July Birchbox: Review

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My second Birchbox, the July addition, was an aesthetic triumph. Themed “summer daze” it looked like an LA sunset, depicting blackened palm trees against the backdrop of a whimsical blue and pink skyline. It definitely evokes images of balmy summer evenings on foreign shores and will make a cute storage box after the products have been used and disposed of.

But what about these all important products? Worth the €15 purchase price? Well let’s take a look.

Firstly, this month every subscriber got a Benefit Lip & Cheek Stain in one of two possible shades… essentially a bright pink or a mango tint. Being a long term Benefit user, I was excited about this product as I have always enjoyed the “bene tint”, an older version of the same product. This time I selected the “gogo tint”, the pink/cherry coloured version on offer. The product is a liquid stain in a hot pink shade and it is applied with a little brush, similar to a nail varnish applicator. Now personally, I hate the sensation of this product on the lips, and so I use it solely as a blush. On first application I followed the directions on the box – painted three strokes on my cheeks and blended them in with my fingers. This was overkill. It was far too bright and took ages to blend – looking less like a healthy flush and more like I had walked into a job interview just before realising that my skirt was tucked into my knickers! But not one to be easily defeated, I just modified the quantity of the product to one stroke per cheek and the result was a lovely rosy glow. Product one, happy user.

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Unfortunately, the second sample was not so successful for me. It is a natural micellar water from Balance Me. Now as a cleanser, this water works perfectly well and does everything it says it should. You just pop it on a cotton pad, wipe it over your face and watch the make-up dissolve. Perfect! So what’s the problem? The problem is the over-powering smell of this product. It has this really strong antiseptic odour that I found really off-putting. So while this is a handy travel size back-up product, I definitely would not be rushing to purchase the full-size of this one.

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Next up was the Percy & Reed Perfectly Perfecting Wonder Overnight Recovery treatment. This was a simple product to use – you just apply it to dry hair, massage it in, head to bed and rinse it out in the morning. It leaves no transfer on the pillow and absorbs really quickly. It smells delicious and definitely did my highlighted blonde tresses no harm. But did it do them any good and would it be worth twenty quid? I’m not sure to be honest. I am definitely going to give this one another go but I will admit to being a little underwhelmed.

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Foot cream? I mean who buys foot cream? And who the heck remembers to apply it? Not this chick I can assure you. Now given that I have Shrek feet –  knuckles on toes, bunions, calloused soles – I really should have a foot cream habit. I should own vats of the stuff and timetable hours for pedicure type activities. But seriously, who has the time for foot cream? I really don’t know, possibly the type of person who finds time to iron underwear!!! Anyway, this Birchbox had a foot cream, so I sampled it and it was fab. Genuinely fab. It was a softening eucalyptus foot cream” from anatomicals. It is gently fragranced, absorbs beautifully and instantly softens the skin. Of course I have only remembered to use it twice so I still have ugly feet but God did I enjoy it. As the tagline of the product states, little wonders like this make “for a less callus world”…. foot cream with a sense of humour, what’s not to love?

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Next was a little summer spritz from English Laundry, perfectly suited to the theme of the box. This looked a bit old ladyish and I didn’t hold out hope for it to be honest, but that was a case of judging the book by its cover. And we all know that is inadvisable. It was in fact my favourite of this box of products and the most used so far. Fresh and citrusy but with vanilla notes for sweetness, Oxford Bleu is a lovely scent to pop in your bag on a summer’s day. It is just a pity the sample is so teeny.

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Face masks are on a par with foot cream in relation to my annual product usage, and as a result the final product still remains untouched. It is an Origins mask made with rooibos tea and rose and although I don’t as a rule like rose scented products, I do really like Origins as a brand. I fully intend to use this on a pamper evening before bed, I just haven’t got round to it yet. So time will tell with this one…. if it’s amazing I will be sure to blog it.

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So overall a bit of a mixed bag this month, but I enjoyed appraising this selection and I was generally happy with the lucky dip xo.

Birchbox Review

So June saw the arrival of my first Birchbox, or in this case a Birchbag, and even if I hated all the products inside the joy at receiving a parcel in the post was almost worth the subscription price. Signing for a package from the postman (especially when it is not bloody exam papers needing to be graded) appeals to my inner child. And as it worked out, I didn’t hate all the products and I loved the cute make-up bag it came in.

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So what lay inside this little lilac and lemon bag of loveliness? And how did the products perform?

