Sunday, 10 December 2017

How To Give Better Gifts + A Giveaway Worth over €150 (ft. Urban Decay, Urban Outfitters, Primark and more)

Giving gifts can be tricky. I know a lot of people who hate it and genuinely buckle under the pressure of it. I've seen it damage relationships.

But that's not how things should be.

Gifting is one of my great joys in life. I love spending time, thinking and focusing on people I care about, one by one, and trying to find something that they will love. I don't always spend a lot of money and I don't always buy something at all. Hell, I don't even always get it entirely right but I do think that my gifts, generally, show people that I know them well and that I really thought about and considered them.

As so many struggle with finding the right thing, I thought I'd share some of my tips for getting better gifts, rather than giving specific gift ideas that might not apply at all.

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1. Think about the person

I know, I know. This seems so obvious, right? But I don't mean think about them like: "Oh, she's a woman. All women like perfume, right?" (NOTE: Perfume/cologne is never a good idea unless you know the person's favourite scent) or "He likes Star Wars, I'll buy him this Chewbacca mug" (NOTE II: If someone is really a fanatic and they don't have a house full of mugs, this is, actually, a good idea. See below for more discussion on these two examples).

When I say "think about them", I mean think about conversations you've had. Think about things they've said they really wanted or things they keep meaning to get for themselves or little indulgences they can't justify. For example, my friend once bought me a fancy candle for my birthday and I was really touched by it. He'd been around when his girlfriend (my BFF) and I had been discussing our love for the candles and how we couldn't buy them regularly because they were too damn expensive and, when he was buying her one as a treat, he picked one up for me as well. Similarly, I've been talking about buying a hair curler for years, but never got around to it. This year, my sister bought me one for my birthday as a surprise and I was genuinely delighted when I opened it.


2. Do some recon

If you can't think of anything from conversations you've had, can't remember any childhood game they've mentioned or book they keep saying they want to read, go find out. Subtly probe for info or merely pay more attention when you hang out. Or ask people close to them who might know. I always check in with the aforementioned friend when buying for my bestie to make sure she doesn't have things or isn't getting them from someone else. Make use of your sources!


3. Practical gifts aren't boring

Remember the example about the perfume? It's a dangerous gift if you don't know what the person likes but, if you happen to know their favourite one and that they might be running out soon, it is a super useful and thoughtful gift! Similarly, if someone has been complaining that someone in work nicked their mug and you know that they love Chewie, get them that mug!

Practical gifts aren't boring. It is so nice to receive a pricey skincare item that you always repurchase or a new kettle if yours is dying slowly. It means the person pays attention to you, your life and woes, and it saves you having to do it! However, know your audience. You don't want to be one of those cliches that gives someone a vacuum and ends up out on their arse outside on Christmas day. Conversely, if someone has always wanted a Dyson (pricey feckers) and loves to vacuum, it might be the perfect gift. It always depends on the person!


4. Time is the best gift

I always say that getting things isn't always necessary. A voucher to go to the spa together or afternoon tea or the cinema or a gig is a lovely gift. It can be customised to their interests - if they're a foodie, have been dying for the release of a new film, love a band, need a day to relax etc - and it ensures that you get one-on-one, quality time together. Basically, it's two gifts in one!


5. Be sincere (+ always accompany gifts with hand-written notes)

Some of the best things that I have given and received have been the notes that came with things (extra points if they're handmade as well as handwritten). Loving words mean a lot and can be things of great comfort to have around for lonely nights or hard days. Shiny baubles don't do the same for us.

If you're really trying your best, that comes across to most people. Just really consider the person that you are giving a gift to, try and get them something they'd really like, and you'll be alright. It doesn't have to be big or expensive. Wrap it nicely, accompany it with heartfelt words and tell them that they matter to you...


Speaking of which, you guys really matter to me! And I wanted to do a giveaway to thank y'all for reading my stuff throughout the year. Normally, I do "12 Days of Giftmas" or "5 Golden Gifts" with multiple giveaways but my November this year was crazy and those things involve a lot of work. I usually liaise with brands for weeks and weeks and email back and forth loads in advance to organise it. And then there's the photographing, writing and promoting each of those posts and the running and regulating of each of the giveaways. I'm sorry for not being organised enough to do all of that this year but I didn't want to do nothing either. So, instead, I have this one giveaway but it's a good 'un!


