♥Day: Eating and Drinking

If I liked to bake, these would be the best thing ever:

How cute? Seriously. And how delicious? Honestly, Aldi, could you be any cleverer? And at €4.99 each, could you be any better value?

The Valentine Bakeware could arguably used for many a holiday, but naturally it is perfect for next week’s ‘holiday’. You can whip up a bunch of tiny hearts with the Silicone Heart Muffin Tray, or go for it in a big way with the Silicone Heart Cake Mould. The former is perfect for treating friends and colleagues; the latter, of course, for your more private celebrations.

Too bad I hate to bake! It’s so dusty, what with all that flour getting all over the place! Even cake mixes, like Betty Crocker, give me pain and annoyance. The mixing, the eggs, ugh, hate it. Cakes are not as bad as cookies/biscuits, which are just an endless trial to the patience: so many batches, and then what if you have to frost them?

So, in lieu of baking, I’ll be drinking, ta very much. Also on offer at Aldi are bottles of Veuve Monsigny Premier Cru Champagne, €22.99. I love bubbles as deeply as I loathe baking, so it was no hardship for me to tuck this in the fridge and wait for the chilly time.

It’s delicious! Oh, and the thing where you put a teaspoon in the neck of the bottle, to keep it bubbly? Works every time. Not for, like ever, but who wants to hoard a bottle of champers? Not me!

♥Day: A Rose By Any Other Name…

… is a bit of a cliché, but clichés are clichés for a reason. Not only because they are fail-safe, go-to solutions! Okay, maybe only because of that.

In the course of surfing about, I’ve discovered that the auld dozen long-stemmed red rose gambit has been getting trashed from here to New Zealand. Me, I like all sorts of flowers, and can see the point of the giver maybe getting a little more creative. And rosy scents, well.. they can have a bit of an old biddie vibe.

As you can imagine, the 14th of February releases an avalanche of rose-related objects, and I’ve culled a bunch {LOL} that I think can cover the rosy bases without making it tragically unoriginal.

This is great — it’s a lip balm by ANDREA GARLAND. The Valentine’s Day Silkie Brooch with Rose Essential Oil (£26; purchase on http://www.andreagarland.co.uk) keeps your lip care handy, pinned right there to your jacket or your jumper, and it is infused with our friend the rose, as well as benzion, grapefruit and lavender. Refills are a fiver, which is a snip. If you’ve suddenly decided you’re going to start kitting yourself out exclusively in vintage clothing, this is the perfect accessory to such a look.

Rose Otto is is an essential oil, and it is highly prized because it takes about 60,000 roses to produce one ounce of oil. Seriously! And, like, one drop of the stuff is equal to two and half dozen. Sheesh! I found that the REN Morrocan Rose Otto Ultra-Moisture Body Oil (€40/£34/$65) was really effective on damp, just-out-of-the-shower skin. By contrast, the offering from AROMATHERAPY ASSOCIATES Renew Rose Massage Body Oil (€43.50/£36/$61) is aces on a dry bod. I’ve experienced many of the oils in AA line, and they are excellent.

Top off your rosy outlook with PERCY & REED Splendidly Silky Shampoo and Conditioner (€17.60/20.10/£14/16). I promise I won’t link to that post again {hint: search for My Name is Susan… on this site, if you don’t know what I’m talking about} but to recap: I am addicted to haircare products and naturally would not pass up the chance to try a new one. This has rose in it, along with apple, citrus, amber, ivy… the list actually does go on. I found the shampoo to be a bit drying, and so needed extra conditioner to mitigate that, but the result is indeed splendidly silky, and shiny. And manageable, which I never really thought of what that meant — given my devotion to this line of stuff, that seems ridic. I felt this made the mane manageable because I haven’t bothered flat ironing it, and it looks pretty boss. Plus! Second day hair was remarkably fresh and fabulous.

Last but not least, let’s shed some sweet-smelling light on the subject of roses with a Red Roses Home Candle from JO MALONE (€50/£38/$65). The scent is comprised of not one but seven different long-stemmed beauties, along with some other scents (violet leaves, spearmint, lemon) thrown in. With a burn time of 45 hours, wowee, you can get a lot of mileage out this one: Jo Malone candles fill the home with fragrance, and the gorgeous smell lingers long after you’ve put out the flame. And here’s hoping your partner d’amour does the same…

Looking for a good deal? cloud10beauty.com are offering a free REN Body Wash or Body Cream when you buy any 2 REN products. so load up on the Rose Otto!

