Sunday, 23 December 2012

An Alternative Christmas Dessert: Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

I'm a huge fan of traditional Christmas desserts – mince pies, Christmas pudding, Yule log – I love them all. However, many people don't. Here’s a recipe for a non-traditional Christmas dessert, a lighter option but still delicious and festive. If you’re flat broke this Christmas, these would make a gorgeous gift. Wrap in cellophane and tie with a big red ribbon.

I found this recipe in Easy Food magazine and altered it slightly. You will need:
400g sugar, pinch of salt, 90g butter, 240ml double cream, 100g mini marshmallows, 940g plain chocolate (this seems like an enormous amount but trust me,  you need it all!), 1 teaspoon peppermint essence, half teaspoon vanilla essence.

1.       Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Coat evenly with cooking spray or melted butter. Break the chocolate into pieces.

2.       Put the sugar, salt, butter, cream and marshmallows in a saucepan. Stir over a medium heat for 5-6 minutes until the butter and marshmallows are almost melted.

3.       Bring the mixture to the boil and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

4.       Once it has been removed from the heat, add the chocolate, peppermint and vanilla. Stir until melted.
5.       Pour the mixture into the lined dish.

6.       Allow to cool at room temperature for 3 hours. If you disturb the cooling phase, you increase the likelihood of seed crystals forming which causes grainy fudge. Lift the fudge out of the dish using the edges of the greaseproof paper. Remove the paper and cut into squares.

Festive Beauty Tutorial: Santa Hat Nails


Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree, for me
I've been an awful good girl
Santa baby, and hurry down the chimney tonight

Show Santa you’ve been on your best behaviour this year by painting the man’s trademark hat on your nails. Once he’s catches a glimpse of your red and white beauties, he’ll be so honoured you’re bound to get that 54 convertible (in light blue)!

You will need a base coat, red nail polish, white nail polish (this can be difficult to get your hands on, the most affordable one I could find is by Natural Collection), nail polish remover, a cotton bud and a top coat.
Left to right: Sally Hansen Complete Care 4-in-1 Treatment, 17 Fast Finish in Knockout Red, Natural Collection in Nail Tip Whitener
After your base coat has dried, take your red polish and paint a triangle shape on your nails. The top of the triangle should be pointing to your cuticles. Don’t worry if it’s looking a bit rough, you can tidy it up with a cotton bud soaked in nail polish remover.
Once this has dried, take your white polish and create the trim of Santa’s hat. Do this by painting the tips of your nails but bend the brush slightly, you want a curved trim. To create the bobble of Santa’s hat, paint a rough circle on the top of the triangle. Finish with a top coat and a glass of mulled wine…or two. Merry Christmas!


The Retro Suitcase In U Magazine's Fashion Diary!

I was thrilled to feature in U magazine’s Fashion Diary (issue 24 which went on sale November 19th). Special thanks to Aoife, Maggie and Jen who all played the role of photographer.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Winter Style: Pinafore Dresses, Cosy Knits & Collars


Pinafore dresses are experiencing somewhat of a revival this Autumn/Winter. Save some cash and treat an old sleeveless dress like a pinafore. Put a snug jumper underneath it and voilà, a completely new outfit! A skater dress would be perfect for this. A detachable collar is the ultimate accessory to smarten up your new pinafore. Learn how to make your own here.

Dress – LOVE at Topshop
Jumper – F&F at Tesco
Collar – Handmade by myself
Boots – River Island


Eyeliner Pens: Collection Extreme 24 Hour Felt Tip Liner Vs. Essence Extra Longlasting Eyeliner Pen

What girl doesn’t love a retro cat eye flick? This classic look can be achieved by using pencil, liquid, powder, cake or gel eyeliner.  I personally prefer to use liquid eyeliner in the form of a pen. Eyeliner pens are a doddle to use and create a precise line and a flawless wing with little or no mess. They’re ideal for those of you who find the cat eye flick troublesome.
I’ve been using two budget eyeliner pens recently, Collection Extreme 24 Hour Felt Tip Liner and Essence Extra Long Lasting Eyeliner Pen, and I’ve decided to put them through their paces and see which one comes out on top.


Collection: ‘All day wear felt tip liner for perfectly defined lines. Easy to apply, fast dry formula.’

Essence: ‘Eyeliner pen for a precise line. Colour intensive and extra long-lasting. Smudge proof.’


Collection: €4.79

Essence: €3.09


While they are both strongly pigmented, Collection’s formula is slightly darker. Also, Essence’s felt tip may look more pointed but Collection’s is sturdier making application easier.

Collection: After 8 hours smudging occurs. Fading is noticeable after 10 hours.

Essence: After 6 hours smudging and fading occurs.


It may be more expensive and not live up to its mammoth 24 hour claims but Collection Extreme 24 Hour Felt Tip Liner is the winner. Essence Extra Long Lasting Eyeliner Pen on the other hand should not be sniffed at. Despite its tiny price tag it puts in the work and would be perfect for a cat eye flick novice.