Worth over €150, it includes:
A €50 Primark Voucher
A Clarins Beautiful Lip Essentials Gift Set
A Madison Makeup Contour Palette
An Urban Outfitters baseball cap (similar here)
An Urban Decay All Nighter Long Lasting Makeup Setting Spray
A Pixi Hydrating Milky Mist
A Sleek Brow Kit (in the shade Light)
A Flormar Long Wearing Lipgloss (in the shade Backstage)
A mini Sumita Eye-liner Pencil (in the shade Black)
A pair of Pieces faux pearl stud earrings
A pair of Kurt Cobain style oval sunglasses (similar here)
A travel-size bottle of Oil Arganic dry oil from Tan Organic


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To win all of this, simply leave a comment on any of the social media posts promoting this article (Instagram & Facebook) before the 24th of December 2017. The winner will be chosen at random and notified on the 25th of December 2017 and the prize will be sent out shortly thereafter. Sadly, this is giveaway will only open to readers based in mind, so keep this in mind before entering. Good luck and happy holidays!

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Thursday, 30 November 2017

Recent Beauty Revelations: Excellent Makeup And Skincare Products From re:p, 3CE, Eminence and more...

In recent months, I have tried less new products than I used to. I grew wearisome of changing up my skincare routine and worried it was not for the better so I stuck, largely, to old favourites and, as for makeup, I've largely forgone all eye products (shadows, liners and mascara) except for the dressiest of occasions. As a result, I haven't discovered lots of new things but the products that I have deigned to try have largely been successes. I went into using many of these items, expecting to love them and they proved me right. Firm new favourites have been acquired. Serious discoveries. And here they blow.

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Eminence's Blueberry Soy Exfoliating Cleanser

A few months back, I was contacted by the PR team that represents Eminence in Ireland and the Anne McDevitt Laser & Skin Clinic and sent this product. Interested in it and the clinic, I reached back out to them and interviewed one of their skincare experts to ask some important questions about taking care of your skin and common misconceptions about it. At the time, I had only been using this cleanser for a few days but was already in love and now, having finished it and having nearly cried when I realised that I had finished it, I can say that it was true love, indeed. First of all, it smells like the yogurts I are as a kid and doesn't taste half bad either. Not that I was snacking on it but, unavoidably, when washing my face with it, some got in my mouth. When I joked about it tasting good to the girls at the clinic, they laughed and agreed and said that it is a bonus that it is natural enough not to do you any harm if accidentally ingested.

This is an exceptionally gentle but effective cleanser. The overall texture of my skin vastly improved while using it and I'm really missing it now. Once I use my current exfoliator, I'm going right back to it. While this, alone, (the effectiveness) sells the product, I have to say that the pump packaging is an added bonus that makes it easy and sanitary to use and was just the cherry on top of an excellent product.

re:p Organic Cotton Treatment Toning Pad

Speaking of handy, this toner is exactly that. It comes in single-use pad form and is easily swiped across the face. No prepping a cotton pad yourself with a bottle of toner, just grab one and you're a-go! When you have many steps in a skincare routine, as I do, these few saved seconds really matter, though they may seem unimportant.

While this isn't the cheapest toner in the world (it varies where you buy it but it'll set you back around 40 quid), it is great at getting rid of that tightness after cleansing really, really quickly. Plus, my skin has always reacted happily to it, even when the heating started to be turned on in Autumn and the skin on my eyelids got really sensitive for a while, as always happens. Additionally, it is one of the few cruelty-free skincare brands, which means it is now one of my few avenues to get that advanced South Korean skincare tech!

The Sumita Centre Stage Mascara and Eye Pencil

Sumita launched a while ago but, as I mentioned, I wear eye makeup very infequently these days so I never dug into the samples I was given at the party. That is, until around a month ago, and I was really pleasantly surprised. The launch featured a topless dude painted gold and the mascara is one of those kinds with fibres so I didn't think we were going to mesh, aesthetically or spiritually. However, I shouldn't have judged a book by its cover as the products are not as basic and not me as I had assumed. The mascara actually can be used for a really pretty, fluttery, subtle effect. No doubt, you could build it into something more dramatic and ostentatious but, as is, it is merely pretty. It's exactly what I, personally, want from mascara. Apparently, it has a growth serum in it, too, but I don't use it on a daily basis so I can't report on that!

The eye pencil, meanwhile, is the first I've used in ages and I was blown away by how soft and creamy it is! It blends like a dream, is easy to work with and doesn't skip or drag over the eyelid at all. It's pretty much converted me back from pen liners.

Bottega Verde's Rossetto Liquido Tenuta Estrema in Red Kiss

Speaking of blending like a dream, this liquid lip from Bottega Verde does just that! Bought on my family holiday to Tuscany in September, it has been a firm favourite since and pretty much the only thing I use on my lips now. Applied directly, it is a vampy true red shade and applied and blended out as a gradient lip, it is a pretty rosy shade. I'm obsessed.

3CE x Maison Kitsune Blush in Ginger Pink 

And speaking of obsessed, if that Bottega Verde lipstick has been my one and only go-to lip product, this is my truest blush love. I've been unfailingly loyal since I got my hands on it. Again, a rare cruelty-free South Korean brand and a stunning collab, this was a must for me because of the shade: basically, the pretty pink colour that kids' faces turn after they run around outside. It's beyond pretty and exactly what I had been looking for for months.

