The Beauty Maven
Christmas is always very busy for my family, as my husband Gordon and I do our best to spend time with both sides of the family, despite them living on opposite sides of Dublin. We will start the day in my parents’ house with my parents, sisters, and brother. We always have breakfast together before opening presents (aside from our stockings, which are always emptied first thing. My mother has been making noise about getting rid of the stockings since we’re all adults now, but I reckon my baby Sam means we can get a few more years out of them). Then around lunchtime we’ll head to North County Dublin to do a big Kris Kindle with Gordon’s extended family, before having dinner in Gordon’s parents’ house with his brothers. This year should be pretty special because Sam will be a lot more copped on to what’s going on than he was at two months old last year.
When I was three my brother vomited in my brand new Barbie Ferrari on Christmas morning, and I have never ever forgotten it. My parents found it hilarious. I did not. I remember the feeling of closeness though, with just the four of us opening presents in our sitting room, so from next year we’re going to do Christmas morning in our own house with Sam. I want him to have his own special Christmas memories and traditions in our home.
Every year I swear that I’m going to be organised and get it all done before December, but it never happens. One thing’s for sure, I’m better at it these days than I was when I was younger and always bought everything on Christmas Eve on my break from working in a shop on Grafton St. I’ve learned to be very clear and direct with my family about what I want when it comes to gifts, but I drive Gordon demented by demanding a surprise. For me, the beauty of a gift is in the thought, so a surprise means an awful lot more to me than something I’ve suggested.
What would I give someone who adores beauty this Christmas? Charlotte Tilbury’s instant Look In a Palette (€69) is an incredibly useful palette, which includes everything a gal, would need to glam herself up, aside from foundation and mascara (and maybe brows, depending on what you’re into). Pestle and Mortar Superstar Retinol Night Oil (€76) is by far my favourite skincare product, from my favourite skincare brand. Retinol is one of the few skincare ingredients scientifically proven to reduce the signs of aging. This oil feels incredibly luxe and comes in beautiful packaging. If I were looking for a fantasy gift, it would be the Tom Ford Boys and Girls 50 piece lipstick set ($1980). This is the kind of thing you see a beauty blogger open on Snapchat or Instagram Stories and think bitterly ‘They won’t even appreciate that.’ To me, it’s the stuff of absolute dreams.
For me Christmas is really all about cooking. I did go away one year and I absolutely hated it because I felt as though we were in someone else’s Christmas. I love doing all the food
shopping and making all the condiments. I love taking out all the ridiculous fish knives and forks and using them at Christmas. I stay very traditional; I do not stray away from the turkey, ham, roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and always two types of stuffing. I do a sage and onion stuffing and a chestnut stuffing. Nobody else likes it but I love it so I make it for myself.
The dessert is the only time when I will mix it up. One year I did a baked Alaska — I’ll often do a meringue of some variation because nobody likes Christmas pudding but I love it so I’ll make a small one. All my family come to me on Stephen’s Day and that’s actually my favourite meal of the year because all of the preparation is done. I’ll make a massive hash of all the vegetables and potatoes and I’ll fry it for about five hours until all the vegetables are caramelised and have a crust on them. We’ll have that with all the cold meats and condiments and then I’ll have Christmas pudding with cream with my Mum — she loves it too and we really indulge ourselves.
One of the strongest memories I have is of these beautiful Christmas decorations that my mother had been given by her Uncle Jack and we called them Uncle Jack’s Decorations. They were Victorian glass baubles with houses or animals — and now all of that stuff has come back into fashion. There were little houses that were crystals and lit up, and when I was little they were so unusual and beautiful. They were almost like friends — the memory of unwrapping them each year and seeing them and hanging them gently on the tree — it was so special.
If I’m travelling for work and I see beautiful things I will pick them up with a view to giving them as gifts. I do use it as an excuse to buy something I don’t really need, it’s true, but I do have a basket in my wardrobe of little bits that I’ve picked up during the year. I do need to make a list though, because otherwise I will end up with lots of stuff for two or three people and nothing for everyone else.
If you are buying for someone who is interested in design, I would always say to stay classic. I have these little marble tables that are really simple — they have a brass finish and a really neat marble circule on the top. I actually bought them for my Mum. They go into any interior really, and these kind of occasional tables are really handy for whipping out at a moment’s notice. I love my candle range. We have a new candle with essential oils; one with rose and geranium and one with juniper and lemon — I love them and they are a gorgeous gift for someone. One thing I think is a really fabulous gift is a membership to the National Gallery. We are all so busy that we sometimes forget to take time out for ourselves. If you’re a creative person it’s really important to replenish your well by going somewhere that inspires you, and for me, the National Gallery is the place.
