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Monday, 30 December 2013

My Top 13 Books of 2013 & a Mini Ode To Seamus Heaney.

It's that time of year again where bloggers everywhere collate their favourites of the past year. I'll have a beauty post coming up soon but first, here's my top 13 books of 2013. I found it hard to narrow this lot down and I could easily have added in a few more but these are the ones that sprang to mind first and that have stayed with me long after I finished them. Obviously these weren't all released this year and of those that weren't, they were books I've intended to read for a long while and finally ticked off my to-read list!

Top 13 books of 2013

  • Doctor Sleep. Yizzer all probably sick and tired of hearing about this by now but I really love Stephen King and this was the perfect sequel to one of my favourite books ever, The Shining. Full review HERE.
  • Let's Discuss Diabetes with Owls. I'm also a big David Sedaris fan and so I was thrilled when his latest collection of humorous essays came out this year. It's well worth getting this on Audible because everything this man says is just hysterical. Review HERE.
  • The Age of Miracles. I like slightly odd/dystopian/sci-fi and so I was delighted when himself bought me this one; a look at what would happen if the hours in the day were no longer set to the 24 hour clock and instead altered on a daily basis. Very interesting! Reviewed HERE.
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey. I'm also a big fan of Oscar Wilde and am a bit scarlet for myself that it's taken me this long to read Dorian Grey. Thankfully I loved it, as you can see in my review HERE.
  • Me Before You. I was convinced this was chick-lit before I eventually picked it up but I could not have been more wrong. It's actually a very sensitive look at the life of a paraplegic and his carer. Yes, it's a love story but it's beautifully written and had me weeping like a baby. Full review HERE.
  • Fahrenheit 451. Again, a good whack of dystopia. I read this during the Summer which matched perfectly as the book has lots of descriptions of 'balmy Summer nights' (I love when the book you're reading matches perfectly with real life..simple pleasures). It deals with the dangers of censorship and the importance of expanding your mind through reading. Full review HERE.
  • The Last Runaway. Another one my husband picked for me (excellent taste, obviously!), I loved this tale of a young British Quaker girl relocating to America in the 1830s so much I bought my sister a copy for Christmas. It's a lovely read. Review HERE.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The story of a teenage boy dealing with life through the lens of aspergers, this was a thought-provoking and unusual book that I really enjoyed. Reviewed HERE.
  • The Fault in our Stars. Oh, John Green, you had me blubbing away on the street when I listened to the audio version of this during the Summer. In fact, you made an absolute show of me but I can't stay mad at you! Such a great book, review HERE.
  • The Handmaid's Tale. Another dystopian novel and one that since finishing it I find myself constantly referencing. As in "The Irish government seem to be using The Handmaid's Tale as a general guide for managing female citizens, rather than as a work of fiction". I'M NOT WRONG, PEOPLE. Review HERE.
  • Gone Girl. Although it's a huge bestseller, opinion was divided on this thriller/mystery this year. I for one really enjoyed it, as you can see HERE.
  • The Gift of Fear. An odd choice but this self help book on how to recognise those around you who mean you harm and how to avoid danger and violence was both a terrifying and eye-opening read for me. While I disagreed with some of the victim-blaming elements that were hinted at at times, I also took a lot away from it and more than anything else have learnt to trust my instincts more. It's definitely something I would recommend to most women to read and you can check out my full review of it HERE.

No, I'm not just terrible at maths, there is in fact only twelve there. I've saved no.13 for last because it's a bit more special. 

When Seamus Heaney died this year I experienced an unexpected rush of emotion. In fact, as I just typed his name there I started crying again. While I didn't know him personally, I took his passing particularly hard and I attribute this to a few things. I loved English in school and Heaney's poetry was a big part of that. His words left such clear images in my mind that when I re-read some of my favourite of his work from this collection, I could actually picture those exact same images I had formed in my head over ten years ago. Images, not only of Heaney's world but mine too; my childhood mixed indelibly with his and that makes me both sad and happy but overall, incredibly grateful to have been able to experience the work of such a powerful writer. I also think that I felt his loss so acutely as so many have mentioned, on a more basic level simply because he was Irish and made us all, as a nation, so very proud. 
I'll leave you with this one, from Opened Ground, Poems 1966-1999. This is a more recent favourite (although not recently written) which really just soothes me. It may be the sentence "they stoop into the honeyed corridor" that gets me. Perfect.

A latch lifting, an edged den of light
Opens across the yard. Out of the low door
They stoop into the honeyed corridor,
Then walk straight through the wall of the dark.

A puddle, cobble-stones, jambs and doorstep
Are set steady in a block of brightness.
Till she strides in again beyond her shadows
And cancels everything behind her.

Please let me know below what your own favourites have been this year and if you've read any of mine.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Relaxing Christmas Treats From Lush

I know this is a little late to show you Christmas products, but if you happen to be in town doing some sales shopping over the next few days then it would be well worth your time popping into Lush for a couple of nice treats to finish your Christmas break off in style. 
We recently had a weekend away (more on that in another post) and as is traditional now for us, I stocked up on some lovely Lush bath stuffs to add to the general vibe of relaxation. 

Lush Bath products

First up is the Lush Melting Snowman Christmas Bath Melt. Fragranced with cinnamon, clove, patchouli, benzoin, lime and sweet wild orange oils, this actually smells amazing. A comforting Winter scent that is really good for your skin, as it also contains sweet almond oil, cocoa butter and Shea butter. When you drop it into your bath, the hot water melts those butters and oils, leaving your skin super soft and moisturised. Plus, he's super cute. This little guy is limited edition for Christmas, so pick him up while you still can!
Along with the bath melt, I added in the Fizzbanger bath bomb, there in the middle, which has a beautiful combination of toffee, apple and cinnamon, again a lovely Winter scent (although this isn't actually a limited Christmas edition, I just thought it went well with the snowman!). This is supposed to "Whizz, Bang, Pop!" but in reality it wasn't quite that dramatic, instead it gently broke down in the water, changing colour and emitting its lovely fragrance. It has got a little surprise in the middle, which you'll have to check for yourself! It contains Petitgrain, Ylang Ylang and Cinnamon Leaf oils. Fun fact too, this is inspired by Roald Dahl's book, the BFG!