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The starred products were given to me as press samples. However, I was not paid to review them and all opinions are my own.


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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Primark SS18 - 90s Mickey Mouse Club Meets Uber-Cool Asian Streetstyle

A couple weeks ago, I woke to a frosty Monday morning. Although delayed, the cold had finally descended and I finally had to start wearing jumpers and closing my window at night. Funnily enough, it was that same day that Primark was having their SS18 press day and I walked from the cold outside into a brightly-coloured, very summery, DJ'ed lunchtime showing (with my favourite blogging pal, Emma of Ol' Green Eyes - so nice to have an event wingwoman on the reg now!).

Interestingly, I noticed, quite quickly, that their summer trends included some rather autumnal shades and plenty of jumpers and coats. The latter makes sense for dressing for Irish summers but the former reflects something I have noticed of late. Florals abound this AW and, while that over-used The Devil Wears Prada quote laments about how florals for Spring is nothing new, the predominance of them for the colder months is unusual. It seems that, as with this embracing of a pattern type so deeply associated with one season during another, this use of shades normally relegated to Autumn during SS18 reflects a desire to mix things up and question fashion "rules". In a fashion climate where "good taste" is often up for debate, this minor breaking of rules seems like a natural trickle-down progression and I, for one, rather like it.

The collection presented five different trends; Club Mix, Castaway, Mono Remix, Asian Wonderland and Midnight Cowboy. Club Mix is a 90s inspired selection of cutesy, brightly coloured pieces that look alot like what I would have been dressed in as a kid and what you would have seen on the Mickey Mouse Club.

Castaway, meanwhile, takes its influence from nautical sources with cute rope details, stripes, frayed edges and more and presents a cute yet rather sophisticated take on those marine looks that often reappear around that time of year. These are the pieces that look far more expensive than they are.

Mono Remix presents monochromatic 80s power-dressing and a continuation of those glamorous looks that we've been seeing all over as of late.

Asian Wonderland finally names an influence I've been remarking on at the Primark events for seasons now: Asian Streetstyle. Cool and funky, this was the rail that Emma labelled as the "Colette rail" and I couldn't agree more. Think cool Miu Miu-esque slides, cross-body bags, little check skirts, primary colours, ribbon details and a mix of pretty and streetwear vibes: i.e. perfection in a rail.

With Midnight Cowboy, it is another case of being exactly what it says on the tin: fringing, denim, cowboy shirts and more mixed with mismatched florals, oversized sleeves and a delicate dance between masculine and feminine.

Primark presented a more edited version of things this time around with great attention paid to more luxurious accessories and the stories behind the trends. As a result, the vision we got for their SS18 is clear and very cool. Best of all, you won't even have to wait that long as pieces begin to drop from December through to April. Right now I'm enjoying playing with layers but it looks like next season is going to be fun too.

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

A-Z of Beauty: Acids

Acids: everyone seems to be talking about them and skincare brands are churning them out faster than ever but what are they, what are they for and are they as scary as they sound?

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In fact, you're probably more familiar with acids in skincare than you are even aware of. They are often key ingredients in targeting specific purposes and issues in one's skincare routine; like Salicylic Acid, which is used in treating breakouts and, most likely, serves as a throwback to one's teen years. The reason only certain acids ring familiar is that the likes of acne-prone teens often have to consult medical professionals in order to deal with their skin concerns and they are usually prescribed more medical and scientific-sounding products. They're not adults with their own expendable income, looking to better themselves in a general sense but people dependent on parents and doctors to find products that will really work and target a specific issue. Until recently, these same buzzwords were not sold to adults in the same way. Instead, a lifestyle, a sense of luxury or the overall product was the sales pitch.

Now, however, as more people become more educated about skincare and information becomes more readily available, customers are a little more savvy and a lot more interested in more scientific-sounding products. They are no longer unsexy and unappealing but, rather, potential secret ingredients that promise to really fix everything and make us baby-soft and blemishless again.

So, who are these acids and what do they want from us what can they do for us?

Salicylic Acid

Starting with our old pal, Salicylic acid, this is an acid that has many benefits including being anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-acne, and exfoliating. It comes in all sorts of forms - from face washes to treatment creams to peels - and is suitable for people with oily and acne prone skin but can also be an option for people with normal/dry skin who have the occasional break out.

