Thursday, May 30, 2013

NOTD: Summer-Friendly Studs


While I am not the biggest fan of hot weather, I do like the odd bit of sun. Today was another beautiful day here in Ireland (there's a sentence you don't hear often) so I wanted to do something really bright and neon on my nails. However - I have been having a love affair with all things studded for a long time now and I really don't think a couple days sunshine is a good excuse to end things. Enter my newest favourite polish and a packet of eBay's finest 99c studs.

Already much raved about in this post

Studs from HERE.
Just a note on the studs - firstly, they took bloody ages to arrive from China. Secondly, they're hard to pick up, so use a blob of blu-tac on the end of a dotting dool or pen to pick them up. You don't need nail glue, just pop them on wet polish and then use a topcoat.

Three coats of the glorious Sindy pink that is La Vida Loca and 3 studs later......

I wore that mani for a day until I got sick of the plain pink nails so decided to do this with a black polish and a striping brush (btw, the picture above is the most colour accurate one here):

Outside it's even pinker:

It's so, so hard to capture the colour of that pink, but here it is against a bottle of Cocoa Brown Tan - it should give you an idea of the type of pink it is in reality.

I LOVE this mani. Love it. Who says studs aren't summery?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

One Year On: Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking


Warning: Long Rambly Post.

[Image: Awesome Books]

I wanted to wait a considerable amount of time before reviewing this book. Firstly, before I do, let me give you some background information on smoking & how it affected me.

I grew up in a non-smoking household. I didn't really know any smokers. When a cousin offered me a cigarette around aged 16, I said no - but it haunted me after that. All I wanted to do was try it. I couldn't get my hands on cigarettes for ages, until a night out with other girls from my class in school. I was almost 17 at that time, I split the price of a pack of 10 with my friend, and that was it. My dirty little secret relationship began. At first, I'd save them for when I was out at the weekends, but then it got more and more frequent. By the time I reached 18 I was smoking 10-15 a day.

This toxic little affair continued for the next 10 and a half years. In that time, I had my son, now 8. That didn't stop me smoking. Numerous chest infections and inhaler prescriptions didn't stop me smoking. My GP constantly told me to try and quit them because I was taking the contraceptive pill and was at a high risk of blood clots - but that didn't stop me either.

What DID make me want to do something was waking up on average of three times a week with a sore, painful, heavy chest. I would have been around 26 at this time - did I stop? No, I swapped to lighter cigarettes. After a GP lecture, I tried patches for about two days. Nada. Then, I tried the disgusting gum. I don't think I got to day 2 with that. Finally, after another GP mini-lecture, I started taking a course of Champix. They worked, I stopped smoking for over a month- and got increasingly depressed. I couldn't sleep, when I did I had nightmares, I was paranoid, miserable, sad, constantly on edge - I looked and felt like I was off my head half the time (to the point where a lady in Boots refused to sell me tablets containing codeine) so I ditched the tablets. I bought an e-cig, and had nothing but contempt for everyone around me as they enjoyed their lovely cigarettes and I sat sucking on a plastic stick. I went back to the cigarettes.

In early 2012, I finally realised that I didn't enjoy smoking any more. I didn't find it relaxing, or enjoyable. Half the time I'd have a cigarette half smoked without even thinking about it. I tried again, using only willpower. When my husband (also a smoker) didn't up and leave me it's a miracle. I was like an absolute Antichrist, and thought about nothing but cigarettes for the three weeks I was off them. I ended up walking into a pub on Paddy's Day, having a few drinks, buying 20 cigarettes, and had about 4 left by the time I went home.

I was browsing Amazon (or it may have been Awesome Books, I don't remember) one night shortly after that, and came across Allen Carr's Easyway to Stop Smoking book. It was only a couple of euro second-hand, so I ordered it and thought nothing more of it. I bought the one aimed at women but essentially they're all the same.

In the meantime, we were planning our wedding for last October. Unfortunately, my husband's father was also becoming increasingly ill. He was a lifelong smoker and constantly nagged both of us to give up smoking ("they're a poison and a rob"). We did the usual 'nod and agree' thing, not really paying much attention. On the warm evening of May 27th last year, a Sunday, he was taken into hospital. As he waited for the ambulance, I saw him sitting in his room, in his best suit, waiting to be taken in to hospital, knowing he wasn't coming home, with a nebuliser mask in one frail, nicotine-stained hand and a lit cigarette in the other. That image will stay with me for as long as I live.

