#ITWBN: A taste of 56 Central and Bubbles

 

56 Central

There’s nothing I love more than good, nutritious and healthy food, and at a recent Into The West Blogger Network (#itwbn) event, I got the chance to sample the menu at one of Shop Street’s newest restaurants, 56 Central.

‘Healthy is the new sexy’ was the motto when Gill Carroll set up 37 West two years ago. Located on Newcastle Road, the small restaurant prides itself in its range of healthy dishes, offering something different to Galway’s food scene.

Now, after experiencing success with 37 West, Gill has expanded to Galway City Centre, taking over Lynch’s Café and opening a new, larger restaurant: 56 Central.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to interview Gill Carroll for the Galway Independent, and she gave me plenty of information about her new restaurant.

“56 Central has more of a focus on slowing things down and reconnecting to food and life and people,” Gill explained to me at the time, and so far she’s connecting with plenty of people who have already flooded through her restaurant doors.

When Gill organised a tasting event for a group of local bloggers, she certainly connected with people in new ways. All night, bloggers were tweeting photos and comments about the food, the service, the art. We were delighted to get the chance to sample her menu, and to experience the amazing atmosphere of the restaurant itself.

The lovely Gill Carroll pouring us some delicious prosecco and elderflower cocktails. Photo: Jessica Thompson

The lovely Gill Carroll pouring us some delicious prosecco and elderflower cocktails. Photo: Jessica Thompson

Located in the heart of Galway, 56 Central is truly the most stylish restaurant in town. The space has been carefully designed by a team of local talents including Dan Gardener Original and Finbar 24/7 and of course Gill herself.

56 Central has become a breeding ground for successful entrepreneurs who come in to work on creative projects and soak up the energy of the art on the walls and the energy from the old Galway wall which holds up the central Processo bar.

As you enter 56 Central you will see a giant heart, which has two pumps. Each pump sends blood around our body – the blood line is represented by a continuous line around the building into all of the restaurant’s rooms of reflection:

1. The Garden – nature
2. The Site – food
3. The Art Room – Art & Culture
4. The Vault – people love & connection

All the crew wear t-shirts saying ‘Grateful’, because they are all so grateful to have 56 Central.

The beautiful display that greeted us when we arrived at 56 Central. Photo: Jessica Thompson

The beautiful display that greeted us when we arrived at 56 Central. Photo: Jessica Thompson

As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by Gill herself, who proceeded to pour the most delicious prosecco cocktails, which we all enjoyed while we met our fellow bloggers and chatted amongst ourselves before taking our seats.

Each place at the table was set with a small bottle of prosecco, a greeting card, a lollipop and a name tag with each individual blog written on it. Mine said ‘#Sin’, as I’m the editor of Sin Newspaper in NUI Galway.

Once we were seated, we enjoyed a range of delicious dishes. There’s a large focus on locally sourced produce in 56 Central, and everything on the menu, apart from the Ballymaloe relish, is sourced in Galway or other parts of the West of Ireland.

When I interviewed Gill a couple of months ago, she talked about the importance of supporting local producers and the local food industry. She feels that the last couple of years have seen a really good growth in the west, but “people are going back to basics” and trying new things and using fresh ingredients.

“I think it’s really important to support local producers because they’re the ones who are so close to you and they can give you something that’s so fresh and so unique as well,” Gill told me.

“We have a dish on the menu called The West and basically everything in it is from the West of Ireland. We have all the produce here; it’s just a matter of slipping them into your menu and allowing people to taste them, because you can instantly taste the difference between a baguette that’s made from 20 minutes away as opposed to it being frozen and mass-produced.

 

Collerans mince beef burger on Jeremy Les Petit Doucher mini brioche buns with ballymaloe relish. Delicious! Photo: Jessica Thompson

Colleran’s mince beef burger on Jeremy Les Petit Doucher mini brioche buns with ballymaloe relish. Delicious! Photo: Jessica Thompson

The food was delicious, and included:

  • Mini Colleran’s mince beef burfer on Jeremy Le Petit Doucher mini brioche buns with Ballymaloe relish.
  • 56 Central homemade gluten free bread 56 central baked ham from Castlemine butcher Lizzi’s piccalilli.
  • Sausage sliders made from Castlemaine Meat with Loughrea honey and The Lodge Barna’s Prosecco and Tarragon Mustard.
  • 56 Central Cuinneog buttermilk Chicken (this was definitely my favourite).
  • Spicy Potato Bravas.
  • Galway Goat Farm Goatscheese with beetroot piccalilli and garnishes.
  • Mini fish cakes tartare and caper made with Alis Fish Market Fish.
  • Naturally Gluten Free Nacho canapés from Blanco Nino (Little Ass Buritto).
  • Sweet selection from Sugar & Spice – Mini mint aero, mini oreo, carmel, mini brownie & mallows.

