New Business Brings Magic Back To Toronto

imageIt’s just a bunch of Hocus pocus.” We’ve all heard that line a million times over the years; being made famous by legend Bette Midler; in the role of Winifred Sanderson in hit classic Hocus Pocus.

This along with many other productions, may have brought the beauty, history & mystery of witchcraft magic to the big screen, but it was always out of our grasp…unable to touch it and experience it for oneself.

Until now…

Thanks to the hard work, creativity and dedication of The Coven Wolf, including magical duo and power couple Otto Wolf and Star Wolf, the brand new Hocus Pocus Witchery & Lounge has opened its doors in the bustling city of Toronto.

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As a witchcraft/wiccan enthusiast my whole life, I couldn’t wait until this enchanting establishment opened its doors to the public…and on October 31st (what better day) I finally got my wish.

Entering the store, I was greeted kindly by the welcoming staff, who were more than happy to help me with all my questions and feed my curiosity. From the moment I entered, the one thing I was immediately blown away by was the authenticity of the store.

As my academic background was in nursing and healthcare, I have always been fascinated by the use of herbs for holistic purposes, but what intrigues me even more is their roots in the Wiccan Tradition. And without a doubt, Hocus Pocus Witchery does not disappoint with their collection of wonderful herbs for sale.

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With loose dried herbs, essential oils and many other herbal products, I was spoiled for choice, as my magical mind went into overdrive. Another wonderful thing I noticed about this area of the store was how traditional it felt, and how it symbolized the importance of magic within nature. For my readers and future customers of Hocus Pocus, who are eco-conscious, I was happy to be informed by owner Star Wolf, that they only harvest a small percentage from the original plant, to allow it to continue producing the required herb.

As you move through the store, you are able to appreciate the layout of the Witchery, as it almost felt like it a magical timeline; experiencing the origins of Traditional Wicca at the front, to more modern elements of Witchcraft in other areas.

imageThe amazing products to choose from are endless. And the best thing is, you don’t necessarily have to have prior knowledge to find something that catches your eye. Fashionable clothing, stone, crystal & gem pendants, candles, incense sticks, sage smudges, magically infused mist sprays for all your needs, colorful mugs for all them coffee and tea addicts and a vast collection of books on the history of witchcraft and beginners spell casting…are only a small glimpse into everything that the store offers its visitors.

But the owners and staff of Hocus Pocus Witchery have not stopped there. When one lives in the hectic city that is Toronto, you aim to find a haven where you feel relaxed and hidden from the outside world; one where you can sit down, relax and take the opportunity to appreciate the interesting and peaceful surroundings.

imageWhat more could you ask for, I ask? Coffee, Tea or possibly a cocktail? Check…check and check!!! They have it all. With a fully furnished cafe lounge, and recently opened bar… this place is a MUST SEE for Torontonians and visitors alike.

Admit it, we’ve all want to experience having a Butter Beer in the world of Harry Potter, maybe even tasted some of  Sally’s (Sandra Bullock) witchcraft remedies from her apothecary in movie Practical Magic, or what about tasting the magical cocktails made by barmaid/witch Freya Beauchamp (played by Jenna Dewan Tatum) in hit TV Show, Witches of East End? With eye catching decor and fun atmosphere of this new bar and lounge, you don’t need to dream anymore.

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Before leaving my new magical hideaway, I treated myself to a new read (Cunningham’s Book of Shadows), as well as a Citrine pendant and delicious Latte. What more could I want on a winter’s day? A eye-catching stone necklace, a hot beverage and a new page-turner for my collection.

Apart from being the largest spiritual store in the GTA and having wonderful array of products and services, the one thing I must highlight is how fantastic the staff are. They were super helpful with any questions I needed answering and so comfortable to chat to as I sat sipping my caffeine fix.

For anyone who has not heard or visited this fantastic new business yet, I would encourage you all to get down to 592 Queen Street West (Bathurst/Queen intersection) to see how amazing this gem of Toronto actually is.

