22 December 2010

Eadaoin's Peppermint Creams: "Help! I Need Somebody"*

The other week a friend uttered some words that sent me into shock, fear and despair. I just hadn’t seen it coming. There was no prior warning -- I was caught completely off-guard.

And those words were: “We’re doing home-made gifts this year.”

Now, it hardly needs to be said, but Kirstie Allsop I am not. (I imagine I’d have a few more readers if I was. And far more shoes. But I digress.) I appreciate and (sometimes) envy all of you lovely talented people who can craft and create with your own fair hands, but mine are mere fingers and thumbs, which keep getting in the way of each other. I lack the dexterity and the patience. And besides, I’d already picked out the perfect gift for said friend, which will now languish unloved on a lonely shop’s shelf. I ask you, does any of this sound fair?

In my initial panic I did what I usually do. I turned to Twitter. And as it sometimes does, it came up trumps, reminding me yet again of what a genuinely warm and friendly online community I’m lucky to be part of.

The incredibly talented Eadaoin, who writes the gorgeous blog, City of Blackbirds, suggested I turn my hand to peppermint creams. And not only that, she took the time to email me an (almost) idiot proof recipe, complete with links to delicious looking images of the final product, for inspiration. And inspired I was, not by the peppermint creams, but by the kindness and generosity of someone I ‘only’ know online.

Eadaoin, we are so doing lunch in the New Year.

So here it is, the recipe for Eadaoin’s Peppermint Creams, originally from the Ideal Home’s Complete Guide to Christmas magazine (and modified slightly, out of necessity, by me).

Makes 20 to 30
Takes 20 min, plus overnight drying (or if you're anything like me, about 6 days should do it). 

You'll need:

*225g (80z) icing sugar
*4 - 6 tbsp condensed milk
*half tsp peppermint extract
*green food colouring paste (optional)
* dark chocolate for coating (optional again)

1. Gather all your ingredients together. Turns out peppermint is popular at this time of year and the extract couldn’t be found for love nor money. So after a couple of days of hardcore searching, I found this food grade oil in a health shop, instead, and because it’s stronger I used only a quarter of a teaspoon, which was plenty. 

2. Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl.  Gradually stir in the condensed milk and peppermint - the mixture should come together like dough. (And to my surprise, it did.)

3. Sprinkle a little icing sugar on a clean worksurface and gently knead the dough for a minute or so.  If you like, tiny half the dough green by kneading in a little food colouring until the colour is even. (I was planning on dipping mine in chocolate so I skipped the food colouring stage). 

4. Roll the dough out to about 4mm thick.  Stamp out stars with a cookie cutter, arrange on sheets of baking paper and leave to dry overnight. 

Now, here’s where I deviated because, due to my General Kitchen Aversion Disorder (it’s an illness, people), I don’t actually own a rolling pin. No judging! So instead I rolled the dough into two little logs, which I wrapped in baking paper and left to dry overnight, before slicing into some rather wonky shapes. 

5. Next I attempted to melt some chocolate. I say attempted because apparently this can’t be done in the microwave – who knew?! After I disposed of the strange burned powdery mess, I replaced the creams in the fridge until I had time to stock back up on chocolate.

6. But in the meantime I impressed myself by coming over all Betty Crocker and whipping up a batch of HOME MADE FUDGE! There was lots of condensed milk left so I whacked in some peanut butter and a bit of butter and heated till it all combined. Then I poured it into a container to set and left it overnight in the fridge. 

7. EXCEPT IT DIDN’T SET. Because I am not, in fact, Betty Crocker. Or even Kirstie Allsop. So I rolled the squidgy gooballs in chocolate and made some home-made peanut butter cups, instead.

8. And then I dipped the peppermint creams in some new chocolate (which I melted in a bowl over a pan of boiling water) and put back in the fridge to dry. 

So, like I say, almost idiot proof, except they took me about 3 days to make because of my aforementioned medical illness that totally isn’t laziness and/or my fault. And about another 3 days running around town trying to find peppermint extract. The guts of a day looking for boxes (again, a scarcity at Christmas time). Oh yeah, and a day or two trying to figure out how to avoid buying a rolling pin. Simples!

tissued and boxed

ready for wrapping

They taste pretty damn good though, if I do say so myself. And I suppose I do have a weird sense of pride that I made them all by myself. Well, unless that’s a slight tummy ache from too many peppermint creams. 