Once we’d had our fill, Gill came around with beautiful cupcakes – one for each of us. She also offered takeaway cups so we could take the cupcakes home to enjoy the next day.

Delicious cupcakes for every blogger! Photo: Jessica Thompson

Delicious cupcakes for every blogger! Photo: Jessica Thompson

But aside from the fantastic, locally produced foods, Galway itself is a fantastic location to open up a business, Gill told me during our chat over the summer.

“Galway people are so excitable. They really want to help support new business and the love and support that we got for 56 was unbelievable. Everyone really got behind it and they were so excited about it,” she said.

“That’s a huge pro for me, because it makes it easier, and even when I set up 37 West it was quite different with the healthy food and everything, but they’re willing to try, and they’re willing to go out of their way to go somewhere different.”

We thoroughly enjoyed our night with Gill. The food is excellent, and I doubt there’s one blogger who gave it a bad review. I’ll certainly be going back – especially for that buttermilk chicken – delicious!

After our time with Gill and her staff, we had the pleasure of visiting Garavan’s Bar on Shop Street, where we tasted a range of whiskeys.

I’m not much of a whiskey-drinker, and whiskey generally tastes like whiskey to me. But I enjoyed the experience of taking a sip, then adding water and seeing how the flavours changed.

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Some of the whiskey samples we were treated to at Garavan’s Bar. Photo: Jessica Thompson

Overall, we had a fantastic night. This is the first mini #itwbn event I’ve attended, but I found it so much easier to talk to people than I do at the larger meetings, because there are fewer people. Things are so much more intimate and I really enjoyed getting to know other bloggers.

Sadly, I missed the Retro Flame event, which was on last week, but I’m looking forward to the next big event or mini-mixer, whichever comes first.

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Does a nice smile help your chances of a better career?

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It’s always hard going for an interview or making a presentation at work, whether you’re worried about making a good impression or remembering all you have to say. However, there are many adults that have an extra worry on top of the usually last-minute nerves – their smile.

We’re always told that a smile gives a good impression, and for those of us with jobs that involve meeting people face to face, it’s even more important – whether that’s behind a reception desk or in front of a classroom or courtroom.  The importance of having the perfect smile has given rise to a soaring number of people between the ages of 20-35 seeking Invisalign braces from companies such as Smile Revolution to improve theirs, in order to make the best impression on colleagues, employers and customers alike. But does it really help your career?

Do you look confident enough?

Those with crooked teeth, overbites or underbites may well try and cover their smile up, as they don’t want to reveal their less than perfect teeth to the world. This embarrassment over their smile can lead to the impression that they’re shy, or unsure of what they’re doing. Let’s face it, a potential client or customer greeted with confidence, a firm handshake and a big open smile is more likely to feel like you know what you’re doing. Sales roles place huge importance on confidence and having a smile to be proud of can make for better, more confident sales pitches, leading to more sales.

Do you look healthy?

Let’s imagine you’re an employer with a few candidates to choose from, all pretty evenly matched as far as experience and knowledge go. You call all clients in for an interview, and they can all talk the talk, but as an employer you have to consider whether they look like they’re up to the job. This is where looking healthy comes in. A clean smile makes a person look like they take care of themselves, and can make them look brighter too, giving them the edge over the competition.

Do you look smart?

Whatever profession you’re in, you’re bound to have studied hard to get the knowledge you need to have a great career. However, it’s also been proven that your smile can actually make you look smarter. According to Kelton Research’s digital perception study, found that those surveyed believed people with a great smile and straight teeth looked smarter than those with misalignments.

Do you look trustworthy?

Some professions’ clients (such as law and medicine) place great importance on trust. When it comes to law, for example, you not only have to inspire trust in your clients, but also you have to convince a court that you’re trustworthy too. If you’re constantly hiding your smile, it could be that you give the impression you’ve something else to hide. In the same vein, doctors must inspire trust in their patients. Whether this is to encourage them to divulge their fears over treatment or to reassure them when they’re worried, a good doctor needs to be transparent about treatments, and a clean open smile can help them to do that effectively.

As you can see, there are a number of reasons why a good smile matters when it comes to your career, no matter what industry you’re in.

