Sunday, 15 January 2017

Surviving The January Blues

I'm not normally one for the S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder) but over the weekend it hit me hard, pretty much out of nowhere. I had slept poorly the night before and wasn't feeling physically great plus we had watched the very last ever episode of The West Wing the night before and to say I was bereft was an understatement. But the weather. I was out and about and literally everything my eyes fell upon made me feel a bit down. 

A recent walk along the canal

Everything was dark and gloomy and had an overall look of misery to it. And then, I realised. January, you bastard. This is classic January. Yes, everything is Wintery and dark in December too but in December you have Christmas; lots of lights and presents and nights out and basically, things to look forward to. Not so for January. So I decided to compile a list of things that usually helps me through the gloomier months in the hopes that they may help you too and may even kickstart my own return to Pollyanna-ness. 

1) Surround Yourself With Comfort
This means; electric blankets, snuggly jumpers, lots of coffee, fluffy slippers and in my case; new pillows for a better night's sleep. We got these on sale in Kildare Village- they're medium support so you can sink into them but still feel like you're being held in a loving, hypoallergenic embrace. I'd also recommend picking up the 100% brushed cotton bed sheets from Penneys, which are comfort personified. I suggest all of these because the time you won't spend at work or with your beloved human companions should really be spent in bed, toasty as a cinnamon bun, á lá Homer Simpson


2) Watch Pleasant TV/Films
I'm struggling a bit with this one myself so hit me up with tv suggestions that aren't intolerably grim, if you know of any. I started Crazy Ex Girlfriend and am enjoying it, in spite of the cringe and we went to see La La Land last week, which was glorious. I had a smile on my face for the entire film and even if musicals aren't your thing, I'd suggest you try it out anyway, you may well be pleasantly surprised. If nothing else the colours, music and dance scenes are an absolute antidote to the cold, dark Winter. 


3) Read Good Books
Well, you'll want to be reading something when you're snuggled up in your 100% brushed cotton sheets, that is when you're not watching something on Netflix. These are my two book club reads for January. So far, I'm liking both.


4) Wear/Buy The Good Make Up
I've written about this before and how as a make up fiend, I tend to "save things for best", meaning, the particularly beautiful make up gets kept for a later use that might never happen, for fear of destroying it. 
Well, last month I ordered some of the Too Faced Peach collection, and instead of saving them to take blog photos and then maybe covet them for a bit longer, I've just gone ahead and used them. That and the Anastasia Beverly Hills contour palette and a brand new bottle of my favourite foundation, YSL Le Teint Touch Eclat. Here are my super happy snapchat photos of them on my face and my delighted mug.


I will have reviews of the Peach palette, blush and lip oil and the ABH Contour Palette soon, hopefully! 
I'd also add to this; paint your toe nails something bright and cheerful, always puts me in a good mood when I look down!

5) Book Things to Look Forward To
I'll talk holidays in a minute but what I'm thinking here is filing up your weekends and days off with things that are fun- days off to do nothing are great too though, don't get me wrong. I enjoy time spent flying through books, drinking endless cups of tea and browsing twitter in the comfort of my centrally heated home but I also quite like to plan ahead for things like afternoon tea, nights out with great people and gigs, plays etc. We have the David Bowie musical, Lazarus this month, Cirque du Soleil in February and hopefully The Wedding Singer (the musical and also one of my favourite films- I have no shame, cause it's hilarious. Plus so much 80's) in March. I'm also planning a 20k charity walk in April, which I'll need to start walking to prepare for- so exercise and fresh air will also no doubt help!


6) Holidays!
I'll be blogging about some of the great places we went to last year soon, to give yis some ideas, which we're also doing ourselves by checking out cheap flights on Ryanair to various European destinations. Greece is winning so far!


7) Treat Yo'self.
Treat yourself to good food (eat the damn chocolate), the luxurious bubble bath, body butter and face mask. I'll be using my Shiseido sheet masks this week, which I've been saving and I'm currently using a Rituals body lotion that smells so good, it makes me feel better every time I lash it on. I don't want to get you in debt either but...buy the dress/shoes/bag. 

8) Fresh Air
Lookit, I know it's manky out there but once you get out it's not actually that bad. I always feel better once I've been near the sea- the air leaves my head a bit clearer and bonus point for how scenic it is.


And that's my lot for the moment.