Glycolic Acid

Another familiar name is glycolic acid, which really seems to pop up everywhere nowadays, famously in Pixi's line of products. It is an alpha hydroxy acid that is derived from sugarcane and is a very small molecule that gently dissolves dead skin. This makes it a much more gentle option than an exfoliating scrubs (the devil!) and is key in achieving smoother, less textured skin but can also help with lightening dark spots and reducing fine lines.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid, meanwhile, is another exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid but is even gentler and has a moisturising element that makes it more suitable for people with sensitive skin who want the same benefits of glycolic acid but might not react well to it.

Hyaluronic Acid

Even though the name might bring images of burning or removing, acids are not merely used to exfoliate. Hyaluronic acid has become a bit of a buzzword in the serum world lately and this is because it actually binds moisture to the skin. It is humectant, meaning it helps the skin attract and retain moisture, which is why it is a step that is often in addition to your moisturiser, as it tries to permeate the skin further and really moisturise beyond the surface. It really is an invaluable ingredient in your routine, pretty much regardless of your skin type, as a result. Keep in mind, however, that not all hyaluronic acid products are made equal, as explained far better than I ever could by the lovely Liah Yoo in this video.

Ascorbic Acid

For brightening the skin and fighting hyperpigmentation, ascorbic acid - also known as vitamin C - is your pal! It is an antioxidant that reduces fine lines and fights free-radicals and is pretty much suitable to all skin types and desirable to anyone who wants brighter, happier skin, overall.

Retinoic acid

Retinoic acid, often referred to a retinoids, is your new best friend. It can help minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, increase the skin’s thickness and elasticity, slow collagen degradation, reverse sun damage and lighten brown spots caused by sun exposure! Sounds good right? However, if you are using retinoids MAKE SURE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN THE NEXT DAY. You should be doing this, anyway, no matter who you are or how much sun you get (unless it's, literally, none) but while retinoids do great things they can make your skin susceptible to sun damage. Don't avoid them for this reason but be prepared for it.

Of course, no ingredient is actually a magic fix and can't rid you of serious skin damage or deep wrinkles - medical or cosmetic procedures are the only things that can do that and, even then, have their limitations. However, employing acids in your skincare routine in your 20s and 30s will have an incredible effect in the long term.

There are many more acids and many more becoming trendy all the time. This is, in no way, an exhaustive list. However, if you are just getting into skincare and taking it more seriously, this is a good intro to the topic. Good luck on your skincare journey, I know how frustrating and confusing it can be but when you see results, it very much feels worth all that head scratching.

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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Traditional Irish Hallowe'en Barmbrack Recipe With My Mammy! (@fitzwithfood)

I never liked brack growing up. Similarly to Christmas cake, I didn't get why I'd choose a cake with fruit in it. It didn't make sense.

My palate has changed wildly in the last few years, though. I rarely order dessert out and don't crave sweets in the same way anymore. I love spicy food now and I'm always up for trying new things. And, somehow, in the midst of all this, brack slid into my preferences. I can't tell you when or why or how but I suddenly started ordering it over rich, chocolatey cakes whenever it was (rarely) on a menu in a cafe. This year, in particular, I've had a real thing for it and was dismayed at how few places were serving it; it's a staple traditional Autumn food in Ireland!

The options in supermarkets weren't much better: all unwieldy, big, cheap, packaged things with little soul. I wanted something fresh and homemade but it clearly wasn't going to happen. So, I suggested my mother and I finally do our collab and make our own brack (with her invaluable know-how) and show others how to do the same.

Mammy is a wonderful cook and baker, in particular. She always has been but she has only really indulged it in the past year or two, since my siblings graduated and she has had more emotional and physical space to focus on herself. At my encouragement, she started an Instagram profile to record her adventures in food, cooking and baking and it has become a passion project. Seeing her finally do something for herself and something she is so good at and interested in has been a joy and I had been wanting to collaborate beyond tagging her in things for a while now.

This weekend, we finally got to it. Here is our recipe for the perfect, loaf-style barmbrack - a traditional fruit-based Irish cake or sweet bread that is served around Hallowe'en and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. Traditionally, different objects are placed inside and the person who gets a slice with that object would have the corresponding fortune (a pea for those who would not marry that year, a stick for an unhappy marriage, a cloth for poverty or bad luck, a coin for good fortune or wealth and a ring for those who would get married within the year) but we weren't interesting in that (slightly unsanitary) tradition. We were interested in the taste.

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Ingredients:

225g of Self Raising Flour
350g of Dried Fruit Mix
300ml of cold Tea
125g of Golden Caster Sugar
1 Egg, beaten
A good pinch of Mixed Spice



Method:

1. Place a couple of tea bags in a mixing bowl, pour boiling water on top and brew for a few minutes. Then, remove the tea bags and allow the tea to cool.

2. Next, add the fruit mix, cover and leave to soak in the tea over night. Ignore the silly questions from your father and younger brother and tell them to leave the bowl alone. Hopefully, they will comply.

