29 November 2010

Holidays are coming: “Tis the season, it's always the real thing”*

I am embracing Christmas with a vengeance this year. If ever we needed a bit of magic and sparkle, it’s now. And the festive season is all about giving people a much needed break, and something to look forward to. A long time before Christianity, it was recognised --  by a whole heap of ancient cultures and civilisations -- that they needed a winter festival to break the tedium of those long, cold, dark and lonely months.

Feasting, gift-giving, candles, music, holly, mistletoe and even the Christmas tree…all of these were appropriated by the Christian faith from rival winter solstice or festival celebrations -- including the Germanic Yuletide, Rome’s Saturnalia and the Indo-Iranian feast of Mithra -- and attributed to the birth of Christ.

It’s all very interesting, but this year, I don’t really care what or why we’re celebrating -- I just want to celebrate. I want to spend time with the people I care about doing sweet feck all except having a lovely time. It’s a little bit like sticking my fingers in my ears and trilling la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la, except the whole world will collude with me for a week or two, before we reluctantly face up to January and real life again.

So I was thrilled this morning to hear that Christmas FM is back on air. Ok, it mildly irritated me last year but I was an idiot, a Grinch -- this is an all-volunteer station that’s seeking to raise awareness and money for Barnardos, and good on them.

And I was delighted to learn that the Docklands Christmas Market starts this Friday. Yes, it’s the same as their Octoberfest and Maritime festival  but I don’t care, I will eat sausages and drink mulled wine and wander around its frozen and twinkly environs rejoicing in its shiny distraction.  

I cannot wait to skate around the Arnotts’ rooftop against a backdrop of fairy lights. So I can't skate and I am terrified of falling but so what? I will cling to the side with the kiddies and pull myself around and be thankful for the arm workout and remind myself that I am not in work.

And I will shop till I drop at a plethora of special instore shopping evenings, like the one Karen at lovelygirlybits told us about, at TK Maxx on Thursday, or the Burlesque event at Arnotts this weekend, and I will push all thoughts of crass consumerism firmly to one side as I imagine the happy faces of my loved ones as they open up their gifts.

But most of all, over the festive season, I will endeavour to spend time with everyone I care about, and push the seasonal stresses to one side, and make sure they know exactly how I feel and how grateful I am to have them in my life. Because Christmas brings the sparkle for a season, but friends and family? They keep it there for life.

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Post title: Coca Cola, ‘Holidays are coming’!

25 November 2010

Clarins HydraQuench Cream Review: “I useta love her once”*

I’ve been dying to start on my new Chanel moisturiser but have been very restrained and forced myself to use up all of the product I already had on the go. It helped that this was a very nice Clarins cream that I was getting along rather well with -- and that there wasn’t too much left in the tub. 
I’d been using the Clarins HydraQuench Cream with SPF 15 for the last 3 and-a-bit months so it’s had good innings.  It comes in a pretty, blue-glass jar which looks nice on the bathroom shelf . Mine was a gift, so I’m not too sure of the price here in Dublin,  but it’s £32 for 50 ml on the Clarins website -- which describes the product as a “climate-control day cream with super-moisturising Katafray bark extract and UV protection”.

The version I had was for normal to dry skin but it comes in several different formulations: the range also includes a lotion, a rich cream and a cooling cream-gel.  I actually have normal to combination skin, prone to the occasional dry patch on my cheeks and slight oiliness in the t-zone, but the normal-to-dry variety suited me perfectly.
It’s a fairly thick white cream that seemed to balance out my skin, felt light on application and absorbed well, leaving my skin soft and supple. There’s no greasiness so it’s a good base for make-up and I experienced no dry patches or breakouts while using the product. 
Over the past month though, what with various illnesses, a bout of insomnia and the onset of the colder weather, I’ve noticed a loss in radiance and my skin has looked dull and tired. I added a few lotions and potions into the mix which I’ll write about soon, but my skin has still been crying out for something a little bit richer.
And so, like the fickle consumer that I am, this week I have fallen for another (she can make her own way home):  the beautiful – but wordy -- Chanel Precision Beaute Initiale Energising Multi Protection Cream. I’ll give it some time and then let you know how we’re getting on.
But what about you? Have you used either of these products, and how did you find them? And will you be switching your loyalties for the colder winter months?
*Post title: Lyric from ‘I Used To Love Her’, The Saw Doctors

23 November 2010

New! Burlesque Beauty Event at Arnotts: “She's a whole lot of glam, take sugar, take spice”*

I’ve never been a big Xtina fan, particularly in her Dirrty days and dirrtier styling, but I read her recent Instyle interview yesterday and found myself wishing her well. The woman, to quote her own lyrics, is most certainly a fighter and has navigated her way through fame’s fickle corridors while others have crashed and burned around her in their droves.

