My October Favourites

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The river this November afternoon
Rests in an equipoise of sun and cloud:
A glooming light, a gleaming darkness shroud
Its passage. All seems tranquil, all in tune.” 
― Cecil Day-LewisThe Complete Poems of C. Day Lewis

Can it really be November already? Apparently so. But what a beautiful, calm entrance she has made here in Ireland. Days almost like summer, with a serene calmness in the air and not a hint of a breeze to disturb the russet carpet on the ground. Such days followed later by evenings arriving early, containing just a soft whisper of winter reminding us to light our stoves and boil the kettle for cups of steaming comfort. Transitional weather just doesn’t get any better than this.

But before a short digression becomes an entire weather themed sub-plot, back to the task at hand. A few of my October favourites.

  1. My favourite event: Mad Hatters Food Trail, Kinsale

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Regular readers of this blog will know that Taste of Dublin has long been my annual foodie event of choice. But suddenly the narrative reveals an unexpected twist as there has emerged a clear rival for the accolade of “Best Foodie Day Out” in Ireland, as decided by me.  After my maiden voyage to the Mad Hatter’s Food Trail in Kinsale I am torn, very torn, and that is high praise indeed. The day warrants a full post but I can’t quite stand over the accuracy of my memories, as this is really a booze tour masquerading as a foodie event. The need to queue for a drink at 11.30am and images of a packed nightclub by late afternoon are clear indicators of the type of day that you are in store for when you follow an Alice in Wonderland character down this particular rabbit hole…. but what a great day it is. It is little wonder that at a hefty €95 this event still sells out months in advance. The food was fabulous (I think!!), there was a never-ending supply of quality alcoholic tipples and the participants knew that donning novelty hats was a signal to leave your inhibitions at the door, accept that “we are all mad here” and allow things to unfold in a manner that grows “curiouser and curiouser”.  Sure they even have “your man Martin off the telly!!”   Take a look….

And yes there was food…

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It’s a really great day, in a really great town and has all the hallmarks of an annual pilgrimage. It made Keith Flyod fall in love with Kinsale…. and it’s easy to see why.

2.  My Favourite Make-UP Brand: NARS

Yes, I know that I am very new to this particular party but in an attempt to broaden my make-up horizons, I have been experimenting with some new brands and NARS is the one that is impressing me most. I have been using three products and while liking them all, it is the matte concealer that is really living up to the hype. I use the shade Custard which is a medium tone and I now I think I need two of these little beauties on repurchase day. A lighter one for under the eyes and the same medium shade again for blemishes. It is a true wonder product.

I also love the lipstick as it is not drying on the lips and the colour stays in place for hours. But tbh, despite this being a beautiful formula, I am not enough of a make-up gal to worry about my brand of lippy too much, or to regularly splurge on something I invariably break or lose, so this may or may not be bought again. The shade, for anyone interested, is Anna.

And finally the primer. I did really like this. I have almost completely used it up. I will definitely take a scissors to the tube just to ensure no precious product goes to waste but I am on the fence about restocking. It is exactly what I wanted but there is so little in the tube I feel I can’t justify making it an everyday primer. And I want an everyday primer. So here I am torn, on the fence, out with the jury, in two minds, hemming and hawing; you get the picture. I am contemplating an Urban Decay version for November – it looks to be more product at a similar price point – but currently I am at the stage of putting it on the back of my hand, nodding affirmatively and leaving the cosmetics hall paralysed by procrastination. These are big decisions, big decisions indeed.

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3. My Favourite Food Product:   Basil Pesto

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It has been a busy month – the lack of blog posts is a clear indicator of that. I am one of those lazy souls who can’t function tired…. so I need quick comfort food and very early nights. The kind of early nights toddlers get to enjoy. And I know I am not a two-year old but in my defense if I had the luxury of a nap in the afternoon I may stay up a little later. Anyway when things get a little hectic and the food needs to be fast but not a McDonalds, I find pesto to be a food hero. I just chop up lots of veg (generally mushrooms, yellow peppers, cherry tomato and courgette) and add them to a chicken breast that I fry off with a little garlic. Bung in the pesto with a dollop of creme fraiche to thin it out and serve over a little bowl of pasta shapes. Black pepper essential, parmesan an optional extra. Yum!!

