10 festive things to do in Manchester

December is almost here, and the official Christmas countdown can officially begin. So if you’re not feeling festive yet, here are a few things you can be doing to get in the mood for the most wonderful time of the year.

1. Christmas Carols at John Rylands Library. I went to this one-hour carol concert last year, and it was a lovely break from the Christmas shopping crowds. This year it will be on 4th December, 2-3pm (no booking required) and takes place in the Historical Reading Room, which is a lovely space.

John Rylands Manchester carol concert

2. Ice skating at The Winter Gathering. Manchester Ice Rink has a new home at The Winter Gathering (London Road Fire Station). It’s a bit of a festive-themed wonderland which also features street food stalls, markets and live music, so there’s definitely enough festive fun to keep you entertained for a few hours!

3. A Very 80s Christmas. Get into the festive spirit the 80s way at HOME Mcr with a showcase of 80s movie viewings. I reckon Santa Claus: The Movie and Scrooged would easily get me in the mood.

4. Craft workshops at Paperchase. Christmas crafts are the best crafts, fact. And Paperchase are putting on a range of Christmas-themed workshops at their Manchester store, including techniques such as die cutting, lino printing and foiling for making gorgeous cards and tags, plus workshops where you can make gingerbread house gift boxes (very cute!), Christmas crackers or paper poinsettia wreaths. Prices start at £10.

Handmade gift tags

5. Festive afternoon tea. Tea Hive have really gone for it when giving their afternoon tea a Christmas makeover. Here’s what you can expect for £18.95: Festive gingerbread scones; a selection of finger sandwiches including Cheddar, pear and thyme; Bacon, brie and cranberry; and Turkey and stuffing; a selection of seasonal cakes; mince pies served with brandy butter; tea or coffee; and a mulled spiced apple drink. For an extra £4 you can even get a winter berry Bellini or liquor coffee.

6. Christmas at the movies. Christmas movie music always gives me the festive chills, and on 23rd December The Hallé will be playing orchestral music from The Polar Express, White Christmas, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frozen and Harry Potter, among others.

7. Brass band music.  Nothing sounds more like Christmas than brass bands playing carols, and Horwich RMI Brass Band will be performing In the Corn Exchange Atrium as well as in St Anne’s Square on various dates throughout December. Check out their events page for details.

8. Hot chocolate at BonBon. Cosy up and experience Manchester’s most luxurious hot chocolate away from the cold in BonBon in the Northern Quarter.

9. Manchester Christmas Markets after dark. I say after dark because there is something magical about seeing the wooden chalet huts all lit up with fairy lights twinkling in the trees above. Don’t forget to enjoy some warming mulled cider and some traditional Christmas market food for the full experience.

Manchester Christmas market

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10. Big Christmas Cracker at Hope Mill Theatre. This adults-only Christmas Cabaret featuring singers and dancers, burlesque and comedy sounds like a fun night out at Manchester’s hottest new fringe theatre venue. But if you’re looking for something more family friendly, there is also a production of the classic story of The Snow Queen too (I’m guessing it’s nothing like Frozen!)

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Time for a Facetox

There is no better time for a skin detox than now, just ahead of the Christmas party season when we all want to look our finest. And that’s one of the reasons I am giving Facetox a go – an organic, cruelty-free, paraben free, mix-it-yourself facemask kit that’s becoming a bit of a beauty craze. “7 day” kits can be ordered from their website and will arrive looking like this (I say “7 day” because each of the portions is very generous and I think would serve 3 or 4 uses rather than just the 1).

Facetox Aztec Healing Clay mask

Facetox Aztec Clay mask kit

The kit contains individual sachets of the “FaceTox blend” of Calcium Bentonite and Rhassoul clay powders (a dry mix), and sachets of organic rosewater, and you simply mix the two together to create your mask.

So here is what FaceTox say about their facemask:

“FaceTox is probably the most powerful face mask you will ever use. When the organic rose water is mixed with the FaceTox blend, it creates a negative charge which will;

  • Prevent and draw out blackheads
  • Reduce the appearance of scars
  • Even skin tone
  • Draw out external toxins
  • Heal and regenerate skin tissue
  • Unclog & shrink pores”

This is compelling stuff, and whether you have an issue with breakouts, or simply want your skin to look radiant, there are plenty of reasons to give these masks a try, even if just to see if they really do all that is promised.

I’ve been using FaceTox masks just once a week (which they recommend as a starting point) and as I’m not currently in the middle of a skin crisis, once a week is perfectly fine. And it’s an easy process of mixing 2 sachets together into a smooth paste using the bowl and spoon provided, and then applying evenly to clean skin, avoiding the eye and mouth area. It does take a little bit of prep compared to a ready-made face mask, and it is a bit messier too, but potentially worth the effort.