Now Ms Aguilera is poised to add another feather to her cap with the release of her first movie, Burlesque, and while I won’t be queuing to see it on the big screen, I might watch it on the sofa with a glass of wine and a bucket of kettle crisps some night himself is off gallivanting around town.
However, I’m a little bit more excited about how Arnotts have chosen to welcome the film’s release.  
An email pinging into my inbox tells me that the Arnotts Beauty Hall will be transformed into a Burlesque ‘show-stopping theatre’ from Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th of December.
Apparently, shoppers will be greeted by live Burlesque performances and all customers will be in with a chance to win a fantastic prize: a once in a lifetime trip to Hollywood, including an access all areas trip to the Sony Studios where the movie was made.
Smashbox Cosmetics are the official partners of the movie, (their burlesque collection is pictured, right) and their make- up artist Christopher Loh will be flying in to help re-create some of the looks from the film.
The other beauty counters in the store will be getting in on the action too, so expect to see some fabulous, flamboyant faces over the course of the 4 day event.
*Post title: Lyric from ‘Show Me How You Burlesque’ by Christina Aguilera

21 November 2010

John Gabriel Borkman at The Abbey: "You're as cold as ice, you're willing to sacrifice our love"*

Despite my deluded notions of seeing Beckett at The Gate (I blame the cough bottle and the antibiotics), I will forever be grateful to my friend Laina for booking tickets to see Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman at The Abbey, instead. One, because this play was actually running, and two, because the new version by Frank McGuinness --now finished in Dublin, but running in New York from January -- is simply spectacular.

We were captivated from the get-go: the starkly beautiful glacial stage-set elicited oohs and aahs as we settled ourselves (in the most flukily fabulous seats), with its mounds of wintery snow piled up against a grandly desolate mansion, where the characters hearts and lives seemed quite as frozen as the landscape outside.

Directed by James Macdonald, the acting was equally impressive -- as you’d expect, with Alan Rickman in the title role, Fiona Shaw as his wife Gunhild, Lindsay Duncan playing her twin sister Ella and the Jimmy-Carr-alike Marty Rea as the Borkmans’ son, Erhart. A nod must also go to the wickedly vivacious Mrs Wilton, played by Cathy Belton, who added a little light relief to the proceedings.

Not that the rest of it wasn’t funny, because it was in many places, and laugh-out-loud so, but in a very dark way – - especially given the story’s particular relevance and resonance in Ireland today.

The Abbey’s website sums up the plot much more eloquently than I could, so here:

“John Gabriel Borkman was once a great man. Wealthy, powerful, revered. He gave up love for success and was handsomely rewarded. 

But now, disgraced and destitute after a financial scandal and jail, the former director of the bank paces out each day, alone in an upstairs room, planning his comeback.

Downstairs his wife Gunhild lives a parallel life, plotting for their son to restore the family’s reputation. 

The claustrophobia of their lives is shattered once and for all with the arrival of Gunhild’s twin sister Ella, the woman whose love Borkman gave away…”

Much of the laughter stemmed from Borkman’s grandiose delusions, but the comic element is most pronounced in the scene where Gunhild and Ella battle it out for Erhard’s affections, with Borkman throwing in his tuppence-worth while they’re at it.

Don't be misled though; overall, this is dark, bleak and far from a barrel of laughs. But as I inelegantly whispered to the longsuffering Laina as the third act reached its conclusion, “For Ibsen, the ending’s not nearly as depressing as you’d think”. 

And it wasn’t; there’s a glimmer of hope sparked as the two sisters clasp hands and the curtain falls. Just a glimmer, mind, but it’s there the very same.  

I took a little bit of comfort from this -- but maybe that was just the effects of the cough bottle, too.

*Post title: Lyric from Foreigner, "Cold as ice".  

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19 November 2010

WAH nails Sharmadean Reid interview: "Take hold of that golden moment"*

Apologies for temporary lapse in service -- hope you’re missing me while I’m languishing on my sick bed. But just because I really, really love you all (look up and hit my like button, bitches. Did I say that out loud?) I interrupt today’s schedule of hacking coughs and whimpers to bring you this, a lovely little snippet from the Barry’s Tea event a few weeks back with Sharmadean Reid, founder of WAH Nails. Told you she was inspiring…

Oh and for those who aren’t already, do make sure you follow Barry’s Tea on facebook (sure why not follow fluff and fripperies while you're there?) as they run all sorts of interesting and relevant chatty events -- all happening, naturally, over a lovely hot cup of Barry’s tea. The next one up is on the future of publishing as part of the ‘Banter + Barry’s Tea’ series at 8pm on November 24th in Dublin's Twisted Pepper. See you there?