Thanks to the team at Smile Revolution for providing this guest post!

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Into the West Blogger Network Meets Again

I do love meeting up with like-minded bloggers to discuss blogging techniques and to learn a thing or two. I’m aware I haven’t blogged as much as I would have liked since the last #itwbn meeting, but my blog has never been far from my mind.

On Sunday 8 February, I had the pleasure of attending yet another #itwbnBloggingEvent at the very beautiful Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, Galway, and it was just as good as the last one, if not better.

Me in the #itwbn Instagram frame. Photo via my instagram @Jess__Thompson

I was so lucky to actually get a ticket because this event was SOLD OUT which just goes to show you how popular this group has actually become.

Sadly I was a little bit late due to other work I had to do, so I missed a good chunk of the talk by Maricka Burke Keogh who gave tips on SEO – something that I really want to master so I can be at the top of my blogging game.

But I did get to listen to Irish Vlogger, Siobhán from LetzMakeUp and picked up loads of tips for video-blogging, in case I ever decide to expand a little bit.

After Siobhán’s wonderful talk about video-blogging, we were treated to some delicious finger food, including mini burgers, chicken, spring rolls, sausages. And all day there was a gorgeous selection of sweet treats, including chocolate-coated strawberries, heart-shaped macaroons, homemade marshmallows, gorgeous cupcakes and so much more.

And just take a look at this cake made for the event by Sandra from A Modern Mommy’s World:

Taken from my Instagram accoung @Jess__Thompson.

A beautiful cake make especially for the event. Taken from my Instagram accoung @Jess__Thompson.

During this time, we had the chance to mingle and I had the pleasure of meeting various bloggers that I knew from previous meetings, and some I had never met before. The best thing about these meetings is getting to talk to other bloggers with similar interests or even completely different interests.

We also got to browse the pop-up shops on offer. These included one of my favourite makeup brands, Young Blood, which is mineral-based makeup. I also loved chatting to the girls from the Spirit One Spa about spa treatments that are suitable for cancer patients – something which I hope to blog about quite soon.

After the break, we got to listen to Richie Spence who spoke about BEUTiFi.com, a new website which makes it easy to search, browse and book a treatment in selected hair and beauty salons instantly. The website  is relatively new, but I think it will be a fantastic resource and I can’t wait to check it out.

Taken from Instagram @Jess__Thompson

All cameras on the Galway Player. Taken from Instagram @Jess__Thompson

Next up was the controversial Galway Player who spoke about Twitter. He should know – he’s got enough Twitter followers. There was much entertainment, with (alleged) quotes from his pals Audrey Hepburn and Albert Einstein making the whole room laugh.

The Galway Player’s identity is anonymous, so we couldn’t take photos during the presentation, hence the many cameras pointed at him in the photograph above.

Finally, we heard from Kate, who works for Cocoa Brown, about the products they have on offer, and how she got involved with the brand. We got a Cocoa Brown product in our goodie bags, so I look forward to trying that out.

And speaking of goodie bags:

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The amazing goodie bag we received, full of amazing products! Photo via instagram @Jess__Thompson.

This has to be the most spoiled we have ever been at an event. This wasn’t just a bag of samples. This was a bag of full-sized products from Elemis, Cocoa Brown, Tan Organic, Isadora, Wet ‘n’ Wild, Benefit, and many more, including some of my favourite brands; Nia, Young Blood and The Body Shop. We also got a lovely ‘Get up and Go’ 2015 diary, which is full of encouragement. And on top of all that, we received a €50 voucher for Debenhams.

That’ll give me plenty to blog about between now and the next event, which will take place in May. That’ll be our first birthday! It’s really great to be a part of what Saibh, one of the organisers, referred to as ‘a family’. There are so many of us now, and I can’t wait to check out some more blogs!

If you were at the event, or have any interest in the event, or have been to any similar events, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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The clothes you need in 2015: Beautiful You by Patricia O’Toole

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With Christmas only three sleeps away, we’re not really thinking about slimming down just yet, but it would be nice to have something to wear that will make us look and feel gorgeous while we fill ourselves up with sweets and turkey and Christmas cake and everything else that comes with the party season.

Furthermore, the ‘New Year, New You’ trend is coming up in just over a week, which will spark millions of health kicks around the world. Taking action is great, but it can be difficult to keep going if you don’t see results straight away – and trust me, you won’t see results straight away.

