2014 Review

Happy New Year!! I decided to take a little blogging break over Christmas to recharge my batteries completely and hopefully set myself up for some inspirational and fulfilling blogging in 2015. I hope to be back in the swing of things in the New Year, especially since I was very lucky to receive and brand new, and oh so fancy, camera for Christmas (New Year’s Resolution no. 1 – learn to use this!). For now, I thought it fitting to reflect on the amazing year that 2014 has been…

Life changed immensely in the earlier part of the year, and all for the better. First was making the move from a full time retail position to a “grown-up” 9-5 – nothing shakes up your perspective and makes you appreciate your weekends and evenings like having them both free once again! It was this leap that set in motion my absolute highlight of the year – moving out of my parents house and into a new home with my boyfriend. I’m a very independent gal and a home of my own was something I had worked and yearned for for so long.

Moving house

Let me say, this is the happiest I’ve ever looked when surrounded by mess! People are not wrong when they say moving house is one of the most stressful parts of adult life, and certainly makes you realise the amount of unnecessary “stuff” you accumulate over the years! But after three solid weeks of hard work, painting and spending all our money on pots and cutlery, we created a place that I am very very proud to call home.

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Outfit Post: Cosy Knits and a Tartan Mini

Another short outfit post from my trip to Amsterdam for you today. I’m hoping it’s one that might just inspire you to don your finest knitwear and bit o’ tartan and wander about town, hot chocolate in hand, soaking up the current festive atmosphere…

Grey roll neck, Tartan Mini, Leather Biker JAcket - The Mix and Match

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Monday Mix and Match

Hello and Merry Christmas to you all! This officially marks my last working Monday of 2014 and I for one am very much looking forward to some time off to spend eating chocolate and watching movies with my family, friends, and other half. And of course, if Santa decides to send a present or two my way, I wouldn’t mind at all! ‘Tis the season as they say, and here’s how I’m gearing up for this year’s festivities – my favorite party make-up and some thrifty Christmas decoration ideas for you to try!

Beauty

Christmas Party Make-up look - Product Reviews

Christmas Party Make-up Look - Cat Eyes and Red Lips

With the season that’s in it, a time of endless social engagements, work lunches, parties etc., I thought I ‘d share my staple products that I always come back to for party make-up. And without doubt, I always opt for a feline flick of eyeliner, full black lashes and bi ol’ red pout. I’m all for a smokey eye, but when you going from desk to dance floor, slicking on some red lippie is definitely the way to go! Glam in no time – and if you can’t be just that at this time of the year, then when can you?! Start with a good base of foundation, concealer and a touch of powder and then comes the fun stuff. No need for fancy eye shadows or blending, you just need a neutral eye and a steady hand. I would advise popping your mascara on before your eyeliner too – this gives you a guide of where to angle your flick and how close to get to the lash line. My eye make-up picks are both from Rimmel – The Glam Eyes Liquid Eyeliner being a longstanding favourite and make-up bag necessity, and the Wonder’Full Mascara being a much newer purchase, but one which definitely stands up to review. The formulation of the eyeliner combined with the long soft nib creates ease of application and a long lasting look, whilst the mascara gives full, blacker than black lashes in just one coat. The latter contains the buzz ingredient of the moment, argan oil, which genuinely does leave lashes feeling soft with little to no clumps. It re-applies really well too, which as we all know, is of major concern when you need your make-up look to last throughout the day and well into the evening. Don’t forget to curl your lashes for extra va-va-voom too!

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Amsterdam Travel Guide

I won’t ramble on too much as this post is a long one! So grab a cuppa, and enjoy this little city snapshot of the places to stay, eat, drink and shop, in my Amsterdam travel guide.

Stay

Beautiful view from the Hilton Double Tree, Amsterdam

As we were traveling in a large group, accommodation that was suited to all tastes was required, and in the end we went on a recommendation of the Hilton Double Tree at Centraal Station. It was ideally located for arriving from the airport to Centraal Station, check in was quick and efficient and you even get a warm cookie on arrival – they know the way to my heart anyway. The hotel itself was well, massive! Very clean and modern too, and we were also fortunate enough to have a city view room. As you can see, it was really quite something to wake up to each morning! The hotel was also in a prime location for exploring the city, being no more than a half an hour’s walk from anywhere you could want to go, meaning we had an additional saving in not taking the tram anywhere even once. I definitely realised afterwards how huge a portion of your spending money can be spent just traveling within a city, so it was great to have the few extra euros to spend on…I’m not gonna lie, to spend on chocolate waffles! More on that later 😉

If I was returning to Amsterdam (and I fully intend to), I would also love to stay in Hotel V, (which we also visited for breakfast – more below) or the Lloyd Hotel, both of which have fantastic reviews and really cool design too.

