Monday Mix and Match

Hey guys! Apologies for my absence over the last while – a week’s holidays followed by a nasty ol’ vomiting bug meant spending hours at the laptop were the last things on my mind over the last two weeks! But I’m back and ready for action with this slightly more lifestyle orientated post. I’m sharing my latest favourites including a make-up bag beauty staple, a book recommendation and a little bit about my holidays to Ireland (exotic, I know!). Enjoy!

Beauty

Seventeen Miracle Matte Pressed Powder - ReviewSeventeen Miracle Matte Pressed Powder Mirror Compact Review

The looooong stretch to payday is in full swing now but as Murphy’s law would have it, all of my make-up essentials ran out at once (why does this ALWAYS happen – just me?). So off I toddled to Boots to pick up my beauty staples, figuring it was my chance to try some new products while I was at it. And if course, I dived head first into the Seventeen stand, and came away with this Miracle Matte Pressed Powder for just over a fiver. Boots own brand, Seventeen, is always a winner when you’re on a budget with really affordable prices throughout the range and products that never scrimp on quality.

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Travel Inspiration

I can’t be the only one who has spent the past few days, weeks even, staring out of the window at the pelting rain and the fading light and wishing myself away to somewhere far-flung and fabulous, can I? I think a switch hits in nearly every Irish brain come January 1st that causes every waking thought to be consumed with the idea of that oh so elusive, oh so far away promise of “a holiday”. I’m finding myself increasingly distracted by sun, sea, sand and in some cases ice (see below!) every time I click onto Pinterest and I’m now in the rather spoiled position of having to narrow down my holiday destination list – woe is me! If you are in a similar predicament or just want to indulge in an few minutes of escapism, then this is the post for you – although to warn you, it will only serve to add to your rampant wanderlust! Sorry about that…

Santorini

Santorini, Greece - Travel InspirationPhoto Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Initial research has concluded that basically this place is beautifully idyllic… and a big ‘ol pain in the butt to get to from Ireland, with no direct flights to this picturesque Greek island. Just looking at it though, I think any bad thoughts or ills caused by a stressful journey would soon be forgotten when you are surrounded by fragrant bougainvillea, sipping on wine and eating feta by the sea (cheese is generally a major factor in my decision making…). The sheer vibrancy of this place fills me with joy, I really don’t think the word “pretty” covers it! All I know is I could happily fill my time swimming, relaxing and exploring Santorini for a week or two. Oh and a gaff here wouldn’t hurt either…

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Monday Mix and Match

Hello there! I hope you are all having a wonderful Monday.. although that phrase does sound like somewhat of an oxymoron! I would like to apologise for my absence and sporadic posting as of late – I have been up to my eyes with the return to work after Christmas, as well as my “other” job as a dance teacher. Post-Christmas is always Pantomime time (Oh no it’s not!!.…Sorry…couldn’t resist) and so I had been rushing around making sure my lovely dance students were at their best! But I’m back now and kicking off with the first of this year’s Mix and Match posts, which for the week that’s in it, has a bit of “New Year’s Resolution” twist and along with my goals for 2015! Be warned, it’s a long one so grab a cuppa and a rich tea biscuit or two! I hope you enjoy and do let me know what you have been motivated to change, continue or try in the next 12 months!

Beauty

No7 Exfoliator, Sanctuary Spa Wonder Oil Serum, Soap and Glory Eye Cream Review

Or more specifically: skincare. This particular resolution is mainly motivated by the havoc that Christmas indulgence has wreaked on my face i.e. I closely resemble a pizza at present! Spots are generally not a problem for me, with my main skincare woes being redness and wrinkles. But all that chocolate and cheese has taken its toll and I’m feeling the need to give my skin a little TLC and my skincare routine somewhat of a shake-up. Of course, I’m starting from the inside out and consuming as many detoxing and nourishing foods as possible – lemon water by the bucketful and avocados at any opportunity. But I’ve also started using two new products procured over Christmas too – No7 Beautiful Skin Radiance Exfoliator and Sanctuary Spa Wonder Oil Serum. Exfoliator is one of my favourite products to have in the bathroom cabinet – there’s nothing like the fresh feeling of being scrubbed and polished, am I right? This No7 offering was a free gift in a three for two and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It has a lovely creamy texture which is gentle on the delicate skin of your face but still goes to work with the exfoliating beads to rid you of any cosmetic build up and blocked pores. I’ve been using this on my face when in the shower around three times a week – I find the heat of the shower leaves your skin soft so the exfoliator doesn’t drag or feel too harsh. This product is a winner for me on all accounts, leaving skin smooth with no blotches or tightness afterwards.

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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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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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