Facetox Aztec Clay mask

The only really time consuming bit is waiting while your mask does its good work – it slowly dries over 30 minutes, and they recommend you leave it on for 20-30 minutes. During this time you will feel it tightening on the skin as it pulls out your impurities, and deep cleans your skin. One thing to mention is that personally I find the smell of this mask a little bit off-putting (I put this down to the organic ingredients), but that’s something I can deal with to avoid nasty parabens.

Finally, I remove the mask using warm water and a muslin cloth. I like to take my time over this part, usually in the bath, because remember the mask has dried over 30 minutes and it takes a bit of effort to remove. I like to be really gentle and just moisten the mask with a warm damp cloth until it’s easy to wipe off, and I have found this to be the best way.

Facetox Aztec Healing Clay mask

So, does it do all it promises? Well it’s hard to say if you don’t have all the listed skin issues, but I can definitely tell the difference after deep cleansing with FaceTox. It has already stopped a potential breakout in its tracks, and my skin always looks much fresher and more radiant after using it. I have sensitive skin and these masks aren’t irritating it, but they are pretty intensive so I prefer to stick to a once-a-week regime for now. And I’m hoping my skin will stay Christmas party ready for the rest of the year!

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6 key wardrobe pieces for Winter 2016

Well, snow is forecast today, and that can only mean one thing – winter is here! I haven’t updated my wardrobe in a while, but since the cold weather has arrived I’ve been browsing the AW16 ranges. Here are the 6 key pieces that I think would see me through the season, and a couple of examples of each that I found on my travels.

High neck jumper

I like knitwear that genuinely keeps you warm, so this high neck trend is perfect! I prefer these jumpers in pretty colours and with embellishments because it’s such a chunky style.

AW16 high neck jumper

Grey embellished jumper, £29 from Dorothy Perkins

Premium cable jumper, £55 from Topshop

Over-the-knee boots

Whether they are the flat, casual version to wear over jeans, or the velvety black heeled version for nights out, this trend is not going away! The goal is to find a pair that don’t slip down as you wear them, because that is pretty damn annoying!

AW16 over the knee boots

Thigh boots, £39.99 from H&M

Gold heel over-the-knee boots, £60 from Missguided

Knitted dress

The most work-friendly way to wear knitwear, a knitted dress is definitely on my shopping list! I’ll be wearing mine with cosy knee-high boots and tights.

AW16 knitted dress

Navy check dress, £30 from Next

Knitted dress, £24.99 from H&M

Coatigan

For when inside is almost as cold as outside!

AW16 coatigan

Grey hooded cardigan, £24.99 from New Look

Monochrome check coatigan, £28 from Next

Sparkly bomber jacket

I think these sparkly bombers are so cute when paired with girlie dresses and skirts, and the perfect thing to wear for a night on the town.

AW16 sparkly bomber jacket

Sequin bomber, £28 from Matalan

Glitter bomber, £34.99 from New Look

Christmas midi skirt

Every Christmas party wardrobe needs a midi skirt, whether it’s lace-trimmed, metallic or tulle!

AW16 midi skirt

Red mesh midi skirt, £27.99 from New Look

Pewter pleated skirt, £46 from Next

Wardrobe update = sorted!

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Sublime Repair hair care from Show Beauty

Show Beauty is Tamara Ecclestone’s glamorous and luxurious hair care range, which launched in 2013 with a range of styling products. Just recently they also launched a full range of wet hair care products, including Moisture and Volume ranges of shampoos and conditioners, and I have been using the “Sublime Repair” range. This range focuses on strengthening and repairing damaged hair, with ingredients such as Quinoa Protein (full of amino acids to rebuild damaged hair), plus luxurious white truffle and caviar.

As you can see they have gone to town on packaging. The aim was to have something that looked glamorous and beautiful on your bathroom shelf, and I’d say they achieved that!

Show Beauty Repair wet haircare collection

Sublime Repair Shampoo

I have been using the repair shampoo as my regular shampoo for a few weeks. It contains Quinoa Protein to repair damaged hair, as well as shea butter and vitamin B5 to nourish the hair.

I find that this shampoo is quite difficult to lather (because it is sulphate free), so it can be quite tempting to pile it on. However, given the expensive price tag of the product I would not recommend this! In fact, you don’t need to use much of this product to wash your hair. I have been trying to take my time washing my hair with it too, because of the repairing qualities of the ingredients.