We normally do Christmas at home in London and we usually have my wife’s family and whomever of my family happens to be around — my sister is in New York now and my Dad is in Ireland so it really depends on who is here. We have around 24 people for Christmas lunch and we often cook something quite traditional. The last few years I’ve been doing a three-bird roast. My wife and I love cooking — I usually do the savoury stuff and then Olly, my wife, does the sweet things.
We adore games, they are a huge part of Christmas for us. We’ll have a treasure hunt, so before people turn up we hide a tonne of things around the downstairs of the house. Our guests get a list of about 20 things that they have to find and so that goes on for a while. When everyone turns up we give them a lovely Prosecco cocktail, which gets everyone going and into the fun of it. Of course, you have some people who will try to find things for a few minutes and give up, and lots of people cheat — there’s a huge amount of skulduggery that goes on. You can hide things in the most ridiculous of places — like something tiny and green in the bunch of flowers. There’s often a quiz, which Olly’s brother really likes to make up, and then the other thing we do is put a little challenge or dare underneath everyone’s plate for the starter. Last year I had to do a ballet twirl every time I left the room, but really subtly so that nobody else really notices. My daughters Dune and Kinvara love coming up with the challenges and dares — it’s brilliant.
I’m not such a big fan of extravagant Christmas presents. I think if you have a large family it’s really difficult and I think it’s terribly unfair if you feel pressured to buy everyone really nice gifts. I think something small or practical is always good — Olly’s mother used to give us kitchen cleaning products and we always loved it. My wife and I always look at something we would love to have in the house and we share the cost of something we would like. Our kids love stockings so now, rather than buy them big things, we fill a stocking with things they love — things like makeup and little accessories and bits and pieces that when you’re a student are hard to come by.
I love reading. I am dyslexic so I listen to a huge amount of spoken-word books. I listen to all sorts of
stuff. I quite like Stephen King — I am reading The Stand at the moment and it’s weird and brilliant. A book called Jupiter’s Travels by Ted Simons really inspired me. Apps like Audible are priceless and would make a great gift for readers like me. If someone wanted to buy me a motorbike I would give anything to get a Brough Superior — it was made famous by a soldier called TE Lawrence who was known as Laurence Of Arabia because of all of his adventures. My wife and I have just bought each other an amazing new coffee machine called a Jura — it’s absolutely beautiful and the latest instalment to our kitchen. We adore it.
When I think of Christmas, the memories of Santa always pop up. It was just me and my younger brother, who is two years younger than me. I would have been so excited for Christmas Day — I would lie in bed for hours before I was allowed to get up. My parents had a rule that the two of us had to go down to see the presents together, which was very canny because I had to wait for my brother to wake up before we could investigate and he loves his sleep so I was always waiting for ages! Our landing and stairs had certain floorboards that creaked, and as I got older I got cuter and would know which ones to avoid when I tried to sneak down before everyone woke up. I never actually got down the stairs but I would get an idea from the top of the stairs! The best present I ever got was a Home Alone Talkboy cassette recorder — my parents knew I liked to talk and I loved it!
The older I have gotten the more appreciative I am of Christmas dinner. Sometimes people make Christmas dinner out to be like the Last Supper, but it wasn’t like that for us. It was always just the four of us, and really relaxed and very personal. The day was always more about spending time together. As anyone will attest, Christmas Day is a long day but for us, it was our day. We’d go to Mass, visit my grandparents’ graves and go home and spend the day together. Whether it was playing with toys or watching a Christmas movie with a box of Roses on our lap — it was always a small and intimate day that we loved. My boyfriend and I live in Dublin and he will go home to his Mam this Christmas — he is one of four siblings — and I’ll go home to my parents. I wouldn’t like to not be at home for Christmas — I really appreciate the fact that it’s one of the only days of the year where everything shuts down whether we like it or not. I think there’s a little bit of beauty in that quietness and need to spend time together. I love lounging around – to me Christmas is not about socialising, it’s about staying in your pyjamas until way too late in the day and being OK with that.
I don’t like obnoxious, really expensive presents. For me, the card and what people put in the card means so much more to me. I would rather a really small gift that really captures me than a really expensive bottle of perfume. I love the surprise that comes with my boyfriend’s gifts — he is brilliant at picking them out. Since we moved in together we are thinking more about stuff that we can have together — we invested in a television because we both love movies and that’s what we do in our downtime and it’s the best thing ever!