Bobbi Brown Extra Eye Repair Cream:

When I peeked inside my little summer package, this was the product that made my face light up – partly because I never remember to use eye cream – and I could definitely do with reducing the slight puffiness of my under eye area. But mostly because I would generally prefer to spend that kind of money on a fab dinner rather than a posh cream, so expensive eye creams do not form part of my skincare routine. Would this little jar change my mind?

On a positive note the little sample pot was generously packed and I love the simplicity of the packaging. The product is unscented and a little goes a long way. It applies a little greasy which worried me on first impressions but it absorbs quickly and perfectly. After a week my eye area feels lovely and soft but doesn’t look perceptibly different. And so while was a decent product I still would not splash out the €56 for the full size. Fancy dinners win every time!

Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish:

Part of me wishes I never tried this product because I know it is going to cost me a fortune. I loved it and now I am not happy living without it. It has become an overnight favourite, a definite staple in my beauty collection. Given the bloody thing costs €35 a pop, I would have preferred to remain in the dark. But the problem is now that I’ve seen it, I simply can’t unsee it!

Because the sample was small I have really only used it on my face but I am so excited to try it on my legs, on a summer evening that calls for a dress. It just adds a glow to the skin that is bronze and illuminating. I dot it on over my make-up, blend it with my fingers and find it just adds a lovely golden finishing touch to my look. A great product that I cut out of the tube so as not to waste a drop.

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ecoTOOLS Eye Enhancing Duo Set

This duo set is really four brushes as each one is double sided and I like that it came with instructions as to how best to use each section (eye make-up application is definitely not my thing – and so a paint by numbers guide is always well received). On the plus side these brushes are affordable and cruelty free and they seem to do their job just fine. Personally I don’t love them – mostly because I am not a fan of the double side – although I admit this is handy for travelling.

Scrub Love Body Scrub – Coconut Mango

Having received a really sweet message from this company on my Instagram, I really wanted to like it. They just seemed like such a friendly company and their philosophy impressed me. And to be fair it is a very effective scrub that you can feel exfoliating as you rub it in. It also smelt divine  – mostly of mango – and did a good job on the last of the faded tan.

But be warned – this product is not designed for the messy girl!! And that effectively rules me out.  I applied it standing in the bath and it went EVERYWHERE!!!!! I mean it literally crumbled off and fluttered around as if you dropped a bag of chia seeds on the kitchen floor. I was more worried about cleaning it up than enjoying the lovely tropical aroma. So I am sad to say this one is not for me – beauty products that create housework are a definite no!!!!!

FULL-SIZE MeechNMia Brow Liner

This one I like  – the brown shade is a good match for me – and it applies quite precisely. I don’t think it will replace my Benefit “Goof Proof” brow pencil, simply because it needs to be sharpened – another issue for this lazy beauty gal! A first world problem, I know.IMG_3160

 

And that was it, a lovely summery bag of bits and bobs to try. Looking forward to the July Box now, with another set of treats to try xo.

 

Celebrate Yourself….

“We can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” (The Mill on the Floss)

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The classics can be a drag to read sometimes (and that sacrilegious declaration comes from a teacher of English) but they invariably conceal hidden diamonds in the rough rock, like the above kernel of wisdom from George Eliot. Eons before mindfulness was a thing, or wellness a cliché, Eliot realised that every now and then we need to actively search out the things that make us happy. Simple? Yes. So why in the mania that is modern life do we so often put our own happiness last?

I don’t really have the answer, but I do accept that sometimes only you can be the rainbow on your own cloudy day and, if it feels like the sun isn’t shining for you, maybe you need to take proactive steps to reverse the unwelcome climate change.

Personally,there was quite a lot of grey in the kaleidoscope of my life this past month. We are renovating a house we are living in – not for the lovers of luxury (or sanity) I can assure you – and there were evenings with no heat, walls with exposed wiring, more dust than you can imagine and not a floor to be seen that didn’t have a hole in it for some reason. This, combined with fairly miserable weather, spiralling costs and a workload that is barely sustainable, and you will see how the sunniest of dispositions could be a bit more muted than normal.

But with days lengthening, the chill in the air dissipating and life simply being too short for self-pity, there comes a time to take control and seek out the beauty and the light. A time to hunger after the beautiful and the good. So here’s a few options I am favouring to inject a little colour into the dusty reality that can sometimes settle just about everywhere.

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Take More Walks:

If the problem is the grimness of the four walls that are currently surrounding you – get out of the house and see the beauty that is everywhere. I know the walls won’t be bare forever, the new floors will be stunning soon, the kitchen will once again be my sanctuary, but in the meantime I need to remember that if I don’t love what is in my eye-line, then I can just avert my gaze. So I’ve been doing it, getting out more and seeing the beauty in the ordinary, the sensational in the simple and the little winks of wonder from a natural world awakening for winter and bursting into spring. Take a look…..