3. The next day, preheat the oven to 170°C. Add the sugar, egg, flour and mixed spice to the bowl with the fruit mix and mix well.

4. Grease and line a cake tin and pour in the mixture.

5. Cook for an hour until risen and firm to the touch. Be sure to listen to your mammy and not open the oven repeatedly throughout, as you are naturally prone to doing. Only check once, about halfway through the hour, if the tops are burning. If so, place some greaseproof paper on top to stop the situation from worsening.

6. Take out of the oven, cool on a wire rack and wait a while, until that cake has fully set and mostly cooled, before cutting. This will be hard as it smells so good. 

7. Serve slathered in Irish butter (don't be shy, worry about your heart later), with a nice cup of tea and don't let the banshee get you!


Thanks to my lovely mammy for helping me out with satisfying my desperate need for a good brack and collabing. It mostly involved us baking all day and laughing, which is the best kind of collab. Give her a follow at @fitzwithfood, it'll make her happy and it'll satisfy your food porn needs for a while.

Happy Hallowe'en, y'all! x


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Monday, 23 October 2017

Love Letters To Dublin: 10 Of The Most Instagrammable Cafés in Dublin

This year, you may have noticed, I've stepped back from the blog a bit. I decided that I wanted to focus more on seeing the people I love or people I want to get to know better and not spend all of my free time at events, where I often feel like a spare part. Don't get me wrong, I've met great people through blogging and events. Events are still often very fun but the process of them can feel soulless, at times.

Instead, I've been penciling in time for my besties, family and people I've always liked that I wanted to get to know better (like Ellie and Emma, of Ol' Green Eyes blog). And to be honest, it's pretty fulfilling.

I've also been setting aside more quality time and breathing room for myself. Moments of calm can be rare, as I hate being idle, but the constant go-go-go of my life can be pretty draining.

One of the easiest and best things to do, whether I'm going on dates with pals, or simply with myself, is to spend time in a café. Dublin doesn't have quite the café culture that has long existed across other parts of Europe - you won't find the same blend of bar and coffeehouse or the long hours. The pub still reigns supreme here and cafés generally don't open past 5pm. However, chains have far from fully taken over and there are plenty of charming and unique little spots across the city.

Ambiance is a big part of why I choose to patronise a place and being "Instagrammable" or aesthetically pleasing is a part of that. While I wouldn't turn down good food for a nice picture, said picture is always a cherry on top and if you're paying inflated prices for tea (because if you don't touch coffee, like me, you at least want to be in nice surroundings, right?

Of course you do! So, here are ten of the most Insta-friendly coffee shops in Dublin.

1. Pot-Bellied Pig, 15 Rathmines Road Upper

You know a place is cute when it is being scouted by magazines as a shoot location: that means it has won out over fancy hotels, manor houses, pretty landscapes or scenic corners of the city. Pot-Bellied Pig is a Pinterest dream, all Millennial pink and cheese plant prints. Their food is pretty excellent too. I've had brunch there twice now - once alone with a good book and a second time with my childhood best friend - and I've since replicated the meals I had, multiple times, at home. I will say that the brunch is a little pricey but if you're hankering for some good food and cute pics, they've got you covered. Oh, and if you want one of their famous blush pink velvet booths, I suggest you bring at least two other people as they've yet to allow me to sit in one. Also oh, be warned: the lighting actually isn't great so getting that perfect shot can be tricky. That booth by the window at the back, with the only decent natural light is my goal one day!

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2. Five Points, 288A Harold's Cross Road

From a cutesy place to a minimal gem, this newest branch of the beloved Five Points café was a wonderful addition to Harold's Cross. Particularly for me, as it is about a five minute walk from my place. Admittedly, I've yet to eat a proper meal there but I do love to pop in on a Sunday afternoon, just before closing and once the brunch crowds have dissipated, and spend an hour reading, catching up on work, doing my Korean homework or just chilling with a pastry and a tea. Bright, airy and devoid of too many tables clustered together (a personal pet peeve), it's the perfect spot to get your daily intake of caffeine and a well-lit shot of it, as well.

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3. Foam, 24 Strand Street Great

Foam, meanwhile, is one of those rare beauties in Dublin. It stays open until 8 and, as a result, it is a regular after work hang-out spot for me. It's also really cool inside: a quirky, colourful, weird mixture of different wallpaper, works of art, mismatched tableware, lamps, couches and tables. There's plenty to see - from the cute to the truly bizarre - and they have a nice selection of cakes, teas, coffees and a full food menu as well. The downstairs is more formal dining and upstairs is a mixture of tables and chairs and sofas, which makes it the perfect spot to curl up and catch up with people.