Lastly, for the shower (although it can obviously be used in the bath too), I picked up a bottle of Rose Jam, brought back by popular demand by Lush. Containing vanilla pods, goji berry juice, argan oil, organic rose absolue and geranium and lemon oils, this is a heady mix of fruit, floral and Turkish delight that I could not stop smelling in the shop! It's a really unusual scent that both wakes me up in the shower and stays on my skin, without drying it out. 

There's lots of other lovely relaxing products in store and if you're feeling a bit of Christmas fatigue* then you'd definitely benefit from a nice soothing bath.

*Caused by eating and drinking too much and staying up late to try and catch Santa out..that could just be me though.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Recently Viewed: December.

Apart from the odd Christmas movie, we also fitted in these films this month:

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
The second part in the Hunger Games trilogy and this time we find Katniss undergoing the victory tour of the other districts with Peeta while struggling with PTSD after the horrors of the games in the first film. Having been warned by President Snow to convince everyone that the whole poison berry thing was due to her love for Peeta, and not defiance against the capitol, they both agree to this but when they reach district 11, the home of Katniss's dead friend Rue, they go way off script. This leads to not only an uprising in that district, but to President Snow deciding that the best way to deal with Katniss and Peeta is to put them back into the Hunger Games. Brilliantly though, this is a completely different set up to the first games; all of the tributes are former victors and the games themselves are full of new and disturbing challenges. As with its predecessor, this is pretty accurate with regards to the book's storyline and Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, as always. I really enjoyed this instalment and I think it's probably better than the first. 

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
This is the usual craic; hobbits, dwarves, elves, orcs, lots of unnecessary shots of Orlando Bloom leppin' about the place firing arrows, Gandalf being awesome, a lot of arduous journeys through forests, over mountains and a sh*t tonne (official quantity) of life-threatening battles with giant evil spiders (I was unaware they featured so heavily in this film, you can be sure I wouldn't have gone had I known. I can thank Himself for that), a pretty cool fire-breathing dragon (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) and the afore-mentioned Orcs, who are actually quite scary. The best thing about this whole film for me was the part of Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), a seriously skilled elf who saves all the men's lives several times over. Although you wouldn't know that if you were to take a closer look at the poster above. You'll see she's at the very back of the shot, even behind the elf king and the guy beneath him, both of whom are on screen way less than she is. Gah. The whole dragon part was grand too but otherwise, it's a no from me. Lookit, if you're a huge LOTR fan, then you'll obviously want to see this and no doubt you'll enjoy it. For me, these films are just waaaay too dragged out. For fecks sake, it's a short enough book that Peter Jackson has seen fit to make into a trilogy. A TRILOGY!! I couldn't believe it when the credits came up and we were no closer to a resolution. So yeah anyway, it's grand. 
*The enthusiasm*

Kick-Ass 2
No. Just no. I really liked the first Kick-Ass but this was pretty awful. In this sequel, Kick-Ass is now being trained by Hit-Girl until her guardian finds out and puts a stop to it, as he wants her to live the life of a normal teenage girl. Kick-Ass then joins a superhero team, fronted by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carey) and together they set out to put a stop to the bad guys, one of whom is Chris d'Amico from the first film. He's seeking vengeance against Kick-Ass for the death of his father and although he's pretty useless himself, he has plenty of money so can afford to buy a troupe of bad guys to have on his side. I did enjoy parts of this; the fight scenes (especially those involving Hit-Girl) are entertaining at times, although often, a bit too graphic for my liking. Also, the film sends out some seriously skewed messages about women. At the start, when Hit-girl is training Kick-Ass and he's not doing very well, she tells him to "take his tampon out" because, of course, the worst insult for any man is to be compared to a weak, menstruating woman. As she herself is the very image of a strong, capable woman, I find it hard to believe she'd denigrate her own sex like that. Stupid but I can get over it. However, I next refer you to the scene where Chris d'Amico, while trying to get back at Kick Ass, decides to rape his girlfriend. He fails in this, due to his, inabilities and for some reason the whole thing is treated as a big laugh. Sorry..what now? Note to the script writers: Rape scenes are not funny. They never have been and they never will be and if that's your best attempt at humour then you really need to find yourself a new occupation because you're clearly incapable of the one you currently (and inexplicably) have.
Basically, it's utter tripe.

White House Down
I won't insult your intelligence by going into the details of this. It's one of those films by the people who did Independence Day and The Day After tomorrow; lots of special effects, the standard shot of the White House being blown up (always from the top for some reason), an all-American guy running around in a dirty vest saving everyone (see Channing Tatum above and Will Smith in Independence Day), LOTS of patriotism, several plot holes and a ridiculous amount of guns being shot. There's also loads of "God, that person is so irritating" moments. In summation, it's terrible. Not even one of those "so bad they're good" films, even my husband thought it was awful, and that's saying something (sorry love). The script is shockingly bad, parts of it look like the actors filmed it on their own and they edited it afterwards to make it look like they were actually on set together- it's that disjointed. Which surprised me because I normally like both Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum. Probably best to avoid this one altogether. Die Hard should be on about a million times over Christmas anyway, give that an old re-watch instead.

Have you seen any of these or any good films recently? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Danger! Cosmetics To Go; Lush Launches A Book!

Recently I was delighted to attend the launch of "Danger! Cosmetics To Go", a book written by Mira Manga, chronicling the origins of Lush, or more accurately, the company that came before Lush and lead the way in terms of ethically sourced/produced beauty products.

Cosmetics To Go was particularly well known for its iconic range of catalogues, using vibrant graphic design that helped capture the fun, youthful side of the company. Below is a page from the book with a compilation of some of the catalogue covers. Mira worked hard to collect newspaper cuttings, film archives and interview old employees over the course of two years and this is the result, a fascinating look at a brand from start to finish. 