Eat

Amsterdam - Sweet WafflesMini Red Velvet Cupcake in Amsterdam

Metropolitan Deli, Warmoesstraat 135A

So as mentioned above, if you like sweet waffles (and if you don’t then… I think we should see other people), then Amsterdam is the place for you! They are sold at every turn, and even the hardiest and strong willed among us would not resist! We stumbled upon the most gorgeous dessert shop named “Metropolitan” – this place had nothing but waffles, chocolate and sweet treats as far as the eye could see, with my personal favourites being the giant meringues, the red velvet cupcakes and of course sweet waffles with Nutella sauce and white chocolate… *drool*. I was delighted to see they even sold the Nutella sauce along with bagged treats and sweets and even chocolate soaps, chocolate shower gel and chocolate beer (we didn’t have high hopes for that last one!). I  brought home a jar of the sauce – it is so so good, I would literally put it on my dinner. Nutella pasta tonight anyone?

And then there was brunch. We happened upon two of the most gorgeous brunch places ever, I genuinely felt so lucky. I say happened upon, but really I am super organised and annoying when it comes to holidays but in the end it always pays off. There is nothing worse than wandering around in large group, aimlessly looking for a place that you’ll all like and in the end you get so hungry you pick the first place you see and it’s, well, crap. Can you tell this is a pet peeve of mine? Fail to prepare, prepare to fail in the dog eat dog world of holidays, that’s what I say.. Clearly my brain is in my belly!

Brunch at Paper Planes, AmsterdamPancakes, Brunch in Paper Planes, AmsterdamVintage Interior, Paper Planes, Amsterdam

Paper Planes, Rokin 81

First up it was Paper Planes. I’ll just lay it out there – best pancakes I’ve ever had! For realz, when I can I go back? They were the perfect mix of savoury and sweet, soft and yet crisp on the outside with mouth-watering maple syrup and vanilla bean mascarpone as an accompaniment. Just…perfection! My partner in crime had eggs on brioche toast, with lamb sausages and baked beans. I’m not one for sausages normally but the lamb was just beautiful, and not at all like the greasy, watery fare you normally get! I was all set for round 2 on our last day with the rest of the gang, but the restaurant was too busy to accommodate us – I think I shed a tear, I was that disappointed!! Clearly news of the fabulous food at Paper Planes has spread, and rightly so!

The Lobby at the Hotel V, AmsterdamThe Lobby at the Hotel VEggs Royale

The Lobby at the Hotel V, Nes 49

On day two we enjoyed a relaxing and delicious breakfast at The Lobby at the Hotel V, located just off Dam Square. I ventured out of my comfort zone on this, as I always tend to treat myself with the sweeter options when dining out for brunch. This time I opted for eggs royale, a mix of poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and smoked salmon, on brioche bread topped with spinach – an inclusion that completely justified the waffle that followed, right?! It was utterly delectable and our surroundings were equally as nice – modeled in the style of a gentleman’s club with burnished leather furnishing, bookcases stacked with vintage tomes and a beautiful wooden bar stacked with every spirit imaginable, I loved it!

We also enjoyed two beautiful dinners: first in CAU, also located on of the adjoining streets to Dam Square on Damstraat 5. We were served possibly thee nicest steak ever, with the added bonus of truffle mac & cheese and sweet potato on the side – heavenly! I happily would have eaten here the second night, as would my traveling companions. But by then, after a few days of red meat and fried food, we were in the mood for something a little lighter . Tapas was the order of the day and we were lucky to find a gem of a spot called Pata Negra, on the Utrechtstraat 124.  Again, I did my research and found this came up trumps out of all the tapas places in the city. The reviews did not let me down. Although it looks a little run down, don’t let the rustic exterior fool you – this place is absolutely buzzing with great food and a great atmosphere. It was entirely authentic tapas and with a little guidance from the lovely staff on the Spanish menu, we navigated our way to full tummies once again. I happily would have stayed for the night, with drinks and conversation flowing,  Spanish music filling the room and the staff up having a dance too – this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening out.