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4. My Fashion Favourite: Knitwear

Specifically jumpers…..I love jumper weather. But currently I am loving one jumper in particular – the Zara “Blonde” jumper – don’t worry it comes in other hair colours too but mine’s a blonde. It is just so cozy – oversize, fun, soft and cute. Now that’s a lot of positive adjectives for one knitwear item but it is a jumper that brings a smile to my face. Poppy Deyes and Samantha Maria have also purchased this one, so it’s becoming a regular on Instagram already. I ordered online partly because the Zara Online packaging lifts my spirits. Clothing wrapped in pretty tissue paper and folded perfectly to fit the sturdy cardboard box – take note ASOS and others, this is packaging done right!! Unbox, unwrap and slip your arms into a virtual cuddle. If you can wear hygge, it feels like this sweater.

5. My Interiors Favourite: Ikea

I know, I know – it is mass produced, it is generic, it is devoid of character – but for interiors on a budget Ikea really is hard to beat. Now you have to accept that it is a marketing triumph, I mean I only went for a bookcase and look…..

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Where on earth was the bookcase supposed to fit??? There is no doubt that Ikea is the heroin of the impulse buying addict but if you just want simple furniture that you can style yourself, it is a winner. Simplicity and “quality” at an extremely affordable price point. My shelves, for an awkwardish space, cost about 50 quid. Add in a few accessories and it is exactly what I wanted. I would love bespoke furniture but for now unique is too expensive and so Ikea is my ideal Saturday afternoon destination. I mean €50…. and look how they turned out….. and all the other stuff in that trolley was entirely necessary too obvs….

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So there it is… some of the things I have been loving this October. I have high hopes for sober and sugar free November – where I will lose a half stone in time for Christmas. Lofty goals indeed. However, I am delaying the beginning of this virtuous life until Monday because I am currently on my hols and have a theatre evening with my mum and a girlie night away with my favourite bevvy of sisters to look forward to first. More to follow on all that….. xo

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V by Very Blog Awards 2017

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I haven’t been blogging very long, I am nothing if not inconsistent with it and I had, before last week, attended a grand total of one blogger event. But somehow I had slipped through the cracks and slithered all the way on to the list of finalists for the V by Very Blog Awards 2017, leaving me with an invite to head to the capital for the annual awards ceremony. Now I hummed and hawed a little about actually attending, knowing very well that I would not be amongst the gong wielders trying to get their speeches out (or in this case photo taken) before the music ushered them off stage. And trust me, that is not a statement driven by false modesty or a search for compliments. Self-deprecation is not really my thing. Any objective eye (and even my own subjective one) could ascertain at a glance that several of the blogs in our category (lifestyle) are better than this little slice of cyberspace currently professes to be. They are maintained by people who have blogged for longer, who create content more frequently and who generally take far superior photos. That is just a fact. What is also a fact is that the best blog in this category won on the night. Louise O’Connell’s eponymous blog is fab. I also really enjoy her instastories and love how much I can learn from following bloggers of this calibre. Her style (which focuses mainly on beauty) could not be more different from mine or indeed from that of runner-up, Cupid or Cats, a blog that is all about the writing and will make you laugh out loud. Jane’s style reminds me of a very talented blogger friend of mine (the only other blogger I actually know if online stalking is discounted!) as she draws us into her world with excellent penmanship that is in equal parts comic and compassionate. One of those rare talents who can be strikingly honest and personal without ever seeming to take themselves too seriously. Have a read, it’s worth it!

And so, given the quality of the competition, I genuinely never expected to win and something would have been awry with the judging if I had. But still I rushed from work, changed into the gúna and dragged my reluctant plus one to Dublin on a school night. If not for a cute plaque, then why? Mainly because a little group of wise friends and colleagues (who are not averse to gentle bullying) made me see that fledgling bloggers like me would not get a “pat on the back” like making the longlist, or the shortlist, or on a good year the list of finalists, if nobody supported the process and indeed the final event.  Someone decided I was worthy of a place at the table, so the least I could do was sit down and enjoy it. And so off I went, and here is how it all played out.

