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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Festive ’14: Emma So Natural and Glove Your Body

Support your local artisan/provider!
EMMA SO NATURAL
Handmade in Ireland, Emma’s So Natural line incorporates wax tart melts and small travel candles in tins, but for me, it’s alllll about the tumbler candles.

Made from soy wax as opposed to paraffin, these last longer as they burn more slowly, and they are cleaner and greener, too. Essential oils provide the scent, and you can choose from seven. There are also seasonal choices, including Wonderland, a mix of pine, eucalyptus and benzoin.

Last shipping day by courier is the 22nd!

GLOVE
Gotta use a glove to apply the fake tan — I do know that many prefer the bare hands, but: no. Glove Your Body’s offering looks more like a plush toy than a tanning mitt, and its many features — you’d be surprised that a self-tan accessory would have more than one feature — makes it easier to spread the product around, ensuring that your tan is more even and natural-looking.

Feature One: the obviously plush surface, which helps contain the tan. Whenever I use a sponge mitt, I find that the liquid can roll all over the surface, making it hard to manage. Definitely not a problem here.
Feature Two: Inside, there are finger-holders, like in a baseball mitt, meaning that it’s not going to slip and slide all over the place.
GLOVE YOUR BODY inside
Feature Three: An opposable thumb! I had no idea that it would come in so handy! Why? I just feel like I’ve got better control of the whole process because my thumb is free.
Feature Four: Machine washable!

All in all, if you are a serial tanner, this is the Pro Mitt. And it feel really nice, too.

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Emma’s So Natural tumbler candles, €18.50; 2-pack, €35; emmas.ie

Glove Your Body, €19.99; http://www.gloveyourbody.com

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I Used It All Up: Neal’s Yard Remedies Beauty Sleep Concentrate

NYR BEAUTY SLEEPI have been known to cut off the ends of tubes to get all the rest of a product out, and of course: any excuse to show the evidence of my disbelief that there was nothing left in that Stila compact.

I stopped myself short of smashing this bottle of Neal’s Yard Remedies Beauty Sleep Concentrate, but only just.

I have adored this from the first: it plumped up my complexion while I sleep, and its gorgeous smell also helped me drift off gently into the dreamtime. My head is rather bizzy, and it can take me ages to fall asleep sometimes — most times, to be honest. This helped loads with winding down my mind, and I’m guessing it’s down to the patchouli that’s in the mix, as one of the essential oil’s qualities is that of a sedative. {There’s clary sage and ylang ylang in there, too, also longtime faves of mine.}

One or two pumps routinely did the job, and in that phase of the night when the skin is most receptive, this got to work moisturising, and encouraging collagen production via the peptides that are part of its composition. In between all the other night treatments I’ve tested over the last six months — and many of them were very, very good — I always returned to this one. When I recently went to pump up some of its rejuvenating goodness, I just about had a heart attack when it failed to dispense.

I tried turning it upside down, which didn’t help so much, and found that laying it on its side worked better, for some reason. And then I just had to declare defeat, and resign myself to writing about it under the IUIAU umbrella.

So there it was, sitting on my desk, when I noticed —

NOT ALL GONE?!? NYR BEAUTY SLEEP
HANG ON. Okay, still not smashing it, but one or two good thumps may yield a few more beauty sleeps…

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€36.69/£37/$64.90 < ouch, soz, America!

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B&B! Q&A: Sabrina Lucey, Cloisters Spa, Muckross Park Hotel

SABRINASabrina Lucey is head therapist of the award-winning Cloisters Spa in the Muckross Park Hotel in Killarney. Eight years into her career as a beauty and massage therapist, she’s worked in television for such programmes as Ireland Am and Xposé, and she’s been loving every minute of it.

At Cloisters, she says she’s ‘fortunate to have a team of excellent and experienced therapists, who are all highly trained in all aspects of conventional beauty treatments.” They also are proficient in holistic massage, reflexology and many other alternative treatment, so you’d be spoiled for choice.