Personally, I think that's what I enjoyed most about this, I'm obviously a beauty junkie so for me I found it really interesting to look at the full history of a company like this; how it was put together, the marketing, different ranges of products and the catalogues themselves, which have a lovely nostalgic feeling. They were very much of their time and it's been lovely to see people speak so fondly on twitter about their favourite products from that era.

My personally signed copy

If I could try out any of the ranges mentioned in the book, it would definitely be "Forces Favourites", inspired by wartime pin-up girls and including cold cream, liquid stockings and red lipstick. Very much my cup of tea!

The pages are pretty much all like this- colourful and jam-packed, there's something to look at on every page.

If, like me you are a lover of all things beauty-related then this is definitely for you and I also think it'd make a great gift as it is the perfect coffee table book. I've been loving picking it up now and again and having a flick through it, discovering something new each time.

This is available now from Lush stores (unsurprisingly!)

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Trilogy Rosehip Oil...My Skin Saviour!

Yes, it is true love. I am constantly on the hunt for really good skincare for my dehydrated skin. If you take a look at the skincare label to the right hand side, you'll see what I'm talking about. My skin tends to cry out for relief in the Winter and this year I went at it with a two pronged approach; Hydraluron in the morning, underneath moisturiser and make-up (there'll be a blog post on that coming up) and this certified organic rosehip oil from Trilogy in the evenings, over moisturiser. The brand claims this provides all over nourishment, repair and hydration using the finest quality oil for optimum skin health. It's also designed to improve the appearance of stretch marks, wrinkles and fine lines.

All you need of this is 1-2 drops, a little goes a long way so although there's only 20mls in the bottle, because of the precise measurement with the dropper I think this'll last me a good 6 months. I massage my 2 drops into my skin over my nightly moisturiser and it sinks in really quickly, so I'm not going to bed with a big greasy head, destroying my pillows in the process. In that sense, it's almost like a dry oil.

Since I've started using this, I've noticed a marked improvement in my skin. It definitely feels softer, more supple and less tight. Basically, I really, really love it. I think it's probably the most comforting product I've ever used on my face and that's really saying something. 

You can find it HERE on Cloud 10 Beauty for €19.95. I bought mine with a voucher but when it runs out I'll happily spend my hard earned shekels on a new one. 

Let me know in the comments if you've tried this too!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Benefit Boutique: Tried And Tested!

Recently, Benefit Boutique on South William St Dublin opened its doors, not only stocking the full range of Benefit products but also providing beauty services including a brow bar, spray tan, nail treatments, blow bar, make-up application and (kind of) lashes (they'll apply your own for you if you bring them in, although it does say "strip lash application" on their menu..I think this may be something they intend on bringing in at a later date). The decor in there is absolutely beautiful, everywhere you look there's lovely little touches like this:

I've wanted to try out the new boutique since it opened and as I had my Christmas bloggers dinner last weekend, organised by the lovely Lisa from  Pink Sugar Sparkles, I said I may as well kill two birds with the one stone and look my best while at it! 
I booked in for a wash and blow dry and had the option to choose from a range of hair styles displayed on the wall at the blow dry bar. I went for a mixture of two; a plait to the front with loose waves at the back. My stylist was lovely and did a great job. Bonus points also goes to her for being super quick; if you need to get ready in a hurry, this is a great option! 
Next, I popped over to the make-up application station, which to be honest, is kind of heaven for a beauty addict. 

Again, my make up artist was lovely and friendly; she listened to what I wanted and overall I was really pleased with the result:

I did feel the foundation was a better match under the bright lights of the shop, when I got home I had to blend it out a little bit as it was slightly too dark for me in places but once I did that, it was fine. I also really liked the contouring and the purple smokey eye (although again, I did have to "even up" the eyes somewhat- one was more smokey in the crease than the other).
In retrospect, I'm actually not a big fan of getting my make-up done, while it's always nice, it's never the way I would do it myself and then I'm never 100% happy with it. There's a lesson to be learnt there, if only I'd finally learn it...Having said that, it is a really great way to try out different products from a brand. I hadn't tried 'Porefessional', the 'World Famous Neutrals' palette, or the brand new 'Agent Zero Shine' yet, so that was a big plus.
I think it's definitely worth getting your hair done, it was €30 and then I availed of the 20% discount from (finishing on the 21st!) so that was a good saving, considering how much a wash & blow dry would be normally. The make-up application is one of those redeemable with purchase things, so if you're doing any present shopping or you know there's something you need to pick up anyway, booking in for your make-up is just a nice added extra! 
If you want more info on the store, check out their facebook page HERE.

Have you tried the Benefit Boutique yet? If not is it something you'd be interested in? 

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

TanOrganic Tan Bag

If you're still running around, picking up last minute gifts for your loved ones, I have another idea for you today! I know, I'm handy like that. Recently I was offered the chance to try out the TanOrganic Tan Bag*, a gift set inside a woven bag containing a 100ml bottle of TanOrganic Original (an Eco-certified organic tan that's kind to skin), a 100ml Oil Organic (the newest edition to the range, designed primarily to help fade your tan evenly but also to tackle stretch marks, scars and as an all round multi-purpose product for healthy hair and nails). As well as the two main products, you also get a luxury tanning glove (double sided with a thumb, unusually enough- this is to make applying your tan a bit easier) and a Tan Erase glove (basically, an exfoliating glove).

TanOrganic Tan Bag
Moisturising Dry Oil on the left, Self tan on the right, the Woven Bag can be seen in the background.
Tan erase glove on the left, Luxury tanning glove on the right.

