WWASD? Post-Christmas Gift Guide

WHAT WOULD AUNTIE SUE DO? I was late, as usual, getting my gift guide together. Gathering images, deciding to take some pictures and do some Photoshop, making sure I’ve got prices and shopping info — it all takes (probably more) time (than it should). I’d gotten as far as the images and the photoshoppery — and then my family experienced an untimely and shocking loss: my beloved godmother and aunt, whose namesake I am, was struck down by a car two weeks before Christmas and killed. It’s as raw as that sentence, just the worst effing thing ever and I extend my compassion and empathy to anyone who has experienced something similar.

So, blogging and all it entailed was obviously shunted to the side; I also felt bad about not following through with my plans as my posting year had shifted largely to Instagram and I wanted to start back working here.

I couldn’t settle to what to do. Should I skip it? Should I reframe it? It seemed ridic to worry when there was so much more going on than the state of my wee blog. And then I thought:  what would Auntie Sue do?

She’d go shopping.

A longtime QVC devotee and coat-and-handbag enthusiast, she’d feel her feelings and hit the mall — or like most of us, do that simultaneously. I’m not sure I’m even half the woman she was, so I’ll just leave this here for those who got vouchers or gift tokens from Santa, or who are happy to spend cash the big fat man in the red suit might have left in their stockings. While I’m not certain that Jo Malone may even have any Christmas stock left, I do know that Lush do a big reduction on their Christmas gifts. In any event, I’ve honoured my intentions because that was Auntie Sue’s style.

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lush-set-1

Speaking of Lush: I don’t know how big the reductions are, but they do cut prices, and even ten percent off this collection is good value. Inside this stunning box resides a personal fave, Ro’s Argan Body Conditioner, The Comforter Bubble Bar and Shower Cream, Rub Rub Rub Body Scrub and a sample of Gorgeous, their truly excellent facial moisturiser. It’s not like you can shop in advance for next Christmas — Lush is not for hoarding — but early 2017 birthdays might benefit from the sales.

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burts-bees-lip-collection
Ideal for anyone who likes a range of lip colour choices that also involve lip care, I can’t recommend anything more highly. From the top, the famous Burt’s Bee tinted lip balm; in the middle, the legendary lip shimmer; and last but absolutely not least, the brand’s new lip crayon. I’ve been using the guts outta Redwood Forest: it’s a rich purplish red that works really well with a no-make up face, and is easy-peasy to reapply all day long.

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trilogy-radiance-set
If you haven’t tried the New Zealand’s brand uh-maaazing CoQ10 Booster Oil, here’s a great excuse to give it a go, along with samples from Trilogy’s Age Proof line. I’d say treat yo’self even if all these sets have sold out: I had my tester propped up precariously on its head, in an attempt to get every drop of goodness out of the bottle.

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too-faced-merry-macarons
I have been all about Two Faced in recent times: their Melted Matte Liquified Long Wear Matte Lipstick is the bomb, the best matte I’ve tried thus far, and their Better Than Sex mascara is legendary. The Christmas In New York Merry Macarons palette was a pleasant surprise, not only due to the delicious vanilla scent of the pans; while I didn’t find it the best to put on — the colours seemed to drag rather flow smoothly onto the lid — once I got it on, it stayed on and stayed fresh. This is/was a limited edition, but be inspired to check out their many eyeshadow palette options.

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jo-malone-candle-cutout
Speaking of LEs, this year Jo Malone‘s signature scent was Orange Bitters, and it was gorgeous. It was a perfect pairing with their new Basil & Neroli scent, so if you can’t get the former anymore, do check out the latter, which has already appeared in these, er, pages (screens? posts…) I also highly recommend dropping your spondoolicks on any of the three Dry Body Oils: Oud & Begamot, Dark Amber & Ginger Lily or Velvet Rose & Oud. They are great on the skin and make a terrific base for fragrance layering. Don’t like oils? (you heathen!) You can get these delicious intense sets in their signature body crème as well.

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dermalogica-body-and-face
Head-to-toe premium care, these are great when you’re heading off somewhere for a longer-than-usual period of time and don’t want to let your regime go by the wayside. I especially like the masques for travelling, as each one targets a specific experience: post-flight Multivitamin Power Recovery Masque is great to use inflight; Skin Hydrating Masque is perfect for post-sun exposure; and Charcoal Recovery Masque comes in handy if you’re on a city break and need to deep clean. The body care set comes with an Ultimate Buffing Cloth which is long enough to wrap around yourself and give your backside a good going over.

