Sunday, 19 November 2017

Primark SS18 - 90s Mickey Mouse Club Meets Uber-Cool Asian Streetstyle

A couple weeks ago, I woke to a frosty Monday morning. Although delayed, the cold had finally descended and I finally had to start wearing jumpers and closing my window at night. Funnily enough, it was that same day that Primark was having their SS18 press day and I walked from the cold outside into a brightly-coloured, very summery, DJ'ed lunchtime showing (with my favourite blogging pal, Emma of Ol' Green Eyes - so nice to have an event wingwoman on the reg now!).

Interestingly, I noticed, quite quickly, that their summer trends included some rather autumnal shades and plenty of jumpers and coats. The latter makes sense for dressing for Irish summers but the former reflects something I have noticed of late. Florals abound this AW and, while that over-used The Devil Wears Prada quote laments about how florals for Spring is nothing new, the predominance of them for the colder months is unusual. It seems that, as with this embracing of a pattern type so deeply associated with one season during another, this use of shades normally relegated to Autumn during SS18 reflects a desire to mix things up and question fashion "rules". In a fashion climate where "good taste" is often up for debate, this minor breaking of rules seems like a natural trickle-down progression and I, for one, rather like it.

The collection presented five different trends; Club Mix, Castaway, Mono Remix, Asian Wonderland and Midnight Cowboy. Club Mix is a 90s inspired selection of cutesy, brightly coloured pieces that look alot like what I would have been dressed in as a kid and what you would have seen on the Mickey Mouse Club.

Castaway, meanwhile, takes its influence from nautical sources with cute rope details, stripes, frayed edges and more and presents a cute yet rather sophisticated take on those marine looks that often reappear around that time of year. These are the pieces that look far more expensive than they are.

Mono Remix presents monochromatic 80s power-dressing and a continuation of those glamorous looks that we've been seeing all over as of late.

Asian Wonderland finally names an influence I've been remarking on at the Primark events for seasons now: Asian Streetstyle. Cool and funky, this was the rail that Emma labelled as the "Colette rail" and I couldn't agree more. Think cool Miu Miu-esque slides, cross-body bags, little check skirts, primary colours, ribbon details and a mix of pretty and streetwear vibes: i.e. perfection in a rail.

With Midnight Cowboy, it is another case of being exactly what it says on the tin: fringing, denim, cowboy shirts and more mixed with mismatched florals, oversized sleeves and a delicate dance between masculine and feminine.

Primark presented a more edited version of things this time around with great attention paid to more luxurious accessories and the stories behind the trends. As a result, the vision we got for their SS18 is clear and very cool. Best of all, you won't even have to wait that long as pieces begin to drop from December through to April. Right now I'm enjoying playing with layers but it looks like next season is going to be fun too.

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Sunday, 12 November 2017

A-Z of Beauty: Acids

Acids: everyone seems to be talking about them and skincare brands are churning them out faster than ever but what are they, what are they for and are they as scary as they sound?

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In fact, you're probably more familiar with acids in skincare than you are even aware of. They are often key ingredients in targeting specific purposes and issues in one's skincare routine; like Salicylic Acid, which is used in treating breakouts and, most likely, serves as a throwback to one's teen years. The reason only certain acids ring familiar is that the likes of acne-prone teens often have to consult medical professionals in order to deal with their skin concerns and they are usually prescribed more medical and scientific-sounding products. They're not adults with their own expendable income, looking to better themselves in a general sense but people dependent on parents and doctors to find products that will really work and target a specific issue. Until recently, these same buzzwords were not sold to adults in the same way. Instead, a lifestyle, a sense of luxury or the overall product was the sales pitch.

Now, however, as more people become more educated about skincare and information becomes more readily available, customers are a little more savvy and a lot more interested in more scientific-sounding products. They are no longer unsexy and unappealing but, rather, potential secret ingredients that promise to really fix everything and make us baby-soft and blemishless again.

So, who are these acids and what do they want from us what can they do for us?

Salicylic Acid

Starting with our old pal, Salicylic acid, this is an acid that has many benefits including being anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-acne, and exfoliating. It comes in all sorts of forms - from face washes to treatment creams to peels - and is suitable for people with oily and acne prone skin but can also be an option for people with normal/dry skin who have the occasional break out.