♥Day: Smelling Good is Its Own Reward

Yeah, well, you know what? Every day really is Valentine’s Day, for me at least, because I love fragrance and I love smelling good.

I keep meaning to investigate the psychology of scent, to see what the opinions are. Does one spritz habitually out of low self esteem {ooh, I am so stinky I must mask it} or out high self esteem {I am a beautiful flower, come and admire me}? I don’t ‘do’ signature scents, I mean, Jo Malone’s Pomegranate Noir is something that people recognise as ‘me’, but I think I use scent more as an indicator of how I feel on the day. There are days when I’m feeling zesty and youthful, and days when I’m feeling deep and mysterious. Sweet and sexy day? Karma by Lush. Sentimental? Coco by Chanel.

Right, so: I’ve gotten my hands on a couple things that are in the deep, mysterious, and sexy category. Those who favour the zesty and clean and sexy stuff I’ll refer to this post.

Perhaps it’s simply because I am easily led — perhaps I am a package designer/marketeer’s dream girl — but could there be anything sexier than Emporio Armani Black Carat for Her (€61.50) and for Him (€53.50)? I ask you. And this may go back to the ‘easily led’ part, but they smell sexy too. Especially the one for Him. I just had this flash, this mental image, of me running around town spritzing dudes, just so I can smell how yum this must be on a guy. I wonder if that behaviour is actionable…

Just for the ladies, Thierry Mugler’s Alien (€30) is terribly appealing, and manages to combine some dark and sexy bits with a floral finish. I always associate flowers with light scents, but I don’t think that’s always the rule. Must also chase up that perfumery lesson… Anyway, love the bottle! It does look like a wee alien! Adorbs!

Actually, perhaps once I take that lesson, I can maybe get a gig writing the copy for fragrances? It looks like fun! It seems to me to be the same as writing about wine — about which I also know nothing, except that some is white and some is red and some is somewhere in the middle. I was googling, based on personal experience, a lovely — I mean, manly — fragrance for a dude, and remembered how much I liked Eau des Baux by L’Occitane (€44). I love the copy on the site generally, but this description really rang my bell:

In Provence, the knights from the village of Les Baux chose the cypress tree as a symbol of their strength and honor, and a bright star in the sky as their guiding force. In honor of their courage, L’OCCITANE has created a sensual and mysterious blend of cypress and incense named Eau de Baux.

Fantastic! And the fragrance is, too: earthy and musky and masculine. It is a bit risky, purchasing fragrance for another, and especialy if yer man doesn’t normally wear eau de toilette… but maybe you can get wee samples or something? Or employ my strategy as outlined above… or maybe not.

♥Day: If I Was Your Mum, I Would Be Delighted to Receive This Prezzie

This is fannnn-cy, and like a little spa in a box. It’s a bit pricey, so maybe get a sibling in on it? A brother would be perfect, thereby sparing them the panic and fear of having to nip into a chemist’s at the eleventh hour.

Yon Ka are a French company whose products are made from ingredients of natural origin — and they are happy enough to advertise the exact percentage on their packaging. In this case, the Masque No 1 has 90%, and the Phyto Bain comes in at 85%.

Both are extremely gentle, and the bath oil is especially super fantastic — one capful is enough to make the whole bath smell gorgeous. And if you — I mean, your mum — gives herself the masque, which is a light gel-based affair, and then gets into the tub? Bliss.

Hmmm… I think your mum will be delighted to receive this prezzie, because she will have, in fact, received it, and you didn’t keep it for yourself, greedy guts.

The set is €69.50, which is a savings of €15.50 were you to buy them individually. Grab that sib, pony up, and be the world’s best children ever.

(Also: Mother’s Day, but that’s a post for another month…)

Here’s as Sexy a Multitasker as I’ve Ever Seen!

I love candles generally, in everyday life — and I’ve just taken a moment to fire one up — and also consider them to be an absolute ‘must’ for when it comes to sexytimes. As you may know by now, scents are important to me, and if they are to you, as well, here’s a lovely line of lighter-uppers that serve a dual task.

Eve Taylor is an actual person, and she’s been at the forefront of aromatherapy since the late ’60s. Her products are free and clear of all those nasties that we’ve become accustomed to giving the side eye, and neither are they tested on animals. Her candles are made from 100% plant wax and pure natural essential oils, and when they melt, you can use them as a massage material.

