Author Archives: Leah

[Beauty] Sometimes Ignorance is Bliss

Analysts forecast that by 2018 the beauty industry will be worth over $400b USD (yes that b as in billions!). You shouldn’t be that surprised because you and I will contribute toward that eye wateringly high number. No day goes by without being exposed to beauty advertising and why we “need” them on our skin.

In 2015 we were introduced to SPF that protects you from INDOOR lighting, BB cream for your hands and “Spanx for your face”. It’s this constant flow of new and “groundbreaking” products that leave us totally bewildered. We are always trying to keep up with the latest fad in fear that if we don’t, we will look 10 years older!!

When a new product is released that grabs my attention, my research begins. First you’re intrigued by an SPF that protects you from indoor lighting, next you start researching you become confused, but suddenly you discover another new product that you must have so you start to research again. If like me you read reviews both from professionals and fellow consumers, you will discover very quickly that the answer to your question is not as simple as yes or no. In fact if you read as much as I do about a product you will end up becoming even more confused than you were before you started. This is because there are so many people making conflicting claims, so in cases such as this, knowledge is most certainly not power.


Earlier this year I went to see my dermatologist and in passing he asked, “I assume you wear SPF everyday”, to which I wasn’t 100% truthful (who tells the dentist that they haven’t flossed in six months).
But it made me think, so for around two weeks I researched SPF products I made my SPF selection (La Roche Posay – Anthelios Ultra-fluid Lotion SPF 60).
When I started to wear it everyday, I was happy knowing that my skin was protected from sun damage BUT then I start reading reports that people are becoming deficient in Vitamin D due to the overuse of sunscreen. Herein lies the dilemma, continue using it and risk contracting rickets or stop and get skin cancer…

I love beauty products and trying new things but I am working on not becoming pressurised to keep up with the Jones and have all the latest weird and wonderful products and tools out there. I’m not a professional in the skincare industry and the following advice is based of my experience as a beauty consumer.

Know your skin type! This is the keystone around which all your skincare decisions will be made. Become aware of any dry/oily patches, sensitivity and allergies. My skin type is combination/normal and I buy products that match up, with a past success rate of around 75%. Some products have been too rich and don’t soak in, other have had the opposite effect and left my skin tight. The best advice I have is ask for samples and try them out before you commit to the full size product. If you are unsure of your own skin type, check out this link.

Now that you know your skin type, the choice of products start to overwhelm you. To help you, here are the products that I use following several years of testing, I hope they will help guide your beauty decisions:

Cleanse – I use cleanser once a day in the evening and wash my face with a cloth in the morning.

Tone – Toning should be done immediately after cleanser morning and evening.

SerumsVitamin C serum everyday and Rosehip Oil in evening twice a week.

Moisturise – Apply moisturiser after any serums, but make sure you use a day and night time version, there is a difference.

Exfoliate – If using a mechanical exfoliator do it twice a week or if using a chemical exfoliator apply it everyday after toning

SPFWear it everyday and it should the last treatment you put on before makeup.

In Progress – Currently trying out this Retinol product from Skinceuticals.

This post is not designed to discourage you from trying new products with interesting claims.  It’s a friendly message from a fellow beauty diehard to say sometimes Ignorance is Bliss.

Updated: May 2, 2017

[Beauty] Hydrate don’t hibernate

Any skincare articles that I read around this time of year stress the importance of “Winter Skincare”. I usually ignore it but having left the balmy climate of Ireland behind for the cold Canadian Winter, this is something that I now need to take seriously!Nivea Q10 Night Cream

The weather has started to cool down lately and I have noticed my skin becoming a lot drier and this has alerted me to the need for a “Winter skincare” regime. So I thought I would share with you what I intend to use during the upcoming minus temperatures in Toronto.

Cleanser: Eve Lom – I dedicated an entire post to this – read here

Moisturiser: Eve Lom TLC Radiance Cream – It’s light and doesn’t sit on top of my normal skin type. But this is also the reason why it may have to change because the winter may require something stronger to deal with the cold temperatures.

estee-lauder-advanced-eye-serumNight Serum: Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair Eye Serum Synchronized Complex and Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II – When I use these products I really notice a difference the next morning. It moisurises without clogging up my skin and it leaves my skin feeling softer and brighter. It is simple to use and is worth the extra couple of minutes before you climb into bed.