Pamper, pamper, pamper:

Do something just for you! Something relaxing, something fun, something a little self-indulgent. For me it was a morning at the hairdressers and, to be fair, it was well overdue. I have to say I chose well with this one. I was home in Kerry and decided to check out a salon I have liked the look of for ages and I was really not disappointed. From the cute decor, to the cupcake and coffee with vintage reading material, it was exactly what I was craving. The stylist was also lovely and my tired locks were rejuvenated just the way I wanted – a real success. A reason to smile.

Enjoy a Date Night:

My husband will cringe at the phrase…. but I am afraid that’s what it is when a couple venture out on their own to do something recreational together!!! It doesn’t really  matter what you do – it matters that you take the time to do it. Consume some art – a movie, a piece of theatre, a gallery visit. Drink a cocktail. Eat great food. Go to a gig. Basically whatever floats your boat. For us it has been a mixture of all of the above. Prior to Lent (weird Catholic self-deprivation ritual) there were some cocktails. Alternatively, there is always room in my world for dinner or lunch somewhere delicious. And, as we are currently booze free (more a personal than a religious penance tbh) and on a very tight budget, we are seeing some movies to unwind. Last week it was Loving (I think the trailer really has all the highlights of this one – although I did quite enjoy it) and tonight we are going to try Moonlight. Cheap cinema tickets and a tub of popcorn – remember it’s the simple things.

 

I guess the moral of today’s story is that it doesn’t matter what you do, but if you feel like you need to do something to inject some cheer into your soul – then do it. You deserve it. We all do. Anne Frank (who was scarily wise for one so young) said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I think we can paraphrase and revel in the reality that we need not wait a single moment to improve our own world, just for us, just because we are worth it. Find the light, see the beauty ..have a happy Sunday xo

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January Favourites

January can be quiet on the retail front, due to the financial incontinence of the festive season and some general January sales fatigue.  I hate rooting through racks and racks of sale stock, preferring my occasional shopping sprees to be a little easier on the eye. I am far more into a simple, clean aesthetic than having to search through the rubble of the previous season, frantically seeking a diamond in the rough. Therefore, I like to wait until the shops restock and reorganise and the sale racks are packed away again. This said I have still manged to uncover a few January favourites, and here are a selection of my top picks from the beginning of 2017:

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel

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I picked up a mini version of this cleanser in the Space NK January sale while I was in London. It was reduced by 50% due to the festive packaging (it was in a cracker), making it a bit of a steal at just £9. Although I was aware that this is a bit of a cult classic, especially among beauty bloggers, I knew very little about the product and had no idea what to expect. The product describes itself as “an illuminating vitamin melting cleanser” and to be fair, it does melt into the skin, before cleansing and illuminating it. In short, it does what it says on the tin!!

The cleansing gel is orange in colour, has a pleasant perfume and a little goes a long way. It looks very oily on application, and this alarmed me a little, as my skin can already be quite oily, but this was not an issue as the Oskia Renaissance cleans and moisturises without leaving any greasy residue or tacky sheen.

Using just one pump, I apply the cleanser to dry skin and massage it in for a minute or so. Generally, I leave it to work on the skin while I brush my teeth and then rinse it off, after jumping in the shower, using a facecloth soaked in warm water . Although it does dissolve make-up, I rarely use it to remove mine, preferring a different routine in the evening.

Overall this product, with its combination of ingredients like pumpkin enzymes, Vitamin C and E and Starflower Oil, is a beautiful cleanser that leaves the skin feeling soft and nourished. I will definitely repurchase this new favourite.

Kiehl’s Amino Acid Conditioner

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This, in my humble opinion, is a life-changing purchase!!!