What do you think, will you be giving them a bash?

*Lyric from The Beatles, 'Help'

21 December 2010

Elaine Butler-Doolin at Bespoke Beauty: “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss Of You”*

I’m a big fan of an aul' massage but, somewhat counterintuitively,  I find they can be more than a bit stressful. It’s just not a natural situation to strip off and lay yourself out on a table in the hands of an absolute stranger. To fully benefit from the experience you’re dependent on the skill of the masseuse to put you at ease and make you feel relaxed, rather than vulnerable.

Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way and I’ve had some less than soothing experiences: there was the time in Budapest when my full body massage turned into a vicious pummeling of my legs and thighs. By a large, burly gentleman who couldn’t understand a word of English -- nor I, to be fair, a word of Hungarian. There was the time in Prague when I was handed what I thought to be a headband, only to be greeted by hoots of laughter by my masseuse who showed me, in gestures, that it was in fact an elasticated cotton thong I was utilising to keep my hair back from my face. And there was that time in Dublin when the therapist working on my knotted back had clearly missed her calling as a hairdresser, so intent was she on chattering to me about holidays and my plans for the weekend.

The lovely Elaine
So when I recently decided that my aching back and shoulders required more than the odd half-hearted rub from Himself, I did my research. I wanted a personal recommendation so I threw it out on Twitter. A few people suggested Harvest Moon or Melt, in Temple Bar, which are both fine institutions but, to my mind, lacking that luxe or pampering feel that I was seeking. Anne Marie from Whatshewears very kindly asked for me on her Facebook page and came back with The Tethra Spa at the Merrion which looks divine, but was a step too far in the other direction, being well above my pre-Christmas budget. So I posted my query on beaut.ie and was delighted when Kirstie came back almost immediately to recommend Elaine Butler-Doolin of Bespoke Beauty.

The website sounded perfect:

“Aimed specifically at the discerning client who values one-to-one attention and tailor-made treatments specifically geared to their requirements, this concept in beauty, until now, has been all but lost.
At Bespoke Beauty you are guaranteed to have the same therapist on each visit. Not only that, but we will ensure that every treatment you have, is given to you to improve not only your beauty but your well-being too.”

And so I took myself and my aching bones and big stressed head out to Donnybrook, to see if Elaine could help.

Bespoke Beauty is housed in the basement of a gorgeous redbrick Georgian house and it feels soothing and relaxing from the moment you step through the door. It’s been decorated in muted colours with an eye for detail -- I particularly liked the lavender-filled hollowed out candles in the bathroom -- and Elaine herself was really lovely and welcoming.

The treatment room had the pampering vibe I was looking for and was all set for me with candles and soft music. We had a chat about what I was after  and I lay back under a heated blanket to enjoy a 45 minute De-Stress massage, focusing on my poor knotted back, neck and shoulders.

Elaine used a divinely-scented jasmine oil on me, explaining afterwards that jasmine is uplifting, invigorating and relaxing -- just what I needed. She did a lot of work on my neck and scalp and, where previous head massages have left my hair looking lank and greasy, the jasmine oil didn’t affect my tresses one bit.

I felt so relaxed by the end of the treatment that I actually did doze off for a while, coming to only when Elaine returned to the room with a cup of fruity herbal tea. I’m pretty sure that I got more than my allotted 45 minutes and, at €60, felt I got real value for money: a treatment tailored to my exact requirements and delivered with great professional skill and care. I was given some expert advice at the end of the session too, including a couple of excercises to work out the tension in my neck and shoulders.

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to manage the massage a month that was recommended, but I will definitely be back – I already have my eye on this intriguing candle wax treatment for next time… 

 Appointments at Bespoke Beauty can be booked by calling Elaine on: 01 667 4912 or emailing bookings@bespokebeauty.ie. 

* Post title: Lyric from PM Dawn ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’

19 December 2010

The Happiness List: “Over and over, and over, and over, and over”*

As I said in my very first post, I am a constant list maker. I have drawers full of old notebooks, bought with the intention of jotting down lovely inspiring thoughts and quotes but instead, filled with list upon list, year after year. Lists of things I want to do and see and read and buy, but mostly, lists of the little things that make me happy, that I resolve to do more of. So as we approach the Season of Resolutions, here it is, my recurring Happiness List, posted for posterity in the hopes that somehow, this time, I’ll follow my own (fairly obvious) advice. 