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4. Oolong Flower Power, 4 Stephens Street Lower

Like Foam, Oolong Flower Power stays open late (until 9 or 10pm each day) and is a perfect spot for tea lovers, with hundreds to choose from. You can also get cakes, lunches and dinners but its the tea that is the big draw for me. While storing it in glass jars isn't great (I'm a bit of a fancy tea snob as I once worked in a high-end tea shop myself), it is great to have that kind of choice; from black to green, herbal to rooibos and all sorts of flavours and varieties of each. Plus, the big windows and marble tables make for some pretty shots.

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5. Ladurée, 1-3 South William Street

Speaking of marble and pretty interiors, one can't help but mention Ladurée. While it is a chain and not unique to Dublin, the café is pretty damn adorable. Their hot chocolate is famous, apparently, and they are one of the few places in Dublin that does Madeleines. You can also grab their own blends of tea (the Marie Antoinette is my fave) and, of course, their iconic macarons, as well as alcoholic beverages (wine and cocktails) and full meals. If you have a pastel theme going on on your profile, it is a must.

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6. Press Café, National Print Museum, Haddington Road

Located in a pretty conservatory filled with mismatched furniture (for that charmingly eclectic touch) and plants, this café boasts a spacious, bright dining space and wonderful menu. Said menu features breakfast, brunch (Saturday and Sunday) and lunch options as well as plenty of drink (including Prosecco and wine) options. I can personally recommend the banana bread French toast but the entirety of the menu looks and sounds truly delicious. Probably one of the better cafés to choose if you're actually eating and plated so prettily it would be a crime not to 'gram it.

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7. Green & Bean, Brown Thomas, Grafton Street

Located in Ireland's premier luxury department store, Brown Thomas, Green & Bean is all So-Cal interiors, excellent Rosé, elegant vibes and an eclectic menu. Some items on the menu are pricey, as one might imagine, but if you pop in for a bit before closing on the late-opening Thursday, it's an excellent place to grab a glass of wine and cake for ultimate relaxation.

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8. Bibi's Café, 14A Emorville Avenue

Family friendly, cute and cosy, Bibi's has a limited menu but serves everything on very photogenic tableware and it's all damn tasty classics. The seats outdoors are a must, weather permitting, as you find yourself sitting out in a sunny spot on a quiet Dublin 8 residential street, tucked far from traffic. If you're catching up with a friend, this is a perfect spot to go uninterrupted and to feel utterly unhurried (though inside can be chaotic with groups and families for brunch at the weekend).

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9. Isabella's, 268 Rathmines Road Lower

Isabella's is both a café and gelateria, which is an excellent combo. This is where you can get the tastiest vegan Chocolate gelato ever, stacks of pancakes, crepes, Belgian waffles, delicious milkshakes (or so I'm told, I'm not a fan), and a decent selection of tea and coffee. Simply decorated in warm wood and pastel tones, you can 'gram an ice-cream cone fully decked out with sweets, sprinkles, etc or a quiet brunch over crosswords and magazines with your wifey (like me).

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10. Two-Fifty Square, Williams Park

Finally, we have the lovely Two-Fifty Square. Tucked down a side-street, located inside a little house, this is seriously cute inside and out. The coffee is raved about, the food is delicious, it is spacious and bright and very cool. Basically, a perfect spot for grabbing coffee with a pal or brunch with a gang. And the food? As photogenic as it is tasty.

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So, now that you have these guys at hand as a list, get out and experience Dublin's own unique café culture!


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Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Season's Must-Have Accessories: A Cheap And Easy Way To Update Your Style

There's something a little different about this AW. Bright colours abound, styling is edgy and cool but preppy pieces are back in a big way thanks to Gucci...It's just a lot of fun ideas. A little like a season for playing dress-up.

A downside, however, is my burning desire for new clothes so I can play along with these cool trends and ideas. I always have to curb my need for new pieces but it's particularly bad right now. And I'm not the only one, it seems. Several friends have admitted that their normal budget and allowances for new clothes have gone right out the window. 

Fear not, though. I've come up with a pretty useful solution: accessories. 

I know, I know. That's not a new idea. Accessories are always a great way to update your look in a more cost-efficient and eco-friendly way but this season, in particular, there are some key items that can completely change and upgrade your wardrobe.

Here are my picks of AW17's must-have accessories.

1. Brooches

A little while ago, I found a couple of brooches that I had gotten in press bags from different jewellery brands. They'd been put away in those same bags for years at this point and I took them out with the intention to give them away, tired of having things I didn't want or wasn't using just lying around and taking up space. 

The truth is, I thought them old-fashioned and fussy until recently and then I realised that I was merely approaching wearing them in an outdated way. Brooches in of themselves aren't old-fashioned. They are actually invaluable this season (particularly pearly ones for that Gucci vibe) and perfect worn on an over-sized mannish blazer to bring a touch of prettiness to it; on a military-style beret to make it softer and more interesting; or pinned to the front of my simple sporty black bum bag when I wear it slung across my chest for a look that's a combination that's a little more compelling and unexpected. Brooches, used correctly, make for modern styling and can make items you already own look more expensive and on trend.