Regardless of what background or spiritual path you are on, we all seek out a little magic in our lives. It’s what makes life that more beautiful. An inviting note written by the staff reads:

Hocus Pocus is a place where it does not matter what religion or spiritual path you follow.

We have created a space where there is no judgement. We understand that we are all on a path. We understand that all paths have mistakes, hurt, anger, fear, anxiety, every color of emotion. Our objective is to provide you the tools necessary to live a life filled with more of the higher emotions such as love, peace, understanding and patience.

We also believe that we are meant to be constantly learning and teaching. We have created an environment where we welcome questions and encourage that there are no rules only guidelines.

Spirituality is an individual journey, so different things will work for different people. We encourage everyone to visit and take in the clean, healing energy of our sacred space.

Contact details and business hours are as follows:

Hocus Pocus Witchery

592 Queen St. W.

Toronto, ON, Canada M6J 1E3

Tel: 416.703.0152

Email: hocuspocuswitchery@gmail.com

Opening Hours:

Sunday – Monday: 11am-8:00pm

Tuesday: 11am-8:00pm

Wednesday: 11am-8:00pm

Thursday: 11am-8:00pm

Friday: 11am-11:00pm

Saturday: 11am-11:00pm

I would like to take this moment in wishing The Coven Wolf, and the staff of Hocus Pocus the best of luck in the success of their new business. May it bring both you and the Toronto public much joy and happiness for the future to come.

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The Start Of Something New

“The Way I See It…If You Want The Rainbow, You’re Gonna Have To Put Up With The Rain.”

Dolly Parton’s quote…not mine, but it is a saying that I have kept with me for many years. Every time I have been hit with any obstacle in my life; whether it involved education, work, friendships, family or any of life’s trials…I have learned to use this little citation to see the rainbow behind the rain, but more importantly… the beauty beyond the pain.

You may be wondering what I am talking about…and find yourself asking what this piece of writing could possibly relate to. In truth, we all have our struggles, whether we like to admit to them or not. But I have come to realize that the only remedy to these emotional ailments is to speak about them.  “A problem shared, is a problem halved,” my grandmother always said.

The truth is that I have been struggling with a lifelong issue and secret myself…one that I wish I could have revealed to you all a long time ago. But it is only now that I gained the strength, courage and self-belief that was stopping me from overcoming this drawback and achieving my dream.

And this secret is that I am Transgender.

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Some of you may be shocked, some confused, some may be happy for me, or some may already have guessed what was going on in my life. But the most important thing I must address, is for those who are unfamiliar with what this means. Being Transgender involves experiencing lifelong feelings and a deep understanding that you were never comfortable in the gender that you were assigned at birth. It is an issue that many people all across the world are living with, and can take a long time for the individual to finally achieve a sense of comfort with their gender.

I myself, felt from about the age of 7 that I would have been more at ease if I had been assigned female at birth. When I look back, it was a difficult concept for me to even contemplate, but all I knew was that I felt like I was trapped in someone else’s body; to which I would never have any control over.

imageThese feelings heightened in high school, and my awareness of my true self got greater. However, trying to embrace who I felt I truly was was difficult. Getting questioned over trying to grow my hair long, teased over a naturally high voice and picked on at times when I crossed my legs in class, I honestly felt that any hope of transitioning in the future was well out of my grasp. It also didn’t help that I went to an all boys school…what a predicament.

For many reasons, I decided to lock these feelings away and throw away the key. I did it for my safety, my family, my friends and my future. As a teenager, your worst fear is probably getting persecuted by fellow peers for being different. I was already being bullied for the majority of my school life, so I tried not to imagine what would happen if they found out I was transgender. We all want safety and security in our lives, but revealing my secret would have felt like I was painting a bulls eye directly on my own back.

I also hid my thoughts and struggles from my entire family; my parents, my sister, cousins, aunts and uncles. When I look back, my reason for doing this still remains consistent up until present day. I simply did not want to hurt any member of my immediate or extended family. I didn’t want them to feel that they done something wrong, or feel disappointed at a decision that ate away at me every day.