Family and Friends  -- Nothing is nicer than spending time with the people that we care about. So clearly, doing more of this and less of other things is the way to go.  And while I’ve never been a fan of the phone, as I get older I can’t always spend as much time with people as I’d like – so the phone becomes increasingly important. Balance is important too:  I seem to veer between burning the candle at both ends and hibernating in my pjs all weekend, but like most people I’m most content somewhere in the middle.

Travel more - -  I love adventuring and experiencing new places but I don’t prioritise or plan for this as much as I could. Instead I fritter away money on lattes and magazines and taxi cabs that could be put to much better use towards a weekend away. Or even better, a fortnight. Must do better.

Light more candles - -  I’m a little obsessed with candles and blame years of reading interviews with famous ladies about travel. You know the ones. They tell you to bring a cashmere wrap for the plane which can also double as a blanket; to change clothes, apply make-up and wear sunglasses as you disembark; to bring healthy snacks because airplane food is so unpalatable and to always, always, bring a scented Diptyque candle to fragrance your hotel room. I don’t own any cashmere (yet), am too lazy to change my clothes midair and I really like airplane food -- but the candle thing is something that sunk in. I actually brought a Diptyque candle with me on our honeymoon and again to the South of France earlier this year.  It sounds a bit mad but when I burn the same candles at home it really takes me back. The problem is I often don’t bother, unless people are coming round, even though it’s such a tiny little thing that makes me feel so instantly uplifted. As well as Diptyque candles, I also like L’Occitane and Irish-owned Max Benjamin which, while still not cheap, are about half the price.

Take more baths - -  It’s amazing how much a hot, bubbly candelit bath can lift your mood. This is another one of life’s simple pleasures that really helps me to relax,  soothes my achey back muscles and increases the chance of a decent night’s sleep -- but again, it’s something that I put off time and time again in favour of vegging out in front of the TV.

Spend more time outside - -  There’s a theory that we don’t just love nature because it’s pretty, but because humans feel an innate affinity with nature and with other living things. The biophilia hypothesis says that scenes of natural beauty can reduce stress and increase focus and concentration and I find that absolutely holds true in my own experience. I love mountains and forests and parks and I don’t spend nearly as much time in them as I could do.

Get a Cat - -  I love cats. I don’t have one. Something is clearly wrong with this picture.

Grooming – - I feel better about myself when there’s a flash of colour on my nails, when my hair looks good as I haven’t left it 3 months between appointments, and when I’ve taken the time to slap on a bit of make-up before work (on the bus, obvs).  This blog is helping me to keep on track with that and I’m really enjoying trying out and writing about different products.

Take lunch away from the desk - - I could eat in the staff room with my colleagues, take a short stroll up to the river, call a friend or catch up with my book. All of these things will make me come back to work feeling refreshed and more able to deal with the challenges of the afternoon. It’s a no brainer. Just feckin’ do it already.

Write Letters – - I love email and twitter and facebook, but there is something really magical about a handwritten letter. Some time ago I bought some beautiful writing paper and I have a fountain pen gathering dust in the drawer. All I need now is to learn how to write with it and we’re away on a hack.

Be Kinder To Self - - I think a lot of the above relates to this final point. If we could just find a way to treat ourselves with a smidgeon of the kindness and respect we afford to others, to talk ourselves up instead of down and to treat ourselves to the little things we know will make a difference to our mood, then we’d all be a hell of a lot more content.

And that's about it - - all pretty obvious, and most of it costing nowt. But what about you? What little changes could you make that would make you feel happier in your day t0 day life?

*Post title: Lyric from Hot Chip, ‘Over and over’

13 December 2010

China Glaze Ruby Pumps Polish & Barry M Instant Nail Effects: “Wild and Unwise, I Wanna be Mesmerising Too”*

Today I was rocking Ruby Pumps polish by China Glaze,  a gorgeous red glitter that brightened both my all-black outfit and my disposition. 

