great, and I'm already buying it for every woman in my life that needs a present. Smart, savvy and succinct career advice from women who have done it and are still doing it, smashing boundaries in their industries. I can feel a little outnumbered in my current situation at work as a woman, and Otegha's words were exactly what I needed to help navigate me through some tricky discussions when it came to my self worth and how I want to be recognised in work. I recommend it to every woman, whether in a corporate kind of career or running your own business - invaluable practical advice and inspiring words. I'm keeping this one to annotate and highlight for sure!

How To Be Both by Ali Smith

A perfect score for Ali Smith because I'm not convinced I can actually critique her work. The way that she uses language to construct pieces of art through storytelling blows my mind the more of her work I explore. Her work is at once lyrical and irreverent, heightened and atmospheric and immensely real. I feel as though I know her characters, not through lines and lines of expositional descriptive work, but just for how familiar they feel. Reading her work feels like pulling on your favourite jumper, or wearing a shirt that smells of a loved one. It's familiar and comforting and warm, but also beautiful and breathtaking. How To Be Both is one of, if not, her absolute best. Split into two stories that are tightly interwoven, each copy of the book tells the story in a different order - mine, for reference, was narrative story first and abstract section second. It made me laugh out loud, it made me cry - it was so ambitious but then so simple and delicate. Instantly one of my favourite reads ever.

Winter by Ali Smith

ARTFUL by Ali Smith


THE LUMINARIES by Eleanor Catton

I'm not even making an attempt at apology - I'm starting to make plans and get ready for that most wonderful time of the year. Sprucing up my house ready for the festive season is one of life's little pleasures that I've really enjoyed indulging in as I've gotten older and started enjoying trips to garden centres. J and I are oddly house-proud of our tiny nest here in Oxford, and we love hosting people around here for Christmas, mulling wine and cider on the hob and making the whole place warm and cozy, mincepies and Camembert being shared around like they're going out of style. Is there anything better than Christmastime?

Suffice it to say I've had a bit of a virtual dig around in these parts, and have put a few of my favourite bits and pieces to bring the season indoors together for you today. Enjoy!

Clockwise from top left: 'T' Reindeer mug by Emma Bridgewater; Christmas throw from H&M Home; Santa & Rudolph crackers by Meri Meri; Seasonal Candle Trio from Diptyque; Anatomy of a Christmas Tree from Trouva Home; 'Bake Someone Happy' apron from H&M Home; Leaf and fern wreath from Zara Home; Pinecone bauble from John Lewis; The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater; Constellation garland from West Elm; Christmas mug, bowl and tray from Zara Home; Joy! cushion from H&M Home.

It's no secret that I'm a bit of a skincare fiend. Aurelia Skincare wasn't exactly new to me, but I had always placed their products in the sort of 'one day, when I'm very well paid and very in tune with my skin and its needs'. That was, until a good friend recommended I join their Brand Ambassador programme (thanks Sarah!) and I received their skincare discovery set, free of charge when you cover postage for it to be sent out to you.

You can join up here and for £5, you'll receive a little velvet pouch with trial sizes of the Miracle Cleanser, Cell Repair Night Oil, Cell Revitalise Night Cream, Revitalise and Glow Serum and the Cell Revitalise Day Moisturiser. They're all pretty decently sized, neatly packaged and come with a set of instructions for use. In terms of Brand Ambassadorship programmes, it's definitely one of the best I've seen!

I'm still trialling the products but standouts for me are the Cell Repair Night Oil, the Revitalise and Glow Serum and the Day Moisturiser. I figured you guys would want to know, and I wanted to get the link to you before the deal expired! Go forth and slather yourselves.

UPDATE: Aurelia have unfortunately now run out of their Discovery Sets, but stay tuned for if this offer comes back again! It's always worth signing up to mailing lists and newsletters to stay on top of the best offers.

It's party season which means one thing to me - time for a bold lip.

My make up skills might be shoddy at best and I'm far from adept when it comes to blending out a beautiful smoky eye, but my 'failsafe' of sorts is a statement lip and a catflick - a no brainer dressed up or dressed down look.

