Monday, 26 December 2016

Best Of K-pop 2016

2016 was both a good and bad (it was no 2014 but, then, what is?) year for K-pop: Lots of amazing music was released but we also lost several of our favourite groups and members. However, the good kind of outweighs the bad in my opinion. There were a lot of my favourite groups delivering, as per, but there were also people I'd never heard of before or had never paid much attention to, who blew me away.

Here are the 25 best K-pop tracks of 2016, IMHO. (Note: The order is arbitrary, I couldn't bear trying to rank all of these.)

1. VIXX "Fantasy"

VIXX released three mini-albums in 2016 and had an all around good year. The members were in dramas, movies, musicals and variety shows, released solo tracks for OSTs and, in the case of Ravi, a mixtape. 2016 solidified them as one of the best and most exciting groups in the industry. As a result of all this, there are a lot of tracks I could have picked (and lots I love) but I went with "Fantasy", which samples Beethoven, is slick as and shows the boys at their gothiest, moodiest best.




2. Rainbow "Whoo"

Rainbow announced that they were disbanding only recently and it's a serious pity. This release is catchy as hell (that "Clap. Clap, clap, clap" gets stuck in my head so bad), cute and epistomises everything that was great about the group. Also, how hot is Jaekyung?! Dang. 

It's only a shame that they never really got the recognition that they deserved. 



3. WINNER "Sentimental"

WINNER is one of my favourite groups, perhaps even second to VIXX. Obviously, they are another group about whom we got sad news this year, following the confusion about the failure for planned comebacks to actually happen and the eventual departure of Nam Taehyun. Sad as I am that Taehyun has left, I still love and support the group and can't wait for them to be able to get back to making music together now. It was hard to choose just one track from the releases that came out in the beginning of this year but I went with "Sentimental" in the end. Mostly because the kind of chacha move during the choreo in the chorus is adorable and addictive.



4. Sandeul "Stay as you are"

Much as I loved B1A4's comeback (finally), it was Sandeul's solo track that really stole my heart this year. The sentiment behind the song was destined to do so. I mean, I'm a romantic moron. Basically, it's about how he hasn't met the love of his life yet but wherever she is and whatever she is doing, he wants her to be happy and loved and only live well until he meets her, even if she is currently with someone else. And, of course, it sounds beautiful because, if Sandeul's appearances on singing shows in the past year have taught us anything, it's that he really is a stunning singer.



5. 4Minute "Hate"

Another group that sadly disbanded this year, 4Minute left us on a rather strong note with the cinematic, punchy, intense and excellent "Hate". It was a great follow-up to the similarly strong "Crazy" and a brilliant direction for the band, it's a pity that they didn't get to explore it a little more...



6. SEVENTEEN "Check-in"

SEVENTEEN are a group that make me smile affectionately like a doting older sister. They're incredibly talented and have a bright future ahead of themselves. They also work very damn hard. I mean, how many comebacks did they have this year alone? I could have chosen any one of those as each was catchy, bright and exciting but I went with the Hip-hop sub-unit's first mixtape track that was released with a video. The video is rad and the song is great but mostly I was just being lame and bailing on having to choose a favourite among their other tracks.



7. K.A.R.D. "Oh Nana"

I wasn't aware a co-ed group was debuting until this video had already come out. I checked it out out of curiosity but stuck around for the track. Can you say "bop alert"?! So. Damn. Good.



8. BTS "Blood, Sweat and Tears"

I can't not include BTS. If you're talking about bops, they definitely have to be part of the conversation. They are killing it and only going from strength to strength. I think they might even be the first K-pop group that will ever truly break into the American music market. But, even if that never happens, they are still the reigning princes of K-pop. There's a reason I look forward to their every comeback so keenly, they never disappoint and "Blood, Sweat and Tears" is fantastic.



9. Brave Girls "Deepened"

For some reason, Brave Girls are flying wayyy under the radar but all of their releases have been great. "High Heels" was a typical bubbly summer girl group track, yet still excellent and a little more refreshingly tongue-in-cheek and self-aware than many other groups who produced similar tracks. However, "Deepened", released at the beginning of the year, is a truly good song that is a breath of fresh air. I really hope these guys gain more of a following and get a chance to grow!



10. G. Soul "Where Do We Go From Here"

Speaking of flying under the radar, G.Soul is a JYP act that seems to be doing just that, which I cannot fathom. His releases this year were some of the better R&B k-pop tracks to be unleashed on the market...and yet he doesn't seem to be getting mainstream love. Atmospheric, moody and sexy, this is just some good shit. Plain and simple.