* Post title: Lyric from Frank Sinatra, 'Golden Moment'

15 November 2010

New! theBalm comes to A|wear : “I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky”*

Psst! Look up -- see my new Facebook 'Like' button? Go ahead punk, make my day!

Now as you probably all know, Irish highstreet store A|wear turned 25 last Wednesday  and celebrated with a massive birthday party, complete with discounts, makeovers and drinks from Bulmers Light.  MTV presenter Laura Whitmore flew in to play her very first Irish DJ gig at the event and looked stunning as ever in the window of the Grafton Street store.  
Overshadows from theBalm
(Photos from the party are up on the brand spanking new fluff and fripperies facebook page.  Are you in them?!)

So, we were having a lovely time and I picked up the first few little bits for Christmas, along with that maxi I was raving about in a previous post. So far, so good.
And then: bam! Lightning struck. It was just like in the movies. I spotted you from across a crowded room and I knew it was love.

Yes, theBalm cosmetics, I am looking at you.
I first read about this San Fran, Benefit-alike brand over on the fabulous beaut.ie and it sounded fun.  But nothing prepared me for the impact of its adorably kitsch and cute cardboard packaging, paraben-free  formulas and tempting colour range, coyly playing hard to get in the corner.  
Well not anymore it won’t.

Previously only to be found in selected pharmacies in Ireland, theBalm is launching in A|wear at the end of next month in the following stores:  Dublin's Grafton and Henry Street stores, Patrick Street in Cork, Waterford, and one more -- as yet to be specified.
I’ll be queuing to get my hands on some of these gorgeous goodies like the sparkly mineral overshadows (above), these mini, coloured eyeliner sets (adorably named Pick Up Liners) and the fabulous Mary-Lou Manizer, a highly pigmented shimmer-powder that can be used as a shadow, a highlighter and even a concealer -- as demo-ed to great effect on my under-eye circles!
Price points are apparently between €8 and €20 which strike me as extremely reasonable, too.
What do you think guys (and gals)? Are you familiar with the brand? Are you as excited as I am?
*Post title: Lyric from Kylie, “I Should Be So Lucky” – like, obvs!

14 November 2010

National Botanic Gardens, Dublin: “As the Rowan tree watches and nods in approval and keeps us both safe from the dark witchee wood”*

Psst! Look up -- see my new Facebook 'Like' button? Go ahead punk, make my day!

Himself recently spotted free Sunday tours of the Botanic Gardens, advertised at 12 and 2.30pm. It sounded great, but apparently, only to us, as we were the only 2 to show interest in today’s tours. 

But luckily, despite a preferred minimum number of 5, they were good enough to indulge us and we spent a happy hour or so being informed and entertained by our tour guide, Maura. Founded in 1795 by the Royal Dublin Society, the gardens initially had an agricultural focus which shifted towards botanical knowledge with the fashions of the day.

 Currently overseen by the Office of Public Works, the gardens today include a visitor centre, café and restaurant, several glass houses (including The Palm House, Flowering House, Orchid House and Alpine house), a research library and, of course, a massive collection of plants, trees and other assorted flora and fauna.

The river Tolka flows through the grounds, which are bordered on several sides by Glasnevin cemetery, described somewhat disconcertingly by our guide as “a lovely day out”.

What really captured my imagination though -- aside from the avenue of ancient yew trees from 1704, which actually pre-date the gardens –- were the rowan trees.

Rowan tree with no leaves, but lots of berries
Between the ages of 1 to 9 I lived on an estate called Rowan Close in Celbridge. My dad claimed to have named the estate, which may or may not have been true, but I know one thing for sure: our family was never as happy as we were on that peaceful, quiet little cul-de-sac, with its support network of young parents and gaggle of kids, constantly knocking in for each other to play in interchangeable gardens or go adventuring on the grounds of the neighbouring Castletown House estate.

I was an odd little thing, with an overdeveloped interest in folklore and mythology – ranging from Celtic to Greek, Roman and Egyptian. At one stage, I took myself off to the library every day after school to teach myself hieroglyphics, which I then attempted to impart on my secret society, the Monkees, who met weekly in my friend Niamh’s shed.

Red rowan berries
But I digress: the rowan. Ah yes, the rowan. Not only was the estate named after the tree, but there were several trees, which I believed to be rowan, planted all around the cul-de-sac. And I don’t remember how or when I first learned of the folklore that surrounds it, of its protective qualities, or of the myths and magic that are attributed to the tree in so many different cultures:  as a child, I seem to have always had that knowledge. And under the branches of so many trees of the Goddess, well, who wouldn’t feel happy and safe?