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body-shop-mask-duo
Clear impurities and plump up your skin simultaneously. Multi-masking may have seemed like a flash in the pan, but it’s really not, and this set gives you the option of Himalayan Charcoal for deep cleaning and British Rose for feeling fresh and hydrated. Both are 100% vegan and as per The Body Shop’s ethos, are never tested on animals. This Christmas, They donated funds from select gift sets to aid their Bio-Bridge initiative, which helps restore one square metre of rainforest per purchase. If you want to feel beautiful inside and out, this is the go-to brand.

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spa-magic-organics
Hey, let’s all just relax. I have several go-to I-can’t-sleep remedies, and I can say with confidence that Spa Magick is truly, well, magic. My stupid water heater takes ages and many euros to make a decent bath, so I’ll have to really be struggling before I’ll avail of the lavender salts; the oil, however, is the ideal bedside companion for application all over before the pursuit of snoozes. The six oils include lavender, rose-hip and vitamin E, so good for your skin and your restfulness. Apply to your pulse points in addition to your face, scalp or cuticles, and then breath deeply and zzzzzzzzzz.

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glitter-face
Does it have to be Christmas to glitter and glow? Eh, no: there’s nothing I like more than a little bit of highlight going a long way. And with New Year’s Eve imminent, this group makes a seamless transition from holiday to partay. Clockwise from left: Too Faced Snow Bunny Luminous Bronzer will do your face a good turn in the summertime, too; Paese Cosmetics Sun Of Egypt Powder is also a warming touch of sun and perfect if you prefer working with a loose mineral powder; L’Oréal True Match Liquid Highlight is a buildable wonder; Sleek MakeUP Diamonds In The Rough i-Lust Palette is a champagne-inspired eyeshadow palette; Jane Iredale 24-Karat Gold Dust is just dying to be stroked over your collarbones and décolletage; and finally my two faves from the Essie WInter Collection inspired by Swinging Sixties London:  Getting Groovy and Party On A Platform.

 

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You’re on your own with the prices, lads. 

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Launch Love: Dermalogica’s Phyto Replenish Oil

I reckon the biggest disappointment people experience in their day-to-day beauty dermalogica-phyo-replenishquest is immediate effect. Or in other words, magic. Makeup can be magic, but skincare takes more effort, and if doesn’t get better right away, we can be quick to bin the offending product, or skip whatever part of the regime it is that is letting us down.

Time, eh? Who asked it to be so slow?

Except when we start detecting signs of ageing, that is. Time suddenly turns into a speed-freak, running away on us, leaving fine lines and gaping pores behind. I flip the bird at you, Time — and not merely symbolically, either: DERMALOGICA’s new Phyto Replenish Oil is here to help us put You in your place.

I’m already a fan of their Overnight Repair Serum, so having been allowed to trial something equally as good for the daytime has been nothing but a joy, particularly as it works so well.

One of those nasty things that Time does is to reduce our ability to restore our lipids, those oils that create a protective layer against the environment and keep our skin supple and dewy. Phyto Replenish Oil is basically dewiness-in-a-bottle, thanks to a combination of plant-based active ingredients that makes us shine — in the good way — and helps shore up our depleted lipids.

There’s hyaluronic acid, chia seed oil {especially good for skin that is itchy and needs soothing}, orchid flower extract {which helps lock in moisture} and rice bran oil {provides UV ray and free radical protection}. The texture of Phyto Replenish is light it smells clean with a hint of floral freshness, and despite absorbing like a shot, it doesn’t leave the kind of dry squinch that many quick-absorbing products can: your skin will still feel plump and hydrated and gorgeous.

Add to your SPF or your moisturiser or primer, or use it straight up: six to seven drops will do you, and do right by you. It won’t leave your skin greasy-looking, either, and in fact imparts the kind of glow you took for granted, once upon a Time.

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Available now worldwide! €62/£79.45/$75

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I Used It All Up: Clinique Moisture Surge Melting Mask Balm

CLINIQUE Moisture Surge Melting Mask Balm

Hello, phone — meant to do that.

At €32 for 15ml, it doesn’t seem to be much of an investment, but I am so tempted to scrape out that little bit that’s left. CLINIQUE’s Moisture Surge Melting Mask Balm is a limited edition, and I liked it so much, I limited my application of this edition — counter-intuitive, I know, because shouldn’t you be using something you like? — but rationing it out made it last for almost six months.