11. Wonder Girls "Why So Lonely"

Another JYP act that was killing it (the label was really having a good year) was Wonder Girls. Having ditched their CEO to produce their own track, they came back at us this summer, following their eightiestastic comeback in 2015, with the excellent reggae-inspired "Why So Lonely".



12. MAMAMOO "I Miss You"

Perhaps an unpopular opinion but, of the songs MAMAMOO released this year, "I Miss You", was, hands down, my favourite. Sexy and cool, I thought that it was the direction the group was going to take. It seems their retro concept has taken over since then and I've personally tired of that a little so, this remains my favourite release from them this year.



13. I.O.I. "Very Very Very"

I.O.I. is the group that was formed by the television show Product 101, which pitched 101 trainees from various record labels against each other to become part of a girl group. Their releases have been very typical "cute" concept tracks but excellent ones and, though I'm not a massive fan of said concepts, I love I.O.I. As they are only a temporary project and won't be working together anymore, I felt I had to include them on this list and this song...well, I defy you to not get it stuck in your head.



14. EXO-CBX "Hey Mama"

Speaking of getting stuck in your head, the similarly repeated "Hey Mama" of this track from EXO's first sub-unit is damn catchy. EXO-CBX is made of some of my favourite (and underrated) members of the group and the whole project is slick, fun and stylish.



15. NU'EST (MINHYUN&JR) "Daybreak"

Nu'est are an older group that have achieved a decent amount of fame and recognition over the course of their career but aren't exactly a hot topic these days, which is a crying shame as this year's comebacks have been, in my opinion, the best they've ever had. Their sound is definitely smoother and more R&B influenced these days and is doing something a little more interesting than the rest of their peers. Everything they've produced this year has been dreamy, stylish and a little arty. This track, an unofficial sub-unit formed by Minhyun and JR on the latest album, is exactly that, dreamy and stylish. It was hard to just pick just one song but this is the one I had on repeat. Plus, the boys look especially gorgeous in this video.



16. MINO "Body"

If we're talking looking gorgeous, WINNER's Mino's solo track, "Body"(as part of his sub-unit releases with IKON's Bobby) deserves a mention. The song is sexy, the video is sexy and he looks seriously good in it.



17. Kwon Jinah "The End"

I love Kwon Jinah. Her whole album is fantastic from beginning to (excuse the pun) end but this song really stands out. Plus, I'm pretty damn proud that I was able to understand all of the dialogue in the video.



18. J-Min "Ready For Your Love"

Another fantastic track from a female soloist was J-Min's criminally underrated "Ready For Your Love". Not only is the song great but the video is stunning. I played this on a loop when it first came out.



19. NCT U "The 7th Sense"

One of the best debut tracks of the year has to be NCT U's "The 7th Sense". Dreamy, vaguely futuristic and impossibly cool, it was a strong introduction to SM's ambitious new boygroup that has 50 members who will be introduced to the public in sub-units that explore different genres, concepts and audiences across the globe, rather than perform as a whole. There were various NCT releases this year but this is my favourite, by far.



20. Loude "Tonight without You (1:00 AM)"

By comparison to every other group on this list, these guys are tiny. And, yet, I somehow stumbled upon them and fell in love. Clearly inspired by indie and dance acts from abroad, this is a chill pop-rock track with a funky beat and excellent synth use that is a very pleasant listen.



21. Agust D "Agust D"

When Suga of BTS released his mixtape, I wasn't particularly interested. In general, K-pop groups rappers' mixtapes aren't all that interesting to me but this one was different. Like Rap Monster before him, Suga proved that BTS is on a different level than most other groups. This mixtape is fantastic and the opening track, "Agust D", that introduces us to Suga's solo alterego, Agust D (Suga backwards + D for Daegu, where he is from) is killer. With their skyrocketing fame and Suga's personal demons informing the tracks and a brutal honesty that is refreshing in the poster perfect world of K-pop, this mixtape goes hard in the best possible way.



22. Yong Junhyung "After This Moment"

Another solo release from a K-pop rapper, this one comes from Beast's Junhyung and has a killer hook. This is one of my most-played tracks of the entire year. No video came out to accompany it, so I don't think it was crazily well-publicised. I imagine many people missed it but it's worth checking out.



23. ZICO "I am you, you are me"

Everything Zico touches turns to gold and he's been involved in a lot of great musical ventures in 2016 but this track from the beginning of the year is my favourite. The groovy rhythm, aesthetics of the video and styling are all right up my alley.