I’d like to say that this shampoo has a noticeable effect on my hair, but I’m not completely sure of that. Overall I’d say that it’s the conditioner that has the greater effect, but it’s nice to use both products together.

Show Beauty Repair shampoo

Sublime Repair Conditioner

I’ve been using the repair conditioner as my regular daily conditioner, and have been leaving it on my hair for just a couple of minutes after shampooing.

Apparently this conditioner has “a multi-faceted protein-based complex which
builds strength from within, reinforcing hair to provide protection from
cuticle abrasion”, and I can actually feel the effect of the conditioner immediately and while my hair is still wet – it feels stronger and fuller as soon as I rinse off the conditioner.

And after using both products together my hair looks and feels shiny and strong. They do have an interesting scent – it sort of reminds me of fake tan – but I find it quite pleasant.

Show Beauty Repair conditioner

Sublime Repair Treatment Mask

This intensive hair mask treatment is definitely an indulgent treat! I am only using it once a week, and the key is to leave it in for 10 whole minutes to allow your hair to benefit.

It contains the same strenthening protein complex as the conditioner, plus hydrolysed pea protein and Quinoa Protein to hydrate and improve elasticity. Finally it contains extracts of caviar and white truffle to enrich and moisturise hair. This is really a treat for the hair, which feels amazingly soft and glossy after using it.

Show Beauty Repair treatment mask

So, the main downside of this collection is that it is quite pricey (around £35 a product), but it’s supposed to be a luxury product range so this is to be expected. The products are lovely to use and I am always will to pay a decent price for an amazing treament mask (plus this jar will last me ages!) In fact, I think these are the sort of products that would be nice as luxury beauty gifts for Christmas.

The range can only be bought from a few stores, including Harvey Nichols, and when the wet hair care range launched I went along to the Show Beauty blow dry bar in Harvey Nichols Manchester. Without washing my hair they gave me this bouncy, curly blow dry using their styling range, and I’d highly recommend popping along for one of their express blow dries if you want salon-standard hair for a night out (or just for a treat). It costs £20, but the money can be redeemed against Show Beauty products afterwards – so it’s basically free if you were planning to buy something from the range!

Show Beauty blow dry bar

Show Beauty blow dry bar Harvey Nichols

Show Beauty products and their ingredients are not tested on animals, and are not sold in mainland China, so I am happy to add these to my cruelty-free shopping list.

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Lisbon love

Lisbon welcome

Last week I visited Lisbon for the first time and fell in love with its quirky charm. We chose to stay in a cute apartment in the Baixa district, which put us within walking distance of many of the sights of the city, including Commerical Square and the Elevator Santa Justa, as well as being right in the middle of all the action in terms of shopping, eating and drinking.

Our trip was only a short one, but we enjoyed exploring the wide tiled shopping streets of Baixa and the quirky narrow maze-like streets of old-town Alfama, following the route of the vintage 28 tram up to the highest point of the Sao Jorge castle. And as first-time visitors we also took a trip over to Belem where some of the main sights and monuments are to be found. We made sure to try the famous Pasteis de Nata (the custard tarts of Lisbon), eat plenty of seafood and experience the amazing views of the city from several angles, and we also managed to fit in a day trip to the nearest beach (because when it’s 30 degree heat, why wouldn’t you?!).Elevator of St Just

View of Lisbon

Lisbon Baixa Chiado

Lisbon pasteis de nata

Lisbon monastery

Lisbon Jeronimos Monastery

Belem Tower

Lisbon Belem

Carcavelos Beach Lisbon

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Lisbon Alfama district

Lisbon Alfama district view

Lisbon Alfama district tiles

Lisbon Alfama district tram 28

Lisbon Alfama district building

Lisbon castle

Lisbon views

São Jorge Castle Lisbon

Lisbon São Jorge Castle

Lisbon love tokens

Lisbon love tokens

As you can see I fell in love with Lisbon a little bit, and just I hope my picture-heavy post isn’t too overwhelming!

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The Body Shop Superfood face masks

Last month The Body Shop launched their brand new Superfood Face Mask range, with 5 luxurious-sounding (100% vegetarian) face masks made from key beauty superfood ingredients. Not only are they made from these amazing ingredients from around the world, they are also free from parabens, paraffins, silicone and mineral oils, so they’re a real skincare treat.

Body Shop superfood face masks

Body Shop superfood face masks

The masks are designed to fulfill 5 different skincare goals, so let’s take a look at the range:

After having my own personal skincare consultation the Body Shop experts explained the different jobs that each mask does, and how they are keen to promote the idea of “multi masking” if different areas of your face need different things. I had my own #DareToMask multi-masking experience in store, with the tingling Himalayan Charcoal mask taking care of my oilier T-zone, and the deliciously moisturising Ethiopian Honey mask taking care of my drier areas.

