My friends know that they can come to me for two things: make up and skincare advice, and book recommendations. Don't ask me what to watch on Netflix, because I probably will just tell you to re-watch Friends over and over, but if you need a new read, I'm here for you!

I'm seeing so many people at the moment looking for recommendations on what to read, because they're finding that now we're in lockdown, they've got all this time on their hands to read when they wouldn't usually! I know that I've been flying through books over the last two weeks, because I feel like I can finally sit and read without feeling guilty that I should be doing other things!

I thought I would put together a little list for people who don't usually get the time to read in their 'normal' day-to-day lives, who might be feeling a little bit lost at which books to try. So, here is my must-read list, books you can fly through, books you can really get your teeth into, books I've absolutely loved myself and hope you will too!

Before we get too stuck in, I discovered several of these books through Beth's Book Club, which I joined in the summer. It's wonderful. Beth picks out some incredible books each month and there's a lovely little community of fellow book worms - I can't recommend joining enough!

1. The Flat Share - Beth O'Leary

This is a Beth's Book Club pick, and I only read this myself a couple of weeks ago. I loved it. It's the perfect rom-com. The Flat Share tells the story of Tiffy & Leon, both in dire straits who come up with a very unique living situation where they share a flat, and a bed, but haven't met. Utterly loveable characters, well-written, easy to read and a storyline which will make you feel all warm and fuzzy. This is one that I will always keep a copy of on my bookshelf, because I just KNOW I will read it over and over again.

2. Before I Go To Sleep - SJ Watson

I'm pretty certain that I've mentioned this on my blog before, but I'll never stop raving about it. After a tragic accident, Christine wakes up every morning having forgotten who she is, her memories and everyone she loves. She doesn't know who she can trust - including her husband. Intriguing, no? I was gripped from page 1, I love a thriller and this didn't disappoint because I just thought it was so clever. There's always a danger with these kinds of books having a really predictable ending but I definitely didn't feel that way about this book!

3. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

If you're going to read a classic book, make it this one. Trust me, it's wonderful. Reading a novel which deals with huge issues such as racism, from the perspective of a little girl, is something totally unique and Scout (said little girl) is such a brilliant character. My copy looks battered because it's so well loved!

4. The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah

Set in the Second World War, the Nightingale tells the story of two sisters who fight for survival in war-torn Europe in very different ways. I'll be honest, it took me until about a third of the way into the book to properly get into the story, but once I was in, I was in. Having two such strong lead female characters was amazing to read. The story was heartbreaking and empowering all at the same time, and I finished it bawling my eyes out, so be warned! 

5. The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train is one of my all-time favourite thrillers. Rachel is the 'girl on the train', who gets the same commuter train every day, passes the same row of houses, and in her mind, thinks she knows all about those living there. One day, she notices something different on her commute and it changes everything. It's fast-paced, it's dark and full of twists. I think I must have read it in a matter of days because it kept me so gripped. If you've ever read 'Gone Girl', you need to read this too!

6. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood

As well as a thriller, I love a dystopian novel. And the Handmaid's Tale is probably my favourite. I'm a huge fan of Margaret Atwood and her writing style, clever but still easy to read. Set in a future America, where the Gilead Regime has overthrown the Government and turned the social structure upside down, particularly the role of women. I'll be honest, it's pretty startling to read as a woman but it's brilliant. (P.S. if you read this, follow it up with the Testaments which is the sequel. Equally amazing.)

7. Eve of Man - Tom & Giovanna Fletcher

Yes, I might have only read this based off the fact that I am a Tom & Gi super-fan. But I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this! It's aimed at young adults but I wouldn't say it's 'too young' for someone to read in their 20s/30s. It's just a really enjoyable read, exploring a world where a baby girl isn't born for 50 years. So, when Eve is born, it's up to her to ensure the survival of the human race. 

Let me know on social media if you read any of these books and what you thought! Also send me some recommendations too, because I will be flying through books for the duration of quarantine!

Sian xo 

Even as a beauty fanatic, I struggle to find the time for a proper good pamper. Except for when I remember to church a face mask on a Sunday evening.