As pretty as this looks in the bottle, it’s so much prettier on the nails; the red glitter under its bright red jelly base sparkles and shines without looking too over the top. I found it really easy to apply, too -- I gave it two coats over a Nails Inc base coat, skipped the top coat and was still happy with the finish. I noticed a bit of tipwear today on a couple of nails so I’ll give it the full works next time, which will be soon, because this colour just makes me really, really happy.

But as much as I was loving my nails, I had a sudden brainwave that would make them even better.

This picture does not do either polish any justice!
As soon as I got home I lashed on a coating of  Barry M Instant Nail Effects in Black Magic.  I won this as part of Karen’s fabulous blog giveaway over at the very aptly named lovelygirliebits and was delighted -- I got her gorgeously packaged goodies on Friday and the only reason I haven’t slapped this on sooner was because I accidentally left it in work over the weekend. 

This stuff rocks! It applied in no time at all and dried in seconds to leave a really cool, snakeskin type effect on my nails.

Unfortunately I failed to capture its beauty in these photos, but I completely adore this combo. I think it looks great with how short my nails are at the moment and it helps that it’s the party season, when you can be a little more tacktastic than usual.

Trying to show you how my nail looks
 compared with the illustration on the bottle...

I’m not sure it’s one I’ll be wearing all year round, but for me, it feels very right for right now.
(My bottle of Ruby Pumps was a gift from my friend Toni --  bought, I think, in a Dundalk salon -- but you can purchase from Amazon here, at £7.95 plus p&p. Barry M  is widely available in Boots, Superdrug and other stockists around the country and, according to beaut.ie, the Instant Nail Effects comes in at €5.95.)

*Post title: Lyric from Liz Phair, ‘Mesmerising’

10 December 2010

Dublin Castle Christmas Season: ‘Let the Christmas spirit ring’*

I’m looking forward to a weekend full of festive frolics, kicking off with a Shakespeare performance at Dublin Castle tonight.

This is part of the Castle’s Christmas season, which sees a number of free but ticketed performances taking place in the State Apartments and the Chapel Royal.

If any of the following tickles your fancy, just email dublincastletickets@opw.ie specifying the date and the performance you’d like to attend.

Richard III
6th – 11th December 2010 at 7.30pm
The Chapel Royal
Performed by the Fast & Loose Theatre Company – check out the facebook page for more.

Farewell Winston
12th December 2010 at 4pm
The State Apartments

Duo Tonos
13th December 2010 at 1pm
The Chapel Royal

A Christmas Carol
19th December 2010 at 4pm
The State Apartments

Photo courtesy of the Heritage Ireland website.

Post title: Lyric from ‘Rocking Around The Christmas Tree’ by Johnny Marks

09 December 2010

Stargazer at New Look: “So we burst into colours, colours and carousels”*

We were stocking up on festive nibbles last night when I popped in to New Look in Santry’s Omniplex. They have a Stargazer make-up stand which I’ve largely ignored on previous visits, assuming I’d outgrown the brand when I stopped buying my make-up in ‘alternative shops’ and gave up the pink hair dye and neon nails of my teenage punk phase.

This turned out to be a mistake as the brand, like me, has grown up and moved on from its 1978 punk inspired origins. You can still find the bold flourescents loved by teenagers the world over but hovering in there, amongst the neon and the glitter sprays, are some very wearable products and shades that are aimed at a wider demographic.  

Their nail polish in particular caught my eye and I spotted several that I wanted to take home with me -- including a pale pastel blue, a deep shimmering purple, a lilac and a hot pink -- but I limited myself to shade no 504, a peachy nude.  

I slapped on a couple of coats at my desk this morning and my colleagues immediately commented on the strong scent – possibly not a good indication. But it applied well, dried quickly and I love the pretty circular bottle – as well as the teeny €3.50 price tag.

And so, in the immortal words of the 38th Governor of California…

…I’ll be back.

Photo taken by the talented bonniec27 - thanks lady!

*Post title: Lyric from Ellie Goulding, 'Starry Eyed'

08 December 2010

If I was the dance floor would you shake your thang?

Even though his last gig here was hardly a triumph, I remain a massive fan of Evan Dando and The Lemonheads, in all their incarnations, from pop punk to power pop to alt-country. And this song, which has possibly the silliest lyrics in the world, never fails to make me smile. 

Being Around: 

If I was the fridge would you open the door?

If I was the grass would you mow your lawn?

If I was your body would you still wear clothes?