Yes, I know it is just conditioner. Yes, I know it is not imperative to my survival. But OMG, this has made my life so much easier and sprinkled it with just a little extra happiness. I had heard Anna, from The Anna Edit, mention this product on her YouTube channel a few times, and so decided to pick up a travel size version in Selfridges. What a great decision. I genuinely noticed the difference instantly and just a few days later, I was splurging on the full size version in the Kiehl’s Duty Free Shop at Stansted Airport. It is so so so good.  I really didn’t know it was possible to feel so strongly about a hair care product but, given that I had started to really struggle with knotting ends, even with recently trimmed hair, I was crying out for something to help.  TBH I didn’t expect the results I got from this silicone-free daily conditioner, as years of blonde highlights tend to call for some strong chemical detangling, but just a little worked through the ends and, left for a couple of minutes, makes tough tangles a thing of the past. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

A Classic Blazer

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My next favourite for the beginning of the year is a fashion buy and it was a bit of an emergency purchase for a work event. This type of panic purchase does not always work out too well but this time I think the item is divine. It is this blush pink blazer from the new collection at River Island. It fits well, I love the ruched sleeve detail and the colour is on-trend as winter gives way to spring. I think it will get loads of wear both for work and leisure. I paired it with simple black skinny jeans, a vest top, heels and a little statement jewellery. Cute but classic.

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Generally, I make my own granola, but the oven situation in our new house is not great and so, until the kitchen refurb is complete, I am largely avoiding recipes requiring baking. fruit bowlHowever, granola with Greek yoghurt and berries is my favourite post-gym breakfast and so I had to seek out a good shop bought version. I opted for Lizi’s Original Granola which contains  Jumbo Rolled Oats, Cashew, Walnut and Hazelnut pieces, Pumpkin, Sunflower and Golden Linseeds, and Desiccated coconut. It is delicious, filling and releases energy slowly. I like it with a spoon of Total 0%, a drizzle of Agave and a sprinkling of fresh berries. Yum.

So, in a pretty frugal month, as pennies are pinched for the cosmetic overhaul of a kitchen, these were a few of my favourite purchases. And now for a few other bits and bobs…

At the beginning of the month, I really enjoyed the Will Smith movie, Collateral Beauty, which I thought was really under-rated by reviewers. Based on the premise that as humans “we long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death”, the film looks at what happens when death steals what is most precious from you, and love and time no longer seem to hold any appeal. This is a movie all about grief, and personally I thought it was sweet, sad and really tugged at the heart-strings. Now I just need to work on curtailing catatonic sobbing in public places when I watch something emotional  – a New Year’s Resolution perhaps!!!!

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We no longer own a television, and instead rely on YouTube and Netflix for our viewing choices, and so, this month, I really loved the relaxed vlogging style of the beautiful Estée Lalonde and some healthy living inspo from Niomi Smart. I have been listening to lots of Simon and Garfunkel Live in Central Park on our new record player. And finally, I am reading and enjoying a novel called Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller. And that’s a wrap for my January favourites 2017. Hope you are having a lovely beginning to the new year xo

 

 

 

August Favourites…Beauty

Between travelling and my birthday this month, I picked up quite a selection of new hair and beauty odds and ends and so here is a rundown on some of my faves. All you beauty aficionados will instantly realise that I came very late to the party with almost all of these products, and I am the first to admit that I can be very lazy when it comes to changing up my make-up and skincare routines (she says, as if she has ever actually had a skincare routine!!!!).But this month I was a little more adventurous and I am hoping to continue paying much more attention to this aspect of my lifestyle.

The first new product I tried was Pixi’s “Glow Tonic Exfoliating Toner”, which I picked up in Pixi’s own store on Carnaby St, having heard Lily Pebbles and several other bloggers that I love endorse it. I use it most evenings, having first taken my make-up off with Garnier’s Cleansing Micellar Water and I must say I love how these products combine to cleanse my face at the end of the day. Although Pixi recommend using the Glow Tonic twice daily, I think that much exfoliation – no matter how gentle – would be too harsh for my skin which can be a little sensitive. I have heard some people say they even found daily use a little too severe but for me that has been working out perfectly so far. The product is simple to use and very good value. You just soak a cotton pad with the product and wipe it over cleansed skin. I am not sure if my skin is “glowing” since I started using this toner but it definitely feels smoother and I love knowing that my face is completely make-up free before drifting off at night.

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My next August favourite has again become something of a cult product and it is really not hard to see why. In fact I think this is my all time favourite cleanser, words not uttered lightly. It is the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. I mentioned in an earlier post that I was attracted to this product because I loved the idea of the hot muslin cloth on my skin. At that stage I had purchased but not tried the product. Now I am completely hooked and will definitely be repurchasing this little gem. I pop the cream cleanser all over my face and neck just before jumping in the shower. Then I soak the cloth in warm water before gently cleansing my face section by section. I genuinely feel my skin is softer than ever before and every part of the process feels fab. As I was in the airport when I purchased this, travelling with hand luggage only, I did not pick up any of the other products in the range but I am now determined to experiment with Liz Earle products a little more. I am very close to needing a new moisturiser so it may be a little more Liz Earle for me.