Glycolic Acid

Another familiar name is glycolic acid, which really seems to pop up everywhere nowadays, famously in Pixi's line of products. It is an alpha hydroxy acid that is derived from sugarcane and is a very small molecule that gently dissolves dead skin. This makes it a much more gentle option than an exfoliating scrubs (the devil!) and is key in achieving smoother, less textured skin but can also help with lightening dark spots and reducing fine lines.

Lactic Acid

Lactic acid, meanwhile, is another exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid but is even gentler and has a moisturising element that makes it more suitable for people with sensitive skin who want the same benefits of glycolic acid but might not react well to it.

Hyaluronic Acid

Even though the name might bring images of burning or removing, acids are not merely used to exfoliate. Hyaluronic acid has become a bit of a buzzword in the serum world lately and this is because it actually binds moisture to the skin. It is humectant, meaning it helps the skin attract and retain moisture, which is why it is a step that is often in addition to your moisturiser, as it tries to permeate the skin further and really moisturise beyond the surface. It really is an invaluable ingredient in your routine, pretty much regardless of your skin type, as a result. Keep in mind, however, that not all hyaluronic acid products are made equal, as explained far better than I ever could by the lovely Liah Yoo in this video.

Ascorbic Acid

For brightening the skin and fighting hyperpigmentation, ascorbic acid - also known as vitamin C - is your pal! It is an antioxidant that reduces fine lines and fights free-radicals and is pretty much suitable to all skin types and desirable to anyone who wants brighter, happier skin, overall.

Retinoic acid

Retinoic acid, often referred to a retinoids, is your new best friend. It can help minimise the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, increase the skin’s thickness and elasticity, slow collagen degradation, reverse sun damage and lighten brown spots caused by sun exposure! Sounds good right? However, if you are using retinoids MAKE SURE TO WEAR SUNSCREEN THE NEXT DAY. You should be doing this, anyway, no matter who you are or how much sun you get (unless it's, literally, none) but while retinoids do great things they can make your skin susceptible to sun damage. Don't avoid them for this reason but be prepared for it.

Of course, no ingredient is actually a magic fix and can't rid you of serious skin damage or deep wrinkles - medical or cosmetic procedures are the only things that can do that and, even then, have their limitations. However, employing acids in your skincare routine in your 20s and 30s will have an incredible effect in the long term.

There are many more acids and many more becoming trendy all the time. This is, in no way, an exhaustive list. However, if you are just getting into skincare and taking it more seriously, this is a good intro to the topic. Good luck on your skincare journey, I know how frustrating and confusing it can be but when you see results, it very much feels worth all that head scratching.

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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Traditional Irish Hallowe'en Barmbrack Recipe With My Mammy! (@fitzwithfood)

I never liked brack growing up. Similarly to Christmas cake, I didn't get why I'd choose a cake with fruit in it. It didn't make sense.

My palate has changed wildly in the last few years, though. I rarely order dessert out and don't crave sweets in the same way anymore. I love spicy food now and I'm always up for trying new things. And, somehow, in the midst of all this, brack slid into my preferences. I can't tell you when or why or how but I suddenly started ordering it over rich, chocolatey cakes whenever it was (rarely) on a menu in a cafe. This year, in particular, I've had a real thing for it and was dismayed at how few places were serving it; it's a staple traditional Autumn food in Ireland!

The options in supermarkets weren't much better: all unwieldy, big, cheap, packaged things with little soul. I wanted something fresh and homemade but it clearly wasn't going to happen. So, I suggested my mother and I finally do our collab and make our own brack (with her invaluable know-how) and show others how to do the same.

Mammy is a wonderful cook and baker, in particular. She always has been but she has only really indulged it in the past year or two, since my siblings graduated and she has had more emotional and physical space to focus on herself. At my encouragement, she started an Instagram profile to record her adventures in food, cooking and baking and it has become a passion project. Seeing her finally do something for herself and something she is so good at and interested in has been a joy and I had been wanting to collaborate beyond tagging her in things for a while now.