Hangover Information Centre

Thankfully this particular information centre was not required at any point, but I thought it might be useful for you to know about it when planning a trip 😉

Shop

All the Luck in the World - Concept Store, AmsterdamAll The Luck in the World Amsterdam

All The Luck In The World, Gerard Doustraat 86hs

I was annoying the fella enough by dragging him in to so many shops, so I didn’t want to stop and take loads of pictures too! But trust me, if you go exploring you wouldn’t need a particular guide to find quirky concept stores, like All The Luck in The World in De Pijp, which you can see above. Shops like this are everywhere, particularly if you venture to the southern part of the city to De Pjip and Utrechtstraat. On the later you will also find a really impressive array of restaurants, so if you are one to leave your dining to chance, I would go here!

Anna & Nina Kloveniersburgwal 44Anna and NinaAnnd and Nina White Pineapple

Anna + Nina, Kloveniersburgwal 44 and Gerard Doustraat 94

However one shop I would definitely recommend is the stunning Anna + Nina. With two locations in the Dam and filled to the brim with wonderfully curious curiosities and kooky homewares, you would be mad not to pay a visit! I wanted the entire contents, especially that white ceramic pineapple. Plus look at that wallpaper – no wonder I ventured in!

Gold Star Hanging Ornament, Anne + Nina, Amsterdam

Unfortunately the dream pineapple had to be left behind (damn you baggage restriction!), but I did pick up this little star ornament for my Christmas tree as a memento.

And of course, if like me you are from Ireland there are a number of stores in the central city that we are not lucky enough to have on our high street – namely Weekday, Monki, & Other Stories and H&M home. These are well worth a visit anyway, but especially since we don’t have them in Dublin!

Do

Yellow Bike Tours, AmsterdamCycling in the Vondelpark

Having been nearly been run over about fifteen times by cyclists, topped with walking square into a PARKED bike, I was very wary when a bike tour of the city was suggested as a group activity. I rationalised that it would be me doing the running over this time so maybe it would be ok, and low and behold, it was one the most enjoyable holiday experiences I’ve ever had, and an ideal way to see this beautiful city. We booked with Yellow Bike Tours, who were incredibly professional, provided us with a wonderful guide and had some pretty darn cute yellow bikes too (who’d have thunk it eh?). The tour itself was the perfect balance of cycling, enjoying the sights and the feeling of the wind rushing through your hair, and stopping to hear the history of a number of places. Highlights were Anne Frank’s house, the Rjiksmuseum, the Vondelpark, Leidseplein and the Red Light District. Amsterdam is so varied in it’s culture, and the seamless transition between the old and the new is really quite something. I’m really glad we got to see it this way – it really emphasised how much there is to see and do here, and how much the old city is embracing the new. A few hairy moments in the traffic did not dampen what was a wonderful two hours – well worth every penny and tram-related heart attack!

We ran out of time to do any of the museums unfortunately, but I will be back for that, you mark my words! Four days are easily filled with quiet wandering around this city. There is so much beauty in Amsterdam, strengthened only by the most wonderful culture and people. Fill your belly, peruse the shops and meander along the canals to your heart’s content. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to the Dutch city, and I if you are going any time soon, I hope this guide serves you well!

Vintage Car in AmsterdamCanal streetsAmsterdam Travel GuideAmsterdam Travel Guide - CanalRjiksmuseum, Amsterdam Travel GuideThe Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, Travel Guide

Until next time! xx

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Monday Mix and Match

Ok lads, I have been officially succumbed to Christmas fever and there ain’t no going back! The tree is up, Wham! are my favourite band again and the presents are wrapped in a Pinterest worthy fashion…well, the present is wrapped! Last minute panic shopping is my festive modus operandi – I am every bit that cliché husband type on Christmas Eve! That being said, I have been fully enveloped by the spirit and am so excited to go gift shopping. To get everyone in the mood I might replace my Mix and Match post for the next two weeks with some gift guides and festive DIY posts. For now anyway, here’s my weekly favourites post, featuring a fabulous Christmas candle, my go-to eyeshadow palette and a most delicious and easy cake recipe to keep you jolly this week!