Sunday, 18 November 2012

Autumn Style: Prints, Knitwear & The Boyfriend Coat

First there was the boyfriend blazer and now there’s the boyfriend coat. Structured, woollen and slightly too wide; like you stole it from your boyfriend’s wardrobe. This is a recent buy and I adore it. You could continue with the androgynous look and wear this coat with skinny jeans and brogues. The skirt is a summer purchase but I think the strong colours and print make it suitable for any season.
Olivia Palermo recently vamped up a knitted jumper by pinning two bejewelled brooches onto the neckline. This is a wonderful way to give a tired jumper (like mine!) a new lease of life. 

Coat – Penneys/Primark (in store now)
Jumper – F&F at Tesco
Brooches - Asos
Skirt – Asos
Boots - Asos

Saturday, 17 November 2012

How To Create: An Easy Detachable Collar

One of the biggest accessory trends of 2012 has been the detachable collar. They have taken over every high street fashion store, mainly in the form of the Peter Pan collar. A detachable collar is an easy and quick way to update an outfit. It can be worn over a plain top or jumper or as an alternative to a necklace. As the androgynous trend gets into full swing this Autumn/Winter, Peter Pan collars have taken somewhat of a back seat and the simple shirt collar is now centre stage.  These collars, whether adorned with studs, beads or jewels; will add a masculine edge to your outfit.


                                                                        Asos, 16.67
                                                          River Island, approx. €24

While these collars are lovely, they are overpriced. You can easily make your own unique collar without spending a cent!  If you do have to buy some of the materials it will only cost you a few euros.
You will need – an old or second-hand shirt, scissors, a needle, thread the same colour as the shirt, a selection of stud earrings and backs. If you don't have odd earrings in your jewellery box you can buy packs of earrings in Penneys/Primark for €3 or less.
Carefully cut the collar off by cutting below the band of the shirt. The band is where the top button is situated.
Fold down the band and with a needle and thread tack it to the base of the collar. This isn’t a necessary step as the band is usually stiff enough to stay in place, good news if you can’t sew! However, if you can’t sew but you do want your collar to be extra sturdy you could glue the band down.

Select the earrings you want to use and put them through the collar in your desired pattern. Secure the earrings with earring backs.

I opted for a simple design using studs, pearls and diamante earrings but you could go for something a bit more elaborate and pile on the jewels! You could also sew on a prettier button or replace it with a brooch. Not only is this collar your own creation but you can reinvent it over and over again by changing the earrings (see below).

Monday, 5 November 2012

Autumn Style: Denim, Studs & Burnt Orange

I thought the blue denim of this shirt was a striking and beautiful contrast to the burnt orange skirt. There’s no getting away from studs this season; my three year old Aldo boots have been gleefully resurrected from the back of my wardrobe.

                                                   Shirt –

                                                           Skirt – H&M

                                                                    Boots - Aldo

Monday, 29 October 2012

Beauty Tutorial: Effortless Autumn Nails

My Sorrow, when she's here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
 She loves the bare, the withered tree;
 She walks the sodden pasture lane.
                                                             - From My November Guest by Robert Frost
Left to right: Avon Color Trend Color Me Pretty in Vixen, 17 Fast Finish in Fury
Burgundy, plum, wine, oxblood: sumptuous berry shades are everywhere this season. If you’re on a tight budget and can’t afford to update your wardrobe with these colours, paint your nails! For a really opulent look add gold – be it a glitter top coat or gems. I painted the tips of my nails with a rich bronze gold, a perfect autumn hue.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

Bread, Milk And Beautiful Shoes: Supermarket Fashion Is Now At Its Best

Dunnes Stores:

Dunnes Stores and I have had a rather turbulent relationship. This stems back to shopping there with my mother as a pre-teen and being decked out in some unsightly numbers, among them a size 12 orange jumper! Unbelievably, the smallest size Dunnes stocked back then was a 10 and there were none to be found that day. Needless to say that jumper did nothing to improve my scruffy appearance, an appearance which invited comparisons to a beggar child. Nice! Once I had my own money I haughtily refused to shop there but I was lured back three years ago by the sight of their elegant winter boots.

Dunnes has shaken off its former cheap and cheerful image and besides now stocking a size 8, many of its pieces are featured regularly in glossy magazines as budget must-haves. This year’s autumn/winter collection embraces strong clean lines while incorporating leather and houndstooth print. However, what I find myself buying most often in Dunnes is shoes and tights. Yes, tights! Star print, spot print, mock suspender, sheer nude tights (the palest I’ve come across), fishnets - Dunnes has them all! Its footwear collection seems to be improving all the time and there’s some really stylish and affordable heels and ankle boots in stores now.