Multi-masking

#Daretomask

The Body Shop are keen to promote the idea of face masking in general, and the idea that it’s both fun and relaxing to paint on a mask and then get on with doing something else, such as watching TV, making a cup of tea or soaking in the bath. They are even giving away a free colouring book  with each face mask purchase to help relax you mask and relax, which I think is a great idea.

Face masks are extremely popular right now, so it’s unsurprising that this range has has been well-received (the Himalayan Clay mask was first to sell out!)  I’ve bought the delicious British Rose mask to be getting on with, although I fully intend to extend my collection and start multi-masking once Himalayan Clay is back in stock.

Body Shop British Rose face mask

Body Shop free colouring book

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Yes, it’s another book post :)

If you read my post earlier in the year you’ll know that I’ve gone on a 2016 reading spree with the aim of always having a book on the go, and since April I’ve finished 7 more books. If you are looking for something new to read I’d recommend every one of the books in this post, and I’ll share what I thought of each one below. Like last time I’m ranking them favourite to least favourite, but unlike my earlier post there have been no disappointing reads (which is always good).

Another book post

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

So this is not exactly a book – it’s the script of the stage play, and it’s also not exactly written by JK Rowling – it’s a collaboration. I’ve seen a lot of people moaning about these things in the press, but personally I was pretty excited about its release and so, it seems, were plenty of other people – it’s now the fastest selling book of the decade! I’d obviously love a chance to see the show, but in absence of a ticket I have to say that I really enjoyed reading this script. It didn’t bother me at all reading the story in this format (but some people do love a moan…) and I honestly just loved being able to read something new from the world of Harry Potter. It was a good mixture of new elements and the familiar bits that we’ve all grown to love, and with some unexpected appearances I actually found it quite emotional.

  • The Distance Between Us, Maggie O’Farrell

It may be early days as I’ve only read 2 of her books so far, but Maggie O’Farrell may be my new favourite writer! She has an amazing writing style with such lovely attention to detail that she just hooks you in to even the most mundane aspects of life. Even though you could say her books are love stories, there is much more to them than that. They all seem to have a mystery element to them which gradually unfolds until the big reveal near the end, and she writes very interesting characters whose experiences always seem quite sad. The Distance Between Us was my favourite of the 2 books, as I preferred the happier ending. It’s about love that develops between two characters with hidden secrets and unusual family experiences; and also about the very close relationship between two sisters and how it developed throughout their lives.

  • After You’d Gone, Maggie O’Farrell

Another Maggie O’Farrell book – this one was about a woman called Alice, who is hit by a car at the start of the book and is in a coma throughout. The story flicks backwards and forwards through the different events of her life, focussing a lot on her family’s story and on the one big love affair of her life. Again I found it so interesting to read because the author knows how important the small details are, but I also found the story very sad.

  • Elizabeth is Missing, Emma Healey

I had wanted to read this book for a while after hearing that the story is told from the perspective of Maud – an elderly woman with dementia. Trusting in the little notes she writes for herself (although never knowing when or why she wrote them) she starts trying to solving the mystery of her missing friend Elizabeth, which ends up mirroring a mystery from her past – the disappearance of her sister. If you like a mystery story it may not be for you though, because Maud is an unreliable narrator, and for me it was much more about what it’s like to have dementia than about the mystery. It’s a really well written book and so interesting to see the world from Maud’s point of view. Things like sensing when she has annoyed someone but never knowing why; or wondering why there is always an increasing number of cold cups of tea at the bottom of her stairs… Definitely an interesting read.

  • Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson

Although I enjoyed it, this was quite a strange book – it’s the story of the different generations of a regular English family, as seen through the eyes of the youngest member, Ruby. It’s quirky, starting off with Ruby describing the moment of her conception, and her character narrates events of her own life as well as providing anecdotes from the generations that came before her, including various untimely deaths. It’s supposed to be quite amusing, which I liked, but it’s a dry humour that isn’t for everyone.

  • The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist is set in seventeenth century Amsterdam and is about a young country woman who moves to the city into a new marriage and a strange aloof family who have plenty of secrets to hide. To distract her, her new husband gives her a miniature replica of their house to furnish, but the miniature items she orders from “The Miniaturist” disturb her when they seem to reveal too much about the secrets of the household. I really liked the main character of Nella, who despite being young and out of her depth is not annoyingly naïve and is actually self-assured and intelligent, and she’s probably the main reason I enjoyed the book. The secrets are gradually revealed along the way, which keeps things interesting, but I have to say that they weren’t exactly surprising secrets(!) and the mystery of the miniaturist character was a bit weird.