If I was a booger would you blow your nose?

Where would you keep it?

Would you eat it?

I'm just trying to give myself a reason

For being around

If I was a front porch swing would you let me hang?

If I was the dance floor would you shake your thang?

If I was a rubber check would you let me bounce

Up and down inside your bank account?

Would you trust me not to break you?

I'm just trying really hard to make you

Notice me being around

If I was a haircut would you wear a hat?

If I was a maid could I clean your flat?

If I was the carpet would you wipe your feet?

In time to save me from mud off the street?

If you like me, if you love me

Would you get down on your knees and scrub me?

I'm a little grubby

From just being around

06 December 2010

Winter Warmers: “You’re Everything I Hoped For, You’re Everything I Need”*

Is it just me, or is the Big Thaw colder than the Big Freeze? At least public transport seems to be back on track, because the experience of inching home in a blizzard over treacherous ice-covered footpaths is not one I’m keen to repeat in a hurry. Although I don’t think I’d have lived to tell the tale were it not for these little beauties, to which I must pay proper tribute.
Now, I have loved many an item of footwear in my 30-something years. There was the tribal thrill of owning my first pair of Docs, aged 14, when I hoped I’d taken the first bouncy step towards eternal joy and happiness with Kurt Cobain. I had similar experiences with my first pair of Converse and my Adidas Gazelles, ownership of both making my heart swell with pride. There was a pair of strappy high heeled leopard print sandals that I wore with a ratty fur jacket, ‘inspired’ by Alabama in True Romance.  And there were my wedding shoes, worn just the once (so far!) but lovingly adored.
But none of these, to the best of my recollection, have saved my life, the way I’m sure my beloved Rockport Anna Lace-Ups have done, again and again, through these past snow-filled wintery days.  Here’s what the website says:Durable, warm and snug. Just like you want in a boot. It’s time you made winter a little more cozy.” And if anything, they’re even better than that sounds. They’re gorgeous and comfy and warm, have put a literal spring in my step, kept me safe on those icy foothpaths and they’re not coming off my feet till at least next March -- when I might treat myself to a little something something in Clerys from Rockport’s Spring/Summer collection

I’m also very pleased with this little lovely, which is my new Winter Hat. Let’s just ignore the fact that it cost €27 in the Clerys Topshop concession while it’s a mere £18 online; in Arctic conditions, you can’t rely on the postie. So let’s marvel instead at its thick woolly cable knit, cosy earflaps and toasty faux-fur  goodness.

But what about you, what’s wrapping you warmly this winter?

STOP PRESS! According to the Clerys Facebook page today is their Christmas Customer Day, with mulled wine and refreshments from 5.30pm and a whopping 20% off everything in all departments. So even if you don't fancy stomping about in my exact same winter hat and boots (there's some right oddballs out there so you never know), you can still get your grubby little paws on all manner of other winter warmers...oh, and maybe pick up a pressie or two, while you're there.
Post title: Joe Cocker, ‘You Are So Beautiful To Me’

05 December 2010

New Sanctuary Brightening Facial range: "Oh whoa whoa oh, there was a brightening day"*

If you’ve been checking in on fluff and fripperies of late you’ll know I’ve been just a little obsessed with brightening, radiance boosting skin products. So I was chuffed to spot the new Brightening Facial range by Sanctuary in my local Boots. I picked up two products, the Liz-Earle-alike Brightening Facial Polishing Hot Cloth Cleanser, and the Brightening Facial Radiance Exfoliator. You can see they’re hitting all my current beauty buzzwords, but did they live up to their brightening, illuminating claims?

Sanctuary Brightening Facial Polishing Hot Cloth Cleanser:

I love Liz Earle’s Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser to which, I think it’s fair to say, this Sanctuary product gives more than a nod. When you go up against a much-loved cult classic comparisons are inevitable, so that's exactly what I plan to do now.

I'd been making do with cleansing cream and cotton wool in the run up to the recent Liz Earle Christmas event in Wilde & Green, Milltown. What with one thing and another I couldn’t actually make it along on the night and intended to repurchase online, when I came across the Sanctuary products and decided to try them out instead.