                                                Going to see indie rock band Kodakid play a gig

                                                                            Body – Asos
                                                                          Shorts – H&M
                                                           Tights – Dunnes Stores (in store now)
                                                           Shoes – Dunnes Stores (in store now)
                                                                        Bag - Penneys

Piped Heel Boot 35  
Outside Zip Boot 32

Left to right: Pencil Skirt 25, Zip Coat €60, Houndstooth Jacket €25, Check Bag 20



Whenever someone admires what I’m wearing and I tell them it’s from F&F Clothing at Tesco I’m usually met with utter disbelief. The majority of Irish people seem to be unaware that Tesco is chock-a-block full of highly desirable clothes. However, if snapping up stylish bargains in the local supermarket were a sport I must admit I have an unfair advantage. I live in Kildare where the two largest Tesco stores in the country are located, one in Maynooth and the other just outside Naas, the latter being the largest in Europe. These stores have huge fashion departments so I understand if you can’t find anything decent in smaller Tesco stores. I think there’s still some stigma attached to wearing supermarket clothes but why feel ashamed? You're getting catwalk-inspired looks while saving a packet, simple!
  Recent buys from Tesco: Cable knit cardigan 21, Black leather gloves 7.50, Mary Jane shoes (every girl should have a pair, check out that gorgeous stacked heel!) 17.50

                          F&F blouse 16.50                                          F&F quilted boots 35

                             F&F Navajo cardigan 23                                     F&F A line skirt 18

                                    For more fashion from Tesco click here

As I mentioned them earlier I have to include a track by Kodakid, one of my favourite Irish bands. Kodakid are a four piece from Waterford and their sound is lustful bluesy rock. They’re a seriously hardworking band and they've played a number of high profile gigs and festivals this year including Indiependence. Their new single Portis is out October 22nd and will be available for free download from the band's website but in the meantime you can download their EP here or like Kodakid on Facebook 


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Beauty Review: Eau Thermale Avène Products

                                  1950s Dior photographed by Walde Huth

I’m having a French love affair. It’s intensely passionate and all-consuming. Unfortunately it’s not with a mysterious vineyard owner from Bordeaux called Jean-Pierre or with a suave bearded Parisian by the name of Jacques. It’s with the whole country – the language, the fashion, the food. I’ve never even been to France but I’ve just finished a basic French language course so here’s hoping I’ll get to visit soon. Naturally I’ll meet the aforementioned men and be swept off my feet, especially now that I have the lingo. Parle plus lentement s'il vous plait!

But what I absolutely love is the effortless natural beauty of French women. There must be something in the water. No, there IS something in the water! France's many springs and unique geological environment produces thermal water, water which is perfectly balanced and rich in trace elements. This water is the basis of many French skin care brands including pharmacy favourites Vichy and La Roche-Posay. However, the number one skin care brand in French pharmacies is in fact Eau Thermale Avène, a brand that has just become widely available here.

Avène is a unique dermo-cosmetic brand dedicated to every skin concern be it sensitive, oily, dehydrated, blemish prone or ageing. Each product is fragrance and paraben preservative-free and contains the Avène thermal spring water.

Extremely Gentle Cleanser:
This cleanser is a no rinse, tissue-off formula specifically designed for sensitive and irritated skin. The consistency is very fluid as it contains a high percentage of thermal spring water. I found this cleanser to be light and soothing, instantly hydrating my skin. It effectively removes makeup apart from heavy eye makeup so you will need to use a separate eye makeup remover. This doesn't bother me as I always use a seperate eye makeup remover, usually a bi-phase one, but it might bother some people. It's also oil-free so it would be suitable for blemished skin. I apply this cleanser by massaging a walnut size of it onto my face and removing with cotton pads. I can't find the receipt for this but I think it was approximately €11

Thermal Spring Water Spray:
This is a miracle multitasker! It soothes various irritations such as sunburn and razor burn, can be used as a toner; reduces facial redness, sets makeup and is the perfect travel companion – promptly quenching parched holiday skin. The 50ml bottle fits snugly into handbags but it’s also available in 150ml bottles. I love to use this spray as a toner; it works really well with the Extremely Gentle Cleanser. Just spray a fine mist on your skin and then gently pat dry after a few minutes. Price: €4.77 for 50mls

        Guillaume Canet: Another reason hot & bothered females reach for the thermal water spray!

Hydrance Optimale UV Riche SPF 20 Rich Hydrating Cream:
Hydrance Optimale is Avène’s range for dry to very dry sensitive skin. This day cream is formulated to hydrate and protect the skin from daily aggressions and help prevent skin ageing caused by the sun. Despite its name, this cream is quite light and sinks into my skin quickly with no greasiness. This makes it a perfect base for makeup. I also love that it has a SPF of 20 as most pharmacy brands only go up to SPF 15. It has effectively hydrated my skin over the summer but its real test has yet to come. Winter wreaks havoc on my skin and I’m not too sure if this moisturiser is up to dealing with the dry patches I tend to get from icy wind and central heating. I have a feeling something more intense will be needed. Also, at €21.25 it's not very purse friendly for those on a budget.
Cold Cream Lip Cream:
I absolutely adore this! It is without a doubt the best lip balm I have ever used. It provides immediate relief and protection against chapped, flaky and cracked lips. It literally heals lips overnight. The tube lasts for ages and it also has very little shine so it’s a fantastic base for lipstick. This little wonder is definitely one of my favourite products of the year. Price: €10.17