I used this for the first time over the weekend and although I remembered to take a before shot, the after shot was completely forgotten about. It's now wearing off so I didn't really think there was any point in showing you a picture of that, as it's not particularly exciting. Anyway, enough jibber jabber, here are my thoughts:
What I loved:
  • This is actually a lovely gift set; it looks expensive and luxurious and I would be delighted to receive it as a gift. The bottles themselves are well designed, with the glass and wooden lid mix adding to the natural feel of the products. It feels quite "high end".
  • It does claim that the tan has "no smell", however on application it has quite a strong lemony scent, which I quite liked but might not be everyone's cup of tea.
  • I like tans that need to be left on for a longer period of time- this suggests 6-8 hours, which I prefer as it means I can put it on before bed, go to sleep, then wash it off the next day. It didn't transfer to my clothes or my bed sheets.
  • It only requires a few drops at a time and spreads easily and although there is no "guide colour" to tell you how you're doing, when I washed it off the next day I was streak free. It looks very natural, golden and more of a healthy glow than anything- definitely more my style of tan as I veer very much to the paler side of things and although I love the look of tan, all I really want is that natural bronze that this provides.
  • This set is €39.99, which I think is a really good price point for two full size products as well as both gloves and the bag, which would be very handy for travelling.
What I didn't love:
  • The application glove does indeed make it very easy to apply but just a word of warning- it needs a quick spin in the washing machine first as I originally tried to use it straight from the pack and little fibres from the glove transferred onto my skin with the tan, which I had to wash off straight away. Once it was clean, it was perfect for use though.
  • I do prefer a tan with a stronger guide colour- TanOrganic is a very runny liquid in a light brown colour so it's hard at times to know for sure if I had covered everywhere. Luckily I had but I think that was more likely due to careful application. 
  • While it was developing it had a very strong "fake tan" scent. This didn't really bother me, because I actually don't really mind the smell of fake tan (does that make me weird?) but it might be something to bear in mind.
  • You really need to exfoliate well beforehand, I made the mistake of forgetting to exfoliate my hands and was left with super tanned knuckles- obviously very much my own fault!
Also to point out, I've used the dry oil only once and I really liked it. I would've used it more but I've been struck down by an evil cold and am mostly struggling to get out of bed so moisturising has gone out the window a bit. 
So overall, I would definitely recommend the TanOrganic Tan Bag. I really liked the result of the tan; most important for me is that it should be streak free and not orange and it ticks both of those boxes. I also love the aesthetic of the packaging and the brand history; the fact that it is Irish and is the world's first Eco-certified tanning brand, made from 95% certified organic ingredients is a big plus for me.
You can pick this up now in pharmacies nationwide or on the website HERE.

What do you think? Have you tried TanOrganic? Would you like to unwrap the Tan Bag on Christmas day?!

*Press sample, gratefully received. All opinions my own, as always :)

Friday, 13 December 2013

Nurse Fancy Pants Has Its Own Nail Polish!!

I am just far too excited about this. Precious Polish is an Irish indie brand that produces some absolutely stunning polishes, which you can get made to custom order. Anita, the face behind this genius idea has also made a range of "Irish blogger polishes" designed by the bloggers themselves and being a polish obsessive, I was delighted to get in on the action. I love red and pink together (as you can see on the blog!) and I think the mix of large and small rounded pink, purple and red glitter pieces in a pale pink base looks stunning. Regardez Vous:

So far I've just worn it on the tips of my nails over another pink polish but I think the possibilities are endless with this one. It applies really well and dries quickly. Unfortunately, this photo doesn't do it justice, I had a nightmare with lighting as it's been so dull lately so you might just need to take my word for it that this is very pretty in real life! I've gotten a lot of compliments and even himself noticed it, so you know it's good!

Custom order polishes are €8 each, great value for something that is unique to you. I think this would make a fantastic stocking filler actually, if you have any beauty fans and/or polish fanatics in your life, then I think this would be a lovely gift! 

Thursday, 12 December 2013

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree..

I am all over the Christmas spirit this year. For me, it's the first time in the past few years that I've really been able to participate in the festivities and enjoy everything, so I'm making the most of it! I've bought my Santa slippers, my blood is 80% Starbucks Christmas coffee (Gingerbread mostly..nom) and the tree is up. I didn't write a post about our tree last year but I bought some quirky decorations this year and a few people have asked about them, so here they are!

(The first three are Paperchase decorations and are three for two in Arnotts)
That's right, it's a Flamingo. What your tree is probably missing. What has this got to do with Christmas, you may ask? Pretty sure there was a Flamingo present in the manger. Just saying.
Santa IS my hero, though. Look at him there, with his cape. Awesome.
Super glitzy white deer.
Geisha from the Carolyn Donnelly collection in Dunnes
Vintage style deer from the Carolyn Donnelly collection, Dunnes.
These guys are just a big box set of baubles (available in different colours) from Penneys. Super cheap but look how glisten-y!
These aren't new but are my favourites so I thought I'd pop them up anyway. That's a mini snowman snowglobe from my sister, a special couples decoration from my sister-in-law and a little pig-fairy from my mum.
Ah look at her there, in all her tacky glory.

Have you found any cute/quirky decorations anywhere or are you steadfastly avoiding all things tacky?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Recently Read October/November

Yeah, I know, for shame. I'm only writing this now and even at that I've only got four books to review. NO idea what happened there but I have been significantly busier lately (Parks & Rec busy, ahem) so I'll put it down to that.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
I am a huge Stephen King fan and I love The Shining, a stupid amount. If you've only seen the film you should really give the book a read because it's completely different. I find myself making reference to it constantly, it's one of those books that's really stuck with me. So obviously I was very excited about the release of the long awaited sequel, Doctor Sleep and I wasn't disappointed. At the start of the book we go back to just after the end of the Shining, as both a little recap and to see the aftermath of The Overlook's reign of terror. Fast forward then to a grown-up Danny, now an alcoholic, like his dad and on a similar path to destruction. He still has his "shining", which has completely marred his life and contributed to his alcoholism, until he gets help and turns his life around. In doing so, he then leaves himself open to others with similar mental abilities, including a little girl, Abra, whom he shares a telepathic bond with. She's in danger from an evil group of immortal travellers called the True Knot, looking for youngsters with mental abilities like Abra to suck the life out of. Without a doubt, this is nowhere near as scary as The Shining but it is very creepy, there's non-stop suspense and as with all of King's novels, it runs the full gauntlet of emotions; I cried, I laughed, I felt actual chills up and down my back (not just a cliche, apparently). If you haven't read it's predecessor then that shouldn't be a deterrent for Doctor Sleep, as it references The Shining but more to fill you in rather than anything else. Regardless, this is a beautifully written book that manages to both create it's own narrative (primarily of a war between good and evil) but also finally gives us closure on a story that for me, has always needed a sequel (I always wanted to know what happened to Danny and Wendy). So basically, read it, read it now.

Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
I was looking for a Halloween read so I finally picked up Rosemary's baby. I say finally because I've read pretty much all of Ira Levin's novels and I love the film version of this. Anyways, as it turns out the book is also excellent so good news all round. Rosemary and her husband move to New York, into an old building with a bit of a dodgy history and soon attract the attentions of their older neighbours who are more than a little overbearing, especially when Rosemary gets pregnant. She starts to suspect they have less than beneficent intentions towards her and well, I can't really say anything else without revealing everything. What I love about this is that it's not really a horror in the strictest sense of the word, there's more an ongoing sense of dread throughout the whole book. We, the readers know something bad is happening but Rosemary is unaware and you just know it's going to get worse. This is actually remarkably similar to the film. Apparently Roman Polanski was unaware that he could alter the book how he wanted when making the film, so he pretty much transferred it word for word to the big screen. As that's the case, you don't really need to read this if you've seen the film but for me, Ira Levin's writing was worth it, even though I knew how it ended. 

I Wished For You* by Amy Huberman
I really like Amy Huberman, she's a very witty and intelligent woman and so, having read nothing from her before (this is her second book), I was really looking forward to this, a romantic comedy about Grace, an eccentric young woman working as a stylist (although she hates her job), is approaching 30 and living with her long term boyfriend Robbie, both of whom are under pressure from family and friends to get married at last. Although she expects that they will eventually wed, she still reacts very unexpectedly when getting engaged seems inevitable. Unusually, this is a slightly different take on a Rom-com in that the heroine starts off with the love of her life but loses him through her own confusion and then loses herself a bit too. Actually "confused" isn't a bad way to describe sections of this book. Parts of it are definitely humorous and I thought it both started off and ended well but I felt it lost it's way in the middle and ventured down a couple of unnecessary routes in order to get back on track (I really didn't enjoy her new career in the vintage clothes shop, I felt it was very unfocused). That aside, it was a pleasant enough read, just not for me.

Mutton* by India Knight.
I loved this book! Again, I haven't read any of India Knight's books before this but had heard good things about this story centering on Clara, a middle aged mum of two, who pretty much just wakes up one day and realises that she is old. Builders no longer whistle at her (here, she faces a bit of feminist anxiety because although she's against the objectification, she still wants to feel attractive, which is a very realistic and very human way of looking at that, I thought) and she now has a face full of wrinkles. This is then all compounded by the return of her oldest friend from LA, where she's had some very good plastic surgery and can now pass for 36. From there, Clara faces lots of internal conflict about "messing with your appearance". This felt to me like what I would hope the latest Bridget Jones would be like; witty and a bit cringe-inducing but entertaining nonetheless. I liked all of the characters; the family dynamics made for fun reading and even more minor characters like Clara's mum and sisters were really written and resulted in quite a few loud chuckles from me. I did think that it progressed a bit slowly in parts and nothing major happened for a long time but it felt like that time was provided to get to know the characters and just enjoy a normal slice of someones life. For me there was also echoes of Caitlin Moran's brand of humour in there, which is ideal as I'm a big fan of hers. Since I finished reading it, I've come across a fair few negative reviews of this online but I suppose it really is just very subjective, I loved Mutton and will definitely be reading more from Knight.

Let me know in the comments if you've read any of these or what you're currently working your way through!

*Press sample, gratefully received. All opinions my own.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Beauty & General Fancy Goods Christmas Gift Guide 2013

So you've seen my Stocking Filler and my Book gift guides and I wouldn't be much of a beauty blogger/hoarder of fancy goods if I didn't do a gift guide for those too, so here goes. A lot of the brands I've mentioned below have whole ranges of Christmas sets out so what I've shown represents that really- there's plenty more to choose from if you click into the links. 