24. Jeong Jinwoon "Will (Feat. Tiger JK)"

With his move from JYP to Mystic, Jinwoon obviously got the opportunity to pursue the music he is really passionate about. Clearly, his love for rock needed to be explored after years in a ballad group and, while this debut was deemed a failure during subsequent television appearances, I really liked it. I think the styling and stylised atmosphere of the video and song are awesome. Plus, I love the Jarvis Cocker vibes.



25. BIGBANG "(FXXK IT)"

Even though this was just released, it has to be one of the best tracks of the year. BIGBANG are K-pop royalty, on a whole different level than everyone else. While I fuck with this a little less than last year's releases, it's still a fantastic song. It's just a damn shame that T.O.P. has to enlist in the new year and that other members are sure to follow shortly thereafter.



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Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas At Lush 2016

Only a few days left before Christmas and I thought my festive posts wouldn't be complete for the year without a trip to Lush. I mean, every year, without fail, I get several gifts for my loved ones in Lush.

It's a perfect one-stop place for multiple people on your list. There are nice-smelling things, pampery things, specific skincare and haircare concern products and fun frivolous gifts that are all cruelty-free, cute and eco-friendly.

The specific gift-sets, as per, are gorgeous with products and packaging that suit lots of different needs, tastes, price-points and age groups and this is also one of the areas where there is the most change from last year. Lush products tend to become iconic and get repeated each year so there aren't that many new festive launches among most of the stock. The gift-sets, however, tend to be reimagined year to year. Plus, the great thing about these is that a lot of them don't need to be wrapped and the wrapping that they have used is recycled and gorgeous!

One of my favourites this year has to be the Santa in Space gift-set (£29.95). The packaging is adorable; a tin lunchbox with a cute illustration of a Santa in space on it. Inside, the products included are great and all, unsurprisingly, space themed. You get a Big Bang bubble bar (one of my favourites), an Intergalactic bath bomb, a Northern Lights bath bomb, a Twilight shower gel and a Santa fun. It's a solid gift, with lots in it and I imagine would be welcome under many a Christmas tree.

The Secret Garden gift-set (£37.95), meanwhile, is a really beautiful option that has vintage-inspired packaging and looks as if it has been plucked directly out of Little Women or a Victorian Christmas card. It's a little pricier but there is a lot in it. You get a Serendipity soap, and Igloo soap, a Rub Rub Rub body scrub bar, Ro's Argan Body Conditioner, a Charity Pot body lotion (yay for a bonus charitable donation!) and a Rose Jam Shower gel. This kit really is perfect for anyone in need of pampering and some TLC and is packed full of favourites.

Of the wintery bath bombs and bubble bars, there are many to choose from but my favourites are the Snowie (it's a Bowie snowman, what's not to like?) bubble bar, the adorable Christmas Penguin bubble bar and the awesome Santasaurus bubble bar. These aren't necessarily the best smelling bubble bars I've ever tried in the store but they look cool and would make cute gifts or stocking fillers, particularly for Bowie, penguin or dinosaur fans.

The last item I'm going to single out is the Mask of Magnaminty. Now, this is neither a new or festive product but I think it makes a great gift for a parent, along with the promise of a pampering session. A lot of parents don't take proper care of themselves, particularly around this time of year, and I like to do a five step facial routine and arm massage for my parents when I'm home for a weekend. It makes them relax and look rejuvenated, it gives us time to bond and me time to take care of them, and it's a nice way to try and pay them back for everything they've done for me. I highly recommend this as a gift idea or as part of a larger gift - they'll really appreciate it!

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Thursday, 15 December 2016

Lennon Courtney Christmas Collection

Disgracefully, I'm only posting this now when I went to the show about two weeks ago...I know it's awfully delayed and I could make excuses and say I've been busy (which I have been) but, really, the main reason behind said delay is that I was being lazy. It's that simple really.

Anyhoo...a couple of weeks ago, the bestie and I went to see a presentation of the Lennon Courtney Christmas collection in the incredibly luxe St Stephen's Green Dunnes store. Sonya and Brendan were on hand, as the crowd sipped mulled wine, to talk us through the collection. Like their brand in general, it is made up of classic pieces that are luxurious and desirable but timeless and not overly trendy.

There is a big emphasis on pieces that can be worn in a vast multitude of ways and I really like this kind of thinking. I got to chat to Sonya recently about her thoughts on clothes and consumption and she's all about buying less and wearing it more, investing in the everyday and representing your own style all the time, rather than wasting huge sums on one-off dresses and spending the majority of our lives in work clothes we don't really like.