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My next favourite is quite a big purchase and lucky for me it was actually an extremely thoughtful gift. I wear my hair straight and it does not sleep well! Basically it needs almost daily washing and drying and is abused by hair straighteners most days. This favourite is a salon strength hair dryer and it has made my daily wash and blow-dry so much quicker and more efficient. It is the ETI TurboStratos 3800 and mine is in a really cute purple colour. It is so powerful that my hair dries really quickly and it also leaves a lot less work for the straighteners to do afterwards. It is available in Ireland from Peter Mark and if you have hair that takes ages to blow dry or is prone to frizz it is definitely a worthy investment. It was a great present!!!

Finally, on the list of things I am loving, I mentioned previously that I was switching mascaras from Benefit’s They’re Real, to MAC Extreme Dimension in Extreme Black. Now it may be a little early to judge, as I have only used the product a few times but so far this is another purchase worthy of the favourites’ list. It is a really strong colour as you would expect, goes on easily and really defines the lashes. It is not messy or gloopy which is great, and most importantly it is very easy to remove. I have very long lashes, so mascara that smudges even a little has easy access to my cheeks. I also have very sensitive eyes that water when I use poor quality products. The MAC has caused neither problem, so it looks like it could be a keeper.

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Finally,  I have been trying one new product that definitely won’t be repurchased and that is the NYX soft matte lip cream in the shade Antwerp. This was an important lesson relating to “don’t buy before you try”. I just grabbed this, having read great things about the range without even swatching the colour. And it is a disastrous purchase. The colour on the bottle and the colour of the product are really different, and unfortunately, despite the pretty colour of the packaging, the cream itself is an obnoxious hot pink colour that I would never wear. I also don’t like the texture of this product, although I know a matt lip is very on trend right now. The product feels heavily perfumed, sticky and drying. Ugh!! Just not for me and I still really need an everyday lipstick. I am going to give the new Kate Moss range for Rimmel a whirl instead and fingers crossed for more success.

That’s all from my hair and beauty faves this month and I hope it reads pretty coherently . I enjoy writing posts like this because it encourages me to try new products and really think about their performance, but, to be honest, make-up and beauty is not really my thing. I am guilty of using products sporadically and without too much thought. This makes me worry a little about pulling a post like this together as my vocabulary may not have quite the same range in this particular realm.But practice should at least lead to improvement if not perfection.

Til next time, xx.

 

Shopping and Spruced up Scrambled Eggs

Having not been through this airport for a couple of years, this week was my first time in the new look Stansted Airport duty free area. The shopping was great, the walk back from the cafe to find MAC and Urban Decay not so good. But I managed to retrace a path and purchased a few bits and bobs that I am excited about.

Firstly a new mascara. I have been wearing Benefit’s “They’re Real” for a year or so now but I get annoyed by how difficult it is to remove so it was definitely time for a change. After a little deliberation I chose this Mac bestseller ….. in extreme black.

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One of my favourite things to do, which has to make me very unpopular with hotel housekeeping staff, is to soak a clean white facecloth in very hot water and almost steam the make-up from my face. Of course this is less practical at home – where I am the housekeeping staff – and already a very reluctant employee. The solution? My second purchase, the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. The cleanser comes with a muslin cloth that can be used in the shower for a deep cleanse. I bought the starter pack which contains a 100ml bottle of cleanser and two cloths. I am very excited about this product.

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For quite a while now I have been looking for a bag that would carry my rather large laptop, but I didn’t want something that looked too like a traditional laptop bag. Perfect in terms of size and very affordable, a navy shopper from Accessorize caught my eye. I am hoping it will prove to be both stylish and practical for a normal work day.

And then for some reading material, I picked up Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. Not a book I knew anything about but it caught my eye and I am hoping for an easy and inspirational summer read. I will post an update when I finish reading.

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So now that we are settled in back home, it is time to get back to some healthier ways and so I started by making a light lunch of Huevos Rancheros Scrambled Eggs from Donal Skehan’s, “Fresh”.

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The recipe involved making a simple cherry tomato and red onion salsa and some homemade Guacamole but was really simple to accomplish and made for a pretty delicious healthy lunch.

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That’s all for now…I have a dinner date with the girls to get ready for. Have a great weekend wherever you are and whatever you do, xoxo.

The Final London Travel Post

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So we are home by now from our week in London and although it was one of our shortest summer trips in years, it was a great week in one of our favourite cities. Since last I posted we spent a couple of hours on the Kings Road in Chelsea; wandering around, eating lunch and drinking coffee. The jewel in the crown of the whole street is the stunning Anthropologie store, which is just so beautifully designed and packed with wonderful fashion and home wares.