That’s where Patricia O’Toole comes in. With her new line of slimming clothes, you’ll feel slim, comfortable, gorgeous and most of all, confident. The clothing line, Beautiful You, all started with “an idea and a blank page”, according to Patricia.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Patricia before testing out the dress myself and I was impressed with the journey she has taken to launch her Beautiful You line.

The line is designed with the female body in mind, using fabrics that flow with the curves of the body, providing support for the tummy area in particular, enhancing the natural shape of the body. And it all began with an internet search.

“About three years ago I was searching online for a wrap-around top. Wrap-around tops are synonymous with hiding the tummy area,” she says.

“I couldn’t find one anywhere and I couldn’t believe that on the worldwide web, nobody was doing a wrap-around top all the time – an affordable one.

“So I spent a couple of months researching it and then I decided ‘wouldn’t it be great to have a clothing line that focused on hiding the tummy area?’”

The ‘Gráinne’ wrap-around top is only one of the pieces in Miss O’Toole’s collection, which also includes a ‘Gráinne’ wrap-around dress, both of which have built-in shapewear designed to work with the body to give women the support where they need it most.

The line is designed for every woman, and Patricia was kind enough to send me a dress to try out. I’m quite slim but even the slimmest of us can have off days and be self-conscious about the tummy area, so when I tried this dress on and felt the support around my midriff I knew it would be my party dress for the Christmas.

The dress is the Breda, and has cap sleeves and side ruching, with built-in shapewear, which makes for an elegant and flattering fit. It skims the problem areas, such as the tummy, creating a slim, elegant look. With fabric that is smooth to touch, it comes in a range of colours and is a simple, elegant piece that is sophisticated enough for work, while also being suitable for a night out.

The Breda from the Beautiful You collection by Patricia O'Toole.

The Breda from the Beautiful You collection by Patricia O’Toole.

“The idea was to create an online space for women that addressed the issue of primarily the tummy; creating this online space where women could go and they’d know that every piece had been designed with the tummy in mind – the tummy that’s left over after having children, or going into menopause, or anything like that,” Patricia told me.

But what makes this product stand out from so many others is the comfort it provides compared to the solution to which many women turn: spanx. The Beautiful You line is designed with comfort in mind, but also makes women feel “pulled in”.

The built-in slimming support is carefully designed to give women a smoother silhouette, without discomfort, thanks to the comfortable fabrics. I felt so slim and elegant in this dress. I’ve always found spanx to be uncomfortable, and at times quite painful to wear. They go all the way up your stomach, but if you sit down at all, they’ll roll down, giving you a big lump under your dress.

But all the clothes from this line give you the support you want, without the discomfort.

“I got annoyed that women feel that they have to put on these spanx in order to fit into regular clothes and I wanted to have something that gave them everything in one piece.

“So there’s built-in shapewear in every piece. The design works with you and the fabrics work with you, so the brand itself has to have those elements going through it the whole time,” Patricia explained.

Patricia O’Toole is working from a very remote location in Connemara but feels like she has all the resources she needs there when she needs them. In fact, it was in Connemara that she got the grant to get started on her business.

“For any entrepreneur starting off, cash flow is always an issue and things always invariably end up costing you twice as much as you imagined, no matter how good a business plan you have,” she said.

“I was lucky enough to apply to and get a grant from FORUM Connemara to the National Development Programme for start-up costs.

“So I was able to get a grant for things like my computer and my printer and the initial start-up costs of the website and various things like that. And that takes a huge weight off your mind; that you don’t have to be worrying about every single penny.”

The hardest part, she said, is right now – launching the brand and getting people to try the pieces in the collection and endorsing them. The hardest part is making herself stand apart from all the other clothing lines out there, and endorsements really help her with that.

“I spent many years living in New York and what I love about doing this in Ireland is that if you have a good product, you do get in front of people who matter very quickly and I have found that to be so true in terms of what I’m trying to do.

“And I do have people who have endorsed the product in their own way at national level. Building relationships is vital for that,” she said.

With the Beautiful You collection launching for winter, Patricia O’Toole is wasting no time and is already planning to expand.

The product is all about building a global brand. It’s a “solution product” for women and Patricia sees Ireland as the very first test market before she moves to London – “hopefully in the Spring/Summer of 2015”.

She has no intention of stopping there and plans to use her contacts in New York to make the brand as global as possible. While she admitted she doesn’t know if it will work out in her set time frame, she is confident her business will grow and with a product like this, I personally have no doubt it will.

This clothing line is a solution to an age-old problem, and it will help so many women to feel more confident in their own bodies. So why wouldn’t it work?