I myself was fortunate enough to have experienced a new treatment, the Wilderness Ritual, which featured a full body exfoliation with tailor-made body scrub, followed by full body application of body butter, and a massage using essential oils, administered via sea shells. I am just about crying, looking back on it now.

I chatted with Sabrina about certain aspects of this terrific experience, which totally puts the treat in ‘treatment’.

I know we’re supposed to exfoliate — and believe me, I love it! – but what exactly are the benefits, for face and body?
Simply put, it keeps the skin soft and glowing. Buffing the dead skin away will keep your pores from clogging, which keeps acne under control — both on the face, and on places like the back. It also speeds up your skin’s natural renewal process, and helps your moisturizer penetrate even deeper.

Getting rid of the dead skin cells helps with skin discoloration and unevenly toned skin — and if you keep up a routine, your skin will not only be visibly brighter, you’ll be keeping fine lines and wrinkles in check.

Can you tell me about the scrub and the body butter you used?
In Kerry I wanted to source something local, and met Alice from Skellig Soaps, at a Christmas shopping fair. I wanted an exfoliator that involved our signature scent of Lemongrass and Lavender, and Alice combined these two and created our exclusive scrub.

The oil I use in the seashell massage is her creation as well, and combines Ylang Ylang, Rosewood and Jojoba oil, which is very relaxing on the skin.

And I also know that essential oils are good for us, but don’t know exactly why…?
Essential oils have been proven useful in killing off viruses, bacteria or other pathogens. They are also considered to be powerful anti-oxidents.
They also can act on the mind, as well as the body: when the brain’s limbic system is stimulated, the realeas of neurotransmitters such as pain-reducing encephalin, pleasure-producing endorphins, relaxing serotonin, and stimulating noradrenaline, encourage the body, and also the mind, to chill out!

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So, how was it?
CLOISTERS poolMy first thought as I descended the long, spiralling staircase down to the spa was, ‘No wonder they keep winning awards.’ If you’re going to set the stage for luxe, ensure that your guests feel like Scarlett O’Hara — albeit in a towelling robe, rather than swathed in the curtains — as they enter your domain.

It is all about relaxation in the thermal suite: that pool is not for laps, something that I always have a grá for, but I was happy enough paddling around for a while. The big draw is the outdoor hot tub: the bubbles were the correct amount of froth and warmth, and as the Blue River lazily wound its way around the back of the spa, l let go of some tension I hadn’t even been aware I’d been holding onto.

There are numerous places to lounge, and a sauna that I highly recommend. That hot tub, though, had my name on it, and I dunked myself back in until it was time for the treatment.

Now. I am am avid exfoliator, and equally as assiduous in applying lotions and potions on the bod. But let me tell you, there is nothing like having someone else do these things for you. The full body exfoliation with the lemongrass and lavender scrub was as thorough and aromatic as it gets — more thorough than I could ever manage for myself. A quick shower to rinse it off feels like it may be a bit harsh on the mellow, but the mellow is fully regained when the application of the body butter ensues.

Then, the shells. I eyed them somewhat dubiously when I arrived in the treatment room, but they are so effective. The shells had been warming throughout the exfoliation/body buttering, and were the perfect temperature by the time it was their turn in the process. They felt pretty spectacular: used to apply pressure to the body, they felt firm but not too hard on the muscles; they worked out several knots that I had been walking around with, and bunch of others I hadn’t known were there.

As always, it was over all too quickly, even though the session is the guts of 90 minutes. Afterwards, I was lead to one of the daybeds in the relaxation area, given a light treat of almonds and a smoothie, and left to breathe deeply under a muslin-canopied day bed. Bliss.

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The Wilderness Ritual is €150 for 1 hour and 30 minutes, and includes full body lemongrass exfoliation, Cloisters Body Shea Butter application, followed by an 80 minute warm sea shell massage.

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Muckross Park Hotel & Cloisters Spa
Muckross, Killarney,  Co. Kerry.
T: +353 (64) 662 3400
F: +353 (64) 663 1965
E: info@muckrosspark.com

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