As we approach Christmas party time and knitwear becomes a staple in our everyday wardrobes here in the UK, I thought I'd take you through the lippies I pull time and time again during this season. They vary in terms of complexity of application, but I'll take you through entry level to time consuming, and recommend the best ways I've found to wear them.

Tom Ford Lips and Boys 'Drake' I should note that in principal, Tom Ford is taking the piss with these lipsticks. They are absolutely tiny (although great for travel), cost a bomb (for what they are) and are totally gimmicky, but raise your hand if you rushed to the House of Fraser website to nab one - yep, it's this guy. I just couldn't resist the idea of owning a little bit of Drake's sadness for my very own. The usual stuff applies - beautiful packaging, love the stylish 'TF' emboss on the bullet (yes, I do apply it backwards to stop the TF smudging) - but the colour here for me is the real star of the show. It's a flatteringly sheer purple stain which a really attractive, plumping shimmer running through it. Of all the shades here today, this pulls the most blue-toned and pink, but on the lips gives you an almost popsicle stain finish and a gorgeous glossy fullness. This is a really simple party shade which you can cack-handedly reapply drunk without the worry of your lips looking like flaky runny disasters or getting any on your teeth. Lavly.

Revlon Lip Butter 'Red Velvet' Aaah Revlon Lip Butters, I will never get over your formula. So creamy, so richly pigmented, and so comfortable on the lips. This again is a creme finish so far from matte, but that makes it an apply-and-go, same as the Tom Ford. This is a warm, brown-toned red which would look great with a sparkly rusty/gold eye look a la Charlotte Tilbury Dolce Vita palette or Naked Heat. This lippie doesn't dry down so very easy to reapply and be wary when eating/drinking, because it will move. But a gorgeous, flattering shade - very on trend for the 70s burgundy-mustard colour palette we're seeing everywhere right now.

Rimmel Kate Moss '107' This shade is almost urban legend when it comes to a berry lip. It's the perfect purple-toned red - deep, matte and a relatively workable formula, this sets down to a pretty unmoveable stain, although it will dry your lips slightly, so a balm and proper treatment before use is recommended. I personally don't need a lip pencil with this one but some might if you don't have a very defined cupid's bow - it doesn't bleed necessarily, but the very pigmented formula is one that can look a little 'unfinished' if it doesn't reach the corners of the mouth. A word of warning - when you inevitably need to reapply this one, just check your lips for any signs of cracking. I'd always pack a lip balm when I'm wearing this colour, just in case.

Charlotte Tilbury 'Glastonberry' The grown-up sister of '107', Glastonberry hits that perfect spot of a dark berry - purple, but not so cold that you look washed out or dead, not so warm that your teeth look weird. The formula of this is dreamy and actually a little creamier and more moveable than the '107', but the reason it moves a notch up the difficulty scale is because I feel, to give this lipstick the 'wow' factor, you do actually need to line lips before use. The shape of the bullet is such that, whilst making it very easy to apply to the fuller parts of your lips, you can't really fake a lip line the way you might with a pointier bullet. Pair it with MAC Nightmoth or Charlotte Tilbury Bad Romance for in-your-face glamour.

NARS Audacious 'Ingrid' Oh man. My most favourite statement lip ever - but one that you need some serious balls to the wall attitude for. The Audacious formula is unlike any I've ever tried before - creamy and fully pigmented (like, insanely fully pigmented), but unmovable. Described as a 'merlot', this is a seriously deep burgundy - on me, it always pulls more purple, but on others it looks quite red. It's a warm tone, which means you need to go easy if you're worried about teeth colour and staining (ironically not one to drink red wine with) but this is an all-night shade that gives so much in terms of lasting power and impact. Very creamy, very buildable, go lightly with this and build in layers to achieve your perfect look. Liner or no liner is up to you (I wear it without as I don't like to look to 'done'), but strap in for this very bold shade - it won't be for everyone!