Many parents reading this may say, “Oh I would know if my child was transgender!” or “Surely someone in the family may have wondered at one point.”

I am here to tell you that being transgender is an internal, emotional struggle, and can in no way be predicted in advance by anyone. It may be easy for people on the outside looking in to say things like this, but ask yourselves these 3 simple questions:

  1. Has the thought about asking your kids if they feel happy in the gender that they were born into, ever crossed your mind?
  2. Have you ever asked your children why they are sad? School worries, Boyfriend/Girlfriend issues, money worries…these areas may have been approached in discussion, but would you ever ask them the trans question?
  3. Do you see your son as anything but your son, or you daughter as anything but your daughter.

The answer is NO! Of course we don’t as it would not even enter your mind. I myself chose to keep my feelings to myself and when you think of it, unless the individual begins to transition both physically and socially, these questions would never arise.

imageWhen I reminisce on my upbringing & childhood, it is all wonderful, fond memories. I have two loving parents, who have given me the qualities that I live by every day. I got my determination and strength from my father, my patience and positivity from my mother…and collectively they have given me my acceptance of others. My sister has taught me resilience and how how hard work always pays off. We are 2 sides of the 1 coin, which always balanced out quite nicely.

And it was these qualities that finally helped me make the big decision 27 years later. As you all know, I moved to Toronto on a 2 year visa with my dear friend Rebecca. In December 2016, I built up the courage to book an appointment with a doctor, who specialized in dealing with transgender issues. I had waited so long for this moment to arrive, that I didn’t know what to expect.

I had already started to grow my hair long, wear naturally shaded makeup and my dress sense had changed dramatically, as I now started to wear unisex/gender neutral clothing. Through several meetings and one-to-one therapeutic discussions, I was able to explain to this doctor for the very first time how I had been feeling all my life. It was clear to the specialist that at 27 years old, and my detailed description of my internal conflict that I indeed was experiencing gender dysphoria (a discomfort with your biologically assigned gender).

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Shortly after, I commenced hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which involves substituting your male hormones for female hormones, through the administering of medication. HRT doesn’t make you a biological female, but it paves the way in allowing your body to develop in a gradual and natural way.

imageSince commencing HRT, life could not be better. It has been everything I could have asked for and much more. I finally feel that my body has started to look like how I have always felt on the inside.

And after 7 months of HRT, I cannot believe how far I have come…not only in my transition, but as a human being. I am the most out-going I have ever been, the most productive I have ever noticed myself to be, but most of all I am the most honest I have ever been to myself in my entire life.

However, I could not have done this without the support of family and friends. Revealing my decision to transition to my family was the hardest thing I ever had to do, because they are the most important people in my life.  You don’t want to hurt anyone, but if you don’t come clean you only end up hurting yourself and living a lie. And with news such as this, it takes time to put things into perspective for family members.

imageA close friend told me recently, “This change is not just your transition, but everybody’s transition. You are revealing something to those, who have known you for up to 27 years. The changes in image, clothes, name, and ultimate gender change, is a shock to friends and family regardless, and everyone needs time to process, adjust and accept the new you. Their shock may manifest in positive or negative ways, which ultimately lies with that person.”

Coming to Canada, however, was not what made me make this decision. This decision was made many years ago. However, taking this time away from my previous life, finally allowed me to gather my thoughts, and think positively. I am so grateful to be living in an era where it is acceptable to be who you want to be, love who you want to love, and stand up for what you believe in.

Transgender women in the media have given a voice to people like me who are struggling to come to terms with their gender. Icons like actress Laverne Cox, athlete/Tv Star Caitlyn Jenner, model Andreja Pejic and Youtubers Stef Sanjati and Maya, are only a few of the many trans women giving their support to the trans community, and ultimately educating the rest of the public of LGBT issues. I find it sad when people in both the media and general public criticise trans women and men, accusing them of encouraging a so called “gender-change trend.” For years the trans community has fought for their voice to be heard, and I personally am in debt to those women and men, who paved the way to not only give me a voice, but to educate those who remained ignorant to this reality.