There are so many great gifts out there for people interested in health and wellness. There is a thing called a wakeup light which emulates a sunrise which gradually lights up a room and it’s a brilliant way to wake up and allows people to leave the phone out of the bedroom and wake up in a natural, calm way. It’s the ultimate treat yourself gift I think. There are special runners called trail runners that are designed differently to make it easier to run out on trails. Running on the road can actually do damage to your body in the long term, but running on trails and getting out in nature is great for you. Finally, a blow-the-budget gift idea is a health retreat. There are great ones at home like Pure Results and lots of them abroad — with all this talk about everybody being so busy, I think that the greatest gift you can give yourself is a break away for a few days to give yourself an opportunity to reset yourself and recharge.
Anna wears a dress from Littlewoods Ireland, makeup by Linda Ryan carabellebeauty.com, hair by Jenny Connolly kopperhairsalon.ie
Christmas at our house is very much a family affair. My husband, two kids, and I and my sister head out to my parents’ house in Malahide and it’s a very chilled day. Mainly my sister and myself deal with the cooking, my Dad gets involved as well and it’s everything from scratch and that’s the fun of it for us. This year, myself and Evie and Finn the twins are creating our own food brand for our local community garden, which is called Mud Island Community Garden, and there is a Christmas fair where we’ll be selling called Chilli Outside. There’s spiced cranberry, chilli and garlic oil, and chilli salt — we are absolute chilli freaks in our house! We’ll have our cranberry sauce at the table on Christmas Day, so that’s really exciting. The twins are 12 this year and Santa is firmly out the window. My daughter is big into makeup so there will be lots of makeup palettes thrown into the mix — as if our house needs more makeup! I am not a last minute buyer. I travel so much with my job, so if I see something that I know someone will love I’d rather buy it and have it for them than buy something for the sake of it. I do love knowing that I have bought something really lovely for someone. I think I am quite a difficult person to buy for. I don’t really need anything — none of us do.
A perfume for me is always going to be a really good gift — I wear Armani Privé Bois d’Encens and nothing else. I am traditionally given Aesop gifts from all and sundry and that always goes down well. I love home scents. I love burning essential oils and really beautiful high quality incense. I love incense by Astier de Villatte, which I got in Paris — the smell is amazing.
We’ve just launched our dedicated gift collection that fit in with the Lennon Courtney range and they are fantastic. In terms of pieces for the fashion lover, our handprint tunic is an absolute winner. If you are buying for somebody, and you know the brand they like, you are better off getting them a gift voucher. Knowing what I know, it’s rare that someone gets it right buying clothing for someone else, and this way, you are giving them the freedom to choose something they love. If you were going to buy a piece, choose the most simple design possible. A good basic is a great way to go, a beautiful white top or a well-cut black dress for example, and any fashion lover will thank you for it.
When it comes to Christmas, Neven Maguire loves to be surrounded by family for the entirety of the holidays.
We love Christmas in our house; it’s a time for family and that’s how we love to spend time. The children are at the perfect age now and they are so excited about Santa. We’ll get up early and do the presents — this time of year is all about children. One thing that Amelda and I feel very strongly about is teaching our children about the spirit of giving, and we encourage them to think about those less fortunate than ourselves during this time of year.
My mother was one of the kindest and most generous people I have ever met. Each Christmas, she used to cook for the policemen in Blacklion so that they had something nice to eat even though they were working — that’s the kind of woman she was.
Food, of course is really important in our house. My mother used to cook for us all — on Christmas Eve after midnight we would have tinned Heinz tomato soup — the only time there was anything readymade in her kitchen! We close the restaurant each year for a week at Christmas in order to give our staff time to spend with their families. Each year Amelda and I have about 30 family members at the Christmas table, and last year we started a tradition of having pizza on Christmas Eve, which we really enjoyed and will continue.
I start cooking early on Christmas Day, but as I always say, it’s important to get the prep out of the way. Have your turkey ready for the oven and as many vegetables done the day before as possible so that you can relax and enjoy the day with your family. Be sure that you have read your recipes and know your timings and you’ll have a great day.
I love giving gifts at Christmas. We do Kris Kindle in our family among the adults and my family love getting me — I can’t help myself. Amelda is the same — we just like spoiling people. For small food-related presents, one of the items in our cookery school that people comment on most is my garlic crusher. It sounds simple, but it’s a brilliant gift and it will last forever if you get a good one. Mine is by Henckel and while it is a little pricey, you’ll never need to replace it. In the same vein, a good set of knives is probably one of the greatest gifts you can give a person who loves cooking. Again, I swear by the Henckel brand — they are German and they are built to last. They are not cheap — I would buy one at a time, but they will be part of a person’s kitchen kit forever.
Something people might not know about me is that I love to exercise. I do weights and box three times a week — I find it great for my head and to de-stress. I love getting new gym gear, and I hope that I’ll find some in my stocking this year!