This weekend, we finally got to it. Here is our recipe for the perfect, loaf-style barmbrack - a traditional fruit-based Irish cake or sweet bread that is served around Hallowe'en and was used as a sort of fortune-telling game. Traditionally, different objects are placed inside and the person who gets a slice with that object would have the corresponding fortune (a pea for those who would not marry that year, a stick for an unhappy marriage, a cloth for poverty or bad luck, a coin for good fortune or wealth and a ring for those who would get married within the year) but we weren't interesting in that (slightly unsanitary) tradition. We were interested in the taste.

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Ingredients:

225g of Self Raising Flour
350g of Dried Fruit Mix
300ml of cold Tea
125g of Golden Caster Sugar
1 Egg, beaten
A good pinch of Mixed Spice



Method:

1. Place a couple of tea bags in a mixing bowl, pour boiling water on top and brew for a few minutes. Then, remove the tea bags and allow the tea to cool.

2. Next, add the fruit mix, cover and leave to soak in the tea over night. Ignore the silly questions from your father and younger brother and tell them to leave the bowl alone. Hopefully, they will comply.

3. The next day, preheat the oven to 170°C. Add the sugar, egg, flour and mixed spice to the bowl with the fruit mix and mix well.

4. Grease and line a cake tin and pour in the mixture.

5. Cook for an hour until risen and firm to the touch. Be sure to listen to your mammy and not open the oven repeatedly throughout, as you are naturally prone to doing. Only check once, about halfway through the hour, if the tops are burning. If so, place some greaseproof paper on top to stop the situation from worsening.

6. Take out of the oven, cool on a wire rack and wait a while, until that cake has fully set and mostly cooled, before cutting. This will be hard as it smells so good. 

7. Serve slathered in Irish butter (don't be shy, worry about your heart later), with a nice cup of tea and don't let the banshee get you!


Thanks to my lovely mammy for helping me out with satisfying my desperate need for a good brack and collabing. It mostly involved us baking all day and laughing, which is the best kind of collab. Give her a follow at @fitzwithfood, it'll make her happy and it'll satisfy your food porn needs for a while.

Happy Hallowe'en, y'all! x


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Monday, 23 October 2017

Love Letters To Dublin: 10 Of The Most Instagrammable Cafés in Dublin

This year, you may have noticed, I've stepped back from the blog a bit. I decided that I wanted to focus more on seeing the people I love or people I want to get to know better and not spend all of my free time at events, where I often feel like a spare part. Don't get me wrong, I've met great people through blogging and events. Events are still often very fun but the process of them can feel soulless, at times.

Instead, I've been penciling in time for my besties, family and people I've always liked that I wanted to get to know better (like Ellie and Emma, of Ol' Green Eyes blog). And to be honest, it's pretty fulfilling.

I've also been setting aside more quality time and breathing room for myself. Moments of calm can be rare, as I hate being idle, but the constant go-go-go of my life can be pretty draining.

One of the easiest and best things to do, whether I'm going on dates with pals, or simply with myself, is to spend time in a café. Dublin doesn't have quite the café culture that has long existed across other parts of Europe - you won't find the same blend of bar and coffeehouse or the long hours. The pub still reigns supreme here and cafés generally don't open past 5pm. However, chains have far from fully taken over and there are plenty of charming and unique little spots across the city.

Ambiance is a big part of why I choose to patronise a place and being "Instagrammable" or aesthetically pleasing is a part of that. While I wouldn't turn down good food for a nice picture, said picture is always a cherry on top and if you're paying inflated prices for tea (because if you don't touch coffee, like me, you at least want to be in nice surroundings, right?

Of course you do! So, here are ten of the most Insta-friendly coffee shops in Dublin.

1. Pot-Bellied Pig, 15 Rathmines Road Upper

You know a place is cute when it is being scouted by magazines as a shoot location: that means it has won out over fancy hotels, manor houses, pretty landscapes or scenic corners of the city. Pot-Bellied Pig is a Pinterest dream, all Millennial pink and cheese plant prints. Their food is pretty excellent too. I've had brunch there twice now - once alone with a good book and a second time with my childhood best friend - and I've since replicated the meals I had, multiple times, at home. I will say that the brunch is a little pricey but if you're hankering for some good food and cute pics, they've got you covered. Oh, and if you want one of their famous blush pink velvet booths, I suggest you bring at least two other people as they've yet to allow me to sit in one. Also oh, be warned: the lighting actually isn't great so getting that perfect shot can be tricky. That booth by the window at the back, with the only decent natural light is my goal one day!