Night Cream: Nivea Q10 Night Cream – As you would expect from a night cream, this is heavier than my day cream. However, one of the reasons why I love it is, although it is heavier it still soaks into my skin. I have been using this cream for a number of years and I can’t find any other night cream that works better on my skin. It’s also easy on the pocket!

All Rounder: Eight Hour Cream, Skin Protectant – I use this for everything from chapped lips to burns. This is a year round essential for me and it lasts for a very long time.

Pink Clarisonic Mia 2 Exfoliator: Clarisonic Mia II – This is the ultimate skincare gadget and I love it! I think it works best with a foaming cleanser, I have been using Jurlique Rose Moisture Plus – Moisturising Cleanser but I have used others and they are just as effective. Use twice a week with foaming cleanser.

This regime may change as the temperature drops further but I will be sure to keep you updated!

[Canada] The Big Move

Some Background

I have been quiet for some time and I apologise! Over this past couple of months we have made a big life decision and moved to Canada, more specifically Toronto…

This was not a spur of the moment thing by any means. We have been thinking of doing it for some time (2 years) and finally decided that now was the right time. I left my job on the 20th June and flew to Toronto on the 6th July. Leaving my job was difficult because I really enjoyed working in Croke Park and I met some really good friends whilst I was there. But, I knew when to move on and now was the right time.

Doubts entered my head throughout the process because by nature I am not a risk taker. But you know what they say – regret the things you don’t do rather than the things you do (it goes something like that).

All systems go!! Goodbyes delivered and 50kgs of luggage (I honestly didn’t think I had as much “stuff”), Canada here I come!

Week One and a bit…

I was kindly picked up at the airport by Mairead and Rory, who have lived in Canada for a number of years and happen to be very good friends with my sister (thanks guys!). We booked an apartment through Airbnb, Micheal checked in a couple of days before I arrived and picked up all the necessary supplies. It’s located in a cool area in downtown Torono (locals leave out the last t, uhmm) called Liberty Village.  It’s a really chilled out area with lots of bars and restaurants and it’s close to downtown. That brings me onto transportation in Toronto.

CN Tower sky

Beautiful sky and the CN Tower

There are several means of public transport in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Street Car (road trams), Metro (Subway) and buses. We purchased a monthly MetroPass this covers travel on all forms of transport for a calendar month at the cost of $133.75. We have used the street car from Liberty Village to get around and it isn’t the most reliable as it depends on the traffic.

Night time CN Tower

Night time in the city

We have done a lot of exploring since I arrived to find out what areas we like and we still have a lot to do! We are still in tourist mode so here are the obligatory CN Tower snaps.

Rogers Centre

CFL game at Rogers Centre

We also went to see a Toronto Argonauts Canadian Football game in the Rogers Centre (formally the Skydome) and I can confirm it has nothing on Croke Park!

Weird: Poutine is a “Canadian” dish, which originated in Quebec, it is made with French fries, topped with a light brown gravy-like sauce and cheese curds. Yes it’s a gravy chip folks! I haven’t tried it yet but when I do, I will be sure to report back!


[Food] Homemade Easter Treats

Around this time of the year, most kitchens/living rooms are adorned with Easter eggs from Nestle, Cadburys etc. This year I decided to make a special effort and make some treats for the family. Following their reaction, this is set to become an annual ritual…

The recipe is from Queen of Calories Nigella Lawson and, as you will see, is only for special occasions. You can download the gift tags for free from Lia Griffith’s wonderful crafty blog.

Easter treats

Easter treats!

Nigella’s Sweet and Salty nut Chocolate

200g/7oz dark chocolate
100g/3.5oz milk chocolate
125g/4.4oz butter
3 tbsp golden syrup
250g/8.8oz salted peanuts
6 x 40g Crunchie bars
1 baking or foil tray, approximately 30 x 20 x 5 cm. (if using a baking tray, line with parchment or greaseproof paper)

  1. Break the chocolate into a saucepan along with the butter and golden syrup and slowly stir until the chocolate has melted.
  2. Tip the peanuts into a bowl and crush the Crunchie bars on top of them.
  3. Take the melted chocolate off heat and pour over the peanuts and Crunchie bars.
  4. Pour the mixture into the baking tray covered with greaseproof paper and smooth the top.
  5. Put in the fridge for 2 hours and allow to set, then cut the chocolate into as many pieces as you like.