“People often ask me ‘what are the most important steps when setting up a business?’. And to me it’s about recognising your markets – you have to have a market for what you’re going to sell,” said Patricia.

“And the second thing would be getting your product right. And getting your product right is vital. Forget about your business cards. Forget about your website. Forget about spending money on branding or anything like that – get your product right first.

“And for me the third step would be building relationships and getting people to understand what you’re trying to do so that you have people behind you; that you have endorsements before you start spending money on promotion or anything like that.

“I think those are the three most important things you need to do so that when you do start doing your website, the people who matter already know something about you.”

My Experience with Beautiful You

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The Breda comes in a range of colours and sizes.

Firstly, I found Patricia to be very lovely to deal with. After I interviewed her, she was delighted to let me try out the product. When I picked the Breda in black, she posted it to me immediately, meaning I had less than 24 hours to wait before it arrived, neatly packaged and carefully wrapped in paper, at my door.

When I tried it on I felt great. It was the perfect length for me and looks great with heels and a blazer. I attended a Neostrata event in the House Hotel wearing this dress, a pair of black wedges and my favourite orange blazer – no accessories or anything to complic. The dress received plenty of compliments from fellow bloggers, many of whom were interested in the story behind it, and – most of all – the built-in slimming material.

And best of all, because I chose to get this dress in black, it’s extremely versatile. I’m a big fan of coloured blazers and shoes, so this can be dressed up with different shoes, coats and accessories to give it a completely different look.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think of A-symmetrical neckline. It’s very different to what I would usually wear, but when I tried it on I loved it. It keeps the dress interesting.

The dress hugged me and supported me in all the right places. I’m ‘all about that bass’ as the song says, and I’m happy to have a shapely derriere, but this dress shaped my body perfectly, making me feel sexy and confident.

In short, I would highly recommend this clothing line to anyone looking for a comfortable and elegant alternative to spanx.

I’ve got my Breda washed and ironed, ready for the next Christmas outing. I just need to decide what colour blazer I’ll wear with it…

Patricia O’Toole’s Beautiful You collection is available on the website www.patriciaotoole.ie.

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Into the West Blogger Network: These meetings just get better and better

Glenlo Abbey, Galway. Photo from the #itwbn Facebook page.

Glenlo Abbey, Galway. Photo from the #itwbn Facebook page.

It’s great to finally be back to my blog. Work has really taken up a lot of my time lately, so it’s taken me well over a month to finally get around to writing this blog post, however brief it may be.

I have a list as long as my arm of topics to blog about, but I felt that I should cover the most recent Into the West Blogger Network (#itwbn) meetup which took place in the beautiful Glenlo Abbey Hotel last month.

This was a beautiful venue just outside Galway City and we were welcomed with open arms, arriving through the beautiful reception into a suite reserved just for us on 9 November.

We were greeted with our name badges and little goodie bags with some Young Blood products in them, which I have used since; I thought it was risky putting foundation and blush in a goodie bag because everyone’s skin tone is different, but these products suit my skin perfectly and I’ve especially been using the foundation ever since.

Next, we were offered tea, coffee or prosecco and fruit punch, and a series of tasty treats, before taking our seats where slim sonic toothbrushes were left for each person. Already we were off to a good start.

Photo from my Instagram: @Jess__Thompson

Photo from my Instagram: @Jess__Thompson

The afternoon was very different to previous meetings. It was more educational and catered for all kinds of blogs, with talks from Helen Mannion from Lifes2good, Ann Halloran from In-tuition Learning & Development and Philip Gleeson from Quickest Fox Marketing.

Helen talked about a range of products that really interested me, including Viviscal Hair Growth Vitamin Supplements, and Lifes2good’s newest product, Micronail, which buffs, polishes and shines your nails in seconds. Lifes2good is definitely a company that interests me as the manufacture and sell natural health and beauty products.

Ann Halloran is probably the person I learned the most from, as she talked about really getting your blog out there, using SEO, social media and content management. But I also enjoyed the talk from Philip Gleeson about Twitter.

There were also some pop-up stalls from Cotton Face Vintage, Stella & Dot, Sheneil Shoes, PIA Galway and Little Pea Juices, and there were book signings by The Galway Player and Michelle Melville.

The stall that interested me the most was Little Pea Juices, because of the goodness squeezed into every bottle. Paula, who was manning the stall, was giving out free samples of her juices. I tried the orange, carrot and ginger juice and absolutely adored it. I got in touch with Paula the following day and she delivered a two-day juice detox to me. My next blog post will be a review of that detox but, spoiler alert; it was amazing and I’ll be highly recommending it – especially for a post-Christmas health kick!