Described as a ‘deep cleanse in one illuminating treatment’, the Sanctuary Polishing Hot Cloth Cleanser comes in a 125 ml white tube with one 100% cotton cloth. (You get 2 muslin cloths – which google confirms is made from cotton – with the Liz Earle cleanser). Like Cleanse & Polish, this Sanctuary cleanser is a thick white cream with a pleasant, essential-oil type aroma. I think that the Liz Earle cleanser is thicker and creamier, and that I prefer the scent, but in the interests of fairness I should point out that I don’t have any on hand right now to compare.

What I do know is that the Sanctuary cleanser doesn’t compare to Liz Earle in the make-up removal stakes. While it's a decent product and comes in a couple of euro cheaper than Liz Earle (about €13 for 125 ml of Sanctuary cleanser in Boots, compared to €15 for 100 ml on the Liz Earle website), it doesn't pack that same balmy cleansing punch as the Liz Earle cream, which seems to dissolve all traces of make-up on the first application. My skin doesn’t feel as thoroughly cleansed and I have been using my Clinique Clarifying Lotion afterwards, which reveals quite a lot of make-up remains on my skin.  When I finish this tube I’m going straight back to the Cleanse & Polish corner, and staying there. Until I can afford to try out some Eve Lom, anyway. 

This brown, granulated gel comes in a clear, 100 ml tube which costs €13.49 at Boots. (It’s worth mentioning that you can use those €7.50 Boots Skincare vouchers on these products, which I did, and which makes them very reasonable indeed). Used 2 to 3 times a week it ‘refines and evens skin tone for a lasting glow’ -- according to the packaging, anyway. It contains apricot granules and grape seed, along with pumpkin, pineapple and papaya extracts and mandarin and lemon essential oils; all these combine to give the product a nice, subtle, fruity smell which gets more pronounced as you massage it into the skin.

After rinsing, my skin does feel smooth and soft with a healthy glow.

While I like this product, the exfoliating granules are a little on the large side for me and I would prefer something a little finer. I’ve previously used the brand’s Youth Boosting Warming Microbrasion Polish which, on balance, would be my preference and which I will probably repurchase. But first I’d like to try out that YSL exfoliator Lynnie recommended over on beaut.ie recently.

So whaddya think? Anyone tried out any of these products and what did you make of 'em?

Post title: Lyric from Weezer, 'Brightening Day'

03 December 2010

Skin brightener trials part 3: "Alright I'm ready make me glow, glow, glow"*

Ok, so let’s recap. We’ve had serums and primers, and today we’ll be looking at a couple of glow creams and brightening face powders, all in the quest for more radiant, youthful looking skin.

But let’s put this into perspective: what this means is that, for the past couple of months, my morning routine has looked something like this:

  1. Cleanse
  2. Sometimes exfoliate
  3. Serum
  4. Moisturiser & eye cream
  5. Primer
  6. Glow cream
  7. Base
  8. Translucent powder on the t-zone, to set foundation
  9. Swirl of illuminating face powder all over
  10. Apply rest of makeup on the bus
All of this adds another 15 to 20 minutes to my morning routine. Now that, fluffy readers, is  dedication.

But has it made any bleedin’ difference, is the question?

And here is the answer. I said to Himself, one morning last week, as he was standing around huffing outside the bathroom door (something about buses, work, late…I don’t know, I was busy with my lotions and potions), “Here, does my make-up look any different to you?”

And after scrutinising me for a long couple of seconds, he replied. “Yes”, he said. “It makes your face look better.”

And isn’t that what we’re all looking for? 

Now, onto the products that helped make that lovely romantic moment happen.

First up, Eyeko Cream: Lured in by the pretty pink packaging of this kitsch cult product, and rumours of its use by none other than Ms Kylie Minogue, I bought a couple of pots for my sisters as part of their Christmas present last year. As I am still to get feedback I gather they were put off, as I initially was, by the sight of this thick, pink iridescent paste and perhaps bemused by its claims to be an eye-cream, moisturiser and highlighter in one. 

I just ignored the first two claims when I recently picked up a tub of my own (€9 on the eyeko website; £8 on asos, who, at the moment, are offering the limited edition ‘extra glow’ cream for the sale price of £6.40).  The product is almost scentless and similar in colour to Benefit’s Highbeam. I was a little alarmed that I’d be heading out to work with a big pink, sparkly head on me, but I used a light hand and achieved the desired subtle effect. Because of its thick consistency it takes a little work to blend the cream in all over your face (the primer helps), but once it’s done, you have a lovely glowy base for your make-up. You get a lot of product for the price, too. 