  • The Island, Victoria Hislop

This was probably my least favourite of the books but still enjoyable, particularly as a holiday read thanks to the Cretan setting. I’d describe it as a family saga spanning several generations, as a young woman in the current day travels to the small town in Crete where her mother was born to find out more about her family history and how it relates to the leper colony on the island of Spinalonga. It’s quite an easy read and probably not as detailed as I’d have liked, given the subject matter.

Do you have any recommendations for what to read next?

 

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6 ways that being creative will help you feel great

I’ve had quite a creative few weeks and it has put me in such a great mood! As well as continuing with scrapbooking I also spent this past weekend painting pottery at Glazey Days, making teacup candles (see my tutorial for this here), and creating calligraphy quotes to put up around my apartment. Not only that, but it’s also been a creative week at work as we all had to decorate our desks in the theme of an Olympic sport (random, I know, but so much fun).

Pottery painting colour wheel

Painting pottery at Glazey Days

Painting pottery at Glazey Days

Pottery Painting North West

Finished pottery painting

And my great mood has made me realise all the ways that being creative is an important part of life:

  1. For relaxation. Being creative is quite a peaceful way to spend your time. It focuses your mind on one enjoyable task, and while your mind is focused on the creative details, it’s not worrying or stressing about anything else!
  2. Enjoy a device-free zone! Following on from point 1, it’s a great chance to step away from phones and tablets! Aside from a bit of creative research before I started, painting pottery and practising calligraphy managed to keep me away from my distracting devices for at least an hour at a time, and that was great for stress levels too!
  3. It’s fun! I love being creative with ideas and working to create something lovely. It’s one of my favourite ways to spend my time.
  4. Creativity breeds creativity. I find that one creative project inspires another, and once I get in a creative mood I just keep creating! If you had noticed I hadn’t posted on here in a while, then you can thank the above list of creative projects for inspiring me to get writing again!
  5. You’ll learn so many new things every time you work on something creative, and that’s never a bad thing!
  6. It’s satisfying. You can end up with something really great at the end, which is pretty rewarding and a great confidence boost. And everything will be unique and personal to you too.

Calligraphy quote

DIY teacup candle

DIY teacup candle – tutorial here

What creative projects do you have planned this summer?

 

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Be inspired: summer botanical cocktails

Warm summer evenings are the perfect excuse to enjoy a refreshing cocktail, and if you fancy mixing up something a little unusual and adding a hint of nature, perhaps you’d consider adding fresh herbs to your list of ingredients and creating a botanical cocktail. I teamed up with Ness Botanical Gardens to show how herbs can be combined with spirits to create great cocktail flavours, and they’ve put together this great infographic showing the best spirit and herb pairings. It’s a handy guide to which flavours complement each other, and a great place to start if you fancy giving botanical cocktails a go.

There are even some ready-made recipes to try. I added my own vodka, strawberry and mint concoction to the list, which I think is the perfect thing for a summer afternoon. But I think the gin, honey, elderflower and coriander cocktail sounds amazing too (I love my gin cocktails!).

Botanical cocktail guide

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Me and my Olympus go to Cornwall

After spending weeks and weeks trying to pick a holiday destination for June, me and Craig finally settled on staying in the UK and having a low-key relaxing break to Cornwall, a place neither of us has been since childhood and which deserves to be fully explored! We found a cute cozy cottage for two, which was full of books and board games and had a lovely suntrap courtyard, located right on the harbour of the tiny friendly fishing village of St Mawes on the Roseland Peninsula.

Olympus pen e-pl7

The weather was a little mixed, ranging from gorgeous sun to full-blown storms, but I really enjoyed our lovely break full of coastal walks, cream teas, coffee and pastries at the harbour, eating freshly caught fish with a glass of wine, reading on hidden beaches and taking boat trips (rather than driving) to the local city for a spot of lunch and shopping.

It was a lovely picturesque place and I loved capturing Cornwall’s pretty pastel cottages and seaside settings with my Olympus Pen E-Pl7 (which is officially the first holiday it’s been on!), so you’re getting a picture-heavy post today!

Brunch in St Mawes

Pink cottage

Cornwall cottage

St Mawes view

Cornwall beach

The sea in Cornwall

Secluded Cornwall beach

Hidden beach, Cornwall

Cute beach in Cornwall

Catch of the Day

Vintage gas pumps

St Mawes castle

St Just church

Now I’m looking forward to discovering more lovely parts of Cornwall.

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