Photo from my Instagram: @Jess__Thompson

Photo from my Instagram: @Jess__Thompson

These meetings always feature goodie bags, and each person was treated to a little bag of beauty samples.

Of course, the best part of these meetings is the people. I went with Seána Curley of Innocent Illusion, and got chatting to several others that I had met at previous meetings. There were also a few new faces about, and I can’t wait to read everyone’s blogs over the Christmas.

Bloggers who attended the meeting:

Susan Gaynor: Make Up By Ruby Sue

Anna Siobhan McDonagh: Anna MUA

Jen Morris: Too Dolly Makeup

Margaret McGauley: Mags Style

Saibh Egan: Saibh Egan Photography

The Galway Player: The Galway Player

Sinéad Carroll: Yummy Mummy Fashion & Lifestyle Blog

Siobhan Mary Leonard: Dreaming In Sequins

Maria O’Donnell: The MOD’s Blog

Veronika Byrne & Agata Solak: Style Gamblers

Lauren McDermott: Laurenaalice

Aisling Kearney Burke: Dandelions & Paintbrushes

Meghan Jones: Meghan Mode

Leanne Gallagher: Its All About Who

Aghna Fallon & Aideen Fallon: Emily and Aideen Loves

Nuala Gorham: Penny & Polaroids

Egle Galiauskaite: egleTV

 Regina Finan: Guests To Garters

Delphin: Dollfinesse

Sandra Harty Conway: A Modern Mommys World

Shauna McHugh: The Social Butterflie

Avril Kelly: Is Love Foxy

Neil Joyce: Maverick

Edwina Flannery: ElegantEd

Sandra Kelly: A Blushing Cailín

Ruth Kemple: The Beauty Kemple

Trish Flanagan – Rooms 4 Living

Joyce Murphy – New Blogger

Seana Curley – Innocent Illusion

David O’Connor – Reeling In The Fears

Aoife & Miriam Burke – Town Mouse Country Mouse

Overall, this was an excellent event. While I have enjoyed all of the #itwbn events so far, I think they’re getting better and better. Originally I felt they catered only for fashion and beauty bloggers, which was fine by me as my blog is about beauty. But this meeting catered for bloggers in general, and it was great to see bloggers who are passionate about other subjects.

I look forward to the next one!

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Gumtree: Christmas Shopping made easy

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With Christmas just around the corner, it’s well past the time to start shopping. And, as everyone is in the same mindset, the shops are bustling with impatient and frustrated shoppers trying to complete their Christmas shopping list ahead of the big day.

A growing number of people avoid this hastle by taking to the internet and shopping from their living room, in their pyjamas. Enter Gumtree.ie.

Gumtree was started in March 2000 as a local London classified ads and community site, designed to connect people who were either planning to move, or had just arrived in the city and needed help getting started with accommodation, employment and meeting new people.

Over the past 14 years, the website has grown from strength to strength and to make a long story short, you can now buy just about anything on gumtree.

I’ve had a look at the Irish site and there are several categories you could shop in for gifts of all shapes and sizes.

1. FashionBack in the days of my childhood it was uncool to get clothes as a Christmas present, but now practical gifts are the best gifts, and almost everyone is interested in fashion. The clothes and accessories section of the Gumtree website is packed with reasonably-priced new items, as well as hundreds of second-hand bargains. With just a brief glance I’ve spotted brand new Ugg boots, designer suits, Christmas jumpers (perfect for the month that’s in it!) and even beautiful wedding dresses for well under €400.

2. Antiques/CollectiblesI know some people who adore antique items and have various collections of different items, so when I saw this category I thought it looked perfect for some Christmas shopping. In only minutes I found authentic WWII coins, a signed Man United wallet, vintage trunks and suitcases, vintage phones, vintage everything. A lot of people love vintage stuff – from clothes to furniture – so this section of Gumtree is perfect for gift-hunting.

3. Concert TicketsDo you know someone who is dying to see One Direction but missed out on getting tickets? What about Hozier? Take That? There are people selling tickets to sold-out concerts on Gumtree, so you can surprise someone with the perfect gift – their favourite artist or band in concert. Be careful with this though. You should be absolutely certain that the tickets are authentic before buying them.