Interiors

Paddy Wax Pomegranate and Spruce Scented Candle - AvocaPaddy Wax Pomegranate and Spruce CandleThis being me and my boyfriend’s first Christmas living together, we are definitely both missing our mammies’ lovely cosy, Christmas-ified homes – thankfully they have both been very generous and supplied us with a bauble or two to make our place just as homely. Of course though, if there’s an opportunity to go shopping, I’m am there! And first priority was to get my house smelling like a Christmas wonderland – and sure the boyf was only too delighted to accompany me on a scented candle hunt*… (*not entirely true). Luckily there was a yummy breakfast in it for him, when I found the perfect scent in the form of this Paddy Wax Pomegranate and Spruce scented candle during a trip to Avoca in Malahide Castle. I am so particular about smell and find Christmas scents in particular can be overly sweet, artificial, and generally very overpowering and headache-inducing. Paddy Wax candles caught my eye because of the beautiful packaging – I am nothing if not shallow! But thankfully, the scents, both regular and Christmas, are equally as divine as the coloured, cut glass that encase them. The Pomegranate and Spruce is fresh, light with the perfect amount of that familiar spicy and warm Christmas smell. It’s already made such a difference to making a house a home with the added bonus that once the candle has burnt out, you can pop a tealight on the jar to make a beautiful Christmas votive – Bob’s your uncle, Mary’s your aunt! This candle retails at €12.95 and can be purchased in in Avoca stores and online.

Beauty

Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette Review 2Urban Decay Palette - Naked Basics

Generally I’m not one for a matte shadow – way to hard to blend, particularly when in a hurry and can make the eye look dead and sunken when applied without care. However, I would always make an exception for Urban Decay, more specifically the Naked Basics Palette. Ironically, this was actually a Christmas present last year that has only found its way into my make-up routine now. Just me, or does anyone else get onto the habit of using one palette for ages and forgetting they own seventeen others? Like a lot of people, I’m a huge fan of the Naked Palettes by Urban Decay and own both palette number 1 and 2. The basics palette is a collection of pared down, neutral and matte shades in one handy little compact, handy mirror included. Like most Urban Decay shadows, they are blendable with unrivaled colour payoff and you can actually use all off them (dear make-up companies – PLEASE stop putting green shadow in your palettes). Having been on a number of trips away recently, I can honestly say this is the one palette that will cover all your bases – it’s so compact and you have so many options for day to night eye make-up. The black is a particular highlight, as I have found it very difficult to get any intensity from such a shadow before now. I would definitely recommend popping this is the stocking of someone you love… and sure, if that person happens to be yourself, I wouldn’t blame you at all!

Food

Rocky Road Cake Birthday Cake

Right, so duh, you may have gathered by now that I love Christmas! I love every single thing about it… except it’s accompanying cake. Now, I’m not one to blaspheme the cake gods but my goodness, those fruity, booze soaked puds are (surprisingly) not my thang. If they don’t tickle your tinsel either, dispense with tradition and try your hand at this easy peasy, rocky road cake. Baked for a very special someone’s 25th birthday as you can see, I could envision this going down a treat over the holidays too. It was incredibly tasty, with all the birthday boy’s favourite things in – marshmallow, honeycomb, and biscuit. This cake is foolproof and completely adaptable to whatever your sweet tooth desires too. The base recipe is:

  • 250g of unsalted butter (plus extra to grease the tin)
  • 100g of Golden Syrup
  • 400g Chocolate (70% cocoa gives a beautiful rich chocolatey taste, but maybe go a tad lower for non-dark chocolate lovers as it retains it’s intensity even with the addition of the butter and golden syrup)

Melt all of the above together then add, about 150g of digestive biscuits, a pack of marshmallows, and well anything else you fancy really. Honeycomb, Mars bar, nuts, fruit, coconut, meringue, anything goes! When mixed, I poured everything into a greased, 9” spring form tin and allowed to set overnight, although it would be fully hardened within about two hours. After that, decorate with some melted chocolate and some crushed flake, and if you’re feeling crafty you can create similar toppers to mine with some pipe cleaners and cocktail sticks…just don’t set them on fire when lighting the candles!! Not that that’s what happened to me…*cough*…

Are we officially allowed to say Merry Christmas now? Sure sod it, Merry Christmas guys, and thanks for reading! 🙂

Until next time! xx

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