It was hard to move, to a different country, away from our friends and our adventures and our home.  We got used to things eventually, but it would never really be the same again.

Looking back now, I know those halcyon days are coloured by nostalgia. We were happy, yes, but those eternal summers, those endless days of exploration and easy camaraderie, those memories simply can’t be trusted.

My wee Rowan twiglet
And I know that the reasons we were happy had absolutely nothing to do with those trees, which may or may not have been rowan.

But I still brought a tiny fallen twig home in my pocket today.

*Post title: Lyric from "The Rowan Tree”, a folk song by Andy Roberts (click to watch the video!)

Check out the rest of the photos from the day on the new fluff and fripperies facebook page – 
and hell, why not like the page while you’re at it?!

13 November 2010

Best Ever Super Easy Recipe: “This Love Is Be And End All”*

Despite what it might say on my CV, cooking has never been one of my hobbies. I’m not one of those people who find it soothing to whip up a 3-course meal for 6 -- quite the opposite, and a session in the kitchen tends to leave me red-faced, disheveled and ready to spontaneously combust under the pressure of it all.

I do, however, love to eat.  And I’m a lucky woman, because himself does love the auld cooking, but problems still arise: like, say, when he’s fecked off to Malaga despite people coming over for dinner, and it’s apparent that something more than my usual contribution of apéritifs will be required.

It’s in times of great trouble and distress that you know who your real friends are, and so, in tribute to the immortal words of Wayne Coyne to Jack White, I say this:

"Thank you Jamie Oliver for the super easy recipe that you gave me.

It shined so bright/That I couldn’t help believin’ it would save me."

(Tragically, I couldn’t find the actual Flaming Lips song on Youtube but fret not; you can listen to it here on Hype Machine

Recipe from 'Jamie's Dinners'
Requiring just a handful of ingredients and no skill whatsoever, this deceptively simple little recipe is delicious, versatile and has saved my skin more times than I care to remember. 

Most recently it adorned a homemade pizza-type creation, but it also pairs perfectly with pasta –- simply, with shaved parmesan, or with all manner of more exotic ingredients –- and can be baked in the oven for 20 minutes with chicken (add buffalo mozzarella and basil),  or 15 minutes with white fish (and olives, capers and basil) or Mediterranean vegetables.

Now, you may scoff. You may think, tomato sauce? Ahahaha! But everyone knows how to cook this simple little basic. But not like this, you don't. Trust me: it has changed my life. And lo! Now, it can change yours too.

Here’s what you need:
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, chopped (I chuck a few more cloves in for luck)
  • some fresh chopped basil stalks or a good pinch of dried oregano (I also sometimes used Italian herb mix)
  • 1 whole fresh red chilli (or 2/3, if you want to arrabiatta it up, and I almost always do)
  • 2 tins of whole plum tomatoes (not chopped – an important distinction)
  • sea salt (I use any-old salt)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • red wine or balsamic vinegar
You start off by frying the garlic gently in olive oil with the basil/dried herbs and chilli. You need to pierce the chilli once with a knife or it will, apparently, explode. I sort of want to test this theory. Even if you are not going for a spicy sauce, don’t skip this stage because the chilli gives a subtle flavour to the sauce. If you don’t want heat, you just remove it, whole, at a later stage.

Jamie's preferred brand of tinned tomatoes

Pour in the tinned tomatoes and leave them  whole.  Jamie’s wisdom tells us this is because tomato seeds are bitter, so if you smush them now or use the chopped variety, the sauce won’t taste as naturally sweet as it should. Season with your salt and pepper and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

This is where you remove the chilli or, if you like a bit of spice, take it out, chop it up and add it back to the sauce.

Now you smush the tomatoes up with a spoon, season again if required and add a wee splash of vinegar. Bish bash bosh –- done! 

But where are my manners? Enough about me, and more about you: what’s your go-to recipe? Any tips you’d like to share for the more reluctant chefs among us?

*Post title: Lyric from Ellie Goulding, ‘This Love (Will Be Your Downfall)”

11 November 2010

Budget Beauty Reviews: "Money's too tight to mention"*

Like pretty much everyone else in the country, we’ve had to tighten our belts at Casa Fluff over the last little while. And sadly for me, this has meant curbing my spending on toiletries and cosmetics ( I’m working on the taxi addiction, but that one might actually need medical help). So, here are 4 budget beauty buys I’ve been trying out over the last few months in an effort to introduce more inexpensive brands into my kit.  