[Travel] 3 Day Staycation in Galway

Spanish Arch area

Spanish Arch area

Last weekend, we went to Galway for a staycation and some much needed R & R. We stayed at The Twelve a small but perfectly formed hotel in Barna, just outside Galway city.  The staff were very welcoming and  the little extra touches made our stay memorable.

Moody photo over Connemara mountatins

Moody scene over Connemara mountains

I would describe The Twelve as a culinary hotel and its wine list has received several international awards. Bars aren’t usually my scene because as a non-drinker I always feel like an outsider. However, with its hospitable atmosphere and mix of locals and hotel guests, I immediately felt at ease in The Pins Gastro Bar at The Twelve. Although I don’t drink, I am partial to a cocktail and sampled several on the menu (try the Berry Cheesecake you won’t be disappointed).

Welcome treats

Welcome treats!

Enjoying Atlantic views with er...friends

Enjoying Atlantic views with er…friends at West Restaurant

Yum…food at West Restaurant

We popped into Cupan Tae (Irish for cup of tea) in Galway city for some lunch and with its kitsch interior and delicious food, it’s well worth a visit.

Cup of tea at Cupan Tae

Cup of tea at Cupan Tae

While driving through the Connemara mountains we spotted a few Connemara ponies which are Ireland’s only native breed of pony.

Ireland's only native breed

Spotted! A Connemara pony

Silver Strand beach was our last stop before we headed home and is considered as one of Galway’s most popular beaches. You can see from the picture why…

Silver Stand beach

Most of that tea ended up on my top

[Travel] Celebration of the long weekend

St Patrick’s Day and New Years’ Eve are two bank holidays that I never know what to do with my time; party poppers, shamrocks and parades aren’t really my thing.  So this year I decided not to focus on the day but to enjoy the long weekend.

Day 1

Sightseeing always seems like a good idea but usually ends up with false recommendations of an “interesting day out”.  So what better way to spend a couple of hours than walking around an old prison, right?…

Inside prison cell

Through the spyhole

Kilmainham Gaol is Europe’s largest unoccupied prison and is situated west of Dublin city centre. You cannot book tickets in advance and early arrival is advised as tours book out quickly.  While we were waiting for our tour, we were able to look around the gaol’s museum and as museums go I found it quite interesting and recommend a look around if you have time. The tour began with a few safety messages because the gaol’s doorways and staircases are narrower and lower than someone living in the 21st century would be used to.

The tour guide was very knowledgeable and I really enjoyed her interpretation of the gaol’s past…especially when she stopped the initial video presentation to tell a group of girls, in no uncertain terms, to shut up or get out!

The gaol itself is seeped in Irish history and was home to some of Ireland’s most famous son’s including many of those involved with Ireland’s struggle for Independence.  During the Irish Famine (1845-50) thousands of people passed through the door of Kilmainham Gaol because they were guaranteed a meal three times a day.  The most famous part of the gaol is known as the East Wing and has appeared in many films including The Shawshank Redemption, In the Name of the Father and the original Italian Job to name a few.

I would highly recommend this tour to everyone, even those of you with the same reservations as me when it comes to sightseeing activities.

Adult tour ticket is €6

Day 2

Last year my mummy (AKA Tish) ran the Derry marathon and has been putting us to shame ever since.  On the 16th March she ran the Dune (Newry to Dundalk) half marathon and we went along to show our support. Go Tish! 

Go Tish!

Right to left: Ashlyn and Tish

Day 3

Happy St Patrick’s Day! Instead of sitting and eating as much chocolate that is humanly possible before watching the various sporting events on offer, we decided to climb Slieve Gullion mountain.  We set off with our packed lunch and waterproofs to begin the climb. I haven’t been very active in the exercise department for longer than I care to disclose, so this wasn’t going to be easy.

Last minute fuel stop

Last minute fuel stop

Shadowy people

Shadowy people

We walked until reached our agreed finishing point when Micheal suggested that we go to the top…I agreed and we continued our journey to the peak of the mountain. Until this stage I was coping ok and was happy with my progress, but as the terrain that we were now “hiking” wasn’t nicely tarmacked, the trail required large stepping stones to make the route more accessible. This took its toll on my legs almost immediately and I felt like Cheryl Strayed climbing the PCT in her book Wild (highly recommended).