On Monday morning, May 28th, one year ago today, the book arrived in the post. I had no intentions of giving up that day, but it was warm outside and I decided to sit out the back garden and read it. I smoked the whole way through reading the book, as is advised. I read it all in one sitting, it took about 2-3 hours. I had my "final cigarette" and cursed it goodbye. When I had finished, I put the remainder of the pack of cigarettes into the bin. I have neither smoked, nor wanted to smoke, since. (this remains true as of today, Jan 9th 2016).

My husband's Dad passed away in September, 6 weeks before our wedding, from a combination of ailments  that can mostly be attributed to smoking. My husband gave up smoking shortly after his Dad passed, and hasn't smoked since either. He did it with pure, stubborn willpower and the very real fear that he would end up with a lung disease too if he didn't stop.

I can't tell people what exactly the book says, or what it does, because all it does is present you with facts. Some people reckon it "brainwashes" you in a way - I don't know whether it does or not, but if it did, I'm eternally grateful to it. I can honestly, 100%, hand-on-heart say that I have not had one craving since I stopped. In the first few days and weeks I had the odd "I'll go out for a smoke now" but instantly then thought "sure what am I at, I don't smoke". I planned a wedding on top of a family illness and bereavement and had no cravings, no bad moods. I actually cannot stand the smell of smoke now at all, and I don't envy smokers the way I did when I tried other methods.

I'm delighted to be able to say that I'm a non-smoker, and I'm really proud of my husband for doing it too. With regard to the weight thing - I did put on weight, but I can't, in good faith, attribute that to stopping smoking. My issues with food go much further back, and I reckon I'd have put it on anyway. There's lots of time to shift it - but I can now do that while knowing I'm completely free from nicotine for the first time in my adult life.

I'll finish up by answering a question I get asked all the time - no, I don't have any more money now than I did before. But I'm not counting out 20c pieces on a Wednesday to try and scrape a tenner together. And I don't get up in the morning with a sore chest and a diabolical sense of smell. My clothes don't stink. I can wear lipstick again. I can breathe properly again. I don't have to freeze my arse off standing outside when it's cold.  My excess risk of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke has now dropped to less than half that of a smoker.

This book changed my life.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Now THAT's what I call a brush cleaner.


Have you ever bought something so good that you feel like ringing someone to come over and witness its greatness immediately? That's how I felt today.

Let me present - the tale of the Sigma F80.

[Original Image from Cloud 10 Beauty]
I got my F80 from Cloud 10 Beauty earlier this year, after reading numerous reviews about how good it was. At almost €18, it was the most expensive makeup brush I'd ever bought - and the first decent one. The reviews were all correct - this brush changed my foundation routine and it made such a difference to the lasting power of my foundation.

BUT. It's an absolute nightmare to clean. I actually put off using it some days because I knew that one more foundation application would mean that it'd need a deep clean. Nothing I tried could get it white again. I tried baby shampoo, olive oil, antibacterial soap, cleanser - nada. I didn't buy a specific brush cleaner because there wasn't one readily available to me. I also didn't use surgical spirits because I hate the smell of it. Enter google.

A while back, I came across this post written by Juli from Bun Bun Makeup about how great the Daiso Detergent for Puff and Sponge was.  I knew I had to get my hands on a bottle of that detergent, so I had a look on eBay and found it from this seller for the incredibly bargain-friendly price of €4.50 for an 80ml bottle. I ordered it on May 23rd - and received it this morning. I was genuinely amazed to see it arrive so soon, all the way from China?! Unreal. I couldn't wait to put it to work.

Haven't a clue what the packaging says, but there are English instructions and ingredients on the back.

I decided to test it out with all the brushes I use on a regular basis, check out the makeup gunk:

Ugggh. Here's a close-up of the manky Sigma:

You only need a tiny drop of detergent, because you need to mix it with water. I put a small blob in the bottom of a little cuticle bowl:

Then I filled the bowl with water - rough proportions about 10% detergent to 90% water. Dunk the brush in,  and swirl it around for about 10-15 seconds.

After, take it out, rinse it under clean running water,  AND BE AMAZED.

I have never gotten it that clean before. Especially in under 15 seconds. The stuff is amazing. I used a fresh bowl of detergent/water for the rest of the brushes, I can't get over how well this cleans.


Not many products get HG status from me, and especially after using them for the first time, but this is just........fantastic.

