Tuesday, 18 October 2016

TRAVEL: 48 Hours in Madrid

Last weekend I went to Madrid to finally visit a friend who has been living there for over a year and to go to a gig by a South Korean rapper that I like. I flew in on a Saturday evening - a fact that my friend repeatedly gave out to me for as I "wasted a day" but considering how hectic things have been lately, I wasn't rushing for anyone - and we dropped off my stuff and immediately went out for the night.

We arrived late to his friend's birthday dinner and didn't end up eating a lot so while the others went on to a bar, we went for second dinner at Mercado de San Ildefonso, with the plan to meet everyone later. The Mercado was seriously cool and I wished we'd arrived earlier to explore it properly. It is a permanent indoor market and bar where there are loads of different kinds of cuisines to choose from. We went for the burger stand, upon my friend's insistence they were some of the best in the city, and I frustrated him again by choosing to order a hotdog.

When we finished eating, everyone had already gone home so we wandered the city a little, hit up a couple of bars and then headed home, much to my friend's disgust at my old lady insistence of sleeping rather than staying out until 6am like a local. But it was a good thing that I did as the next day was crazy busy.

My friend gave me an intense guided tour of the city in one day which involved stops at the palace and gardens, a visit to a crypt and accidentally attending mass (Granny would be proud), trying jamón in Plaza de Mayor, spotting Pikachu, visiting Sol (a square at the centre of the city that has streets radiating off the circumference like a sun), a pit stop in Sephora and a long, unplanned interlude in the Reina Sofia museum (again, frustrating my friend). Once I had enough of seeing Man Ray, Picasso and Dalí (for now) IRL and was dragged out the door, we headed to the Parque del Buen Retiro and the Statue of the Fallen Angel and the Crystal Palace. Suitably blown away by the scale of the park and the vast range of things to see and do there, I realised I was starving and we went for an insanely delicious five course meal.

Cue the panic as we suddenly realised the time. We ran to the Metro and arrived at the gig about an hour after it had begun but I was in time to see Sik-K, the main rapper, and hear him play my favourite songs. Afterwards, I toddled happily out the door and only noticed that my friend had gone missing. Moments later, he burst outside, grabbed my arm and yanked me inside without much explanation. Next thing I knew, I was dragged into a bar upstairs where he had spotted Sik-K and his crew go. Despite a security guard trying to tell my friend that only people who had paid for a Meet and Greet could be in there, (which I hadn't because I think it's effing weird to pay to hang with a person) my friend insisted that I had come from Ireland specifically for the gig (not exactly true but what can you do?). After saying this loudly a few times, a member of the crew went over to tell Sik-K and, next thing I know, my friend is shoving me towards him for a hug and a picture like a pushy stage mom. Once we had the picture taken, I thanked everyone and tried to get my pal to leave as the security guard eyed us with increasing agitation. Afterwards, all I could do was laugh and call my dad to tell him someone had pulled one of his classic moves. Though I was kind of embarrassed at the time, it's a good story and memory and I'm pretty grateful to my crazy, lovely friend.

The next day I was on my own and spent it sweating and panicking about using public transport solo and then hanging in the Prado Museum. Where I made a show of myself by full-on actually bawling because I got so emotional. Like with the Reina Sofia, I really need to go back for multiple visits but the place was incredible. The emotional mess began in front of Dürer's self-portrait. You know the one. The one where he's all tumbling golden locks. He was one of the artists I first loved and I've only ever seen his prints IRL in the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin. To see this was different. The next room on, I accidentally stumbled upon some Botticellis. They aren't particularly famous examples of his ouevre but he was also an early and large fave, an influential one. And I suddenly started to cry. People passing by looked at me, startled, probably assuming someone had just broken up with me in the museum or something. I pulled myself together and walked into the next room and spotted Rogier Van Der Weyden's "Descent from the Cross" and the scale and vibrancy of the colours in person set me off again. Sadly, this was one of the museum's big-hitters and had a crowd in front of it...Jesus, I'm an embarrassing human.

The rest of the visit was less intense as there were fewer works thereafter that had such a deep personal resonance for me. I left the museum, grabbed lunch in the  Prado Cafe and delved into the Metro and my many line changes to get to the airport. Having arrived extraordinarily early, I wandered around at a leisurely pace, ending my trip the way I had intended the whole thing to go. But, I guess, if I didn't have someone less calm than me lighting a fire underneath me, I wouldn't have had the amazing experience of the city that I did.

And that's what my 48 hours in Madrid looked like x








































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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Easilocks Homecare Range Launch - High-quality Extensions and Haircare with a Conscience

There are certain things that I always get behind and like to support here on this blog. Anyone who knows me or has been a long-time reader will be familiar with these things that I am so passionate about and it really is important to me that beauty and fashion have a conscience.