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However, my friends and colleagues here in Canada are the people who I cannot thank enough for their support and love. Each one of them has lifted me to new heights and taught me how to be confident and happy as myself. Rebecca, I love you to the moon and back. You were there at the start of this whole process and although there is a long way to go, I know you will be there holding my hand. Luisa, you have been my shoulder to cry on and my confidant, and I probably owe you several pay cheques in trade for midnight heart to heart’s. I can tell you anything, and forever see respect, strength and comfort in your eyes. Claudia, what can I say? You have taught me to laugh out loud, be proud and to finally see the beauty in myself. Sam, you have been a rock, and you have welcomed me like a family member into your life. You have a heart of gold, and encouraged me to open mine to others. Kevin, you have taught me how to laugh at myself and really bring the humor to the situation. Aidan and Pedro, thank you for your continued support & encouragement and being my go-to relaxation haven. With every day our friendship grows, and I am the lucky one to have 2 remarkable human beings like you by my side.

Ok before this starts sounding even more like a Oscar Awards Speech, I just want to say and OVERALL THANK YOU to EVERYONE. To those who who have been with me starting this transition, to my family back home whom I love unconditionally, and of course the many amazing friends back home, who were probably anticipating this blog post to come at any time, judging from the reactions to updated Facebook and Instagram photos.

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So there you go, my fairy followers, the secret is out. I really do hope that you open your hearts and minds to my journey to come, and that you are able to accept me for who I am. I am in the happiest place right now, and I want you to share in the experience. I am still the same person you knew; with the same personality, humor, the same connection and friendship. The only difference is my appearance, my new path ahead and my hopeful future.

Then again, I am leaving out the killer new wardrobe and shoe collection. Ha! That may be another blog post.

Lastly, the big name reveal. I want you to know that I now refer to myself… AMIE…Amie Madison O’Connor.

It’s a big change for all involved, to which everyone needs time to adjust. I am happy that you have taken the time to read this and I hope that my story can help those in similar situations. Well, until next time…hugs and kisses…

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Bored? Don’t Be! Here are the Top 5 Things you should be doing right now.

As the summer break approaches the halfway mark, you can be one of two types of people; those who live to seek out more things while there is still time, and those who lie and wait for something to pull them out of their approaching autumn blues. Regardless of how proactive you are, it can be still very easy to miss the hidden treasures that surround you, and of course the great events that are ready to be experienced and the landmarks to be explored.

imageSpeaking solely for myself, I find pleasure in 5 simple things…Theatre, Literature, Fashion, Culture and Food. And when you thing about it…maybe these little moments of gratification could become yours too.

Everyone wants that feeling of happiness that comes from doing something you have always wished to do, finally getting that article of clothing you’ve had your eye on all this time, visiting a place of beauty, catching up with friends and family at your favorite cafe, or even reading a book that speaks to you personally.

For all the peeps back home, here are my TOP 5 THINGS happening right now:

1) THEATRE: It’s Wine O’ Clock at The Iontas Arts and Community Resource Centre, Castleblayney, County Monaghan

imageIt goes without saying that the Nuala and Noleen hype has got us all full of excitement and anticipation at what their next stunt, skit or on-stage show will be. One thing is for sure, they are sure to please us each time with their hilarious characters, and wild antics. Their latest show has went down a storm so far; with sell-out performances North and South of the Border, and now its coming to the Iontas in Castleblayney, to dish out tonnes of belly-aching laughs and moments of outright hilarity.

The show welcomes you to the craziest wedding of the year! Vera, the farmers wife who is so excited that her only son Seamus is getting married, has invited you all to the special day. Attending also are the farmers Pat and Eamon, the Bridesmaids, the Yummy Mummies, the Grannies, and of course Nuala and Noleen who are always looking for love. The shenanigans that go down and the situations each character find themselves in, will have you raising the roof with laughter and applause.