Tailoring is always key with Lennon Courtney and, as a result, the collection presented chic wide-legged pants, slick slim-fit trousers and a killer jumpsuit. Separates are also important and there were lots of luxe tees and cute tops that could be taken right from work into a night out. Similarly, multi-functionality and wearabilty featured across the collection from the bonded wine-toned ball gown that could have it's straps removed or be layer over tees and turtleneck sweaters to the black top with organza sleeves that could be a chic 3/4 length or rolled up to make puffy statement sleeves.

However, the absolute killer piece in the whole collection, for me, has to be the striped suede orange and blue heeled ankle boots that pay homage to the Ziggy Stardust era of David Bowie. These are truly some of the sexiest boots I've ever seen.

The collection is available online and in selected stores, though it may be sold out in some branches. Dunnes are really helpful when it comes to tracking down pieces, where possible, so, if it isn't in store, be sure to ask!

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Sunday, 11 December 2016

The Launch of & Other Stories in Dublin!

I've loved & Other Stories for years now but I've largely had to admire it from afar. The older, cooler sister of H&M and hipper, younger sister of COS, it's a brand that appeals to fashion girls the world over. Its clothes are cool and trendy but not so of the moment that they fall out of fashion immediately. It is home to an awesome (cruelty-free) beauty section that is ever-expanding and offers candles, fragrances, bodycare products and beautiful mid-range makeup. And it does designer collaborations better than most of its peers, choosing to work with cool and edgy brands and stars like Rodarte and Lykke Li.

Up until now, however, I've really only ever been able to enjoy the store on mad-dash visits to the Oxford Street brand between shows at London Fashion Week: always hasty, panicked and at peak times where there is an overwhelmingly large crowd.

This will, happily, no longer be the case. As of Friday at 12pm this week, the first Irish branch of the store opened on Grafton Street and I couldn't be more excited. The street needed fresh blood anyway but you couldn't really ask for much fresher blood than this! The press pre-launch was held the night before and the presence of such a wide spectrum of the Irish fashion crowd would suggest that I am, by no means, the only one who was psyched. It's always interesting to be at such an event where you see pretty much everyone in the industry here gathered in one place - were there time, it'd be the perfect place for people-watching as the range of style was truly fascinating! But it also goes to show how universally loved and acknowledged the brand is.

Fun as the launch was, however, (there was big tubs of Moet on offer - you know it's a ritzy event when real Champagne is cracked out) I can't wait to go back on a quieter day. It was so packed that I could barely get around. I can say, from the scan I did that night, that it is the place to go for beauty, elegant outerwear, party shoes, truly gorgeous bags and timeless knitwear - these are the areas where the stock selection for the Dublin branch are definitely the strongest.

If you're shopping for friends or family this Christmas that are cool girls (or aspire to be cool girls), I recommend hitting them up!

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Monday, 5 December 2016

Five Golden Gifts: Best Reads of 2016 + Win A Year's Subscription to Magpie Magazine

For the final day of #FiveGoldenGifts, I thought I would share my favourite books that I read this year and do a wordier giveaway.

One of my aims for this year was to read more and I definitely did, averaging around two books a month. I also promised myself that I would be stricter about largely only giving books as gifts this year and, so, I thought it only fitting to compile a list of books worth gifting.


1. "The Vegetarian" by Han Kang.

Hands down, this is the best book I read this year. It was the Man Booker International Prize 2016 winner and for good reason. I read this on a bright day sitting out in the hot summer sun and I had real chills down my spine. It is tense, terrifying and beautiful all at the same time. It's also incredibly compelling and I felt a delirious need to finish it immediately, even though I was often so anxious about what would happen next that I was afraid to turn the page. I have now given it as a gift to three different people and can't recommend it highly enough. Fair warning, it's quite disturbing but, if you're into that and Gothic vibes, you'll like it. Plus, Deborah Smith's translation of Kang's work retains incredible elegance and poise, while fitting in concepts about the culture and social structure of South Korea neatly for the reader to understand.


2. "Reasons to Stay Alive" by Matt Haig.

While Kang's work made my heart race, Haig's made it break and heal over and over. This work is a honest, charming and touching account of the author's struggle with mental illness and his road to recovery. I bought it with a loved one in mind and was floored by how much it got to me. It is a wonderful balance of witty, funny, informative and heart-felt. Broken into thematic chapters that jump from personal recollections of moments in the author's life to facts about mental illness and wider discussions of society as a whole, you come away from the book feeling warm, fuzzy, a little bit rocked and as if your life has been affirmed. I cried in public several times as I read this and, as with Kang, pretty much finished it in a sitting, though its structure makes it a perfect book to pick up when you have a moment to spare. While I'm sure that many people who suffer from some of the same illnesses as Haig will find value in the book, it is also a thoroughly enjoyable read for everyone and an important one for those of us with such people in our lives that we wish to understand better.