Naturally, I have no before image. It looks like a tin of Vaseline, only richer and whiter, and the smallest scrape of a fingernail yielded enough to cover the face and a bit of neck, once warmed up in the palms. I never used it during the day, although one can, on one’s rough patches, and the directions suggested tissue-ing off any excess after ten minutes if using before bed — not me, I went for the full overnight intensive experience, and loved it.

That small size made it extremely easy to take along on trips, which = duh, but I have a whole slew of minis that are designated for travel, so I never think to bring along anything that I consider to be part of my serious regime. That’ll learn me!

Also: this feels clean, if you know what I mean: not sticky, not heavy, and I woke without feeling like I needed to scrape it off my skin. I highly recommend this little beauty!

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€32/£26/$Not finding it in the States?$

Beauty For a Snip! Cien at Lidl

Despite being rebranded, I have long admired the cotton pads for sale in Lidl. Iseree, Cien? Eh, just don’t take away my love, dudes.

Beauty products come and go in the global discount supermarket chain, but Cien‘s new line that’s taking up permanent residence from now on.
CIEN makeup launch
I’ve given the lippy a good going over, as well as the lip gloss, and both are excellent. I esepcially love the Rich Magenta (fourth from left) because it is just the right amount of pink without being too hot or too rosy.

Equally welcome is the new haircare range:
CIEN haircare launch
You can get the full whack for less than a sevener, and it is really stands up to anything that you’d buy in the €15-20 range, particularly for a keratin-infused concoction. In this case, the Intensive Repair Mask is my fave, as I love little better than a good hair mask; take this one for a spin if you are a fan of co-washing, it is so good.

For those of us who like to impulsively fling a new lippy into the trolley, you {we!} can now do this with abandon…

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{Co-washing, you say? It’s using conditioner only, without shampoo, something that those with fine and super curly hair swear by. My version is more like condition, shampoo, condition, and it’s worked a treat. I also find that this gets the best out of those good-for-you, but hard-to-use sulfate-free shampoo/conditioner duos. I find them pesky because of the low-lather, which makes my fine hair explode like bamboo shoots tossed into a wok. As ever, YMMV.}

Time Out of Time: Lusty Beg Island

Take time out, they say. It’ll be grand, they say. Truth: there is nothing like a nice weekend away, much less one that involves pampering. I’m honoured to have been hosted at spa hotels all over the country, but the sensation of being on an island almost exactly in the middle of this island added even more of that special feeling of ‘being away’ than I’ve experienced so far.

Lusty Beg Island sits in Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh. The drive from Dublin to Enniskillen was a manageable 90 minutes-ish on the bus, and travelling from the depot to the island took about half an hour. When we crossed a bridge onto Boa Island, I was a tiny bit bummed and said to the driver, ‘Oh, so… this is like Achill? You can just drive on?’ He said, ‘You’ll see,’ and in moments, I did: after going up a boreen (okay, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t a dual carriageway), we came to a dock, and zipped onto a tidy little two-car ferry.

It was a journey of less than five minutes, if that, but once we disembarked, everything changed.

Lusty Beg Exterior (11)

Lusty Beg accommodation — one of the many options

From the Irish for ‘small lodge’, Lusty Beg was once home to monks, and within moments, I felt like I was stepping in their contemplative footsteps. Even with all the accommodation — 40 rooms, and an assortment of chalets, lodges, cabins and apartments — I felt like I had the place to myself. Even after having a lovely lunch in the bar, and seeing actual other people in the place, once I left to get my treatment, I had an uncanny sensation that I had the whole island to myself.

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THE SEAWEED BATH

Deep bath + VOYA seaweed = bliss!

I am masso fan of Lazy Days Seaweed Bath from VOYA, as I have described here; in fact, this was one of the very first products I ever blogged about. I haven’t had one in ages, so the chance to enjoy one, practically at the source, wasn’t something I was going to pass up. I’d already had a facial in the Island Spa that used VOYA products, and as such was pretttttty relaxed, but the soak in the seaweed-infused water finished me off, in the best possible sense.

There wasn’t a toxin left in me by the time the 30 minutes was up — and I didn’t actually make it for the full time. The tub, straight out of a sexy, renovated TV-decorating show bathroom, was long enough for me to stretch out in, and I added a bit of hot and cold water as necessary… but the drinking water from the pitcher that was set tub-side ended up going over my head to cool me down, as much as it went into me. I crawled out to take a break, and just as I was about to go back in for more, the knock on the door landed. As much as I wished it could have gone on forever, half an hour was in fact exactly enough.