Burgers seem HUGE in London at the moment and even though I am not a huge fan of the meat patty, we were starving when we stumbled upon the welcoming BRGR.CO in Chelsea. I opted for one of their signature burgers, “The Hanger Steak Brgr”, cooked medium with added bacon and cheddar. My husband had a chicken fillet burger and we split an order of fries. It totally hit the spot for us and we left refuelled for a little more wandering around the area. Decent meat, good prices and friendly service – not a bad combination.

Having wandered around the Saatchi gallery, currently completely taken over by the Rolling Stones exhibition and chased down my Mac foundation from the other day, it was time for a little caffeine.

We just stumbled upon Gail’s Bakery – the most darling little café of the trip. It was like a coffee house straight out of Soho NYC, full of artisan breads and mouthwatering baked goods. They also sell really cute shoppers and cookbooks on site. It’s the perfect spot for coffee and a muffin.

The foodie was now happy so it was time to indulge the football fan a little and so there was a walk around Stamford Bridge before leaving the area for Westminster.

Real tourist London was something we had mostly avoided up to now but could we really go home without seeing Big Ben? We strolled around Westminster for a bit, took a few snaps, and visited another of London’s oldest pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. I was particularly amused by the make-over some pedestrian lights had received for Pride 2016 – no longer is the little green man the only symbol on offer, a lovely simple celebration of diversity.

Then it was back to Camden to meet my husband’s fabulous cousin and her equally charming boyfriend. It was such an enjoyable few hours, sitting by the canal chatting about literally everything and anything. It was one of those evenings where conversation flows easily and you feel inspired by the passion of others, in this case two young students who have the kind of passion and idealism that most of us lose sight of over time. This was one of those chats that makes you want to be a better person, as we listened to them discuss their trips to Calais (entirely self-funded) to help out at the refugee camp there and her mentoring work in London with young children forced to seek asylum in the UK. These are people with the heart and intelligence to really make the world a better place, one small step at a time, and who put MAC cosmetics and fancy meals into a perspective that really they should always remain in.

And then, as though the evening hadn’t given us enough, they put the icing on the cake when  they shared with us their favourite kebab spot in North London – Woody Grill on the Camden Road. Slightly tipsy, we devoured delicious kebabs in this really friendly fast food spot before taking the train home to pack our bags for our flight home.

And that was pretty much the end of an epic week in London  – time remaining only for some airport shopping which I will fill you in on later xoxo

Carnaby Street and the Footsteps of the Ripper.

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Morning – woke up a little later than normal so going to keep the update on yesterday’s London explorations short and sweet. We started the day separately, history nerd husband at the Museum of London and caffeine addict wife at the corner of Carnaby Street with a camera, a credit card and a warm paper cup, ready for some aimless browsing.

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Now for those who don’t know London, Carnaby Street is a lovely pedestrian area just off Oxford Street, home to some very cool shops and restaurants. While busy, it is still a welcome break from the craziness of Oxford Street, my least favourite part of London. Now don’t let that put you off, it is definitely a minority view. And if shopping is your thing, then Oxford Street will make all your retail dreams come true. For me, it is just not what travel is about – I can shop Zara and H&M from my laptop or in the town I live in back home. I travel generally to see new things and to see them at a pretty calm pace. Oxford Street doesn’t do calm. I make two exceptions to this Oxford Street bashing – the flagship Topshop just opposite the tube and Selfridges. Carlsberg don’t make department stores but if they did…..

But anyway, it was off to Carnaby Street for me, starting with a stroll through the iconic Liberty building. It is a stunning, high-end department store, where I can afford to buy very little but can definitely see myself purchasing White Company candles, Nars cosmetics, handmade chocolate or beautiful stationary if I was living anywhere in the vicinity.

I then proceeded to MAC as I have been considering changing my foundation from the Benefit Oxygen Wow for a while, and, as I am almost at the end of the bottle, it seemed as good a time as any to take the plunge. After a really friendly consultation and some experimentation, I settled on Studio Fix Fluid and a little nude eye-shadow in Brulé Satin to replace Benefit’s Call My Buff. However, at the till it emerged that they were out of the foundation shade and so the girl instead gave me a sample to keep me going – I will pick up the real thing later today.