3. "A Court of Mist and Fury" by Sarah J Maas.

Sarah J Maas is one of the most talented writers working in the field of Young Adult fantasy. Her worlds are vast and complete, her prose is fast-paced and compelling and her female protagonists are real, flawed and charming. I loved the first book in this series, "A Court Off Thorns and Roses", which was a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" but this knocked my socks off. The fantasy and adventure and magic was still all there but there was a discussion of relationships and love that was very much reality, and not fantasy, that added something extra to the story. I don't want to say much more as it would likely ruin the first and second books but if you are buying for a fantasy lover that is looking for something a little different, I recommend this series and Maas in general. Plus, if you get into her as an author, she is a serious trooper, working on two series at the same time and churning out at least one high-quality book per year, if not more.


4. "Glass Sword" by Victoria Aveyard.

This is the second novel by an author a year older than me - this fact makes me feel incredibly lazy. However, I did love it, my own self-loathing aside. Another great Young Adult fantasy series, it is seriously action-packed, easy to read and very enjoyable. I don't have quite the same grĂ¡ for it as I do for Maas but it is one of the better novels in this genre that I read this year and I finish each of her works impatient for the next one, thinking, "How can I possibly wait to know what happens next?!"


5.  "Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro.

On the very first day of 2016, I picked this book up from a pile I had bought out of pity at a rather depressing local jumble sale. Sitting in my bed, the curtain pushed back to flood my room with perfect icy white light and several cups of tea on hand, I spent that entire first day reading and devoured this novel. I had seen the movie adaptation years beforehand and knew where my heartstrings were going to be tugged. And yet. And yet and I cried fat ugly tears and closed the book that afternoon feeling hollowed out. This is one of those books that scoops out your insides and leaves you raw and emotional and I adored it. It is simply well-written, beautiful and moving and asks enough of the questions you normally try to avoid, to break through your barriers and leave you open to the experience of the story. It's simply a great work of art.


When I decided to write this post and that I wanted to include it in my guides and giveaways, I wondered what the prize for the day would be. The books I mentioned? A voucher for a book store? Something about either of those options felt off, lacking in some way. And so, I was thinking about good reads, good giveaways, and culture and Magpie Magazine suddenly came to mind.

Magpie is the magazine Ireland's been needing - and I'm not saying that merely because I'm their new Fashion Editor (!). It is smart, funny, beautiful and, most importantly, does not condescend. It talks about the fun and frivolous things - the things I love - but in a slightly more challenging way than other publications might have the opportunity to. It covers culture, food, the arts, current events and a wide range of other topics that affect and matter to Irish women (the primary demographic) and others (we're all for being inclusive). And, much as I love luxe ad campaigns, Magpie's meat is not just endless pages of product placement, but a significant read and stunning photo shoots.

I decided to do a special giveaway. Subscriptions don't strictly exist yet but I'm going to specially and personally send out every issue for the next year (starting in January - my first issue on board!) to one lucky winner!

Read on to learn how to enter and be sure to check out the previous days of Five Golden Gifts! That's it for this year's giveaways. Good luck x


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1. This giveaway is open to residents of Ireland, over 18.
2. The prize is a year's subscription to Magpie Magazine.
3. All you need to do is comment below here or on Facebook with who you'd give it to - or if you want it for yourself! However, you must be following me on at least one platform (FacebookInstagramTwitter, Google Friend Connect, Bloglovin'Tumblr), let me know which one in the comment if it's not obvious!
4. Competition closes a week from now on the 12th of December 2016 at midnight Irish time.
5. Winners will be chosen at random.
6. I will then comment below the winner's comment and ask you to email my official blog email address.


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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Five Golden Gifts: Best of Beauty 2016 + Win A Viviscal Giftset

For today's post, I've compiled a list of the beauty products that impressed me most this year, which would all make great gifts for beauty lovers!


1. Platinum Fix & Finish Fixing Spray.

This is something I've only had for a few weeks but I love it. The fact that it is a spray with decent hold that isn't an aerosol is amazing. Plus, you get quite a lot of bang for your buck as each bottle is relatively slim but has a lot of product in it. A couple spritzes as I brush my hair after showering is enough to ensure that it air-dries smooth and neatly. It's basically the perfect product for someone lazy, like me, who doesn't really style their hair on a regular basis but also suffers from fly-aways and hair with a mind of its own but would also be great for someone who is really into styling their hair. It doesn't hurt that is smells really nice too - basically like you just walked out of a salon a few minutes beforehand. The whole Platinum line is great and I've heard the hair mask is magic at revitalising and giving life back to dull hair.