Estee Lauder Spotlight Skin Tone Perfector: This lotion is a much thinner formulation than the eyeko cream and comes in a white tube. There’s a scent, but it’s not a strong or off-putting one, and the product is very easy to apply and absorbs well. Where eyeko looks like Benefit’s Moonbeam, on first appearance this product seems similar to Highbeam – but smooth both creams out and you get virtually the same finish. Inspecting the back of my hands now, I can see that the shimmer particles in Spotlight are much finer than in the eyeko cream, but on the face I couldn’t seen any obvious difference. Spotlight is way pricier at €37.50 in BT’s, but justifies the cost by claiming that, over time, the product can help fade discolorations on the face and prevent new ones. I have a stubborn sunspot on my right cheek that hasn’t faded yet, but with that faint hope, this is the cream that I’ll keep using in my daily routine (but before the primer from here on in, to reap the skincare benefits).  Look, a girl can dream. 

R-L: Blob of eyeko cream, thick layer of Spotlight, eyeko sheered out a little, Spotlight sheered out a little; sheer em out again and they start to look virtually the same, but my camera couldn't pick this up for ya.

Stila Illuminating Finishing Powder in Bronze: This was a gift, and another product for which you need a light hand. I don’t use bronzer, other than to contour, so I was a bit worried about putting this sparkley bronze powder all over my face. A light swirl later and I was impressed: just like it says in the name, my skin looks ‘finished’ with no obvious sparkles. It also comes in gold and rose gold, which are both available on Beauty Bay for £22 – they seem to be out of the bronze. (And I'm still sad we can't get Stila in Dublin anymore.)

theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer: This is a highly-pigmented, champagne coloured ‘luminiser’ with which, again, it would be easy to go a little over the top.  I followed my all-over application with a quick swish of a clean kabuki brush which blended it out a little and left me with a sheer, glowing, radiant complexion. My skin is on the warmer side and this colour suits me more than Stila’s bronze shade; I imagine it’s similar to the Stila Gold Illuminating Finishing Powder but don’t quote me because I haven’t had a chance to try that out.  I’ve also been using this as a quick daytime eyeshadow and like it just as much. And that’s before I even start on the gorgeously retro packaging… 

I previously wrote about theBalm launching in A-wear but will update you with more details on that asap. 

Coming soon: the final part of this little skin brightening series, with a review of The Sanctuary's brightening cleanser and exfoliator...

*Post title: Lyric from Nellie Furtado, 'Glow'

02 December 2010

Skin brightener trials, part 2: 'How can the light that burned so brightly suddenly turn so pale?'*

As my skin increasingly cops onto the concept that I wasn’t born yesterday, or even the day before that, I’ve been experimenting with various concoctions in the hope of more youthful, brighter and radiant looking skin. Yesterday I told you about my search for the perfect serum; today the quest continue as I play with primers (and annoy with aimless alliteration).
Ahem. Moving swiftly along…
So! Apart from Clarins Beauty Flash Balm, and despite the rake of them that are out there, I’ve been blithely ignoring the existence of these products as an unnecessary, additional step to my morning routine. But I had a couple of them lying about, so in the name of research …
  • Clarins Beauty Flash Balm: First up, this old favourite of mine: Beauty Flash Balm must be the grandmother of all primers, because I remember nicking my mum’s when I was about 15/16 and had absolutely no business mucking about with the natural glow of youth. I picked up some of my own in my early twenties and, as the first high-end beauty product I’d ever owned myself, fell head –over-heels in love. Revisiting it now though leaves me a little puzzled because the glowy, tightened, brightened effects of yore are noticeably absent. This is a good make-up base and creates a nice finish but, at €30-something for 30mls, it’s too pricey for my pocket. Though they are doing a nice Swarovski encrusted limited edition at the moment...
  • Benefit Dr Feelgood Face Refiner Complexion Balm: I love that this mattifying face balm comes in a kitsch, handbag-sized metal tin. But that’s about all I love, because this doesn’t suit my normal-to-combination skin at all. It was a recent gift which I used with trepidation because I’d purchased in my mid-twenties and experienced breakouts and dry, flaky patches; unfortunately, I had a repeat experience and I won’t be using this again. However, it could be good for those with oilier skin because of its mattifying properties.  
  • Gosh Velvet Touch Foundation Primer: Courtesy of A-wear, who stock Gosh products in at least their Grafton and Hentry Street stores, I had a couple of little sample packets of this clear, scentless serum to try out and I had two very different experiences. The first time I applied it under a base of Chanel Pro Lumiere, which has a satin finish, and the combination left my skin feeling oddly damp throughout the day. I was very conscious of my make-up and kept touching my face.
I’d more or less decided this primer business was waste of time until I started hunting for a new foundation and acquired a couple of testers. One day of wearing the matte finish DiorSkin Sculpt alone left my skin feeling a little tight; I tried it out with the primer and it applied and wore like a dream. I wasn’t aware of wearing make-up at all and am now seriously considering purchasing both of these products.