But in the last week or so, I've (obviously) found I've had a lot more time on my hands, and with that I have been snapping up the opportunity to really look after myself and nail the whole pampering thing. Which has been an absolute god-send when I've felt myself getting anxious over everything that's going on in the world at the moment.

For anyone who doesn't know where to start but wants to treat themselves to some 'you time', here is my ultimate routine to take me from crawling up the walls with cabin fever or with high anxiety levels to zen af. 

Step One: A long shower or bath.
I find that this is the perfect tonic for being stuck in the house when your family/other half/housemates/whoever you live with are driving you crazy. Lock the bathroom door, run some hot water and breathe. Either with music, or in silence if you prefer. Wash away the tension. Take your time. You'll feel so much better.

Step Two: Use matching shampoo & conditioner.
You know that feeling when your bra and knickers match? When you feel totally empowered and like you really have your sh*t together? It's the same when you use matching shampoo and conditioner. Go for a scent that you really love. I'm crazy about the Garnier Ultimate Blends banana range right now. Mostly because it smells like the foamy banana sweets that I used to get as a kid, and the scent lingers on your hair for ages. Divine.
Remember a hair mask for extra levels of luxury!

Step Three: Shave your legs, if you feel like it.
If smooth legs makes you want to prance around your house in shorts like a goddess, do it. If not, that's cool, skip to the next step!

Step Four: Put on fresh PJs and let your hair air dry.
I always feel so satisfied when I've not put my hair through blow-drying. And we all know how wonderful fresh pyjamas are for your mood.

Step Five: Double cleanse.
You'll be amazed how different your skin feels after a double cleanse. I like to start with a balm, something like Beauty Pie's Plantastic Apricot Balm, or The Body Shop Cleansing Butter. Followed up by something light and fresh, Too Faced's Hangover Wash the Day Away cleanser is a current favourite. My advice would be to really take your time with this step to ensure a squeaky-clean feeling. The perfect solution to a day or two (or five) languishing about the house!

Step Six: Exfoliate.
It's so easy when you're busy (or when you're just sitting around at home) to forget about a proper skincare routine. But I find a good exfoliator or peel helps to fix that, by getting right into the pore and dragging out all of the grime and gross stuff.

Step Seven: Face mask time.
It wouldn't be a pamper session without a face mask now, would it?! But BEFORE you go and grab any old mask off your bathroom shelf, I want you to stop for a second. How's your skin been feeling lately? Has it been getting dry with being indoors a lot? (Because bloody hell I know mine has!) Are you breaking out? Is it generally looking a bit tired? Or a combination? Now, go and find a mask that'll tackle your concerns, and don't be afraid to multi-mask! I think we can all be guilty of just using any old product and hoping it does the trick. But take your time! You're pampering! Stick on some music, or read a book and chill. And now that you've chosen a mask that will actually do your skin some good, you'll feel so much more like you once it's done.

Step Eight: Do your nails and brows.
Now I know it's a real first world problem with all that's going on, but now that all salons are shut I'm trying to embrace doing my nails and eyebrows at home. While my first thought is ugh effort, it's not so bad with an episode of Friends on in the background and thoughts of the snack I'm going to have once my nails are dry.

Step Nine: Put your phone away.
Social media and the news can be pretty overwhelming, especially at the moment. Switching off as part of my pamper routine is helping me A LOT.
Put it in another room. Grab a hot drink and put on a film or TV show that makes you smile, or get lost in a book. Switch off from the real world for a bit while you enjoy your fabulous-smelling hair and admire your nails. You'll feel loads better.

What do you like to do as part of your pamper routine?

Sian xo

Everyone needs a strong role model in their life and for me, that's my mum. The lady who raised my brother, my sister and me pretty much single-handedly, all whilst going through a lot of sh*t herself. She's bloody amazing.

A huge amount of what I know about being an adult, my values and general attitude to life, I learned from Mum. She's been such an influence on me, and so in honour of one of my favourite people in the whole world on Mother's Day, here are all the things I learned from Mum.

1. How to cook
I'd have had NO CHANCE once I'd moved out if it wasn't for Mum. The year before I went to uni, she bought me a student cookbook and got me to cook at home once a week. She also got me a slow-cooker, which was an absolute life saver. I'd still be on beans on toast and oven chips if it wasn't for her!