Despite my sore limbs, I kept going and on the way up, met a father and mother carrying a 6-month-old baby down from the peak…reckless doesn’t even begin to describe their decision. When we finally got over the shock of what we had just witnessed, our final destination was in sight. We reached the top and it was freezing, the temperature difference was incredible.  This temperature drop along with a gale force wind is one of the reasons why you will not see any photos of me on the top of the mountain!  We took our photos and got down as quickly as possible to a well deserved lunch.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable day that won’t be forgotten in a hurry (partly because of the muscle pain in my ass that lingered for days)…

Tired boots


Naive me

Underestimation face

[Beauty] Spring hair refresh

My hair has been described as being “better looked after than a small country” and I can’t disagree.  For me, good hair is down to two things; hair education and the hairdresser.

“Just take off as little as you need”, this is usually my direction to Damien my senior stylist at Pure Hair, Belfast and he obliges (he has been suggesting other ideas for years, so he doesn’t bother asking anymore).  However, over the past couple of months my long hair has been lifeless and I didn’t know what to do.  After my last trip to the hairdressers in February I vowed next time around I would go for the chop. So I did…

The Colour: I have gone through numerous colourists over the past 10 years but none as good Emma in Pure Hair. She understands my needs and more importantly my hair! I have felt too blonde for a while and wanted to go darker; she recommended that we slowly darken it over the Summer rather than the extreme option of an all over colour and start for scratch (now that’s a scary prospect).

The Cut: My hair had grown so long, that it was all about the hair, but for all the wrong reasons.  I showed my hair board on Pinterest to Damien and he agreed that it needed to be cut and recommended a suitable length.

The Result: Healthy and perfectly coloured locks. I am delighted with the result and washing my hair takes half the time!

If you are in the Belfast area I highly recommend visiting Pure Hair, you won’t regret it!






[Beauty] My Skincare Saviour

I have been thinking for a long time what I should write my first blog post about. Since it’s my first, I thought why not start off with my skincare must have. You know what they say go big or go home, so here it goes…

Eve Lom cleanser

Before I begin, I will start with a quick overview of my skin tone. I have normal skin, not normal oily or normal dry, just normal. When we are younger and go through puberty our bodies go through huge changes, none more so than our skin. At this stage many of us start to experiment with skincare products that promise to clear our complexion or banishing blackheads, you know the ones. Maybe I was fortunate enough, or maybe I just couldn’t have been bothered but my skincare regime consisted of washing my face with a hot flannel. I did this until I was around 20 when I had a little disposable income (student loan) and started to dabble with skincare products. Tip: Research your skin tone and make sure you buy products tailored for it.

I have used several types of cleansers from Dermalogica’s Special Cleansing Gel to Nude Skincare’s Cleansing Oil. None of these products left my skin feeling any different than when I used my trusty flannel. Then I started to research even further (you will find out that research is an obsession of mine) and found a product that Vogue described as, “Possibly the best cleanser in the World”, who was I to argue?

The first thing you will notice when you receive Eve Lom’s Cleanser is the texture of the balm. It is quite dense to begin with and reminds me of candle wax. Every tub of cleanser is accompanied by a muslin cloth (50ml tub comes with a travel size cloth) and the product is useless without it.

Eve Lom cleanser

Balm texture of EVE Lom cleanser

When the cleanser is applied to my face my skin feels so soft and straight away I knew I was in for something special. After I pry my hands away from massaging in the balm (it is difficult to stop sometimes) I apply the hot muslin cloth for three to five seconds and repeat this process three times. Check out the cloth before you rinse it and you will begin to see makeup or grime that built up during the day if you weren’t wearing makeup.

I love this product for so many reasons; its scent, ability to completely remove makeup (not tested with waterproof mascara), the texture on the skin and the muslin cloth. My skin always feels squeaky clean when I use it but not too dry, no other product that I have used can achieve this. Not only does my skin feel fantastic but it also looks amazing when I use it and there is a noticeable difference when I use another product. When I seen the results I immediately recommended it to my older sister Natasha who has used it ever since.

How to use: The instructions included with the cleanser describe in detail how to use it but here is a video in case you want to see how to get the best from the product. Having used it for a few years I recommend massaging a 5p coin size of cleanser into the face and neck then soak and rinse the muslin cloth in hot water, repeat three times (this is important). Rinse the muslin cloth in cold water and place over the face for three to five seconds and finish by patting the face with a towel.

I really can’t recommend Eve Lom’s Cleanser highly enough and I hope after reading this you will give it a go. It is a little pricey, but trust me it’s worth it! Buy Eve Lom Cleanser from Space NK (50ml – £40)

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