Victoria's Secret Beauty Rush Lip GlossVictoria's Secret Beauty Rush Lip Gloss: I picked this up in Yummy Berry for a mere £5 in Glasgow airport last month and was pleasantly surprised. These glosses are a pretty good substitute for Lancome’s Juicy Tubes and, as they have a slightly thinner consistency, they’re not quite as sticky on the lips. The colour is a very sheer berry hue that both smells and tastes great.  I find it quite moisturising, it goes on smoothly and makes my lips look plumped up and shiny. Like all the glosses I've ever owned, you need to regularly reapply. I spotted some pretty, sparkly nude shades along with a bright red that I’ll be picking up next time I pass through the airport, and I think these would also make great stocking- filler gifts for Christmas, too.

Max Factor Miracle Touch Liquid Illusion Foundation: I am one of those women that outraged men are always writing into the Metro Herald about. Yes, I admit it: I regularly commit the cardinal sin of applying my make-up on the bus.  So I was on the hunt for an inexpensive compact for my handbag that I could apply with speed and simplicity on my morning commute.  

Max Factor Miracle Touch Liquid Illusion Foundation
Apart from the excessively long name, I got on quite well with this. Application -- with the sponge that came with it –- was quick and easy, it blended well, felt very light on the skin and, in a matter of seconds, evened out my skin-tone  while not really looking like I was wearing foundation at all. It didn’t provide the dewy radiance of my Chanel Pro Lumiere but I wasn’t expecting miracles, and I was happy enough with the texture and the very sheer finish, though I would have preferred just a little more coverage.  

Now, onto the cons -- of which, sadly, there are a few. Firstly, the product claims to remove the need for concealer and foundation, but this was not the case in my experience. There is no inbuilt SPF, and the packaging has zero handbag appeal, being utilitarian at best. It’s only available in six shades, so I was lucky to find an exact match for my skintone (Warm Almond), and I was disappointed that there was no mirror, which would have been very useful for on-bus application. The biggest problem though, and the one that means I probably won’t repurchase, is that I ran out of this foundation yesterday –- completely -– despite only purchasing at the end of September. This is the quickest I have ever gone through a beauty product –- the glass tub is deceptively thick and doesn't contain as much foundation as you might originally think. At €20 for just over a month’s (daily) wear, it’s not such a bargain after all.

Bourjois Eclat Mineral Pressed Powder
Bourjois Eclat Mineral Pressed Powder: I bought this mineral powder at the same time as the Max Factor foundation. The packaging states this is ‘a blend of minerals for an even, matt and radiant complexion.’  There are 5 shades available - vanillé, beige medium, doré, brun abricoté, and hâlé . Now, the colours seem a little off to me – I have warm, sallow skin but my closest match was actually the palest shade available, vanillé, which, as you can see from the picture at the top of this post, is still quite warm. I’ve been using  this to lightly set the foundation on my t-zone and it’s been fine, has lasted well and includes a mirror, so it’s easy to apply on the hoof. I haven’t noticed any radiance boost and, for me, it’s not a patch on the Smashbox Halo stuff I was using before -- but at €12.99, it’s certainly fit for purpose.

Kelkin Revive: At first glance you might wonder why I’m classifying this as a beauty product. My pharmacist recommended it as a cheaper alternative to Berocca, and it’s billed as ‘effervescent energy for people on the go…a careful balance of B vitamins and minerals with Ginseng and Guarana to help you restore your energy levels and perform at your best.’  All I know is that this tasty orange flavour tablet (which you dissolve in water) made a remarkable difference, not only to my energy levels, but to my skin, hair and, most dramatically, my nails. I ran out about a month ago but restocked last week when I noticed, to my horror, that my nails had started to peel and flake again at the tips. I’m convinced it was this stuff that made the difference.  Kelkin Revive comes in at €9.99 for two tubes of 20, compared to Berocca’s €17.99 for the same.  I’ll definitely repurchase.

But what about you? Have you tried any of these products, or do you have any other budget-beauty recommendations you'd like to share?

Thanks to Deryck Tormey for taking the photo used at the start of this post. Check out his work!

*Post title: Lyric from Simply Red, 'Money's Too Tight (To Mention)'

10 November 2010

Dove Damage Therapy Review: "Shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen"*

Sarah enjoying her free Dove wash and blow-dry
I recently wrote about Dove’s new Hair Damage Therapy range, and the pop-up salon that appeared outside National College of Ireland back on October 28th.
My (gorgeous) colleague Sarah, a qualified beauty therapist and self-confessed beauty and make -up addict, took advantage of the opportunity and has been trialling the products ever since. So who better to ask about Dove's new hair care range?