Christmas Beauty Guide

  1. Nars "At First Sight" Eye and Cheek Palette, €49.00, HERE. I have been lusting after a Nars palette all year and finally picked myself up "Voulez Vous Coucher Avec Moi, Ce Soir?" (Jeez Nars, get shorter names already) just last week, which I didn't want to show you here as it's almost sold out and I thought that would be cruel. This one looks quite similar (in that they both contain 2 blushes and 4 eyeshadows) but if that's not your bag the Nars eu site have a whole section online for their Christmas gifts and you can always brave the braying mob that is Brown Thomas if you want to check them out in real life instead. Nars is a delightful gift to give as it's high end and not as ubiquitous as the likes of Mac etc.
  2. Laura Mercier Souffle Body Creme Sampler Collection, €60, HERE. So here's the deal with LM. They make bath and body products that smell so unbelievably delicious you will want to lick your own arm in public...and we all know that that's socially unacceptable, right?! Nonetheless, I think these are worth both the price and the potential risk of lunacy once it's on your skin. Aside from smelling amazing, they also are great moisturisers. I can never decide which is my favourite but luckily, this set comes with 4 to try; Almond coconut milk, Ambre Vanille, Creme de Pistache and Creme Brûlée. Mmmm.
  3. Bobbi Brown Lip Gloss Trio, €37, HERE. BB have some seriously stunning Christmas sets out this year; great palettes and this lip gloss trio, which all look very wearable. A good option for a more mature lady as BB tends to veer on the neutral, classy side (all I can hear is Ron Burgundy in my head whenever I say 'classy' now).
  4. Benefit "Primed for Lovin'", €60.96, HERE. Benefit always bring out a lot of Christmas sets and although this looks very pretty, I do also think it's a tad over priced. I would recommend shopping around; I've seen decent offers for Benefit sets in pharmacies and different websites (including asos) so it's definitely worth a bit of research. Benefit make good quality make up in pretty packaging- generally a good crowd pleaser.
  5. Lush "Wow!", £129.95, HERE. Containing an absolutely outstanding 32 Lush products, this is for serious hardcore fans of the brand or for those who really, really love taking baths (although it also contains lip scrub, lip tint, shower gel and body lotions as well as bath bombs, bath melts etc). I've seen it in real life and it is quite large; it'd make a real statement sitting under the tree, that's for sure!
  6. Urban Decay Naked 3, approx €44, not available in Ireland until Dec 16th. Yes, the highly anticipated Naked 3 palette will be out soon and will no doubt sell out immediately. You may wonder if you really need another one but the rose-gold hues of this look rather beautiful. For a full review of these, check out these posts from my fellow Irish bloggers Make Up Monster and Lovely Girlie Bits.
  7. Andrea Garland Lip Balm NecklaceHERE. I actually also spotted this on Make Up Monster and while there are other options available in the range, this one has been reduced from €46.58 to €36.99 and is very pretty. Garland is an aromatherapist who handcrafts these quirky items of jewellery, containing hidden lip balms enriched with Shea butter and almond oils. Lovely.
  8. Urban Decay Black Market 24/7 glide-on pencil set, €32.51, HERE. I only recently bought one of the eye pencils from UD and fell a bit in love with it; they're long-lasting, smudge easily on application but then stay put and come in a great range of shades. This is a limited edition set of 6 and would be perfect for UD junkies or indeed any make-up lovers. 
  9. Cocoa Brown kit, €19.99, available in Tesco. I've gone on at length in the past about Cocoa Brown (the brand that finally turned me back to the tan side) and so I'm very happy to see they have this gift set out for Christmas containing all of the current CB products, for only €19.99. I've used them all and can highly recommend this one. 
Christmas Gift Guide

10. Antique Flower Statement necklace, €32, HERE. Big, mad collar necklaces aren't going anywhere and nor should they; they're super versatile and can make anything look stylish. There's only a limited number of these ones still available but you could also check out Ever OursEtsyAccessorize or Ebay.
11. Marc by Marc Jacobs Rose Gold Watch, €313.71, HERE. Just if you happen to have 300 quid lying around. Pretty though, non?
12. Ceramic Rabbit ring dish, €15.70, HERE. Gather around and hear my tale of woe. So, every time I go to put on hand cream, moisturise my face, do my nails or put on fake tan, I remove my engagement and wedding rings. I often then promptly lose them and make panicky sounds only dogs can hear. That happens on I'd say, oh, at least a bi-weekly basis. This then, is a necessity for every home. Of course, it helps that it's rabbit shaped. 
13. Cath Kidston Penguin PJ's, £50 HERE. That's right, these probably are the world's cutest PJ's. 100% cotton, vintage style with a drawstring and a little pocket. Also, and I don't want to alarm you..but there's a matching penguin hot water bottle and wash bag. I know. Amazing.
14. Rosalie Red Dressing gown, £54.00, HERE. I went on at length in THIS POST about these stunning vintage-style floral dressing gowns from Good Morning Beautiful and I think one of these would be a lovely treat to wake up to under the tree on Christmas day (you could obviously then wear it all morning while you eat chocolates and drink Just me?)
15. Pop Striped Gloves, €19.90, HERE. Gloves are a no-brainer. Penneys always have some nice ones (as they do for slippers) or you could try Asos.

C'est ça. Let me know in the comments if you'll be picking any of these up for your loved ones or indeed if you're hoping Santy brings something here for yourself!

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Christmas From Lush! | Santa's Lip Scrub

I mentioned this lovely little lip scrub in my Secret Santa/Stocking Filler gift guide and ended up picking one up for myself at a recent Lush event (more of that in another post!). I've been using the Lush Mint Julips Lip Scrub (review HERE) for the last year and loved it so when I heard that Lush have a limited edition cola-flavoured scrub out for Christmas, I was all over that. 

Santa's Lip Scrub Lush

I've been using this for about a week now and I'm really liking it, mostly because of the amazing scent. It's like satisfying a craving for haribo without the additional hyperglycaemia. Yay!
That aside, it also actually works. The texture is more of a paste than the mint version so it requires a little bit of water to emulsify it on the lips and get the most out of it. For that reason alone, I probably prefer the mint one; it has a grittier texture and removes dried, flaky skin from the lips more efficiently than Santa's scrub does.

Santa's Lip Scrub Lush

Having said that, I like this, it still actually does what it says on the pot and would make a lovely little stocking filler. As I mentioned in the gift guide, Lush also have a matching lip tint, if you wanted to add the two together to make a full gift. 
This is ideal for anyone who suffers from dry lips in Winter or those who like to rock a matte lipstick.

Santa's Lip Scrub Lush

Santa's Lip Scrub is €7.20 and in store now. 

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Book Gift Guide 2013

I'm sure you've realised by now that I love a good book and what's more, I love giving books as presents too. Hence what you're currently reading. I've actually picked up a few of these as gifts already this year, (although obviously I won't say which!) and I've read a few of them too so there are some good'uns in there!