I say ‘material’ because it’s not exactly like an oil. I mean, it’s touted as an oil, but it feels less slippery than that. And it’s not like when you get candle wax on your fingers either, you know, the way it hardens up immediately and you have to peel it off? It transfers the scent of the candle, via the wax, to the skin, and the warmth of the material makes for a really, really nice rub down.

The set pictured is the Romance trio; this post can do double duty as well, and I’ll tag it as ♥Day, but boy, am I sick of that already. The Relaxing & Indulgent candle contains orange, geranuim, ylang ylang and lavender; the Sensual & Exotic is loaded up with orange, patchouli, ylang ylang and caffir lime; the last is exactly what it says on the tin, Wild Fig & Grape. I liked this last the least, and the first the most, but there’s something here for all vibes and impulses.

Now, how do you use this without ending up in casualty? Taylor makes larger candles, into which one can dip a teaspoon. These wee ones, not so much. DON’T dip your finger in while the flame is still going. I know, common sense, right? But when you’re getting all heated up, you may forget simple fire safety in the process. You can tilt the glass and let the material run out, minding the flame, so that you don’t have to relight the thing — you can blow it out, have another one set up somewhere else, and maybe get back to relighting the first one.

What all that lacks in spontaneity it makes up for in warm, essential oily goodness. And hey, practice makes perfect!

€28/£18.39/No $ info because the American site is fairly useless.

♥Day: More Lip Service

Well, this is a likely line up! Naturally, all of the above are perfect for every day use, but there’s lots ‘o’ smooching on ♥Day, so, get in shape, ladiez!

Whilst not the most romantic looking package in the family, I have to say that I am unconditionally in love with DERMALOGICA’s AGE smart renewal lip complex (€30/£22.50/$26). It’s hard to show its special feature in a crappy picture that I would take myself, so I gave up, but the top of the applicator is like a tiny collander: you spin the dial at the base, and the lip complex comes out of little holes. You don’t need much — I got great results with a half a turn — and it feels clean and neat. And so will your lips.

I liked the minty tingle I got from YES TO CARROTS’ C Me Blush Lip Tint in Cotton Candy (€8/£5.99/$10). This is a very light tint, i.e. barely there, but there’s just enough of a bit of glitter to pick up the light. It’s pretty and low key, a perfect combination of treatment and light make up, and purely excellent when you want to be able to reapply without looking in a mirror.

ORIGINS Lip Remedy (€17/£13/12.50) is a great go-to balm if your lips are in rag order. Chapped, cracked and peeling lips will find relief in the menthol/camphor based product, along with a whole bunch of other good things like French Thyme and Oil of Wintergreen. This feels like the perfect ski bum balm? I don’t know, I haven’t skied in years, but if I went, I’d have this in a pocket.

Okay, this is kind of a drag, but I’m going to go ahead anyway: because I saw ‘House of Fraser’ in the press release, and we have an HoF in Dundrum, I was all over this gig, a charity product by our friends from Clinique. This darling little pouch is the centrepiece of the Kiss It Better appeal, in aid of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity in London. It’s not available in Ireland, which is a bust, but you can purchase it for £25 on the Clinique website. From left, the treats are: Superbalm Moisturizing Gloss in Raspberry; Vitamin C Lip Smoothie Antioxidant Lip Colour in Pink Me Up; Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm in Woppin’ Watermelon; and Long Last Glosswear SPF15 in Mystic. I totally ♥ the little silvery bag…

♥Day: If I Was Your Pal, I Would Be Quite Happy to Receive This Gift Set

Okay, so The Handmade Soap Co.‘s Valentine’s Offering is labelled ‘A Box of Sensual Delights’, so you could argue that this is skewed to a partner-type creature, but I like the idea that my friends think:

A} That I would have use for a box of sensual delights

B} That, you know, they think I’m pretty or whatever.

Don’t we want our friends to think and want the best for us? This gift is a total vote of confidence! And it’ll get you sorted entirely as it contains Body Butter, Body Oil {for massaging or putting in the bath — or for putting in the bath and then also using for a massage}, Grapefruit scented soap and a candle, which is made of Soya and all-natural.

Bonus! The company is guaranteed Irish. Apparently, the hand cream is a cult object, but I haven’t come across any so far…


See www.thehandmadesoapcompany.iefor more info, and to enjoy their fab site.