I know I'm probably completely overreacting and there's a very simple alternative that everyone else uses that I don't know about, but for now - I'm in love with a Japanese detergent.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Small Polish Haul from Beautybay


Earlier this month (May 4th to be exact), I placed my first order with beautybay after discovering that not only do they accept laser, but they offer free delivery too.

They sell all kinds of makeup and polish, including Orly, China Glaze, O.P.I, Mavala, Deborah Lippmann, etc. I picked two Orly polishes from my wishlist - my first polishes from this brand - and one China Glaze from my wishlist. The order came to just under €30 - I can only assume I was suffering from temporary insanity when I paid that much for 3 polishes, but anyway. Included in that total was just under €2 for "Premier Service" - meaning I got some samples with my order too. The samples I received were a cleanser and soap from a skincare range called Mario Badescu. I've never heard of it but I'll give the cleanser a bash, I'm a big fan of sample-sized cleansers.

Here are the polishes I got:

Here's a closer look.

La Vida Loca is a blue-toned hot pink that dried to a slightly rubbery finish. The pictures show 3 coats, no topcoat. It's a really vibrant pink in reality and I'm delighted I picked it. I had no problems with streaking at all.

This bitch, on the other hand - streak city. Now don't get me wrong - I absolutely adore the colour. Love it. I've been on the hunt for a really bright neon green since I first saw Jessie J sporting it on The Voice this year - but this was an absolute pain in the hoop to apply. The pictures are after FOUR coats and I still have visible nail line. Every coat seemed to wipe half the previous one off. I didn't use a pale polish underneath and I think I'll try that next time, it might help. It's such a shame because the shade is amazing, it's such an eye-catching polish. I'll still wear it, but you'll probably hear me swearing.

The final polish I have is R.I.P from Orly's Spellbound collection for Halloween 2012. This went on my wishlist when I first saw it swatched earlier last year - I was so happy when I saw it on beautybay. The pictures show two coats over a black basecoat, and one coat of an Essence topcoat. I know it's not remotely summery, but it's gorgeous and I love it.

Overall, I'm really impressed with Orly as a brand - thinking about similar brands that retail for around the same price (GOSH, Essie) the bottles are huge and the colour payoff is excellent. I'm disappointed with the formula of the China Glaze, but I adore that colour so much.

As for my beautybay experience - the only thing that annoyed me was the huge waiting time. As I mentioned above, I paid for my order on May 4th. It was dispatched on May 7th, and I didn't receive it until May 22nd. In fairness to them, they did reply to my tweet almost instantly, checked my order for me, and explained that due to the Royal Mail regulations, my order would take a little longer. It came via Swiss post, was well packed, and arrived safely. I can't fault them on their customer service and I commend them on having a good social networking team - other nail polish brands could learn a lot from them.

Off to rock my Halloween polish in May. As you do.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Recent Book Hauls


I've gone through a bit of a book-buying phase lately - some from amazon, and some from car boot sales. I'm an absolute danger at a book stall, I can't pass one without having a browse.

I don't have a kindle, or any other kind of e-reader, nor do I want one. I want a massive, huge, enormous library like Rupert Giles. Only with less demons. And more pastel covers.

First up - I placed an Amazon order about six weeks ago:

I did a post about The Dark Threads here and  posted my thoughts on Gone Girl over on Goodreads here. I haven't read the other two yet.

Another Amazon order last month:

I haven't read The Good Father or Me Before You yet. I liked My Booky Wook a lot but I don't think I'd bother reading it again - so I'll be giving this one to the library. My thoughts on How To Be a Woman are over on Goodreads here, as are my reviews of Safe Haven and Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children.

Next, I picked up two books at a boot sale for €1.50:

I really, really enjoyed The Pact (Goodreads review here) and it's the biggest book I've read in a while, so I was happy I stuck with it as my concentration has been all over the place. The Sea, on the other hand, was dire. It just wasn't for me, but I can understand how others would enjoy it. It's the second book this year that I couldn't finish (the other being Tinkers by Paul Harding - John Joe the clock-mad boy from the Late Late Toy Show would adore it. Clocks - everywhere).

Finally, I picked up the book bargains of the century at the outdoor market in Cavan last week:

I got The Hunger Games boxed trilogy for €5, and picked up another box of brand new books, shrink-wrapped, for €8 - total of €13 for 13 books!