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2. Five Points, 288A Harold's Cross Road

From a cutesy place to a minimal gem, this newest branch of the beloved Five Points café was a wonderful addition to Harold's Cross. Particularly for me, as it is about a five minute walk from my place. Admittedly, I've yet to eat a proper meal there but I do love to pop in on a Sunday afternoon, just before closing and once the brunch crowds have dissipated, and spend an hour reading, catching up on work, doing my Korean homework or just chilling with a pastry and a tea. Bright, airy and devoid of too many tables clustered together (a personal pet peeve), it's the perfect spot to get your daily intake of caffeine and a well-lit shot of it, as well.

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3. Foam, 24 Strand Street Great

Foam, meanwhile, is one of those rare beauties in Dublin. It stays open until 8 and, as a result, it is a regular after work hang-out spot for me. It's also really cool inside: a quirky, colourful, weird mixture of different wallpaper, works of art, mismatched tableware, lamps, couches and tables. There's plenty to see - from the cute to the truly bizarre - and they have a nice selection of cakes, teas, coffees and a full food menu as well. The downstairs is more formal dining and upstairs is a mixture of tables and chairs and sofas, which makes it the perfect spot to curl up and catch up with people.

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4. Oolong Flower Power, 4 Stephens Street Lower

Like Foam, Oolong Flower Power stays open late (until 9 or 10pm each day) and is a perfect spot for tea lovers, with hundreds to choose from. You can also get cakes, lunches and dinners but its the tea that is the big draw for me. While storing it in glass jars isn't great (I'm a bit of a fancy tea snob as I once worked in a high-end tea shop myself), it is great to have that kind of choice; from black to green, herbal to rooibos and all sorts of flavours and varieties of each. Plus, the big windows and marble tables make for some pretty shots.

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5. Ladurée, 1-3 South William Street

Speaking of marble and pretty interiors, one can't help but mention Ladurée. While it is a chain and not unique to Dublin, the café is pretty damn adorable. Their hot chocolate is famous, apparently, and they are one of the few places in Dublin that does Madeleines. You can also grab their own blends of tea (the Marie Antoinette is my fave) and, of course, their iconic macarons, as well as alcoholic beverages (wine and cocktails) and full meals. If you have a pastel theme going on on your profile, it is a must.

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6. Press Café, National Print Museum, Haddington Road

Located in a pretty conservatory filled with mismatched furniture (for that charmingly eclectic touch) and plants, this café boasts a spacious, bright dining space and wonderful menu. Said menu features breakfast, brunch (Saturday and Sunday) and lunch options as well as plenty of drink (including Prosecco and wine) options. I can personally recommend the banana bread French toast but the entirety of the menu looks and sounds truly delicious. Probably one of the better cafés to choose if you're actually eating and plated so prettily it would be a crime not to 'gram it.

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7. Green & Bean, Brown Thomas, Grafton Street

Located in Ireland's premier luxury department store, Brown Thomas, Green & Bean is all So-Cal interiors, excellent Rosé, elegant vibes and an eclectic menu. Some items on the menu are pricey, as one might imagine, but if you pop in for a bit before closing on the late-opening Thursday, it's an excellent place to grab a glass of wine and cake for ultimate relaxation.

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8. Bibi's Café, 14A Emorville Avenue

Family friendly, cute and cosy, Bibi's has a limited menu but serves everything on very photogenic tableware and it's all damn tasty classics. The seats outdoors are a must, weather permitting, as you find yourself sitting out in a sunny spot on a quiet Dublin 8 residential street, tucked far from traffic. If you're catching up with a friend, this is a perfect spot to go uninterrupted and to feel utterly unhurried (though inside can be chaotic with groups and families for brunch at the weekend).

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9. Isabella's, 268 Rathmines Road Lower

Isabella's is both a café and gelateria, which is an excellent combo. This is where you can get the tastiest vegan Chocolate gelato ever, stacks of pancakes, crepes, Belgian waffles, delicious milkshakes (or so I'm told, I'm not a fan), and a decent selection of tea and coffee. Simply decorated in warm wood and pastel tones, you can 'gram an ice-cream cone fully decked out with sweets, sprinkles, etc or a quiet brunch over crosswords and magazines with your wifey (like me).