It all goes down FRIDAY 10th November @ 8PM. Get your tickets by clicking HERE.

 

 

2) FASHION: Couture Grandeur Newry Road, Crossmaglen (SUPER SUMMER SALE)

Ladies and Gents…correct me if I’m wrong, but we all aim for a little sprinkle of magic when it comes to our wardrobe selection, and love to know how smart, cute, sexy, handsome or sophisticated we look in a new number we have just added to the collection.

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In the words of fashion supermodel Miranda Kerr“…fashion doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated – just worn with grace and confidence.”

And what better place to embrace your inner style goddess than at Couture Grandeur. Even better, word has traveled my way that their SUMMER SALE has now started. Yes, you heard right people, prices have been slashed to Up To 70% OFF summer stock, as well as well as dresses and formal wear by up to 50% OFF.

 

We all love a great deal…even better when you’ve had your eye on something for so long, and now its right at your finger tips for a fabulous, affordable price. As you may all know, Couture Grandeur fashion has been racking up wonderful recognition for Best Dressed Ladies at the official races in Ireland, and now these award winning pieces could be yours, at a fraction of the original price.

 

And fret not people…there are shoes also. This is my ultimate weakness…my Kryptonite in many ways. Who can have ‘enough’ shoes? Not me, that’s for sure. And with this footwear being reduced to 10,15 and 20 pound, I am just jealous that you are able to avail of this opportunity, when I am thousands of miles across the ocean.

With Couture Grandeur going from strength to strength, I cannot wait to see what awaits the public for the Autumn/Fall Line. Until then… get down there and GET SHOPPING, whilst this incredible stock lasts.

 

3) CULTURE: Castlewellan Forest Park & Peace Maze in Castlewellan, County Down

Each time I see photographs of this historical and natural wonder, I am in awe of the beauty of how much it has to offer. For many people, we take these tourist attractions for granted, or even dismiss them, as we know little about their history or origins.

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However, as home to one of Northern Ireland’s most famous lakes, a stunning Victorian Castle, incredible panoramic views, scenic walking trails, 27km of Mountain Bike Trails, Nature Park perfect for the kids, an onsite multi-activity centre, a breath-taking hedge maze and equestrian centre, Castlewellan Forest Park boasts all of this and more; making it a must-see for all ages.

imageThe castle itself is an architectural treasure and to me, the perfect set for Hollywood movies. With the beauty of the surroundings, anyones creative ideas would spring to life on their first visit to the 19th Century stronghold. However, the main attraction that has everybody talking, has to be The Peace Maze. The Peace Maze is located on the grounds of the castle, and is in fact one of the largest permanent hedge mazes in the entire world. The maze represents the path to the peaceful future of Northern Ireland. Planted in 2000, it is now the intended height for public enjoyment. Visitors are encouraged to enter the maze and try to make their way to the centre, where a bell awaits to be rang. The hedge maze is a wonderful representation of how agreement and harmony can be achieved, if you put your mind to it, be open of the challenges that lie ahead, accept your mistakes and move on to achieve a common goal.

This is a definite must see for not only natives but visitors too. More information can be found by clicking HERE.

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4) LITERATURE: The Waiting Tree by Lindsay Moynihan

Huh? The Waiting Tree, I hear you ask? I know, I thought the same too. Not once did I ever see this book advertised on the shelves back home, or even in the book stores of Toronto. But thanks to the generosity of a close friend, she kindly gave me this novel to read…and since starting it, I cannot put it down.

This incredible book is the story of 18 year old Simon Peters, who falls in love with Stephen Levesque. When Stephen’s parents discover that they have been having a romantic relationship, they ship him of to Christian Center to “see the error of his ways” and be “normalized.”

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But Simon can’t let him disappear from his life.  He needs him and ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.” With his parents recently deceased and his brothers picking up the responsibility to raise the rest of the family, Simon’s mute twin, Jude, shows him that the secret to setting him free, lies within a tree at the bottom of their garden…The Waiting Tree.

imageThe Waiting Tree is a wonderful book for anyone to read, but especially for those struggling to come to terms with their feelings of who they are. Whether you are from a small community who doesn’t accept you, or from a family who fails to make peace with your happiness, there is always comfort in the written word. Stories have a way of helping us find hope, whether it is fictionalized or not. And this is no exception.