Here’s what she had to say about the Intensive Repair shampoo and conditioner:
“If you are anything like me and resemble Worzel Gummidge after you wash your hair then you should get your paws on the new Dove hair care range.
I was given some freebies at the Action Breast Cancer event in the IFSC after getting a free wash and blow-dry. I’ve been using the shampoo and conditioner ever since and I’ve definitely noticed a difference to the chore of de-tangling my hair.
The new range caters for seven different problems, with two varieties, Colour Radiance and Intensive Repair,  having a top up Express treatment which you whack on for just a minute and rinse off.
The intensive care range for dry damaged hair is particularly good if you have fine hair as the product doesn’t weigh down the hair and make it feel limp and dull. One of the problems from over-processed hair like mine is that the conditioner tends to stick the hair, weigh it down and make it look frizzy -- not only did I find the opposite to be true but a few people have noticed how shiny my hair is.
Happy days!”
As for me, I’ve been using the Colour Radiance shampoo and conditioner for almost two weeks now and have been equally impressed. My hair is quite thick and wavy and while it has a tendency to be dry, I’m normally pretty kind to it -- I let it air-dry naturally and I don’t use straighteners or other heated styling tools (which I confess is more out of laziness than anything else!). However, just a few days before I started using these products I went slightly lighter than my natural colour and added some highlights, so I was freaking out a little about the damage this might cause to the old barnet.
First things first: the shampoo is a pearly white in colour while the conditioner is a thicker white cream without the pearlised shimmer. The shampoo lathers a lot but also rinses well and the conditioner combs through my wet hair easily, feels nourishing and washes out in full, with no residue. Both products are fresh but subtly scented, have tamed my frizz and left my hair feeling healthy, with a bit of shine. I’ve also noticed that my highlights look nice and bright, and my base colour has held for longer than usual - - by this stage, I’d normally have noticed a little fading by now.  
These are good quality products, especially given the low price points -- €3.59 for 250ml of shampoo or 200ml of conditioner --  so they’ll definitely be added to my shopping list. I haven’t tried the Express Treatment yet but I’d like to add that into the mix for optimum glossy results. And at €3.99 for 180ml, sure why the hell not?
*Post title: lyric from Hair the musical, ‘Hair’

08 November 2010

Sweet like chocolate*

So, pop survey time! Hands up if you quite like fashion? Music? Events? Discounts? Free stuff? And oh yeah, how’s about chocolate, too?

Well kids, we’re in for a hell of a time.

There's a plethora of fun, free stuff happening around the city and just in case you haven’t already circled the following dates in the diary, get those highlighters poised and at the ready. 

First up, I mentioned in my last post that A|wear will celebrate their 25th birthday this Wednesday with a massive party in their Grafton Street store,  complete with 25% discounts, a DJ set from MTV’s Laura Whitmore, makeovers from Peter Marks and Gosh Cosmetics, a photo booth, complementary Bulmers Light and, as if all that’s not enough, there’s free goodie bags for the first 250 guests to register. Email party@awear.ie to get your name on the list. 

On Thursday, it’s Dundrum Town Centre’s time to rock with Dundrum’s Late Night In. Running from 9pm – 11pm, this is another fabulous free fashion event promising discounts, live music, bubbly, celebs, DJs and more.

To bag a place on the guest list head to the website to register, but be quick!

The utterly wonderful Laina (who, when it comes to fun, fabulous and more importantly free events is always in the know) informed me of this next, and very exciting, event earlier today. Claudio Corallo, the creator of what the BBC called ‘the best chocolate in the world’ (yes, you read that right: the world!) will be launching in Ireland on Monday 15th at 6.30pm. 

This special tasting of the first fully African-made chocolate in Ireland will take place at Ely CHQ in the IFSC. Journal Chocolat says this is ‘A chocolate for people who like what is good in life’ –- and I reckon that about sums me up nicely.

Claudio Corallo chocolate is being introduced with the support of the Irish fair trade organisation, Value Added In Africa, and will be distributed to gourmet shops and restaurants nationwide by Sheridans Cheesemongers.  

If you want to come along -- and really, why wouldn’t you? – head on over to their Facebook page now.

And as it happens, on that very same evening and as part of their Screen Hearts 90s series, The Screen Cinema on Dolier Street is running a dress-up special of one of my very favourite films of all time: The Big Lebowski. It is to this film that I partially attribute my full-blown love affair with that king of cocktails and ultimate hangover cure, the White Russian – I say partially, because having them available for two quid in my Glasgow local didn’t hurt, either. It starts at 8.30pm so there’s just enough time to leg it over and burn off a little of that chocolate.