Easilocks ticks a lot of boxes and has a lot of conscience. The brand is Irish, started by a young entrepreneur who worked his way up, cruelty-free, vegan friendly and all the hair extensions in the line are made from ethically-sourced human hair from around the world (largely Russia and Mongolia).

The company was started by Irish award winning hair stylist Shane O'Sullivan, who started out in the industry at age thirteen in his family owned salon (also named Easilocks) in Dublin. Having worked in the industry and with extensions, in particular, for years, he noticed that they could be better and spent five years designing a line of high-quality extensions that could be used at home.

Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength and can boast Gigi Hadid, Margot Robbie and a whole host of other celebrities as fans.

The range of extensions is large with lots of pieces that can be added to instantly change a look and are available in a wide selection of shades and tones. In addition to this, Easilocks has also now launched a range of products and tools to help take care of your extensions and your own hair at home.

I attended the exceptionally packed launch a couple of weeks ago and, though I could only stay briefly, was amazed by the crowd and buzz of excitement. Bloggers and press were getting extensions put in to try them out first-hand, drinks were being had and Shane was on hand to answer questions personally.

Admittedly, I didn't get a chance to personally try out any of the extensions but I have been using the press samples I received on the evening on a daily basis since then: a rather impressive-looking copper styling brush and their Rose Gold Oil.

The brush is nice enough but a little big considering how short my hair is now and how bad I am at hair styling. However, the Rose Gold Oil is an absolute star product for me. I've been using hair oils for around 6 months now to help maintain the softness and smoothness of my hair and tame fly-aways and there have been a few I've really liked. This one, however, smells like an absolute dream, as well as performing well, which is why it has become my go-to. Seriously, it smells so good. I love me a spicy rose scent.

If you're interested in extensions or haircare but can't afford to entirely break the bank, check Easilocks out.







(The items briefly reviewed here were given as press samples. However, I was not paid to write this post and all opinions are my own.)


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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Recent and Upcoming Urban Decay Launches

Urban Decay have been busy, haven't they?!

When I went to their presentation on recent and upcoming launches last week, I was properly blown away. Both by particular launches (*cough* Vice Vault *cough*) and the whole presentation. They are a brand that is savvy about trends but also about listening to their customers and what they actually want. We were told that Wende, one of the founding partners of the brand, personally reads through comments on their social media and considers fans' opinions when launching and creating new products.

The biggest launch of recent months is the Naked Ultimate Basics Palette (RRP €47.00), which went on sale on the 29th of September and is already proving a firm fan favourite. The latest in the Naked family, it delivers the all matte selection of shades that lovers of the previous palettes were crying out for. Featuring 12 all-new neutral shades that are exclusive to this palette and different from the shades in Naked Basics and Naked 2 Basics. Some shades, however, may trigger memories of colours from other UD palettes, such as Extra Bitter, as they are refined versions of some of the most popular eyeshadows that the brand has produced. Speaking of Extra Bitter, of the sample pool of bloggers and makeup fans I have chatted with, it's the winner and the one shade I've managed to wear yet. I can state that it truly is gorgeous and blends out and builds like an utter dream.

Another product that had people oohing and aahing was the Naked Illuminated Trio (RRP $36.00), which is part of this year's Holiday collection and brings together three of the brand's beloved marbled highlighters in one palette that makes for a perfect gift. Given the obsession with highlighting, I struggle to think of anyone I know that likes makeup who wouldn't be pretty delighted with this as a gift. Featuring a gold (Pyrite), ivory (Oasis) and peach (Twilight) highlight shade, the palette suits a variety of skin tones and preferences or someone who merely likes options/layering/mixing highlight shades.

Other new products include the long-lasting, high-coverage All Nighter Foundation; the re-invented Brightening and Tightening Complexion Primer Potion that is now for all over the face and not just the cult-favourite for the eyelids; the Perversion Waterproof Fine Point Eye Pen, that extends the ultra-black Perversion line from just mascaras to eyeliners as well; and the Razor Sharp Long-Wear Liquid Eyeliner, that is offered in a very wide range of shades.

It was, however, the Vice Lipstick Vault that blew everyone away. The second it was put on the table, the room erupted in excitement. This limited special edition and latest "vault" product houses all 100 shades in the Vice line in one giant, beautiful box. It's enough to make one weep at the beauty of it. I don't know who's buying it but it's damn gorgeous.












(In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, while I did not strictly review any of the products here, I would like to point out that I did receive free samples but was not paid for my comments and all opinions are entirely my own)


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