The ones in the box were:

Mother's Milk by Edward St. Aubyn - The once illustrious, once wealthy Melroses are in peril. Caught up in the wreckage of broken promises, child-rearing, adultery and assisted suicide, Patrick finds his wife consumed by motherhood, his mother consumed by a New Age foundation, and his five-year-old son Robert understanding far more than he ought.

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud - In Manhattan, just after the century's turn, three thirty-year-old friends, Danielle, Marina and Julius, are seeking their fortunes. But the arrival of Marina's young cousin Bootie - fresh from the provinces and keen, too, to make his mark - forces them to confront their own desires and expectations. 'The Emperor's Children' is a sweeping portrait of one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and a haunting illustration of how the events of a single day can change everything, for ever.

When We Were Bad by Charlotte Mendelson - Claudia Rubin is in her heyday. Wife, mother, rabbi and sometime moral voice of the nation, everyone wants to be with her at her older son's glorious February wedding. Until Leo becomes a bolter and the heyday of the Rubin family begins to unravel...

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold - "My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighbourhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer." This is Susie Salmon, speaking to us from heaven. It looks a lot like her school playground, with the good kind of swing sets. There are counsellors to help newcomers to adjust, and friends to room with. Everything she wants appears as soon as she thinks of it - except the thing she wants most: to be back with the people she loved on Earth.

The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud by Ben Sherwood - When he was a boy, Charlie St. Cloud almost perished in a car crash that killed his little brother, Sam. Years later, Charlie is still trying to atone for his loss. It is only when he meets Tess Carroll, a captivating, adventurous yachtswoman, that he faced with a choice - between death and life, the past and the present, holding on and letting go. 

The Sound of Butterflies by Rachael King - It is 1903 when Thomas Edgar says goodbye to his young wife Sophie and embarks on a journey to the Amazon, where he dreams of finding a mythical butterfly that will make both his name and his fortune. His dreams change, however, soon after his arrival in Brazil... Months later, Thomas arrives home, thin, sick and, worst of all, unable - or unwilling - to speak. Frustrated by his silence, Sophie takes increasingly drastic measures to uncover the truth about what happened to her husband while he was away. But as she sorts through Thomas' diaries and boxes of exquisite butterflies, it becomes clear that the truth may not be easy to bear.

Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding - (that unecessary extra S bugs the bejaysus out of me, to the point where I want to tippex it out on the spine).

The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde - Nineteen-year old university student Megan Thompson is beautiful, cool, clever and sexy - the kind of girls boys fall in love with. She has mostly steered clear of family life since the death of her younger brother. That is until the day she hears her mother, Diana, has been found floating face down in their swimming pool. Diana, as Director of the Center for Reproductive Choice, was a national figure who inspired passions and made enemies. Detective Huck Berlin is brought in to investigate the case when it becomes clear that Diana was murdered. Several people had quarrelled with Diana on that fateful day, not least Frank, her husband of twenty years, and her wayward child. Now father and daughter are thrown together in an unexpected twist of family life.

The Idea of Perfection by Kate Grenville - 'The Idea of Perfection' is a funny and touching romance between two people who've given up on love. Set in the eccentric little backwater of Karakarook, New South Wales, pop. 1374, it tells the story of Douglas Cheeseman, a gawky engineer with jug-handle ears, and Harley Savage, a woman altogether too big and too abrupt for comfort. Harley is in Karakarook to foster 'Heritage', and Douglas is there to pull down the quaint old Bent Bridge. From day one, they're on a collision course. But out of this unpromising conjunction of opposites, something unexpected happens: something even better than perfection.

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant - Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her fate is merely hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the verses of the Book of Genesis that recount the life of Jacob and his infamous dozen sons. 'The Red Tent' is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah's voice, it opens with the story of her mothers - the four wives of Jacob - each of whom embodies unique feminine traits, and concludes with Dinah's own startling and unforgettable story of betrayal, grief and love.

And that's it. For now. Not including all the books I bought in the bookshop I found on our Honeymoon break. Or the ones given to me by a relative who was having a clear-out.

Ever wish you could do this?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Essie - Fiji


I had my son's First Communion at the weekend, an occasion that warrants a celebratory polish, I'm sure you'll agree. I'd wanted Essie's "Fiji" for a while - normally, nudey shades don't appeal to me all that much, but this one looked really bright, fresh, and much warmer than some of the chalkier pale polishes I already own. I'd heard some bad things about the formula being a bit streaky, but the colour won me over and I bought it on Friday.