 

5) FOOD: Jackie’s Cafe at The Market Square, Dundalk, County Louth

Still to this day, I am so glad I came across this gorgeous, chic-style cafe on a day out with my mum. In an area we always frequented, we never seemed to venture beyond its doors, as it was always so busy during the mid-day coffee rush and lunch breaks.

But to my delight, we finally got to try it out and since then, I would not go to any other cafe in Dundalk for a bite to eat.

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Not only is the selection of food wonderful; appealing to everyone, but it tastes unbelievable as well. With warm daily specials, as well as a huge selection of salads, sandwiches, deserts, coffees and teas, baked goods and gluten free/vegetarian options, this culinary gem is a must stop on every visit to the town.

For the extremely reasonable prices, the portions are so generous, that you are genuinely satisfied for the whole day. But most of all, its the staff that brings the customers back again and again. They cheerful attitude and friendly manner is so obvious when you enter the establishment, that you are already subconsciously planning your next visit before you even order. My favorite part of all my visits is the one thing  that clientele love, and that is how staff remember you personally. With each visit, your time there is individually personalized and you are made feel welcome and appreciated.

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When I moved to Toronto, the one thing I wished to take with me was Jackie’s Cafe, as nothing has beaten it yet in the 16 months I have been away…so that just shows how good it is.

Next time you are in Dundalk, make sure to drop by and see for yourselves why this place is as good as it sounds.

SO THERE WE GO MY IRISH FAIRY FOLLOWERS, MY TOP 5 THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW. GET GOING AND SEE WHICH ONE OF YOU GETS TO EXPERIENCE ALL 5 OF MY FAVORITES.

xoxoxoxo

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Fashion Hits Home & It’s Everything We Hoped For

imageWe all yearn for it, search for it and aim to be the definition of it… and that my friends… is FASHION. Like myself, we all aim for that signature look; something so unique, memorable and most of all stunning, that will make you the talk of the town and make jaws drop from a block around. Fashion enthusiasts across the globe look in many directions…first to the runway, then to the style capitals like Paris, Milan, London & New York, and finally we take tips from the media, by recreating celebrity red carpet looks.

However, despite the coverage and hype, the question poses itself, “Can we afford to achieve that level of style?” Well, I am here to tell you simply, “YES YOU CAN!” Style is not meant to be difficult to achieve. It’s not there to be admired only on high profile clients. But it is meant to be accessible and affordable to all.

Ever since moving to Toronto, I have promised to continue to write about my passions; not just here but back home also. And it didn’t take me long to find my next article to place my fairy dust upon.

You may or may not already know, but in the past few months, a new fashion outlet has opened in my hometown of Crossmaglen; much to the delight of its residents, visitors and far-away closet fashionistas like myself. In the last few years, Crossmaglen has surprised us all by finally stepping outside the shadow of the 20th Century, and embracing retail change and advancement. And what better time to step forward into the limelight than now…and this is what new store Couture Grandeur has done.

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Since opening its doors for business recently, it has been going from strength to strength, and proving ever popular with all the ladies who visit the premises. From what I have been hearing, the clothing outlet is becoming somewhat of a treasure trove or what I would call an Aladdins’s Cave. Contacts cannot stop raving about the range that there is on offer, as well as the endless amount of accessories to compliment and complete a desired look.

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But the immediate and continued success of this already popular business is not simply down to its selection of fabulous finery. Every person I have spoken to and every online review I have read, highlight the warm, helpful, welcoming nature of its proprietor Yvonne McCoy. From the moment you walk in the door to the second you leave, customers have commented on how courteous and professional this lady is.

imageWith the styling talents of Yvonne and her incredible eye for detail, Couture Grandeur is quickly becoming the hot, in-vogue, trendsetter in Northern Ireland’s fashion retail. Whether you want to adopt the elegant, glamorous styling of Michelle Obama, the hipster chic look of Jennifer Aniston, or maybe even the romantic, classic look of Emma WatsonCouture Grandeur can offer it all, for an affordable price.