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2. Urban Decay's Naked Ultimate Basics Palette (RRP €47.00),

The latest in the Naked family, this palette has been incredibly well received and 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 Basics 2. 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. It has become the palette that I reach for every time I do my makeup, blends like a dream and is all filler - there isn't a single dud among the shades. This is the palette to buy this Christmas.


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3. Primark Makeup Brushes.

The Primark makeup brush line was reinvented and relaunched last year. I was immediately impressed by their quality and can safely say that they compete with much more expensive brushes. The even made it on to my Best of Beauty last year but I had to include them again this year. The eyeshadow brush that I consistently reach for is my Primark one and they have replaced a lot of my old favourites. This year, for Christmas, Primark have released a gift set of some of the most popular and key brushes in the collection that retails for just seven euro. It's a great bargain and a perfect gift for people with a smaller budget, as a Secret Santa gift or as a stocking filler.


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4. Youngblood's Brow Artiste (RRP €37.50).

One of their Hero Products, this is one of the better brow kits on the market. The packaging is sleek and sturdy and is slim and compact enough to travel well. It is also big enough, however, that the mirror in the lid is one I would actually use. Normally, mirrors in compacts are so irritatingly small that I never use them but I found myself using this one. Similarly, brushes and tools in kits are usually crap but the double-ended corkscrew and angled brush has a slightly longer handle and is quite handy, as is the little tweezers. The colours of the powders, meanwhile, are perfect for building up a natural or a more stylised brow. This is now the only brow product that I use bar a clear gel that is needed to tame my crazy brow hairs. I can't recommend it highly enough for brow obsessives and the average makeup lover alike.


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5. Viviscal's Densifying Range.

Viviscal changed my hair forever. After I took a 6 month course of the Viviscal supplements and hair growth serum, I happened to start going back to the hairdresser in my hometown, where I had had my hair cut for years, and they noticed that I had gone from having rather fine hair to healthy, thick hair. This year, they launched a new "Densifying" range that consists of a shampoo (RRP €11.95), conditioner (RRP €11.95) and elixir (RRP €24.95). I got to try the line out a while ago and didn't realise how much I really loved it until I had another batch sent out to me again last week. I love how they all smell - kind of spicy but in a good way - and my hair is incredibly silky and well-behaved. I haven't had to deal with fly-aways or frizz since I began using them. The best endorsement for the brand, however, has to be the fact that Debbie Harry is a big fan - if it's good enough for Blondie, it's bound to make for a good gift.

Which is why I picked them as the beauty giveaway this year. I have a set with the supplements, shampoo, conditioner and elixir to give away and, to be honest, I wish I could keep it for myself to have some spares ready for the (horrible) moment I run out! Read on to find out how to enter and win and be sure to return tomorrow for this year's final giveaway!


1. This giveaway is open to residents of Ireland, over 18.
2. The prize is a Viviscal giftset featuring supplements, a shampoo, conditioner and elixir.
3. All you need to do is comment below here or on Facebook with who you'd give it to - or if you want it for yourself! However, you must be following me on at least one platform (FacebookInstagramTwitter, Google Friend Connect, Bloglovin'Tumblr), let me know which one in the comment if it's not obvious!
4. Competition closes a week from now on the 11th of December 2016 at midnight Irish time.
5. Winners will be chosen at random.
6. I will then comment below the winner's comment and ask you to email my official blog email address.


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Saturday, 3 December 2016

Five Golden Gifts: The Gift of Choice + Win A €50 Penneys Voucher

We all have one of those people in our lives, right? Someone who is impossible to buy a gift for. Someone who doesn't really want anything. Someone who has very particular tastes. My dad, for example, really doesn't want much and doesn't have any hobbies that are easy to buy appropriate gifts for. Choosing a gift for him can be very, very stressful.

I'm sure you, too, have a person like this in your lives. So, I'm going to suggest a gift that isn't particularly original and isn't something many like to give: a voucher.

I know, I know. It seems incredibly impersonal or lazy. However, in reality, you're giving someone the freedom of choice to get something they really want or need, rather than giving them one more thing to add to the big pile of unnecessary stuff we all have in our lives. This isn't to bash other gifts, of course, I'm merely saying that, if you're stuck, it's really not the worst gift in the world.

And, if you're worried about seeming cold and impersonal, you could always pop it inside a handmade card or accompany it with a silly little present that references an in-joke.