Bearing in mind I'm not a mental health care professional so these are really just suggestions for when you're struggling a bit with the blues, nothing more serious. 
Do you have anything to add that can brighten up January a bit more?
To the comments!
XX




Sunday, 8 January 2017

Recently Read; October & November

So yes, again, this is extremely late but sure look. No, that's actually it. I've no excuse. It's a new year and I've already started my reading list for 2017 but I read some great books towards the end of 2016 and it would be remiss of me to not review them. 
So here we are:


Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent
As I've mentioned before, I read Liz's second book, Lying in Wait (released last year) before reading Unravelling Oliver and although I highly rate Lying in Wait, this one completely blew me away. The story begins with us learning that Oliver has brutally beaten his wife, Alice, who is now in a coma. As far as everyone was concerned, Oliver was a charismatic, charming man who found great success as a children's writer, with Alice illustrating his books. 
The book tells his life story; from his perspective but also from those who he has met along the way, leading up to the present day and what has caused his violent attack. I read this over a couple of days and like Lying In Wait, we are told from the get-go who the baddie is, we just don't know why. I find that to be a really clever writing technique- there's still that element of mystery but it feels fresh and exciting. None of the characters in this are particularly likeable but the storyline moves along at a good pace and there's enough intrigue in there to put an Eastenders script writer out of business!

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney
This was one of my book club reads and we all loved it. 
Set in Cork, post the Celtic Tiger crash, the murder of a local scumbag ends up affecting the lives of five of the cities other strays and misfits: Maureen; home form London years after giving her son Jimmy up as a baby, with a grudge against the Catholic Church and the Ireland of old (and kind of new too), Jimmy himself; now a big-time gangster, his lackey Tony; an alcoholic who beats his son Ryan; a 15 year old in love with his girlfriend but constantly being trapped by life and Georgie; a teenage runaway and drug addict, forced into a life of prostitution. It sounds incredibly grim from that description but it's brilliantly written- some of the sentences made me stop just to fully appreciate the wording and there's a perfect mix of humour and tragedy in there too. Lisa has a sequel coming out in April, so if you've yet to read this masterpiece, I'd get cracking now!

I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts On Being A Woman by Nora Ephron  
I've loved Nora Ephron's work for years now (she wrote the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, just as one example) but I've somehow never read any of her published writing, until I found this book in my online Library catalogue. I had read it within a couple of days because it was just so enjoyable. Her words flow perfectly and so many times I found myself laughing heartily and then reading out a passage to itself. This is a collection of essays about her life including one called "What I Wish I'd Known", which has some of the best life advice of all time.
I'll be on the hunt for Heartburn next, and then ALL of her other books. 

Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
This was another online library ebook find. I had wanted to read this for a while, having heard of Matt Haig in relation to his fictional novels but also that this, a non-fiction book about depression was well worth a read also. It details Matt's own real life experiences in developing depression and from there, how he dealt with it and how he still deals with it to this day. I will say that I found parts hard to read. Unsurprisingly it can be a bit bleak because he never really shies away from the reality of his illness but he also gives some excellent advice on how to cope and lists some pretty stellar reasons to stay alive- as the title would suggest! Although it was difficult at times, this is a great read for anyone who currently suffers with depression or has in the past but also, for anyone really. At some point in everyones life, there's a good chance we may all have to deal with mental illness, so really I think this is a useful read for everyone.


Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice
This, along with Streetcar down below, were picks for our New Orleans trip and seriously, they were so appropriate. Obviously, Interview with The Vampire is set in New Orleans but that aside, it's also deeply atmospheric and was perfect for where we were staying and the time of year- we were there for Halloween. We also visited Anne Rice's old house, which was a cool addition to my reading of it. In case you haven't seen the Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt 90's movie, the film follows Louis as he tells his 200-yearlong life story to an astounded journalist. Beginning with is brother's death and from there his own transformation into a vampire at the hands of outrageous creature of the night, Lestat, to their finding and making a child vampire, right up to the current day (current day being the 1970's at the time of publishing). Although I knew what was going to happen, there are of course plenty of differing elements to the book and film, including a slightly changed ending so if you have seen it, worry not, it's still an enjoyable read. Plus I now want to read the rest of the series!

A Head Full Of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
This, as you can see from the cover was a Stephen King recommendation. As in, I read an article where he said this was a brilliant horror read, not that he phoned me up and was all "Chloe, it's your old pal Steve, check out Head Full of Ghosts". But you probably knew that anyway. Moving on, this was actually a really unusual mix of reality TV, poltergeist and somebody's thesis on Horror books and movies. So basically, I loved it. The Barrett family struggle to cope when their fourteen year old daughter Marjorie begins to show signs of schizophrenia. When they realise they can no longer afford her medical care, they turn to the Church, who have a very different take on what's wrong with Marjorie and how she should be helped. Namely, they think she's possessed and that she needs an exorcism. To help the family stop from going under financially, they agree to allow a television crew into their home to film what goes on for a salacious TV show. Fifteen years later, Karen, a horror blogger re-watches the show and then blogs about it. Also at this time, a writer is interviewing Marjorie's younger sister Merry for a book, where we find out what she believes happened. This was a creepy read, at times scary but mostly it was just really gripping. I desperately wanted to know what would happen- how the family were going to get out of this and if Marjorie was really possessed. I also LOVED the end of the book that goes back over all of the pop culture references in the book; where they came from and how they were relevant. If you're a horror lover, this is the book for you!

Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
Again, a Halloween read (unsurprisingly). This is a Miss Marple where a child is drowned in a bobbing-for-apples Halloween game after it transpires that she knew a little too much about a murder that she claimed had taken place years before. The unknown here was who was murdered, who was the killer and once that could be figured out, the murderer of the little girl would also be revealed. This wasn't a bad Christie but as it was one of her later novels, it suffered from the constant mention of how society had changed and how people were more likely to have mental illnesses etc. That's an interesting feel for the times it was written I guess, but it did feel a bit over emphasised. 
Still, not a bad themed read, if a little convoluted at times. 

A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Once again, I've seen the Marlon Brando film adaptation so I knew the story but I really loved the writing here. Although it's in the format of a play, it's still a great read and flows along at a good pace. Blanche du Bois moves to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella and her boorish husband, Stanley. It's a hot, muggy Summer in New Orleans and tensions begin to rise between the three of them until frail and damaged Blanche begins to fall apart, helped along by Stanley. Obviously plays are meant to be experienced on stage but in this case, the written version is also superb.


So that's the lot for now. I'll be back soon with December and January's reads (once I've finished them!) Until then, have you read any of these?
What are you reading right now?
To the comments!
XX

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Obeo- Tick One Thing Off Your Resolution List Right Now!!

I don't know about you but top of my New Years resolution list every year is "sort your life out". This usually entails a massive Spring clean. This year for instance, I've bought those vacuum pack storage yokes with the intention of sorting out the clothes in the spare room. I also do several charity drops to Enable Ireland throughout the year and last January, I bought Marie Kondo's The Joy Of Tidying Up, of which I read one chapter, that suggested I give away most of my books. Obviously that was the end of Marie. 
Once I've the Christmas tree put away though, I get really into overhauling the house. The kitchen and bathroom are transformed, the laundry basket gets noticeably less full and I hoover the bejaysus out of the place. If you're anything like me, you'll be in a similar revolutionise-the-house mode right now and so, I bring you Irish brand, Obeo that'll sort out your food waste while leaving your kitchen prettier, smelling better and overall, a bit tidier.

I'm all about making life easier but unfortunately, we don't have a brown bin in the part of Dublin where we live (the brown bin is the one specifically for food waste) and nor do we make compost out of our rubbish as we also don't have a back garden (the joys of post Celtic Tiger Ireland, am I right?)  so for the purposes of trying out Obeo, I turned to my sister who has both a brown bin and a penchant for spending less time sorting out her bins, as I guess, we all do. 


Obeo is a non-leakable, sturdy brown box that you can keep on your kitchen counter and add all of your vegetable peels, plate-scrapings and general food leftovers into without having to go to and from your brown bin outside the house. Why not just use a plastic bin bag as you normally would and then put it out before bin day you may ask? Well, this fella is biodegradable- it's 100% compostable so if you care about the environment as much as you do not having a manky, open plastic bag of rotting food in your kitchen, then this is a win-win. 
The Obeo box closes over, hiding away any smells, while it stays completely strong and sturdy- no leaks, so no rotten bin juices (truly, there is no combination of words worse than "bin juices") and when you're ready for bin days, out it goes; no muss, no fuss.

Back to my sister though. When I asked her to review the Obeo box for me, she said "I've heard of them but I think they're too pricey". In fairness, household waste is probably not something any of us want to spend our hard-earned shekels on but after that one free use, she's now hooked and has been buying her own for almost a year.  Bottom line here- this is a good product that works well, makes your life a bit easier and helps the environment at the same time. I'm giving this two enthusiastic thumbs up (my sisters thumbs, but thumbs nonetheless).
If you have a brown bin, you need to try Obeo.

This'll give you a better idea of how it works, in case my flu-addled head has failed to explain it properly:


I've seen these in most Irish supermarkets (Dunnes and Super Valu included) but you can look for your nearest stockists HERE or get a subscription online HEREMy sister buys a subscription of 30 Obeo boxes every 3 months for €22 (free p&p), which sounds good to me considering how much I spend (a lot) on the recycling bags for our part of Dublin. Each box is designed to last about 2-3 days, longer depending on your amount of waste. I wasn't paid to write this but I like to support Irish brands that have something new and innovative to offer and anything that can help the environment is a major plus in my eyes. Especially now Donald "the Chinese invented Climate Change" Trump is president of America. 