It makes me happy to see my hometown grow in popularity with these new, innovative businesses putting their own touch of magic into the retail sector. But what makes me even more proud is seeing the increasing number of women following their dreams and bringing them to life. Having been surrounded by many influential and inspiring females my whole life, it is wonderful to see businesswomen like Yvonne and many others in my hometown taking that step and giving the public what they’ve been looking for.

I would like to take this time to wish Couture Grandeur continued success and when I finally get home from my travels, I will definitely being paying this ‘style haven’ a visit myself.

Couture Grandeur is located at Unit 2, Casey’s Complex, Crossmaglen, Newry, Northern Ireland.

Opening Hours:

Monday-Thursday 10am-6pm

Friday 10am-8pm

Saturday 10am-7pm

Facebook media link can be found HERE

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Lavish & Squalor: The Perfect Mix of Past and Present

imageEarlier this week, I went once again in search of Toronto’s most unique, appealing and desirable stores. Now as we all know, Queen St. is one of those places where you can find anything and everything. Whether its fashionable clothing, eye-catching homemade jewelry, professionally brewed beer or the high market cosmetic ranges…this stretch of Downtown has it all.

But as Toronto becomes more modernized by the day, I find that the city is at risk of loosing its character and its much-loved architectural links to the past. I remember as a young child back home in Ireland, there were several retail stores that when you entered their doors, you were greeted by a whole new world inside. The proprietors still used the old-fashioned lead scales and sometimes school desks with inkwells from bygone days, were used for product display purposes. Despite necessity being the reason for this, rather than fashion…it always made me feel like this is what a store should aim to be.

And finally I have found the ultimate example of this style, hidden right here, in the big city. At 253 Queen St W, you will find a building, whose dark painted exterior, Greek pillared entrance and wide-span windows will catch your eye immediately. As I walked through its period-style wooden doors, I was warmly welcomed into the treasure trove that is Lavish & Squalor.

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And this is where your adventure begins. With stunning exposed brick walls, and rustic wooden beams and support pillars, I felt like I had been transported back in time to a Wild West saloon. From the low, warm lighting to the fantastic antique furniture and service counters, I quickly forgot about the bustling city that lay beyond its doors.

imageBut what about what’s on sale? From the beautiful, handmade necklaces that would make anyone’s eyes twinkle to the woolen shawls and stylish jackets that would make you the envy of all your friends. From the natural cosmetic products for both men and women (homemade in Canada) to the stunning glassware, cutlery and ornaments that would give your home that much-needed lift. It has it all.

As a person who plans to build their own house at some point, this store gave me wonderful ideas for not only decorating it, but the character I aim to achieve. I went in looking to purchase a gift and came out with a newfound creative outlook. But not only does this gem sell apparel gifts for all, but it has on display a wide range of food products and treats that are enjoyed by all. Teas, sweets, honeys, jams, ginger beer and tonic, as well as highly sought-after spices and flavorings, are only a small glimpse into what is on offer in the food-beverage department.

imageBut, in all honesty, what topped the whole experience off for me was something that lay at the rear of the shop. As I sailed through the different spaces filled with unique gifts and clothing, and ran my fingers along the neat collection of shelved literature, I started to get the caffeine urge.

But how was I going to get a coffee fix in here? Well, I quickly took that statement back. For as I traveled to the back of the store; following the familiar smell of coffee beans and brewing whistles, I soon realized Lavish & Squalor has its own in-store espresso bar. And believe me…its damn good coffee. With an extensive range of coffee and hot tea choices, as well as a selection of baked goods, this store is the reason why I still believe in creativity and retail progression.