There's such a wide range of possibilities to choose from with vouchers, too: You could get a voucher from an airline if the person has been talking about wanting to go to a particular place for ages; a voucher for iTunes or a ticket seller like Ticketmaster, if the person loves music; a voucher for a spa to allow them unwind after a long and rather eventful year (Jesus); a voucher for that restaurant you've been both meaning to try; or you could even get them a voucher for their favourite store...

...which leads me to today's giveaway, a €50 voucher for one of Ireland's favourite retailers, Penneys! Read on to learn how to enter to win this prize and make sure to come back over the next couple of days for more gift ideas and giveaways!


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1. This giveaway is open to residents of Ireland, over 18.
2. The prize is a voucher for Penneys and is worth €50.00. 
3. All you need to do is comment below here or on Facebook with who you'd give it to - or if you want it for yourself! However, you must be following me on at least one platform (FacebookInstagramTwitter, Google Friend Connect, Bloglovin'Tumblr), let me know which one in the comment if it's not obvious!
4. Competition closes a week from now on the 10th of December 2016 at midnight Irish time.
5. Winners will be chosen at random.
6. I will then comment below the winner's comment and ask you to email my official blog email address.


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Friday, 2 December 2016

Five Golden Gifts: The Gift of Sentiment + Win A Limited Edition Alex & Ani Bracelet

Jewellery is not a unique gift idea, I am aware. However, I do think that it can be a really powerful gift if thought is put into it. It is something that the person receiving it will likely keep and wear frequently for the rest of their lives. There is also something in the fact that they wear it, keep it against their skin, carry it around, that makes it a really intimate gift. If you give them the right piece, you are essentially giving them your feelings and allowing them to hold your sentiments close.

I'm not personally a big jewellery wearer, I don't really like the sensation of it against my skin, but there are many pieces that I have received over the years and hold very dear: the lovely silver pendant my mother gave me for my 16th birthday, the gold bangle with my name inscribed on it that my godmother gave me when I was born, the gold locket my mother gave me on my Confirmation day.

And some of the gifts that I have given and have most proud of have been pieces of jewellery such as one of my best friends' Christmas present last year. We were going to be separated for a year while she went to work in Hong Kong so I bought her a simple heart-shaped necklace and had in engraved with a message. Small and simple, it could be easily brought and packed, easily worn and could stay with her as a constant reminder that, even if she felt very homesick, I was with her and missing her too.

In my personal opinion, it is not the most expensive jewellery that makes for the best gifts, it's the pieces with the most heartfelt messages attached. So, how do you figure out how to tug on the heartstrings in the right way? I've compiled a list of questions to help you come up with a theme for the piece and then your understanding of your own budget, the tastes of the person in mind and practical considerations (such as whether they have their ears pierced, have active lives that make wearing long or dangling pieces difficult, dislike wearing certain types of jewellery etc) will help narrow down the potential list of candidates.

1. Do you have pet names for each other?
(For example, even if you just happen to call the person "dear" a lot, you could buy something with a deer on it.)

2. Do you have a memory of a moment together that you hold particularly dear?
(That one time you had too much wine and ended up staying up all night talking? Bonding over a mutual love for Bowie when you first met?)

3. Do you have an in-joke that no one else knows about?

4. Is you the person a mega-fan of any brands?
(Particularly luxury brands. Chanel offers some costume jewellery pieces that are, by no means, inexpensive but are much more affordable than anything else from the label. If someone loves a particular brand, just seeing the box will make their face light up with joy.)

5. Did you meet somewhere specific? Have you ever gone on a trip together that changed your relationship? Have you been dreaming of going somewhere together?

Which brings me on to today's giveaway. It's a piece from Alex & Ani's Liberty Copper Collection, available in Ireland from the Kilkenny Design Centre. I talked about this collection upon its launch and it is a very limited line of jewellery that features recycled copper from one of New York's most famous landmarks; the Statue of Liberty. It is, therefore, the perfect gift for someone you share important memories of New York with or plan to travel there with. It would even be a great little gift to announce to someone that you are bringing them to New York as the main gift!

If you want to win this piece, just read on and be sure to come back over the next few days for more amazing prizes!


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1. This giveaway is, sadly, only open to entrants located in Ireland, who are over 18 years of age.
2. The prize is one Kindred Cord bracelet from the Alex & Ani Liberty Copper Collection.
3. All you need to do is comment below here or on Facebook with who you'd give it to - or if you want it for yourself! However, you must be following me on at least one platform (FacebookInstagramTwitter, Google Friend Connect, Bloglovin'Tumblr). Let me know which one in the comment if it's not obvious!
4. Competition closes a week from now on the 9th of December 2016 at midnight Irish time.
5. Winners will be chosen at random.
6. I will then comment below the winner's comment and ask you to email my official blog email address.