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After MAC I did a little browsing at the pretty dresses in Dahlia and debated a pair of New Balance in Office before deciding that my Ryanair luggage allowance may not allow them through (I am still debating though). Then I popped into Pixi and picked up a little bottle of their exfoliating Glow Tonic. I have read so much about this product, I am excited to try it. Perfect skin awaits!!!!!

Of course, after all this shopping I was starving, so I weighed up my options and settled on tapas at Pix-Bar. It’s a tiny candlelit place specialising in Pintxos. A selection of individual sized dishes is displayed on the bar. You simply take a plate, eat what you like, pop your skewer in a carafe and present it at the till to pay. I tried a Chorizo & Manchego Bocadillo, Serrano Ham & Quail Egg on Ciabatta, Diablo Meatballs and Honey-glazed Cod Fritters. The food was excellent and I loved that you don’t have to commit to one large dish but can try a whole selection. Bring a friend and try double the dishes.

After a browse through Brandy Melville, where I picked up a little comfy tee, and a half an hour in the aforementioned giant Topshop (I needed a replacement pair of white jeans and found a Leigh pair reduced to £20) I was pretty much shopped out and decided to head off to meet my husband for a late afternoon drink as we had an early dinner reservation. Although I did first try Ben’s Cookies – sold by weight and one of the most delicious things I have tasted.

bens1

History was inescapable however as we walked in search of two of London’s oldest pubs, and I have to say both were worth the trek. The first was Cittie of York, an imposing old building that would have been the perfect site for some form of exclusive gentleman’s club. The second (which I completely forgot to picture) was one of the best finds of the entire trip. It was called Ye Olde Mitre and is hidden in a little alley off Ely Place. Hard to find places almost demand to be found and this place clearly is not the best kept secret. It was just after 4pm and the place was wedged with city bankers in suits, loosening their ties for a quick pint. Loved this place!

We had dinner at Pizza East, in the now very trendy Shoreditch area, and the pizza lived up to its hype. A light crisp crust, flavoursome tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and whole leaves of flavoursome basil. Pizza like the Italians make. Washed down with large, cold glasses of Moretti, it was a decent impression of a neighbourhood pizzeria in Rome, but with an industrial vibe that is more Brooklyn than Trastevere. Make sure to book in advance if you plan to eat at Pizza East.

After dinner, we headed for Aldgate and spent an hour or so wandering in the eerie footsteps of Jack the Ripper and reading the gruesome details of this famed murder spree in the alleyways of London’s East End. The guided tours come highly recommended but we opted to self-guide using a little book called “The Jack the Ripper Walk”. It cost just £2.99 and was comprehensive and very easy to follow.

Pretty cool end to a pretty cool day xo

 

 

Roman London and Retail Therapy

Separated for a few hours from my travel companion, who was off to meet some fellow historians at the British Library, a chilled out shopping morning seemed a perfect way to start the new day and the new week. Upper Street is high street heaven but I am more interested in what lies in the little alleys behind it – the independent bookshops, boutiques and concept stores that don’t populate every high street and shopping mall in the world. Therefore my destination was Islington’s Camden Passage. Famous for its antiques market, this area is an extremely cute collection of cafes, restaurants and independent shops – browser heaven.

camdenpassage

I started the day with a caffeine fix in The Coffee Works Project, reputed to have the best coffee in the area. It was packed mostly with what I assume to be students, self-employed workers and freelancers  – as many of the customers were typing feverishly away on their laptops. All very Carrie Bradshaw. There was also a healthy sprinkling of yummy mummies taking a break with a soy latte and the odd tourist checking if the coffee is really as good as they say. The verdict – it was a damn good cup of coffee.

Then for an hour of intensive window shopping in this little retail Utopia. Take a look for yourself….

Appetite well worked up, there was time for a quick lunch before heading to the British Library to catch up with my husband. I probably would have tried The Breakfast Club as I have read great things about it but even at 12.30pm there was already a queue and I didn’t have much time to spare. I did however spot the last remaining outdoor table at the neighbouring The Elk in the Woods. It turned out to be a good choice. I dined on a small plate of calamari with chorizo mayonnaise accompanied by a side of salt baked new potatoes and garlic aioli. It was light but tasty – the calamari perfectly cooked, the aioli particularly delicious. Accompanied by some ice water and a glass of house wine, sitting in the sun watching the world go by, it made for a very enjoyable lunch. Then off to the tube, although not before getting distracted by two cute little tees in Joy that I felt would work well with skinny jeans (one with heels and one with converse).

My hubby and I regrouped at the British Library, his lunchtime talk and general networking probably making his morning more productive than mine. But surely it couldn’t have been more enjoyable. And he doesn’t now own a little jersey tee with a cute bumblebee print!!!!