I made my way to my self-catering log cabin (the kitchen was nicer than the one in my apartment), didn’t bother unpacking, and sat myself down on the couch, because:

THE VIEW

Utterly relaxing, rain…

And the next day, I spent a good few hours there again, because:

THE VIEW2

…and shine

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It’s not all seaweed baths and contemplation: there are numerous activities to avail of as well, of the casual adventure-type — although, having said that, the off-roading probably gets pretty hairy; from my own experience in the speedboat, don’t eat before embarking, because even if the lake’s not rough, which is was when I was taken for a spin, then the speed may make you want to vom.

THE BOAT

Yeah, okay, it looks as smooth as glass — it was not

Or you can try archery for the first time ever in your life and MAYBE HIT THE BULLSEYE.

BULLSEYE!

BOOM

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I adore a good illustrated map.

LUSTY BEG MAP

I literally didn’t even get to explore anything but the long skinny part #GottaGoBack

I can’t recommend the place more highly: it’s perfect for families, couples, solo travellers, you name it. Don’t bother thinking you can have your wedding there anytime in the new few years though, someone told me they’re booked out ’til 2018 — and I can’t imagine a better, low-key, fun, beautiful place to get hitched. See here for all the ins and outs and special offers, but honestly rain, shine or hail (I am pretty sure we got a little dose of that at some stage), this is one of the better breaks I’ve ever had — and I think it shows:

GLOWING!

Relaxed and glowy

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I Used ‘Em All Up: Simple Kind To Skin Micellar Cleansing Wipes

This is surprising, because I have long been suspicious of the micellar trend, and have never been all about the wipes. As regards the former, I found that most of them didn’t do the job they promised to do when it came to eye make up, and generally left an icky, sticky residue; in terms of the latter, I hadn’t come across one — and I’d come across many — that didn’t make me feel like I’d just rubbed a Dettol Floor Wipe all over my face. I tended to use all those unusable wipes to clean my horseriding boots, tbh.

But cometh the hour, cometh the wipe.

SIMPLE micellar

Loved these. They’re refreshing give, they give good cleanse, and they ~feel~ really clean. There was no way they were going to end up in my tack box!

I didn’t find them to be totally effective on the eye makeup (once again), but I used these to take off the first round of foundation, and to remove any lingering traces of whatever else was on my face that day, and they were perfect for that. The wipe itself is sturdy yet soft, and the micellar water was in no way sticky or stripping.

I also went for these in the morning for a nice pre-shower wake-me-up (Some days, it’s necessary).

They entirely lack alcohol, perfume and colouring, and come with vitamins B5 and E. Bonus!

It’s about time that the convenience of the wipe met good skincare practice. And in fairness to micellar water, I think the technology is advancing in this case, too…

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€4.99/25 wipes

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Can’t Blame Jet Lag: Darphin 8 Flower Nectar Oil Cream

I know, I’ve written about this already, but I gotta say: this is some seriously magical stuff.

DARPHIN
Since I haven’t written in a while, and because I wanted to blame travel/time changes/the weather, it’s a bit rich to be talking about something I’ve already mentioned — but not as rich as this little tub of gorgeousness LOLLLLL.

My flight back from The Christmas (remember The Christmas?!) was delayed by seven hours. Having been good and paid attention to the repeated warnings from United about what time to pitch up, I had basically been in Newark Airport for ten hours. Nightmare! All the plans I had to beat my jet lag went out the window, and when we landed at 11.45 am and I didn’t get in my door until 1.30pm, I thought to myself, ‘I am completely screwed.’

I decided that I was going to have to stay up forever and hope for the best. My frigid little flat was so cold that it was all I could to stay out of bed and not avail of the electric underblanket. I didn’t last long, and cuddled up with my laptop and tried not to drowse. I made it to about 8pm and gave up. I reckoned that I would never sleep through ’til the next day and that I would have the lag forever and ever.

Right before I succumbed to that horrible, buzzy, cold, dizzy feeling, I lashed on Darphin’s 8 Flower Nectar Oil Cream, and hoped for the best.

That’s all I knew ’til Tuesday. I may have woken up at one stage, but not enough to wake all the way… and that was it. Made it through the entire day, and then the next I had horses and sweat out any lingering lagginess and… yeah: that’s all she wrote.

Look, I know, it ain’t cheap — it’s €91.65/$150/£95 — but if you want luminous skin and a good rest {and I reckon the skin is luminous thanks to the good rest} this has never let me down. And I’d put this up against any jet lag cure I’ve ever tried. Can’t wait to fly long-haul somewhere else just to reinforce my theory…

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