2. How to check my tyre pressure
I didn't even know this was a thing until about six months into owning a car. I was whinging to her that it wasn't driving right. She took one look at me tyres, raised her eyebrow at me (the 'Mum look', when you're know you're in trouble without her even saying anything), and took me straight to Morrison's to show me how to do it. Yes, I was 24 years old at the time. I didn't know, okay!

3. How to make a decent cuppa
The most important life skill of them all.

4. How to talk openly about mental health
When we were growing up, Mum always talked about mental health. It was obviously very simplified and child-friendly, as in 'sometimes people feel sad or cry and they don't really know why, but that's normal and people can help'. And she always encouraged us to talk openly to her about how we're feeling. So when I started to suffer with depression and anxiety when I was 20, I didn't worry at all about telling Mum how I was feeling. And because I could talk about it so openly at home, I can still talk about my ongoing struggle with anxiety now.

5. How to put make-up on
I remember the first time Mum showed me how to put make up on so clearly. I think I was 11 or 12, absolutely bawling my eyes out about having to go to school with an enormous spot on my forehead. (I was clearly very much struggling with puberty at this point!) Mum took her Avon foundation, and showed me how to dab a tiny bit onto the spot and blend it out. Ta-da! I felt so much between, went to school without whinging, and so began a long-standing love affair with all things make up.

6. Family is everything
I definitely get my family-orientated attitude from Mum. Growing up, it was the four of us against the world and we tackled every hurdle, every tough situation together. And we still do. We all know that we'll always have each other no matter what happens, and we always make each other first priority.

7. Never settle!
Mum's such an amazing example of this. She was single for 15 years before meeting my stepdad, and when we used to tease her for being too fussy, she'd just smile and say that there's no point settling for something that isn't 100% right. Which is advice I haven't always taken advantage of in the past! But she's so right.

8. How to talk about... ahem... the 'S' word...
It was always the rule in our household that you could go to Mum with any sex or relationship related questions or worries without judgement. And she genuinely meant that. So while some people wouldn't dare mention the 's' word around their parents, I was very lucky that I could. Mum still laughs now, because I used to speak to her about boys/sex at 14 or 15 and then say 'Okay, this conversation never happened!' and carry on with my day.

9. ... But watching sex scenes in films whilst sat next to her will never not be awkward 
There's some lines you just can't cross

10. You don't need two parents to feel whole

Sian xo

Dear 16 Year Old Sian,

Bloody hell, 10 years has gone by in a flash. Thats the thing with getting older, the time passes more quickly and the years that seemed to stretch out for forever are simply fleeting moments in time. (I sound like I'm about 68 saying that but the principle still stands!)

16 Year Old Sian, I'm writing to you because I remember what it was like. I remember how much you struggled, how lonely you felt. How you lost all of your confidence and spent most of your time wondering how you'd ever make it through to uni.

Well, my girl, I'm here to tell you a few things that I wish I'd known then. And to show you that you make it through all of that crap, and you actually turn out pretty okay.

You're full of ambition right now, and you dream big. Don't lose that. Adulthood has a way of limiting your ambition, under the guise of 'being realistic'. But keep dreaming as much as you want to, because that will give you your purpose.

You work so ridiculously hard, you'll get to the point where you'll wish you had the same work ethic as you do now (trust me, I know). Keep that going. It'll all be worth it.

I know you have your grand life plan, and you're adamant that you know exactly what you want from life and how you'll get there. And that's amazing, because you're so bloody driven. But know that sometimes a grand life plan doesn't always work out the way that you hope. Which I know is your worst nightmare, and I won't lie to you, it's stressful. But try to embrace it. Another door will be opening.

You'll hate it, but Mum's (almost) always right. And while we're on that topic, I know how much you worry about her, but you don't need to. She's going to be just fine.

Try to spend less time worrying about what others think of you. In a few years, when you've left high school behind, your reputation and position in the Sixth Form hierarchy really won't matter any more.

And especially don't waste your time trying to win over the people who you know have whispered behind your back. You'll never win. And give it a few years and you won't even remember their names anyway.

Stop worrying (obsessing) about your weight. Eat the bloody cake. Stop punishing yourself at the gym. Your weight doesn't define your worth, and there is a hell of a lot more to you than the number on the labels in your clothes. It's going to take you some time to realise that, but you'll get there.