We headed for St. Paul’s and the old city  – the focus of the rest of our day. After a quick hello to the head of John Donne, we walked the square mile, visiting spots where evidence of the Roman city had been uncovered and marvelling at the way cities develop over time and yet some remnants of each century remain – the past almost effortlessly juxtaposing with the present. We took a break at the Dickens Inn on St. Katherine’s Dock, a beautiful old pub with exposed beams and wooden floors, quotes from Dickens’ classic works adorning the walls.  Our little tour ended at the stunningly preserved Leadenhall Market Place, the site of the original Roman forum and basilica of Londinium.

After quite a lot of walking we ate fairly forgettable french food in a little neighbourhood bistro, followed by overpriced drinks in a soulless chain bar, before heading to the Guildhall for the highlight of the day – an outdoor movie in the Guildhall Yard, over the site of London’s ancient Roman amphitheatre. There were a few technical hitches but it was a lovely evening. There was seats, burgers and hotdogs, beer and wine, popcorn and even an onsite archaeologist to explain the history of the site. Somebody forgot the movie but he admitted he was “a massive tool”, the movie was found and the show did go on. Gladiator on the site where actual gladiators would have been forced to perform! A great evening and if in London this summer do check out Pop Up Screens listings – just remember it gets cold, no matter how fine a day, so bring jumpers and jackets to wrap up in, then sit back and enjoy xo

 

Happy @ Home

Summer, Sun, Sunglasses, Relaxation

Loving a very lazy weekend this weekend – the last for a while as my social diary is pretty full for the next month or so. And in order to fully embrace my lack of commitments, I have spent the whole weekend in a tracksuit, with no make-up and hair tied back.  There has been some cooking, less cleaning and quite a lot of reading.  A little wine, a little more coffee and lots of lemony water. No work…not one minute…not even a thought. And countless lost hours peeking into the lives of strangers through Instagram and  Bloglovin. Generally a perfect weekend!!!

I am not sure if “wanderlust” is a personality trait and if so whether it is a vice or a virtue but whatever you want to call it, I have it.  Watching Donal Skehan in Greece or Rick Stein’s long weekend in Reykjavik has resulted in a need for physical distance to be created between me and my credit card.  My desire to book flights and spend hours perusing Air BnB can regularly become completely overwhelming and the fact that I booked a week in London on Thursday makes it imperative, while at the same time close to impossible, that I resist any further Ryanair transactions for a little while at least. Therefore my favourite post of the week was terribly timed as I faced my perpetual dilemma…“to book or not to book, that is the question”. You see I found Cookies & Candies post, Charmed by Lisbon” well, charming, and now I think it would be a perfect long weekend destination. She said it’s great value too and the food looks fab….how is a girl to resist?

Realising that I really can’t book anything until I have the current credit card issue at least partly under control, I needed a distraction.  And thankfully here intervened a really cool playlist shared by Rosie from A Rosie Outlook. I was hooked from the first track, Ruth B’s stunning, slow, melancholy offering Lost Boy.  This is definitely worth a listen, as is the rest of the list. It is a soulful, poignant and melancholy mix of tracks perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Credit card crisis momentarily averted.

Turntable, Vinyl, Sound, Retro, Stereo

The sun has been trying to come out today and there is a little glimmer of hope that there may be at least some sliver of a summer. This is one of those things that can never be taken for granted here in Ireland. There have been years when, to quote an esteemed national political figure, we got “drowned out of it every day”. But the Irish are a nation of meteorological optimists and a few dry hours leads to serious contemplation of the summer wardrobe. This for me has to include white skinnies and so this post from Laura at lustrous.ie was both timely and helpful and it is clear we share a love of River Island’s Molly jeggings. For the last couple of years I have also loved white ankle skimming skinny jeans with little zips from Zara. Really hope they get them in this year.

Finally, I am constantly searching for new and improved granola recipes. I make it often, generally successfully but there are a few things that always take some points away in my imaginary grading scale. One is that the nuts often feel like they are verging on burnt, the second is that I worry they it too sweet to really be healthy at all and finally I don’t know when is best to add things like the fruit and the coconut. Today I stumbled across a new recipe and while I need to see how it tastes on a weekday morning with yoghurt and berries, it is currently cooling on the rack and looks like it may be my best effort yet. Hope your weekend was also a happy one, whatever that means for you. And for the week ahead just keep smiling, you will always be amazed how many people smile back xoxo

Yogurt, Granola, Blueberries, Fruit