The Dude abides
This one isn't free but at €9 for an adult, €6.50 for a student and a mere €5 if you're dressed as The Dude, it still sounds pretty sweet to me.

*Post title: ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’ single by Shanks & Bigfoot

05 November 2010

A|wear Showtime Collection: "Puttin' on the ritz"*

 I love a good home-grown success story so I was happy to see Irish highstreet fashion chain A|wear, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this month, making a splash in the papers yesterday for their festive Showtime collection. Launched backed in 1985 with a single store, named Gaywear(!), as of this month, the brand now has 40 stores across Ireland and the UK

And I was happier still to be invited along to take a wee advance look at the collection, which mainly comprises pretty, vintage inspired party dresses with a distinct 1920s feel, along with a selection of cute cardigans, boleros and shrugs.  There's a lot of nudes, greys and berry shades in there: my pick for the Chrismas party season is this purple  flapper number -- also used in the shot above -- which, with its scalloped hem, layers and intricate sequinned detail, felt weightier and more expensive than its €60 price point would have you believe.

 This little art-deco inspired beaded clutch, at €30, also caught my eye.

 The two pieces that I really fell for though were part of the Urban Warrior range:  I'm mad about this 90s inspired printed jersey maxi skirt, a bargain at €28, which, paired with a slouchy jumper or boyfriend cardie would look really amazing with my new lace-up Rockport boots (there’s a post on those coming up soon, I’m sure you're on tenterhooks).  It's a look that really brings me back to my youth.

I also loved this short, lightweight butterfly-print kimono jacket at €35, which would add a touch of boudoir-chic to a basic jeans/skirt and vest-top combo and would also look good over a simple little dress. 

The most exciting news for me though was the announcement of a small vintage selection being introduced in the Henry Street Store. Each individually sourced piece will cost only €35 and, if it takes off, there are plans to roll it out in further stores.

The Showtime collection is available instore now, as well as from awear.com. To nab a bargain though, email party@awear.ie for an invite to A|wear’s 25th birthday party on November 10th, at which all items in the Grafton Street store will be available at a 25 percent discount. The night promises all sorts of fun and frolics, from goodie bags to makeovers to a 2-hour DJ set by Irish MTV presenter, Laura Whitmore. 

Will you be there? I'll race you for that maxi...

*Post title: Lyric from Fred Astaire, 'Puttin On The Ritz'

04 November 2010

The Body Shop Winter Trends Collection: "Sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads"*

Look, like it or not, this is the case: Christmas, my friends, is next month. No, I don’t know how it happened and I’m not even remotely prepared for it either, physically, mentally or, er, fiscally.

But there are a couple of things that are making me feel a little bit better about the onset of the festive season. And those things are: mulled wine, obviously, and sparkly bits.

Now, while in Scotland last month I popped into The Body Shop in Glasgow’s Central Station to pick up a couple of ‘wee mindings’ for the mother and mother-in-law. The lovely, enthusiastic shop assistants glamoured up my scented candles with tissue, cellophane and ribbons and then, then! The real magic happened. They reached for a pretty, pink, vintage-inspired atomiser bottle and with a couple of gentle puffs, added a fine layer of gorgeous pearlescent pink shimmer to the tissue-wrapped gifts. Oh my.

I realised that I was in the presence of The Sparkler, about which there has been much buzz on the beauty blogs of late.  The uses for this special-edition, ‘boudoir-chic’ atomiser, part of The Body Shop’s Winter Trend Make-Up collection, seemingly know no bounds -- not only twinkling up your gifts, but highlighting the face, body and hair with a veil of iridescent sparkle-dust. Oh, and it smells gorgeous, too.

Had I known it wouldn’t be available here till 11th November -- when it’ll be priced at €19.95 -- I’d have snapped it up and done a little bit of pearly, sparkled gloating round the office. (Not that they'd have noticed -- I wandered around for half the day yesterday uninformed about the red lipstick on my teeth. The shame.)

The Winter Trend Collection also includes all sorts of other sparkly goodness, including pink and gold glitter pots, silver glitter liquid liner, two shades of Love lip gloss (natural and pink sparkle), and glittery nail polish in Starry Night -- black flecked with silver -- or the pearlised Twinkling Pink.  

The Body Shop very kindly sent me a press pack for the collection, which alas, didn't contain The Sparkler,  but did  inform me that all the products are very reasonably priced -- ranging from €8.50 for the nail colour, to €14.55 for the liquid eyeliner.