The Venue

The awards were held in The Academy in Dublin, and the venue thus provided the theme – movie icons. It was a great setting in my eyes, although I was glad of my leather biker jacket! The light box with the event name outside was super cool and there was a proper red carpet with photographers on arrival. Despite being camera-shy (I firmly believe it does lie despite the old adage – and I am always prettier in my head) it was a lovely way to create a sense of occasion and celebration. The building had loads of space with proceedings spread over several floors, the staff were friendly and there was even provision for an after party. So far, so good for The Bloggies!

Food and Booze

The food on the night was provided by KC Peaches and it was a bit like a more substantial portion of finger food. There was pork belly skewers, chilli dogs, Cajun chicken sandwiches and veggie noodles. But you could only choose one thing!!! One small morsel!!! It was definitely not going to put you off your bacon and cabbage, but the problem was there was no bacon and cabbage to follow. No buttery mash to fill you up. Not even a bowl of cheese and onion Taytos to dip in to. So considering the price of entry the food offering felt just a little stingy. Now don’t get me wrong, it was very tasty….. but I was starving, and for me a little hunger can be a dangerous thing. It can in fact metamorphise into a life changing medical condition in a matter of seconds. Survival instincts eventually activated and I ended up eating a chicken and stuffing sandwich in the car on the way home, but really that was a feast unworthy of the LBD and heels.  And also all the food was cold…. which was strange… because it looked like hot food but it was in fact all cold. Very, very odd!

The booze offering on the other hand was very generous. Our little blue wristbands entitled each of us to three alcoholic tipples, so three Mor Gin and Tonics it was. Yum!!!! There was also Heineken Light or Prosecco. But again in the realm of the bizarre, there was no option at all for the teetotal attendees or the evening’s designated drivers.  Definitely something to reconsider for next year.

The ceremony

Here I was very impressed. The stage was well-lit. The MCs, Lords of Strut, were unique and engaging – it was all very camp and very 80s but lots of fun. I loved that every finalist had their blog name displayed on a huge movie screen, the programmes were high quality and the spot prizes really generous. It also moved along at pace, which I think everyone was glad of and it was all in all a very enjoyable couple of hours. In the categories I read regularly the blogs I rate most highly were generally amongst the prize winners – a positive for the quality of the judging process, which as far as I am aware is completely voluntary. For anyone interested the overall Blog of the Year 2017 is GastroGays, and this travel and foodie blog is definitely an example of all that is good in the Irish blogosphere.

The Goodie Bags

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Finally, I think there is real merit in attending events just for a goodie bag. Who doesn’t love a little pressie for the road home? And it wasn’t a bad one either. The two standout gifts were an Alcatel USB (I really needed one) and a mascara from The Balm. There were some snacks (crisps and cookies) and drinks (coconut water and beer) and also some beauty bits like body lotion and perfume samples. And of course there was a voucher for V by Very.

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And so that’s a wrap from the V by Very blog awards 2017 – I hope to experience the glitz and glamour again over the coming years. And the best part – I have discovered some fab new bloggers to follow, learn from and be inspired by!

Til next time, xo.

 

 

Weekending like a Pro….

I’ve been a bit of a lazy blogger of late, mainly because work has been all consuming, but finally the weekend has arrived and I am going to bring you along with me on a very chilled and slightly indulgent Saturday.

But first for the exciting news… Champagne in a Teacup has been shortlisted for the 2017 V by Very Blog Awards Ireland in the Lifestyle category. Can you believe it? This came as a total shock to me – there were close to 150 blogs on the long list for this category, so I genuinely didn’t think my little blog stood much of a chance. But strange things happen and, lo and behold, here we are sitting pretty on the much narrower shortlist. A list that is peppered with some extremely talented content creators, the kind I like to read in bed on a lazy Sunday morning. And it is quite simply a lovely surprise. I suppose it is like a virtual pat on the back and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.  What better motivation to ease me out of a little blogging slump? So thank you judges for reading and seeing the positives. You made me smile!!!

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So back to Saturday….

Peeling myself from the bed, I formed a loose plan to just wander into town, do a little shopping, grab some breakfast… you know the drill. But it wasn’t that simple – literally 6 outfits in and there was NOTHING I could possibly wear. 4 different pairs of jeans were strewn on the bed, shoes were being launched like scud missiles across the room in pure frustration and tops that yesterday looked perfectly presentable were being consigned to the charity pile. It was looking like a day in pyjamas spent online shopping for an entire wardrobe was the only option. It was that critical.