My Top Tips for Shopping with Gumtree

  1. You’ve got to be certain you’re buying from someone honest and that the product is everything the ad says it is, so always try to meet the seller and look at the product in person before committing to a purchase.
  2. Buying on Gumtree can be very risky, so use common sense. Do plenty of research and be very careful. If you do meet the seller, be cautious. Try to meet in a public place if at all possible. And inspect the product properly before purchasing.

Once you’re done shopping, you’ll want to make space for all your purchases… That’s when you can post ads yourself to sell all your old stuff – one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

Happy shopping!

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Beautiful Health Styles Fanny Crown

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m not a fashion blogger. But when I was personally invited to take part in the Fanny Crown Blogger Contest, I couldn’t resist getting a little more creative with my blog.

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My mission is simple: choose a dress from the Fanny Crown website, discuss my decision and how I would style it. I’ve read many of the blog posts from previous winners of this monthly competition and I have to say I was impressed. I have a lot to live up to in terms of creativity, so I thought I’d post some of the winners here so you can see how creative this competition can really get:

  • Cat Eyes Red Lips was the winner in June. Maria’s eye makeup is amazing and matches her chosen dress perfectly.
  • Now That’s Pretty was the May winner and her blog is really pretty. Ally selected two incredible dresses and styled them beautifully.
  • La Carmella, the April winner, is by far the most impressive to me. Emily’s style was certainly the most creative as her look was inspired by her favourite Disney princesses.

There are other winners who really worked hard to create a beautiful outfit with Fanny Crown, so the boots (or heels) to fill are extremely large – especially for a beauty blogger with very little fashion knowledge. But I love a challenge and the prize is a dress from Fanny Crown so how could I resist taking part?

But first, a little bit about Fanny Crown. Based in the Fashion city of Paris, Fanny Crown has been offering the greatest in special occasion fashion since 1988, providing the most stylish dresses of the best quality.

Fanny Crown offers an exquisite range of dresses for everything from weddings to Debs to other special occasions; and all for very reasonable prices considering the quality. Customer service is great, with “quibble-free” returns and excellent aftercare.

You might say “how do you know? You’re just writing this post to take a stab at winning the competition”, but this isn’t my first brush with Fanny Crown. My sister ordered a beautiful red dress for her grad (or debs as it seems to be called everywhere outside the midlands) two years ago.

The dress, as you can see, is floor-length and a beautiful colour, with gorgeous lace and sequin detail around the bodice and a very sleek skirt. The material felt amazing and the dress is of such high quality and was definitely the most beautiful dress by far on the night – nobody else wore anything so unique and wonderful.

And the best bit is, its in my size. I’m just waiting for an opportunity to wear a floor-length dress.

The Dress:

But now, let’s get back to the task at hand. I’m a beauty blogger; more specifically a natural beauty blogger. Fashion is not my forte, but I know a pretty dress when I see one, and I see several on the Fanny Crown website.

The dress I’ve chosen, though, is a sexy, scoop-neck, short, black, going-out dress.

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There are so many beautiful dresses on the Fanny Crown website that it was almost impossible to choose just one to style. I eventually landed on this one following hours of lusting after beautiful floor-length gowns, prom dresses and cocktail dresses. I thought I’d be realistic and select something that I could potentially wear to a few events.

The event I had in mind was a 50th birthday bash I’ll be attending next month. This dress isn’t too over-the-top for such an event, but it’s got a glamour to it that makes it stand out. And I know I would wear it again and again. I love the detail and shape of the skirt and how it shows off the silhouette of the model in this photograph.

I especially love the detailing around the waist and the fact that the neckline isn’t too low. The shoulders are a beautiful shape and I can see from the photograph that the dress is a very high quality as well as incredibly beautiful. And black is always an excellent choice of dress in my opinion.

And the back of this dress is equally beautiful:

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You can see from this photo how beautiful the straps of the dress are, and it also gives you a closer look at the beautiful detail at the bottom of the skirt. You can also really see how beautifully the dress cinches in at the waist.

I’ve got plenty of ideas to style this dress in terms of accessories, makeup and hair. It’s difficult to choose one style, because I’m finding so many accessories that would look great with this dress. But here’s what I’ve settled on.

Accessories:

Accessories

I put the above image together using Polyvore, where I found some great accessories. As you can see, I’m going for a black and silver theme. I didn’t want to to too overboard with the silver so I selected these black Carvela Gosh faux-suede sandals, available from Selfridges.com. The bag is a Jessica McClintock Pleated Mesh Clutch from Lord and Taylor. I went with black because I don’t want anything that will take away from the beauty of the dress itself.