And somehow, we find ourselves in the penultimate month of the year. I can't even stop to think about how fast this year's gone - it feels like yesterday I was kicking off with my planners, intention word in mind, setting goals for this year. And whilst 2017 has taken me to places I'd never expected and helped me cross some things off my personal and professional bucket list, it has also been an incredibly painful year, in its way. Of late, I've been spread just a little too thin, and some important questions have surfaced, as they have a way of doing at this time of year. Each time we reach Halloween, Bonfire Night and that fast snowball (sorry, couldn't help it) into Christmas, it seems like my body and mind cry out at me: 'Where are you going?! What have you learned?!'

You know, I'm not sure. I'm not sure everything is a lesson anymore, or that everything happens for a reason. During this reflective time of year, I'm coming up empty this November. But I'm hoping for enough distractions to keep me moving forward, and enough spinal cord to keep me strong. Perhaps it's enough to stand a little more sure of yourself, year after year, even if you find you haven't moved at all.

Whoa, we got deep there. Let's pull it back to all the happy things I'm looking forward to, and everything making me smile lately. Hint: it rhymes with Danger Dings.

SEE:  I want to recognise the importance of Stranger Things 2 returning, although I’m sure if you know about if you’ve already binge-watched by now. Damn you Netflix and your beautiful single upload box sets. This show is everything nostalgic and right with the world, but also so beautifully acted by its cast (the young members in particular are outstanding) and crafted expertly by its writers. Perfect Halloween fun. Last month we also marathoned the now-seasonally-perfect Gunpowder, which delighted in its great writing, economic storytelling and ambitious cinematography and fight choreography. Also erm, hello Guy Fawkes.  I’m also really hoping to get to see Follies streamed live at the cinema, because Imelda Staunton is a revelation and you should never miss the opportunity to see her on stage.

LISTEN: The month of October was spent mostly listening to Mi Gente (surprise surprise) as I’ve been trying to build up to working out regularly again and if you want a song to motivate you to move your body - that is a great one. The Stranger Things 2 soundtrack gets an honourable nod for just being so effortlessly cool. Jessie J has also been killing it lately and Think About That and Not My Ex have both been in regular rotation to help me get through longer, darker days as we approach winter.

GO: I’m trying to plan a weekend trip to London for myself and the chap sometime soon, and I’ve been looking at The Hoxton as a potential base. The rooms seem reasonable, the design stylish and who can resist breakfast in a bag, really? The Hoxton Holborn and The Hoxton Shoreditch are both high up on my ‘stay here next’ list, so it’s just a case of making all the pieces fit together and booking a night!

EAT: With the new Westgate open, a whole world of possibility has just arrived when it comes to food options and date nights. We stopped in on opening night for a quick bite at Shawa Lebanese Grill, which was super tasty and really good shawarma, although the khobez wasn’t quite right – it never is though, outside of Lebanon. But definitely really tasty and much, much cheaper than Comptoir. I’m really interested to try The Breakfast Club, and hope to be taking my mama there later this week to fill up on brekkie before a shopping date!

DRINK: It’s Gingerbread Latte season, everyone. Jaye treated me to my first one (I love her for being a Starbucks Gold member) last weekend and it was every bit as delish as I remember it being. Christmas in a cup!

WEAR: I’m on the red jumper train pretty darn hard right now, and am searching for the perfect one to slot into my autumn/winter wardrobe. This number is pretty high up the list. I am SO excited we’ll have our very own & Other Stories in Oxford soon!

READ: I’ve just finished How To Be Both and everyone should read that book – please go and pick it up if you’ve ever wandered past it and thought ‘Mmm, maybe…’ It is incredible. Review incoming. Next on my list, I’d like to pick up Turtles All The Way Down because a) great name and b) John Green and c) I know you’re not meant to say it but look at that cover though.

THINK: Unfortunately, October picked up from where September left off in terms of stress – most mornings I’ve been waking up with my jaw clamped shut from grinding my teeth so hard the night before – thank goodness for sexy mouth guards. Until now I’ve been trying to just get through and handle it, but I think a good word for the month ahead will be slow. Slow down, slow my pace and my thoughts, and slower practices in every day.
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