Happy Saint Brigid’s Day

It occurred to me that a post on candles would suit an acknowledgement of Brigid’s Day, and lo and behold! I got some press from Voya, the Strandhill crowd who make this, which I love beyond all reason.

I have a wee travel candle made by the Irish-based, seaweed cornerstoned, beauty product company, and as it turns out, it is the same exact thing as The Original, as pictured here. Well! I can tell you that the scent is an interesting mixture of sexy and zesty, kind of dark-ish and yet invigorating at the same time. The former would be the patchouli; the latter, mandarin.

An interesting mix, indeed, very much akin to the representations we have of Brigid, who is called both goddess and saint. As the former, she has the gifts of poetry, healing, and smithcraft, and is the guardian of fertility and fire, so by extension, of life, death and rebirth. She is an embodiment of the Divine Feminine in Ireland, and such was her importance that she became assimilated as a saint when the Christian religion took precedence on this island.

As Saint, she is still associated with fire, the keeper of the flame that lights the dark corners and brings solace. At her home in Kildare, the light of Brigid is kept burning by the Brigandine Sisters in Solas Bhride, and the annual Féile Bríde, a week-long celebration that kicks off on the eve of Bridget’s Day, is a terrific way to ring in the Spring. I’ve done the pilgrimage to St Brigid’s Well, and it is ancient, moving, and fun!

Her feast day of Imbolc/Candlemas marks the return of Spring, the return of life and light to the world. And frankly, it sheds a little light {sorry} on the whole Valentine’s thing. Funny how ♥Day falls in February, at the time of year things are starting to warm up and, ahem, seeds are about to be planted… and sure enough, our old friends the Romans celebrated Lupercalia, a fertility festival, around this time every year.

So despite the consumerism, there is at least a symbolic and historical meaning to all this Valentine’s carry on. So whether you’d like to honour Brigid or that little cupid dude, then I am happy to suggest Voya’s candle as a little celebratory fire; your fertility is entirely your own concern.

Voya The Original Candle, €44 voya.ie

For more info on the celebrations in Kildare Town, see here.

And here’s a link to an informed, in-depth look at Brigid, goddess and saint.

♥Day: Bliss Fabulips

Here we go! First in the series! File this under: Grooming.

Remember that picture of all those shampoos? Yeah, well, I won’t even dare to photograph all the lip balms, scrubs, and other treatments I’ve got all over the house, in my handbags, and in the pockets of my coats. It’s a Thing, and that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject.

If you want to get your lips in top-notch snogging condition for the ♥Day, or for any day, I wholeheartedly {oops, didn’t mean to do that, but feck it, it stays} direct you to bliss’ fabulips treatment kit. As it clearly states, the kit is completely fabu for your lips.

There are four components:
1>Foaming Lip Cleanser
2>Sugar Lip Scrub
3>Instant Lip Plumper
4>Softening Lip Balm

1>Foaming Lip Cleanser Once, I got a thing, it was like a lip cleanser or something, and it was the consistency of cold cream. Yuck! It was gross. This is a cleanser, too, and not that gross. Talk about damning with faint praise! This has the same scent and tingle as does bliss’ triple oxygen mask, which is interesting. It foams up, just a tiny bit, after you’ve applied the tiniest, tiny bit, and it feels pretty good. I’m not into heavy, dark lippy these days, but I am sure that this would clean off even the stubbornest long-wearing lip colour.

2>Sugar Lip Scrub Once, I also got another thing that was a lip scrub, and using it was like smooching a sugar bowl. Even as I cut back and cut back back the dosage, I always felt like I was wasting product. Not so with this little tub ‘o’ scrub: the merest swipe of a finger dispenses the perfect amount of product, which in turn does a terrific job of exfoliating your lips. Nut allergy people, beware! This contains walnut.

3>Instant Lip Plumper This is nice and minty. I don’t know, not a fan of lip plumpers, but at least this one doesn’t sting like you’ve just tried to snog a nest of wasps. I know the stinging is the thing that does the plumping, but sorry: ouch. Gotta love the flexible plastic applicator, though. I may use it, just for love of that.

4>Softening Lip Balm Oh, God, not another balm for me to fall for! This one is as soft as it says, and it smells coconutty. Since I am keen to keep the integrity of the kit, this most likely won’t find itself into a bag or a pocket. Probably…