There are also two sleek looking limited edition eye palettes, €22.50 each, inTwilight and Midnight. Each contains four eye shadows plus a highlighter -- Twilight includes Violet Sky, Lilac Mist, Pink Champagne and Damson Velvet with Pearl highlighter, and Midnight features Silver Moon, Bronze Blaze, Pink Light, Starry Night and highlighter in Lunar.

This is feel-good beauty too, as the Winter Trend Collection features natural ingredients – like marula oil from Namibia, cocoa butter from Ghana and organic virgin coconut oil from Samoa – that are sourced through The Body Shop Community Fair Trade programme. 

*Lyric from The Ramones, ‘Merry Christmas’, also known as The Best Christmas Song In The World, Ever.  In fact, here (you can thank me later):

01 November 2010

Horror movie reviews: "Psycho killer, qu'est que c'est"*

Due to being struck down with the dreaded lurgy, leaving the house this weekend was a bit of a struggle. Oh, I managed it for a short period on Sunday, to avail of free tickets from le cool Dublin (more on that anon), but the rest of it was spent indulging in what we’ve decreed will be our new Halloween ritual: snuggled up on the couch watching a mega-scary-horror-movie-screamathon.

First, a disclaimer: I love horror but it is a confused and confusing genre, spanning everything from gothic to thriller to gorefest. Once upon a time I wrote a college essay I was particularly proud of but can now only vaguely recall it being about horror films and sexism, violence, pornography and, erm, postmodernism. I know, sounds like a compelling read. But the point is that I’m kinda conflicted about liking horror as a genre and yet… I do. I like that the films can be tense or jumpy or chilling or gross or all of the above, and are often very, very funny, to boot.

So! Moving on, and in order of our viewing pleasure, here’s what we saw and what we made of it.

Orphan: Made in 2009, Orphan is an American horror/thriller featuring that pretty woman from Up In The Air and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s husband, who adopt a ‘different’ 9-year-old girl with fairly predicatable consequences. I gave it 6/1o on Twitter but at least 2 of those points were because I love, love, love evil children.  (This in no way refers to my nieces, in the unlikely event that their mother happens to be reading.) Himself reckons it had a decent twist but I had it figured out pretty early on. Worth a watch.

Suspiria: This 1977 Italian horror is only gorgeous! Well, gorgeous and gorey, like, you know the way. Dreamlike and atmospheric with super-stylish sets, Suspiria was compelling and unsettling from the opening credits. Based around a German school of dance and occult sciences, the plot takes a backseat -- but when it looks and feels like this, who cares? 8/10

30 Days of Night: Dark Days: For a low budget, straight-to-dvd sequel -- based on a comic book series about vampires –- this 2010 release is a much better film than it has any right to be. Would have been inestimably improved by giving more screen time to the eerily captivating vampire queen Lilith, played by Mia Kirshner (I’d never heard of her either).  More action than horror, but a solid 6.5/10

The Innocents:  Another US offering but based in England this time, The Innocents is a 1961 psychological ghost story based on the Henry James novel, The Turn of the Screw. I’d previously seen 2001’s The Others, also based on James’s book, but these are two very different films and viewing one won’t spoil your viewing of the other. Tense and mysterious, with children who are both enchanting and unnerving, The Innocents remains stubbornly, deliberately ambiguous. Prompts much discussion. Another 8/10.

The Disappeared: Of all the movies we had to see this weekend, the plot of this 2008 psychological thriller was the least appealing to me.  A UK indie flick, The Disappeared centred on lead character Matt, who struggles to come to terms with the disappearance of his kid brother. Well, when I’m wrong, I’m wrong – and in this case, I was wrong. Harry Treadaway, who plays Matt, gave a powerful and affecting performance and the grim surrounds of the UK council estate where the action played out gave a gritty realism to the entire proceedings. This just edges out the golden oldies with an 8.5/10.  

Psycho Live: And so to Sunday, and the aforementioned freebies won from ultra stylish -- and free! -- newsletter, le cool Dublin (latest issue here). Watching Hitchcock classic Psycho on the big screen at the National Concert Hall, accompanied by the RTE Symphony Orchestra -- conducted by John Wilson -- was a rare treat and rounded off our Halloween horrorfest to perfection. 

While the live rendition of Bernard Herrmann’s classic score certainly enriched the experience and added to the atmosphere, the biggest surprise of this event was that it was received as comedy by the attending audience, who laughed throughout and clearly knew almost every line. I’d only watched this once or twice before and had never noticed how hilarious some of the dialogue is – and intentionally so (apparently, Hitchcock thought of this film as a comedy -- who knew?!).

Bravo, Mr Hitchcock, bravo.  A clear 10/10.

*Post title: Lyric from Talking Heads, Psycho Killer