But I want to try out a couple of other combos before I make up my mind. Just to be sure, like. In particular I’d love to give Chanel’s Base Lumiere and the Laura Mercier Foundation Primer a bit of a whirl. Have you tried any of these products, and what did you make of them?
Next up it’s yet another thrilling instalment as I take a look at a couple of glow creams and illuminating finishing powders. I have less of these to play with so will whack ‘em into the same post. Try and contain yourselves, now…

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*Post title: Simon and Garfunkel, ‘Bright Eyes’

01 December 2010

Inside the Blogger's Studio

Prettied up this post with a Santry snow pic...

I am possibly a little over-excited about being tagged for the first time by the fabliss Red Lemonade. But having done 3 victory laps of the office, I think I’m sufficiently settled to let the Q&A commence…

Why did you create the blog?

The blog itself is pretty new but the seed has been germinating for a while, ever since I accompanied Jen from The Lady Loves Books to the last Irish Blog Awards and had the most wonderful time at the Longlex Ladies Tea Party, surrounded by charming, witty and altogether fabulous female bloggers.

What kind of blogs do you follow?
Good ones! Mostly Irish: varying from beauty (like beaut.ie, obvs, and mwah.ie and Nailish Ramblings and lovelygirliebits) to fashion (FashMob, Sonya Goulding, What She Wears, Style Siren ), to a bit of culture (The Lady Loves Books, dublinculture) and personal/lifestyle blogs like Rosemary MacCabe’s and my tagger today, Red Lemonade. She’s given me a whole load of suggestions too with her answer to this question. (Disclaimer! I also follow a load of other great blogs too so please don't be offended if I haven't included you here, there are just too many to list out everyone I read.)
Favourite make up brand?
Oh now this is tricky since I am a self-confessed make-up junkie. I love a bit of Chanel, I do, so if I can only pick one I’d probably go for that. Although I’d probably pick Lancome for mascara and MAC for eyeshadow, and … actually this is an impossible question. I’m just going to stop here.
Favourite clothing brand?
I love all of the high street in equal measure.

Your indispensable make up product?
These days probably some sort of radiance boosting lotion or potion. Although I don’t do things by half measures; if I’m wearing make-up I’ll wear several products or none at all. If I could only wear one then I’d just go with a good lip balm.

Favourite colour?
Pale blue –  that duck egg sorta colour. I don’t wear it; I just like to surround myself with it whenever possible.

Your perfume?
Chanel No 5. I have about 3 bottles on the go. I also like Chanel Allure and am deeply desirous of Chanel Beige, which is one of the pricey les exclusifs de Chanel. In the summer I like something a bit citrus-y and last year that was Chanel’s Cristalle Eau Verte. And to break the Chanel theme I really like the Harvey Nichols own label perfume, HN.

Your favourite film?

Withnail and I. And The Big Lebowski, Disco Pigs, The Breakfast Club, Hotel Rwanda, Clerks, True Romance, Romper Stomper and Morvern Callar. I also like quite a lot of horror movies. 
What country would you like to visit and why?
I want to visit lots of countries but Japan is probably top of the list, because it seems like such a colourful, exciting, beautiful mash-up of the modern and traditional.

Write the last question and answer it yourself: was this as much fun as you thought it would be? Hell yeah.

Consider thyself tagged, Rosemary MacCabe, Sonya Goulding and Jen of The Lady Loves Books. Have at it!