Who knows what the root cause of this epic wardrobe malfunction was? I for one have no idea why the mirror just suddenly turned on me today, distorting and destroying any potential “Outfits of the Day” – but turn it did and we are not yet back on speaking terms. Maybe it was just feeling a tad hormonal? The mirror, not the writer. But eventually I bolstered my resilience and refused to crawl back under the duvet defeated. Instead I fought back – with the outfit that no mirror can take down – the bullet-proof vest when under self-image attack! Black jeans, black top, black leather jacket, white Converse. Simple, classic and comfy. “Take that mirror!!!”  I was ready to leave the house.

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Now of course the outfit theatrics meant I got to town too late for breakfast and too early for lunch. And I was at this point beyond ravenous. So you may be able to imagine the intense effort I had to make not to glare openly at the waitress who offered me a scone…. or nothing!!! “Breakfast is finished, lunch hasn’t started, we have a scone!!!!!” Oh, no, no, no – not happening lady. I did not go through six outfit changes for a bloody scone. So I smiled, and through gritted teeth muttered that I would come back in half an hour. And man am I glad I did, because that was the point when the day took a turn for the better. Lunch was delicious and adds further evidence to my continuous assertion that Athlone is a genuine foodie destination.

The eatery was The Corner House Bistro, and as soon as I was settled at the table, an espresso cup of the soup of the day, curried parsnip, appeared in front of me as a little amuse bouche. It was warming and mildly spiced and given that it was something I would never order, it made me realise I need to be more adventurous with my food choices. For my main I selected a beef taco dish with salsa, guacamole and sour cream. What was served up was literally a full thinly sliced steak (perfectly cooked to slightly the rare side of medium) on a bed of soft tortilla wraps. Everything tasted fresh and delicious, although for those who like their Mexican dishes with a kick, this definitely did not pack that kind of punch. It was nonetheless full of flavour and is something I would order again in a heartbeat.

I was passably dressed, I was no longer hungry, I had sipped a slow glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and my mood was on an upward trajectory. Then something truly wonderful happened. And it came in the form of vanilla creme brulee with heart-shaped shortbread. Like really…..what could be more perfect? Caramelised sugar, vanilla spiked custard, crumbly cookies, fresh berries and a little scoop of ice-cream. Yum!!!!!! Now that was one great weekend lunch for one, with the Saturday papers making the perfect dining companions. If in Athlone…go here for breakfast or lunch, you will not regret it.

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After that treat for my taste buds, even the rapidly deteriorating weather situation could not dampen my spirits, and so I wobbled off to run a few errands. I needed a pretty neutral eyeshadow to replace a Mac one that had hit pan, and so the swatching of the thousand shades began. I eventually settled on a slightly shimmering Stila shadow in the shade Kitten. It seemed significantly more pigmented than so many of the other brands and I will report back when I try it on the eye.

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I then nipped into my local butcher for some chicken fillets and rashers of smoked bacon because I was cooking Fully Loaded Cajun Chicken Burgers for supper (it is a delicious recipe to which I add mozzarella and pesto mayo).

Before heading for home, I picked up a book that was recommended to me by a friend, despite the fact that he hasn’t actually read it!!! But to be fair, if I was waiting for a retrospective review from him my eyesight may have failed and the novel may well be out of print.  He is one of those readers who REALLY takes his time getting through a novel. That said, he did get through the review (or was it a radio interview???) and reckons “I Am Pilgrim” by Terry Hayes is a must read. It may be too edgy for my romantic leanings but I like to keep an open mind. So it is here on my desk now, next in line on the reading rotation.

Finally for my rainy afternoon retail therapy, I treated myself to just a few yellow roses from my favourite florist. Just something to brighten up the kitchen as the evenings rapidly close in. Fresh flowers in the house are one of life’s simple pleasures. Now, I just need to buy some new mirrors and the place won’t look half bad!!

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After shopping there was a sneaky G&T to help us warm up on a miserable day. And now some vinyl records are crackling, candles are flickering and logs are burning slowly in the stove. It won’t be a late night, it might be a lazy morning, there will be a long walk and a slow roast. It may be more PJs and slippers than nightclub and hangovers, but this to me is weekending like a pro… xo

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.

Mascara

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