  1. Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding, €11.95, HERE. One of the most anticipated books for years, the final instalment of Helen Fielding's trilogy about the hapless but lovable Bridget Jones sees her now juggling motherhood, the dating scene and a career while facing into middle-aged life. There has been a massive spoiler regarding Mark Darcy that I won't repeat but even knowing that, I'll still happily give this a read.
  2. The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin, €6.47, HERE. I personally find Toibin a bit hit and miss but he's well loved by others and this was short listed for the man Booker Prize, so what do I know! This tells the story of the Virgin Mary and her overwhelming grief at the loss of her son..cause nothing says Christmas like overwhelming grief, am I right?!
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, €8.38, HERE. I've had this on my shelf for years now and as the film version is out next year, now is a good time to read it. A nice option for anyone who also has failed to actually read it yet.
  4. We Are Water by Wally Lamb, €12.12, HERE. I've read a previous Wally Lamb novel "She's Come Undone" and enjoyed it. This is apparently a disquieting but ultimately uplifting novel about marriage, family and human resilience in the face of tragedy". So another slightly bleak one perhaps but Lamb writes beautifully so well worth a look. 
  5. Autobiography by Morrissey, €7.35, HERE. I've read a couple of pages of this already and it reads a bit like a song or a poem..a fairly self-indulgent one at that, but it's Morrissey so we should expect no less. A good one for music lovers (with good taste, obviously).
  6. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban by Malala Yousafzai, €13.71, HERE. I think this may well be tough enough to read but Malala is just such an inspiring young woman that her story needs to be shared. 
  7. Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg, €13.35, HERE. This is basically a blueprint for success in business for the modern woman, written by the chief operating officer of Facebook. I haven't read this one but in it she seems to be speaking to both men and women (gender equality benefits us all, y'all!) so an interesting one, I'd imagine.
  8. Lonely Planet's Best Ever Photography Tips, €5.00, HERE. Perfect for anyone new to photography, this covers a lot of the basics and gives advice on how to get the best from your smart phone camera.
  9. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, €6.86, HERE. This was one of the bestsellers of the year, I wrote a review of it HERE.
  10. The Shining by Stephen King, €5.53, HERE. I'm slightly biased because I love Stephen King and particularly this book but it really is brilliant. It's infinitely more terrifying than the film version and is so very well written. I'd pair it with...
  11. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, €7.86, HERE. The sequel to the Shining! I read this last month and loved it. It follows the story of the little boy Danny from the first book, now all grown up but still troubled by his ability to see the horrifying dead folks. I haven't written a review of this yet but I highly recommend both books!
  12. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, €14.84, HERE. I love Donna Tartt so very much. I haven't read this yet but it's being hailed as an "addictive triumph", which is how I felt about her previous work. So I'm looking forward to her latest; the story of a young mans journey through the criminal underworld.
  13. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith, €7.86, HERE. This is actually J.K Rowling under a pseudonym. I wrote a review of it HERE.
  14. And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, €5.89, HERE. I've read the first few chapters of this and similar to his previous novels (a Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner), this has a way of drawing you in quickly. He tends to write quite vast, sweeping stories, over continents and generations of families but at the heart of it there's always the individual, which I think is what makes his tales so relatable.
  15. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes, €6.73, HERE. I also read this bestseller this year, review HERE
  16. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, €6.94, HERE. In this serial killer novel, the one victim who got away turns up to hunt down her would-be-killer in an interesting reversal of the norm for that genre. Also high on the best seller lists.

17. New York Cult Recipes, HERE. The secrets to all of New York's classics; bagels, cheesecake, burgers, pancakes, mac & cheese etc..nom nom nom. 
18. Mary Berry's Baking Bible, €18.65HERE. There's loads of these out; Great British Bake Off, Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, it's take your pick really.
19. Grow Harvest Cook by Meredith Kirton, €15.71, HERE. For the green fingered.
20. Tequila Mockingbird by Tim Federie, €8.21, HERE. If you love a pun and...alcohol then this is for you!
21. The 30 Best Nutella Recipes, €7.00, HERE. Kind of self explanatory really but I think this would make a nice stocking filler or secret Santa gift, as would....
22. Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Dessert Book, €5.75, HERE

23. John Green: The Collection, by John Green, €28.51, HERE. I've so far only read The Fault in our Stars (review HERE) but John Green is well loved by many and this box set of his most popular books would go down well with a Young Adult audience.
24. Game of Thrones by George R.R Martin, €31.87, HERE. My husband read all of the books this year and loved them so this is really more of a recommendation from him as I've read none of them but this would make a great gift, especially for fans of the TV show. 
25. Roald Dahl Collection, HEREThe perfect gift for a younger relative who's just getting into books or indeed as nostalgia for someone a bit older; I think we all have a fondness for Dahl really.
26. Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth, €33.97, HERE. Again this is a hugely popular YA series (no.1 New York Times Bestsellers), the first of which is coming to the big screen this year. These are dystopian novels in a similar vein to The Hunger games but also completely different. Like those books, these appeal to young and old so it's a fairly safe bet to pick these up.

And that's your lot! If you stuck with me to the end, then go get yourself a stiff drink because you've earned it! While you're sipping that, let me know in the comments if any of these are making it to your own Christmas wish list this year or indeed if you've picked any up as gifts. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Stocking Filler/Secret Santa Gift Guide

Before you start being all "but it's only November", I'll tell you that I've already started my Christmas shopping so really this is more of a help to myself in figuring out what to buy. If you start now you can avoid the horrors of town the week of Christmas where you'll encounter all the other last minuters, throwing money and random items at withered sales assistants. 
Here's a few stocking filler/secret Santa ideas. A lot of these could also be given as part of main gifts, and I'll be doing gift guides for bigger presents too so keep an eye out for that!