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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Five Golden Gifts: The Gift of Time + Win Afternoon Tea For Two At The Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin

Last year, instead of doing the typical gift guides that I had done in the past, I did the 12 Days of Giftmas. This was 12 days where I wrote a post each day on a different brand, store or specific type of gift and did a giveaway to accompany each post.

I loved the result but the whole process nearly killed me. Between communicating with the brands in advance of the giveaway, posting each day (without pause), promoting the post, monitoring the entries, doing the draws, contacting the winners and arranging prizes to be sent out, I was stressed and exhausted. This year, I've already been crazily busy between the day job, trying to have a life, the blog, another big side project (see day five this year), travelling more and going back to college for an evening course in a new language. I couldn't figure out how I was going to make time for the 12 Days this year but I didn't want to not do it either. I like giving something back to people who keep returning to this blog, even if it's nothing very big or impressive, and I didn't want to skip out on that.

After stressing about it for a while, my best friend just said, "Why don't you make it 'Five Golden Gifts'?"

Which is what I decided to do. Never fear, however. There may be less giveaways this year but they are bigger and better than before and I'm really happy with them. I also really like the gift ideas that I'm putting forward this year as they really reflect how I feel about gifting, in general, and the way I plan on giving gifts myself.

The first of these gifts, and the one I believe in most, is the gift of time.

We are all so busy and spend so much time running around like idiots that it is easy to turn into a recluse and just bail on everything in favour of our pyjamas and preferred streaming sites. As a result, we often don't spend as much quality time with the important people in our lives as we should or would like to.

For me, one of the best gifts to receive is a concert ticket or a trip or meal in a restaurant. Preferably, it is one-on-one with someone and we have the chance to spend time together and talk beyond merely catching up. I have way too much stuff in my life as it is, I don't need more things but I could always do with more time with the people I love. Most of all, this gift isn't just about monetary value, it is somebody setting aside time to focus on you and you alone. Money can't buy that.

So, my first gift idea is a voucher. Not just a voucher for a shop (not that there's anything wrong with that) but one that comes with an additional gift; the promise that you'll spend some quality time together.

The 5 Star Fitzwilliam Hotel on St Stephen's Green in Dublin coming swooping in this festive season with vouchers that are perfect for this. There is quite a range of vouchers to choose from with options for all sorts of pairings, groups and price points. Whether you want to bring your dad to dinner, go on a spa weekend with your bestie, take your granny on a shopping trip, have a romantic staycation with a partner or go for afternoon tea with your mammy, there is something for everyone.

You can personalise the message on each of the vouchers and design them according to your taste and then have them posted to yourself or the person in question or, even, have them e-mailed for the environmentally conscious giftee. We've teamed up to give away a voucher for afternoon tea for two but you can browse the other voucher options here, with prices starting at just €25.00.

I had the opportunity to try out the afternoon tea a few months ago with one of my closest friends and it actually opened the door to a really lovely day where we ended up spending a good fifteen hours straight together. It was probably one of the nicest days I had with a friend all year. Afternoon tea itself took two or three hours, as we were really relaxed and taking our time, and consisted of delicious sweet and savory snacks, good tea (so hard to find) from a wide selection and cocktails. The environment was decidedly unhurried and perfect for chatting at length. The staff at the Fitzwilliam were incredibly accommodating and informed, explaining what everything was in detail and making sure we were never short of anything.

As a bit of an afternoon tea aficionado, I can confidently say that it was one of the better experiences I've had and I can't recommend it enough. If you want to try it yourself and give the gift of your time and a lovely afternoon to someone you lovely, just read on to find out how to enter. And be sure to come back for the next four days for some more amazing gift ideas and prizes!

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1. This giveaway is open to anyone, over 18, who can be in Ireland to use the voucher.
2. The prize is a voucher for Afternoon Tea for Two at the Fitzwilliam Hotel, Dublin and is worth €70.00. 
3. All you need to do is comment below here or on Facebook with who you'd give it to - or if you want it for yourself! However, you must be following me on at least one platform (FacebookInstagramTwitter, Google Friend Connect, Bloglovin'Tumblr), let me know which one in the comment if it's not obvious!
4. Competition closes a week from now on the 8th of December 2016 at midnight Irish time.
5. Winners will be chosen at random.
6. I will then comment below the winner's comment and ask you to email my official blog email address.

(Thanks to The Fitzwilliam for providing this amazing prize!)

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