Oooh also, you're soon going to get the urge to buy a box hair dye and attempt to go dark brown. DO. NOT. DO. IT. It took me years to fix that mistake.

You're going to get your heart broken. A fair few times, actually. The people who were never supposed to hurt you, sometimes do. Just know that when it does happen, even when it feels like you'll never be happy again, you will. With the help of your friends and a lot of wine.

And it isn't just boyfriends who can break your heart. Family members too. And you'll let them upset you, manipulate you and take advantage of your good nature because you feel like you have to put up with their behaviours, because they're family. Know this - YOU DO NOT OWE A TOXIC PERSON A PLACE IN YOUR LIFE BECAUSE THEY ARE A BLOOD RELATION. I can't tell you how much I wish I'd come to this realisation sooner.

Trust me, Sian, I remember what it was like for you. I remember feeling so isolated and lonely, coming home in tears every evening. Wondering how much longer Sixth Form would last before I could run away, A-Levels in hand, into the sunset and a new life. But hang in there. You're just around the corner from making the best friends of your life, coming out of your shell and finding your confidence again. Don't get me wrong, you'll still have struggles. But you'll be you. 

Oh and Sian, don't worry. You've got this.

26 Year Old Sian xo

That's right, I'm bringing back the old school blog posts!

No, I'm not writing this post because I've run out of ideas. I just thought I'd give you a little insight into my handbag essentials as someone who is always on the go and rarely changes her bags over... so it needs to contain everything I could possibly need.

(Please also bear in mind that my handbag also contains a lot of unwanted receipts and the occasional forgotten-about chocolate bar)

Lip balm
I often forget to put on lipstick, and I nearly always forget to top it up through the day. But I often find that a little bit of lip balm is all I need. I'm obsessed with Glossier's Balm Dotcom at the minute, the birthday flavour is everything!

Hand cream
I've found that my hands have been getting really dry this Winter, so hand cream has been an absolute staple for me. I swear by the Body Shop hand cream, I'm obsessed with the strawberry scent, it makes my hands super-soft and it absorbs really quickly so it's easy to put on, put back in my handbag and then get on with the rest of my day.

Face mist
I definitely do not have the time to be topping up my make up through the day, especially when it's a busy day in the office or I'm out and about. So I always keep a mini face mist in my handbag, I find a quick spritz is perfect to refresh my make up and add a little extra glow to see me through. I love the Body Shop mists, I have one in each of my handbags so I know I always have one with me.

Mini Next perfume
I am obsessed with Next perfume, they're so affordable and smell way more expensive than they are. You can get the little bottles for about £4, they're perfect to pop in your handbag for a quick top-up through the day.

Phone charger
I'm usually in the office for 9-10 hours a day, and I'm a bugger for forgetting to charge my phone. I always keep a charger in my bag (I've noticed that if I keep them in my desk drawer they go walkabouts!) because I can't be doing without my little TikTok scroll while I'm making the 3pm brew. (If you're my boss and you're reading this, I don't actually do that honest...)

Soft mints
I work in a client-facing office and I'm partial to beef Hula Hoops with my Tesco meal deal (don't @ me, everyone knows they're the best flavour) so some form of mints is an absolute essential!

Mini concealer
I know I said I don't have time to top up my make up through the day. And I really don't. But I feel like I always need to be prepared for an emergency where a spot might appear out of the blue or I cry over my stress levels so my make-up is halfway down my face. And this little tiny version of Tarte's Shape Tape concealer is perfect to keep in my bag.

Because you never know when you might need a messy bun!

What are your handbag essentials?

Sian xo

We've all been there. In fact, I'm there more or less once a week. You're all snuggly in your bed, until your alarm rudely tries to awaken you for the day. You hush its incessant chimes, hit the snooze button and figure that another five minutes tucked up under your duvet won't hurt.

Your alarm goes again (seemingly) thirty seconds later. You snooze. Still loads of time, you can just use your trusty dry shampoo today.

And again. Another five, you can always grab some breakfast when you get to the office.

The cycle continues, and before you know it, you're running around like a blue-arsed fly, have to leave the house in 20 minutes and you still resemble the walking dead.