Secret santa, stocking fillers

  1. Dior Nail Glow, €21.15, HERE. This is a treatment nail varnish that makes pink pinker and brightens nail tips for the look of a French Manicure but without the hassle. I haven't tried this so it's not something I can recommend but I've seen very positive (and a couple of negative) reviews on this and while it could fall into the gimmick category, I think it sounds pretty interesting and not something you'd buy for yourself- always a winner when it comes to presents. Dior also do a lip version of this if you wanted to combine the two to make a whole gift.
  2. At first glance, this battery powered Rabbit Night Light (£4.95, HERE) looks like a child's toy and fair enough if you think so but I actually have one of these and I love it! Mine sits atop a pile of books beside my bed usually and adds a nice kitsch touch that I'm very fond of. Plus, look how cute he is! Squee!
  3. Yoda LED Key Light, £8.00, HERE. Who doesn't love Yoda though, all the same? Look at him there, in Lego form; useful and adorable. I also spotted a Darth Vader one on Urban Outfitters..if you got both they could fight each other in your handbag*...just a thought.
  4. Fans of EOS lip spheres will appreciate this three-sphere lip balm set, designed to look like a bauble, containing pomegranate/raspberry, sweet mint and limited edition, vanilla bean. These things last forever and are super moisturising so you can't go wrong really. If you're ordering from Ireland, you can get this HERE on Selfridge's website and get it delivered using Parcel Motel if you have it (it's well worth setting up if you order from t'internet a lot). It's also available on eBay or you can get the individual ones on Cloud 10 Beauty
  5. A Grumpy Cat iPhone cover..with glasses..and stripes? SOLD! £10, HERE. It's only for iPhone 4 but they actually have a good selection on that site for ones suitable for 4 & 5.
  6. BFF's mug HERE, €15.00. This would be a lovely gift for your own bff!
  7. Cath Kidston Little Birds Pocket Mirror, €4.04, HERE. Very pretty. Heads up too, there's a new Cath Kidston store opening on Grafton St before Christmas and you can always pick up some pressies in the one in Dundrum and the outlet store in Kildare village.
  8. Zoo Animal Erasers, €8.00, HERE. I can see lovers of all things kitsch stationery loving these. Even if you don't use these, they'll look very cute on someones desk. You can also get these in Arnotts.
  9. O.P.I. Mariah Carey Christmas Mini Set, €18.80, HERE. This is a bit pricey for a stocking filler and there are plenty of cheaper options out there for nail polish if you have a good scour but if you're looking for good quality, you can't go too far wrong with O.P.I plus those shades are perfect for A/W.
  10. Rob Ryan A5 "I am The Notebook of...", €16.11, HERE. Rob Ryan makes beautifully printed cards, notebooks and homeware and any stationery lover will be delighted with this.
  11. Original Bosco Mug, €12.00, HERE. I LOVE Hairy Baby and have a couple of their mugs and t shirts myself already. I've also bought this as a gift for someone this year- it's the perfect nostalgia-laden present for an Irish kid of a certain age! Gotta love Bosco.
  12. Rose & Co Beauty Salve Collection x3, €13.48, HERE. These are great value. The set includes the original rose petal scent as well as vanilla and cherry kiss.
  13. Cream Bead Pastel Embellished Necklace, £5.00, HERE.  Statement necklaces have been huge this year and aren't showing any signs of going away. This is perfect for a stocking filler but if you're looking for something a bit pricier, check out Zara or Accessorize.
  14. Santa's lip Scrub, €7.20 (instoreHERE (online). You can also get a Santa Baby Lip Tint to go with this.
  15. Pug Face Wash Bag, €17.00, HERE. My sister actually got a similar one in Avoca, if you're not shopping online. This would be a perfect gift on it's own if you were to get a few high street make-up bits and pieces to pop into it. Even if you don't have a pug, you'd surely still love this little guy! 
I hope I've helped with some ideas! Any of these making your own list for Santa?

*Yoda would obviously lose, unless he started rambling and confused Darth Vader to death.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Castle Leslie- A Luxury Irish Castle Hotel.

Recently, my husband and I took a well deserved mid-week break to Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan. I say well-deserved because we haven't been on a break away in what seems like forever so we were both wrecked and in desperate need of some rest and relaxation. Castle Leslie was somewhere we had planned on going last year but had to cancel at the last minute so we were eager to get there, having had our hearts set on it before.

Back of the Castle

Apparently we're not alone as it's one of the most sought after castle hotels in Ireland and it's easy to see why. We didn't actually stay in the Castle itself, choosing instead the Lodge; a beautifully restored 4 star hotel featuring an equestrian centre, Victorian treatment rooms, award winning restaurant, relaxing pub and 29 beautifully decorated guest rooms. 

The Lodge

From the second we got there we were greeted warmly and treated exceptionally well by the staff; it actually felt like staying with family. Our room was spacious, comfortable and luxurious as was the general decor of the Lodge. We ate in the pub the first evening, which really was of a very high standard for pub food. Sitting by the fire afterwards, sipping our drinks, we got chatting to the barman who gave us advice for what to do the following day and also gave us a couple of free shots, which was definitely appreciated!

Ye olde Irish flags there on the right..lethal.

The next day, following superb breakfasts, we headed off on a 10k walk around the grounds, which included a beautiful forest trail. It rained occasionally (as it is likely to do in Ireland) and it was a bit mucky in places but it was also very refreshing. 

Some serious Autumnal foliage (do you also think of The Simpsons when you hear that word?), me looking out onto a lake wistfully, a horse we decided to name Gate (there was a good reason at the time).

We stopped on our way at the Castle to snoop around at the grandeur and also for afternoon tea, which was delicious. I'm an absolute fiend for the afternoon tea. I think it's all the fancy mini sandwiches.

Om nom nom nom.
Heading back to the lodge, we went to the treatment rooms for some pampering. I had a strawberry and rhubarb facial (sounds mad I know, but it was lovely) and we also enjoyed the outdoor hot tub, which was well situated in that it looked out over the grounds.

That night we had dinner in the restaurant and basically ate all around us..I apologise that I took no photos but I was far too busy eating everything, including a baby roast chicken..mmm.

Another outdoor can pretend it's a roast baby chicken if you want though.

We left the next morning, following breakfast , a bit forlorn that we had to return to our own home where going for a muscle-soothing bath and having magical cleaning fairies come and scrub out the remains of the bath bomb is less likely to happen. Sigh.


If you're interested in a little trip away yourself, you should keep an eye on their website HERE. We got a pretty decent mid week deal so it's worth waiting for something similar.