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2.  Pearls

I don't need to say much here. And I know I need to stop talking about Gucci so many times in this one post but, srsly, they've kind of defined the aesthetic that we're seeing everywhere this season and they made pearls happen again. But cooler pearls. More modern pearls. Think pearls where you weren't expecting them - on shoes, pinned to berets etc. - and pearls set in simpler, geometric jewellery, particularly earrings. 

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3. Earrings

I don't buy a lot of jewellery because I simply don't wear it often enough and I have too much as it is. However, I'm having a hard time walking past earring displays atm. There are so many good options; geometric, minimalist, gaudy and gothy, mismatched etc.

Just get some statement earrings and it will totally elevate an otherwise simple outfit; without your having to try too hard. An especially good combo is loosely tied back hair, an over-sized comfy knit, skinnies, ankle boots and a hard-working earring. Mango and Primark, in particular, have some great options at the moment.

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4. Glasses chains on sunglasses

It's already a thing but it's going to be a mainstream thing soon, I certain of it!

Tapping into the re-imagining and restyling of vintage items and trends that we're seeing a lot of, this is something I'm really into and it looks super cool. An easy way to look hipper than you are, without having to do very much.

Pop into any optician and pick up a chain and then add it to some sunglasses, preferably ones with coloured lenses. 

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5. Neckties

Channel your inner Gossip Girl (and Gucci - again, I know!) and invest in a necktie. It works that preppy trend, sure, but paired with clashing prints, it looks really fresh and cool and a lot more expensive than your outfit might actually be. I got this one on ASOS and I'm obsessed. 

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A lot of what is in style this season is a re-imagining of things and can be easily replicated with pieces you probably own already. Just pick up some accessories that are multi-functional, transformative and adaptable like these guys and you won't have to spend an arm and a leg to tap into the coolest things going on in the industry right now!


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Monday, 2 October 2017

Love Letters To Dublin: The National Gallery

There are too many posts that I need and want to write and, yet, here I am. Going off topic. Once again. However, there is a good reason. This is something I've been wanting to do for ages. I wanted to start writing about this city that I adore so much - about her eateries and views and places and people - but I was afraid of going off topic. Of ignoring my "brand".

Well, fuck it. I'm not a brand. I'm a person. And this is my blog.

I'm pretty sure that I've mentioned how much I love Dublin before. I've lived here for eight years now and I fall more deeply in love every time I look at it. But, then, that's the type of lover and person I am. The more I know - good and bad - the more I love. I love the bones of this city. I love its beautiful sides and ugly sides. I love it all: the streets, the trees, the parks, that special soft light that seems unique to it, the magic winter sunsets, the cawing seagulls, the culture and manageable hustle and bustle, the people, the buildings...

I could go on and on but the point is, this series needed to happen. I felt like I was going crazy, waxing lyrical about this place in my mind ad nauseum but keeping it largely inside. Because, the thing is, many of my peers have a complicated relationship with Dublin and my blind devotion can feel alienating. She has her flaws, that I will admit, and it can feel as though I am choking on a lack of opportunities, at times, and, yet. Yet, I still adore her and I felt the need to share the many reasons why. And as I always sound better on paper than in bumbling person, I thought it might be the way to convince those around me to look again, a little closer or better.

Which brings us to the National Gallery. I feel a special kind of ownership of and bond with the gallery, probably more than the average citizen on the street. As I studied Art History at Trinity College, it was not unusual for me to have classes in the actual gallery. We were neighbours and close ones, at that. The kind that take care of your pets when you go abroad. That close. And, then, at the tail end of my Masters, I began working as a guide at the gallery. I had extra access and spent even more time there: at least one day a week. I came to know many of the staff members, with whom I still chat when I visit now, and the works, on a rather personal level. Some became my favourites and I chose runts of the litter to champion and highlight on my tours. Working there made me a better speaker, more professional and confident. It changed me and I loved it all the more for doing so.

The National Gallery of Ireland is one of the most visited galleries in the world and is stuffed with a collection far richer than such a small country might normally boast. Through fascinating incident after happenstance, we came to have an extraordinarily beautiful building and amazing selection of works. As such, the gallery is also crammed full of anecdotes and charming stories. Like the lost Caravaggio (one of the finest works by his hand) that was discovered in Dublin after disappearing for centuries and donated on permanent loan to the gallery, the Vermeer that is just one of 35 in existence and was stolen twice, and Burton's Meeting On The Turret Stairs (a work I once got to have a ten minute one-on-one stare-off with), which has inspired tears and proposals.