Have you tried Obeo?
Is there a worse combination of words than "bin juices"?* 
To the comments!
XX


*Moist crevice is worse, maybe.

Monday, 2 January 2017

Cocoa Brown Kind Shampoo & Conditioner | Review

So I'm starting off the year with a beauty review, but not just any beauty review.
The Kind Shampoo and Conditioner were hotly anticipated last year from well-loved Irish tanning brand, Cocoa Brown. Company creator, Marissa Carter had shown a sneak peek on her snapchat that set the beauty world into a tizzy and so I, amongst others were super excited to try these haircare products, specifically designed for sensitive scalps and hair


Firstly, I was keen to know why these are "kind" and what sets them apart from other similar products on the market?

These are Paraben, Alcohol and Formaldehyde free. The part that actually cleans your hair comes from natural sources- coconut oil and fruit sugars. And, because Marissa is always thinking 'tan', the ph level in these won't interfere with your tan, so you'll have a more even fade. 

This all means that they are suitable for anyone with a skin condition on their scalp, coloured hair or hair extensions.
I was able to tick off two on that list last year as I had dyed my hair pink and had hair extensions in for about 6 months (read about that HERE). I used both of these for the majority of that period and my hairdresser told me both my extensions and my hair were in good condition when I went to have them removed.
From my own perspective, I didn't notice any premature colour fading and both my own hair and the extensions felt well looked after- or, as well looked after as they can be when you have extensions, which ravage your hair, regardless of what anyone tells you. 

For me, the bottom line here is that these are a bit of a god-send for anyone with extensions- if you're planning on getting them or you have them in already, pick up these two. They'll look after your hair at a really reasonable price (Penneys have these in store from €3.50), which means you don't need to spend even more on your hair than you'll already have (extensions are great but horribly expensive). 

Have you tried the Kind range?
Thoughts?
To the comments!
XX

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Top 16 Books of 2016

I read lots of great books this year. I kept track of them all over on Goodreads and although I didn't meet my target of 80 (I read 55), I did read different genres, audiobooks, ebooks and reintroduced myself to the library; one of my favourite places. I also utilised two online book clubs, Richard & Judy's and Rick O' Shea's as well as my own in real life club which met once monthly so I had plenty to choose from. I'll probably set a slightly easier target for the new year ahead but more of that in an another post. For now, these are my favourites from the last year of reading:


 Although I read all of these in the last year, not all were published in 2016. Some of these have yet to be reviewed but for the ones that have, I'll link them in pink. The others will be reviewed soon! 

I started the year with The Versions Of Us and it was a great way to kick off a new year of reading. I plan to do the same this year- start with a whole new pile of books and any that I haven't finished from last year all just have to wait. It seems cleaner somehow! Anyway, this had me completely hooked for the first few chapters and by the end I was loath to put it down- I wanted to keep following their lives!

The Miniaturist was a quirky little read and almost felt like a soap told through a historical fiction lens. 

11/22/63 took me about two months to get through (on audio) and I loved every minute of it. It's not your typical King horror, but it does have some spine-tingling moments. I envy anyone getting to read it for the first time. 

All The Light We Cannot See is a beautifully written tale of two kids on very different sides of WW2. Quite bleak at times but also so lovely.

A Man Called Ove had me in floods and was slow in parts but is overall the perfect feel-good book.

I loved Lindy's look back on her life as a Shrill woman and her tales of feminism.

The Light Between Oceans was probably the most loved reads in my book club this year- it's romantic, dramatic and gets you thinking.

The Glorious Heresies is a a darkly comic look at gangsters in Cork. It's brilliant. Read it before the sequel comes out in April!

Mr Mercedes is the first in a trilogy from Stephen King and I loved it. It's about a retired detective turned private-investigator, hunting down a serial killer. Gripping!

The Invention Of Wings is about two girls- one the privileged daughter of a wealthy family of slave owners in the deep South. The other, her slave. 

Skagboys and Trainspotting kept me entertained for about a month. Yes, it's about drug abuse in a socially deprived area of Edinburgh but it's brilliantly written and very humorous!

I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman was the first Nora Ephron book I've read but I'll be picking up more for sure. It's a collection of sharply observed essays from the writer of film screenplays like When Harry Met Sally. It's brilliant.

A Head Full Of Ghosts was read over Halloween and although it's a weird mix of reality TV and exorcisms, it's not so much scary as it is shocking and quite sad at times. I also loved all of the horror movie/books/pop culture references. 

Although I read Lying In Wait first, I actually preferred Unravelling Oliver which was more of a Why'd He Do It rather than a Who Done it. 

Holding is Norton's first non-fiction book and he's actually a brilliant writer. This is a mystery set in small town Cork, where all the locals are hiding something. 


What were your favourite reads of the year? 
Did any of these make the cut? 
XX