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10. Two-Fifty Square, Williams Park

Finally, we have the lovely Two-Fifty Square. Tucked down a side-street, located inside a little house, this is seriously cute inside and out. The coffee is raved about, the food is delicious, it is spacious and bright and very cool. Basically, a perfect spot for grabbing coffee with a pal or brunch with a gang. And the food? As photogenic as it is tasty.

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So, now that you have these guys at hand as a list, get out and experience Dublin's own unique café culture!


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Sunday, 15 October 2017

The Season's Must-Have Accessories: A Cheap And Easy Way To Update Your Style

There's something a little different about this AW. Bright colours abound, styling is edgy and cool but preppy pieces are back in a big way thanks to Gucci...It's just a lot of fun ideas. A little like a season for playing dress-up.

A downside, however, is my burning desire for new clothes so I can play along with these cool trends and ideas. I always have to curb my need for new pieces but it's particularly bad right now. And I'm not the only one, it seems. Several friends have admitted that their normal budget and allowances for new clothes have gone right out the window. 

Fear not, though. I've come up with a pretty useful solution: accessories. 

I know, I know. That's not a new idea. Accessories are always a great way to update your look in a more cost-efficient and eco-friendly way but this season, in particular, there are some key items that can completely change and upgrade your wardrobe.

Here are my picks of AW17's must-have accessories.

1. Brooches

A little while ago, I found a couple of brooches that I had gotten in press bags from different jewellery brands. They'd been put away in those same bags for years at this point and I took them out with the intention to give them away, tired of having things I didn't want or wasn't using just lying around and taking up space. 

The truth is, I thought them old-fashioned and fussy until recently and then I realised that I was merely approaching wearing them in an outdated way. Brooches in of themselves aren't old-fashioned. They are actually invaluable this season (particularly pearly ones for that Gucci vibe) and perfect worn on an over-sized mannish blazer to bring a touch of prettiness to it; on a military-style beret to make it softer and more interesting; or pinned to the front of my simple sporty black bum bag when I wear it slung across my chest for a look that's a combination that's a little more compelling and unexpected. Brooches, used correctly, make for modern styling and can make items you already own look more expensive and on trend.

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2.  Pearls

I don't need to say much here. And I know I need to stop talking about Gucci so many times in this one post but, srsly, they've kind of defined the aesthetic that we're seeing everywhere this season and they made pearls happen again. But cooler pearls. More modern pearls. Think pearls where you weren't expecting them - on shoes, pinned to berets etc. - and pearls set in simpler, geometric jewellery, particularly earrings. 

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3. Earrings

I don't buy a lot of jewellery because I simply don't wear it often enough and I have too much as it is. However, I'm having a hard time walking past earring displays atm. There are so many good options; geometric, minimalist, gaudy and gothy, mismatched etc.

Just get some statement earrings and it will totally elevate an otherwise simple outfit; without your having to try too hard. An especially good combo is loosely tied back hair, an over-sized comfy knit, skinnies, ankle boots and a hard-working earring. Mango and Primark, in particular, have some great options at the moment.

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4. Glasses chains on sunglasses

It's already a thing but it's going to be a mainstream thing soon, I certain of it!

Tapping into the re-imagining and restyling of vintage items and trends that we're seeing a lot of, this is something I'm really into and it looks super cool. An easy way to look hipper than you are, without having to do very much.

Pop into any optician and pick up a chain and then add it to some sunglasses, preferably ones with coloured lenses. 

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5. Neckties

Channel your inner Gossip Girl (and Gucci - again, I know!) and invest in a necktie. It works that preppy trend, sure, but paired with clashing prints, it looks really fresh and cool and a lot more expensive than your outfit might actually be. I got this one on ASOS and I'm obsessed. 

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A lot of what is in style this season is a re-imagining of things and can be easily replicated with pieces you probably own already. Just pick up some accessories that are multi-functional, transformative and adaptable like these guys and you won't have to spend an arm and a leg to tap into the coolest things going on in the industry right now!


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