Entrance remains free to the public (though this may need to be reconsidered at some point), it has great opening hours (generally 9.15am to 5.30pm but until 8.30 on Thursday and from 11am to 5.30pm on Sunday) and is housed in a recently reopened and refurbished stunning purpose-built 19th century building (with many later additions, including the lovely modern Millennium Wing). Excellent temporary exhibitions are regularly held that further bolster the incredible collection of the gallery and this year alone there have been major showcases of works by Caravaggio and Vermeer. Other events are held constantly to engage, educate, entertain and involve the public from free tours and talks to drawing classes for kids.

However, the best thing about the gallery has to be the atmosphere. The bright, beautiful spaces are a joy to walk through and it is incredibly wonderful to see how interested the public are; especially since the historic wings reopened this year. In fact, I visited the day that it reopened and couldn't get over how people working in the surrounding area all flooded in after they finished for the day. Everyone was so excited about it. And though I hate crowds, the way the rooms are arranged and the mood the space puts people in makes for the least annoying crowds I have ever seen. It's like there is a concentration of good cheer and good manners in the building. The attendants who walk the rooms are a big part of the experience and add to this atmosphere. They love their jobs (by and large), they love the gallery and the works and they are always happy to share information with tourists or strike up conversations with locals. It truly is a space that inspires good will.

When the historic wing reopened and I visited, I nearly cried. I was so overwhelmed by how good a job had been done and how worth the wait it had been. I was overjoyed that it seemed like others had missed it as much as me and that a space that had been part of what made me the woman I am was so full of life and happiness. I felt thankful that I got to grow up there and it felt like I was being reunited with a childhood friend who had grown up had never really changed. It felt like coming home.

If you are visiting Dublin, the National Gallery is a must-see and, without doubt, one of my favourite places in this truly beautiful city.

National Gallery of Ireland
Merrion Square W, Dublin 2
https://www.nationalgallery.ie/
(01) 661 5133

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Sunday, 24 September 2017

AW17 Hair Trends with Viviscal

I've raved about Viviscal a lot in the past. Like, A LOT. I credit it for my naturally fine and thin hair suddenly being labelled as thicc by hairdressers as of a couple years ago. Shortly after this blog became a fashion and beauty blog, Viviscal was one of the first beauty brands I started working with. I began a round of their supplements and (now discontinued) serum and my hair was changed forever.

Viviscal quickly became my favourite haircare brand and I work with them frequently. Recently, I came away from an event with more supplements and they went into my samples pile for later perusal. When a good friend told me that she was having trouble with her hair due to stress caused by a very bad work situation, I immediately offered the supplements to her and she, too, came to swear by the brand. And, so, when I was told I could bring a plus one to their latest event, I instantly asked Kim along. It was a fashion showcase of hairstyles taken from AW17 runway shows and one of the best organised and most elegant events that I've been to in a while. 

We arrived at the beautiful event space upstairs in the Cliff Town House, which was flooded with late evening light streaming through the big Georgian windows and grabbed some very pretty pink gin concoctions. Arriving with someone was a nice change for me as I don't mind flying solo at events (I often do or only pop in and out to fit them into my schedule) but can sometimes spend the whole thing watching the door and waiting for someone I know to arrive, while I stand in a corner, stuffing my face. This time I had a partner in stuffing my face!

Then came the actual show, done by the team at Brown Sugar and lead by their founder, Mark O'Keeffe. It featured looks from the AW17 shows of the likes of Chanel, Balmain, Paul & Joe, Jeremy Scott, Versace, Balenciaga and Prada. All of the looks themselves were actually fairly simplistic. However, the health and shine of the hair, however, were more important and the key to their success. There could be no better brand to present them, therefore, than Viviscal.

One of my personal favourites was the Regal Pony, as had been showcased at JW Anderson and Alexander McQueen. A long, sleek and exceptionally equestrian pony that must be neatly slicked back, the Viviscal Densifying Elixir proves to be an essential in its construction as it is perfect for taming fly-aways and smoothing the hair. Another look that caught my eye was a loose mid-length waves hairstyle, that reflected what was seen at Balenciaga, Prada and Céline, among others. Pretty but casual, it is a look that is all about an easy-breezy appeal that is anything but easy achieve for me but probably not so hard for others - heated tools and I don't hang out very often so I'm not very good with them. But, if you have been using or are going to use heat on your hair, Viviscal supplements and products are really useful for maintaining the strength and health of it. Natural hairstyles dominated runways and the best way to have naturally beautiful hair, is to take care of it. 

I often like products but I rarely swear by them, however, I readily swear by Viviscal. It really, really works and while trends come and go, healthy hair is always stylish. Check out the pictures below for AW17 hairstyle inspiration but check out Viviscal's range of products for better hair x

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