Don't worry though, I got you. Because I am so well-versed in getting my make-up on in minutes, I've nailed a super-quick, easy-peasy routine to take you from dozy to office-ready in a flash.

Step One: Pixi Glow Mist
I love using this as a primer to wake up the skin, especially on days where I'm looking a bit tired. Plus it takes seconds to spritz on my face.

Step Two: IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream
This is a recent find but I love it. It gives full-coverage but is really breathable, and it's so easy to blend out so it doesn't take long to apply.

Step Three: Beauty Pie Translucent Loose Powder
I never would include a loose powder in these types of posts normally, because loose powder can be so. Bloody. Messy. BUT this is an exception. Because the lid is so cleverly designed, the powder doesn't go everywhere the second that you open it up. Dab, blot, ta-daaaa.

Step Four: Benefit Gimme Brow
Gimme Brow is my absolute holy grail brow product. I would never be without it, and it's perfect for morning where I don't have time to be messing about with a palette or a pencil. You simply swipe it along the brows and you're done, left with fuller, tamed brows as a result.

Step Five: Glossier Cloud Paint Cream Blush
Cream blush has 100% been a game changer for me in the last year, and I could talk about this product all day long. The pigment is just lovely, the shades are super-flattering and the colour is so build able. No messing about with brushes when you're in a rush. Dab onto cheeks with your fingers, and go. Pretty flush of colour that lasts all day.

Step Six: Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara
I absolutely love this mascara, especially when I need to get out of the door quickly. You get fluttery, lengthened lashes in just a couple of swipes. I always keep one in my make up bag and I can't see that stopping any time soon!

What are your favourite products for a quick routine?

Sian xo

Shop the products in this post:-
Pixi Glow Mist
It Cosmetics CC+ Cream
Beauty Pie Super Translucent Loose Setting Powder
Benefit Gimme Brow
Glossier Cloud Paint
Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara

I remember being 18 or 19, and being adamant that at 26, I would be a proper grown up, and really have my life together. I'd have a proper grip on adulthood, fiercely independent, with a strong career well underway, with an active social life but still with the ability to be a domestic goddess when required.

Oh, 18 year old Sian, how naive you were.

The reality of being an adult is much more difficult than you think, especially when you're living in that little uni bubble and think living in the big, bad world is a doddle. And don't get me wrong, while I'm not doing a terrible job of it, there are certainly elements of being a grown-up which are very much elusive to me. Do you recognise any of this list?

1. Saving money
To the people who have little saving pots squirrelled away, HOWWWW do you do it, please tell me your secrets?! I swear I get paid, pay my bills, put petrol in my car, get a food shop in and then BAM! money gone... (okay I sometimes buy make up too but STILL!)

2. Ironing
The most tedious job in the world. And I'm convinced that the clothes look more creased after I've ironed them. Now I just flat out refuse to do it, and will rock the crumpled look forevermore.

3. Sewing a button
The most basic of adulting skills and I do not possess it. I just take the item of clothing and button to my mum to deal with. (she tuts and rolls her eyes at me but she loves it really)

4. Making the bed without pretty much getting inside the duvet cover
It's the only way I know how and I'm sticking with it.

5. Getting out of the house on time
Yep, I'm one of those people. I can get up extra early to make sure I'm ready and out of the door on time, and I somehow still end up rushing around 20 minutes after I should have been in my car. Often with only one shoe on, unable to find my keys, checking 74367 times that I remembered to turn my straighteners off and with mascara on only one eye.

6. Not letting my house get a mess
I swear it must look like a messy teenager lives here 99% of the time. I think I need to just accept that I will always be a messy person. It's a personality flaw.

7. Ringing/going to the doctor's when I need to
It took my mum texting me twice a day, every day for about a week for me to book my smear test. Not because I was deliberately putting it off, but because I just kept getting busy and forgetting. (no excuse I know, but rest assured I did go!)
I'm the same when there's something else that I need to see someone about. I do the very 'British' thing of 'Oh I'll be fine for another week and if it's still the same I'll go then'. It's a habit that I really need to stop!

8. Remembering to top up the oil/water/screenwash in my car
As long as it starts when I turn the key in the ignition, it's all good, right?

Sian xo