The jewellery is quite simple. I never go overboard on the bling, so I chose a Miss Wax Abstract Triangle Choker, Silver and Black Jewel Diamante Earrings, and a Lord and Taylor black and white diamond ring.

Hair Care:

Photo: makeupwearables.com

Photo: makeupwearables.com

I love half up, half down hair styles, and I love curls, so I thought this hairstyle from makeupwearables.com (click the link for a tutorial) would look amazing with this dress. My hair is the same colour and almost as long, so I think I’d be able to do this.

But the main thing for me is the hair care beforehand. There’s no point doing your hair up if it’s not healthy and for that reason, I would recommend a home-made shampoo; one that uses no chemicals or toxins.

One I stumbled across is made with a 1/4 cup of coconut milk (use organic), a 1/3 cup of Liquid Castille Soap, 1/2 a teaspoon of Vitamin E oil, and 20 drops of an essential oil of your preference. Peppermint always smell amazing, though I think I prefer Bergamot or Geranium (or both), as these smell amazing and have the ability to really lift your mood – just what you need when you’re getting ready to go out.

I would also recommend using pure, organic coconut oil as a hair mask once a week. It makes the hair soft to touch and gives it an incredible shine. I often leave it in over night and wash it out the next morning. It works wonders and will have your hair looking incredible for the big night out.

Makeup and Skincare:

Natural Makeup and Skincare

 

My regular readers will know that natural makeup will always be my first option. I love to keep my skin in top condition and I feel that chemical-ridden makeup does the opposite. For this reason, I have a few skincare tips to use for a few weeks before the big event.

Coconut Oil is just as good for the skin as it is for the hair. It’s great for healing scars left over from blemishes, and it’s really good as a moisturiser. I use it on my face once a week or so for the nourishment and the incredible benefits. I’ve done a post before on the many uses of coconut oil, if you’d like to learn more.

Exfoliation is key as it’s a great way to remove dead skin cells and reveal brighter, fresher, newer skin beneath. I wouldn’t use a harsh exfoliator with microbeads though, as these can damage the skin. My favourite is Ginvera Green Tea Marvel Gel. It’s incredible and completely natural. Simply rub this gel on your face and massage it in. You’ll feel the top layer of skin come off as you rub.

Keeping with Ginvera, the BB Cream is my absolute favourite product. It’s nude so it suits all skin tones and the coverage is amazing. I rarely need concealer with it and any time I do need it, it’s because my diet has been less than healthy and I need a bit more coverage as a result (damn you junk food!).

Benecos is another makeup brand I adore. I discovered it thanks to Powder Pocket and Mayca from Wapo Beauty. I’ve chosen three Benecos products for this look, including the black Natural Kajal eyeliner pencil which is very smooth and so gentle on the eyes. It can be light or it can be very black depending on how you apply it, and it gives a very dramatic line.

Benecos Natural Baked Eye Shadow is amazing, and I’ve selected a dark colour which can be used to create a smokey eye effect. I reviewed this product in brown shades a while ago and in that review, I explain that the shadow can be layered on to provide a light colour or a more dramatic look for evening wear. In this case, I would go with a very dark, dramatic smokey eye.

The third of my Benecos products is a coral pink lipstick. I wanted to go for a more subtle look on the lips, so as not to draw attention from the eyes (and the dress of course). This is a pure mineral lipstick. It’s smooth and nourishing and it has vitamin E in it to keep lips soft.

The last two products are from The Body Shop. One is a brow and liner kit so you can sculpt the perfect brows for your event. And the second is my favourite mascara of all time; the Super Volume Mascara. It gives amazing volume and coats lashes without making them clump together. It’s a very intense colour and will make the eye makeup look even more dramatic.

Discount Code:

So that’s it; my complete outfit inspired by Fanny Crown. I’ve never done anything like this for my blog before, but I really enjoyed planning every detail. It allowed me to be more creative with my blog and I could see myself doing this more often.

So I’m very grateful to the team at Fanny Crown for inviting me to take part in this contest. I’m also very grateful to them for providing me with a discount code especially for my readers.

Interested in shopping for a big occasion with Fanny Crown? Visit http://www.fannycrown.com, choose your dress and type in this discount code at the checkout for 15% off your purchase: BEAUTIFULHEALTH14. This offer is valid until 11 October 2014 – so treat yourself to an early Christmas outfit, a ball gown, or just buy something beautiful for a reasonable price for the sake of it.

Here it is again:

15% Discount Code: BEAUTIFULHEALTH14

Valid Until: 11 October 2014

Happy shopping!

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