I'm so glad I bought it - it's a really, really pale pink and I had absolutely no issues with the formula at all. I used the usual Butter LONDON Horse Power base coat (which is amazing, by the way), three coats of Fiji, and Essence Sealing Top Coat.

I'm in love with this polish. It's creamy, shiny, opaque, bright - just gorgeous and I've definitely elevated it to must-have status. If you like pale polishes, this is an absolute must.

It's so nice that I don't even want to put glitter over it, and that's saying something.

My absolute favourite polish so far this year.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Barielle - Shannon's Attitude


I've mentioned before that I have a tendency to gravitate towards nail polish (or products in general) with quirky or funny names - I love a good pun, and I love a good pop culture reference. As far as I'm aware, Shannon's Attitude isn't an intentional pop culture reference, but around the time I popped it in my Transdesign basket (before their international shipping prizes went cray-cray), I was watching a lot of this:

If you haven't seen Thelma's Gypsy Girls, here's the lowdown - it was a documentary series about a dressmaker named Thelma who specializes in lavish gypsy wedding dresses. Thelma decided to run a course for several young gypsy girls to teach them how to make said dresses. The girls didn't really like to be told what to do. Thelma didn't really think her idea through before she went ahead. Cue lots of arguments. One of the girls, Shannon, was suspended for bad behaviour.

So. Who buys a polish based on the fact that it reminds her of the name of a young trainee gypsy dressmaker who gives her boss bad manners? Me, that's who.

Inside, no flash. It really IS that holo in natural light.

Barielle claim that this polish is "a purple jelly with foil flakes". It's not. It's a purple jelly with holographic bar glitter and tiny glitter particles. I had no issues with application at all, I didn't have to fish for bars. The formula was lovely and thick, and there were plenty of glitters with every dip of the brush. I did use underwear - a coat of W7 Rave (a light purple creme).

Inside, natural light, no flash.

I used two coats of Shannon's Attitude, no topcoat because I wanted to matte it (but forgot to).

Outside, daylight, no flash.
Close up:

I LOVE how holographic the large glitters are. They really are super sparkly in everyday light. I've no idea why I haven't used this polish before, but I'm definitely going to use it more.

You can buy Barielle from the aforementioned Transdesign, or from who offer a flat rate of $28 shipping to Ireland for 9 bottles of polish or less. Not too shabby, considering they have up-to-date collections from many brands (including new China Glaze for $2.99).

Anyone ever bought a polish for a more ridiculous reason than this one?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DIY Brush Holders


My foray into the world of makeup brushes is a recent and small one - I own a handful of cheap ones and I've only recently bought some decent ones. I hate brush rolls - I always forget what I have, or I forget to put them back in. I recently placed a Real Techniques order with iherb (more on that at the end), so while I was waiting for them to arrive, I had a look around to see if I could DIY a pretty brush holder to house my new additions.

After seeing these amazing holders over on Islay's blog (go follow it, it's gorgeous), made from tin cans and wallpaper samples, I trawled decorating sites for wallpaper samples. All the ones I got were free, with free delivery. Most sites have a free sample limit, so do check.

I ordered from Wallpaper Direct, i-Liv, and Farrow & Ball. All samples took around a week to arrive. Here's what I chose:

The ones I chose to use today were the two floral ones at the back, both from i-Liv.

First, I chose two tins - I was making soup today anyway so I rinsed out two empty chopped tomato cans.

I used double-sided tape to stick the wallpaper on, so I left the paper on the cans in order for the tape to adhere a bit better. I measured the height of the cans, then marked the paper for cutting, leaving about an inch at the top. Then I rolled the cans in double-sided tape.

I peeled the backing off the tape, applied the paper carefully, smoothing it out as I went to avoid lumps.

I thought they looked a bit boring like that, so I got some leftover ribbon and tied it around the centre of each can. Then I made some tags, and printed them out.

I secured the tags to the ribbon with some really cute mini clothes pegs I found in my craft box. If you'd like to buy some you can find them in most shops that sell cardmaking supplies. You can also get them on eBay HERE (I find them invaluable when making baby cards - line of string, some cross-stitched baby clothes, couple of mini pegs, voila - washing line).

I'm delighted with how they turned out, and I can't wait to make more for my craft supplies.

I ordered the Real Techniques Eye Starter set and Face Brush from for a total of $20 (or€16) including postage - get $5 off your first purchase under $40 or $10 over $40 using the code TMC827. This is an affiliate code and means that I will earn a very (very very) small percentage of any order placed using that code.