I have many friends; both who enjoy retail therapy and the instant pleasure of coffee…so this is the perfect combination of both. And even if you have that partner, spouse, family member or friend who doesn’t like shopping, all you need to do is park them up at the coffee bar with a nice brew in their hand, as you explore the treasures that surround you. With friendly staff, helpful baristas, affordable prices and an unforgettable array of locally sourced products (which you will never find in the big-name chains), this is a place I will come back to, time and time again.

With my family coming to visit me from the Emerald Isle in May, what better place to show them than the delights of Lavish & Squalor.

The premises describes itself as “A Shop where Nostalgia meets Today’s Lifestyle,” and in truth, I couldn’t put it better myself. So get down now and see what all the buzz is about!!! I’m sure you will love it, just as much as I do.

For more information on the store and its range of products, please click  HERE.

Opening Hours are as follows:

Mon to Wed: 11am-7:30pm

Thurs: 11am-8pm

Fri: 11am-8:30pm

Sat: 11am-7pm

Sun: 11am-6pm

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Rowan: The Hidden Gem of the East End

imageYesterday, on my day off from work, I decided to do a bit of sight-seeing, jump on a streetcar and travel to the outskirts of the city of Toronto, to embrace my inner globetrotter.

My travels took me to the quiet, peaceful and stylish neighborhood of Queen Street East. With its astonishing number of quirky, unusual, and individualistic stores, I felt like I was in a whole new land. Being in downtown Toronto all the time, it can be hard to see past all the same popular franchises that are in every country. But as I walked down Queen Street towards the Beach District, I was blown away by the wide selection of independent stores to chose from. From handmade jewellery to independent and affordable clothing lines…it has it all.

But I was in search of something specific; something that no other business could offer. And what this was…was the perfect skin treatment for home use.

In the past, I’ve tried them all. I’ve bought the leading French brands, which ended up too strong for my skin, the drugstore brands which were inexpensive but useless, and of course…I even made my own, with an array of ingredients. Did any of them work, not all all.

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But yesterday I came across a beautiful little shop called ROWAN: Homespun Market & Apothecary, located at 2196 Queen Street East, and all my wishes came true. Not only did they make homemade skin masks, created entirely from natural ingredients, but they had their own entire skin, hair and body-care range called Wildwood.

The store also had on display a wide range of essential oils, sage products, literature, beverages, teas, and jewellery & ornaments created by local designers.

With its clean, rustic decor and white, wood displays, I could not help but feel relaxed and at home as I browsed the items on sale. With its hanging herbs and and quartz crystals, I felt like I was in a place of comfort; full of magic and mystery.

As I looked at the Wildwood range, which were laid out cleverly on a shelf; carved into the letter W, I found what I was looking for. Looking at the list of natural ingredients, I finally decided that the Wildflower and Pink Clay Mask was for me.

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As the very helpful and kind lady at the register cashed my product, she informed me of several workshops that happen on the premises. Not only does the store create wonderful lines, but you can now learn it all from the very best as well.

Bidding farewell to my new favorite beauty haven, I raced to get home and try it out. As the product consists of a clay, powdered substance, only 1 teaspoon of product is required with 1 teaspoon of water. Mixing the 2 together in a small bowl, this created a watery/creamy paste, which I then applied to my face and neck.

As per recommendations, I left the mask on for 10 minutes, and during this time, you can feel the pinkish, brown clay harden quickly on your skin. Not only do you feel that its working, but with the wildflower components…it smells lovely and refreshing.

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When the timer was up, I removed all traces of the clay mask, with cold-lukewarm water, making sure my skin was properly cleansed and patted dry. And what of the results? They were everything I was hoping for. My skin felt so smooth, firm and nourished that I immediately got my housemate to try it as well; with equally pleasing results.

imageROWAN is a fantastic store that everybody needs to visit. Not only is the skincare luxurious, but it is healthy, non allergenic and completely natural. There is definitely something in the Wildwood range for all, as they now offer soaps, creams and even dry shampoo. With all the media surrounding commercial dry shampoos, made from artificial ingredients and their role in increased hair-loss, experts are actually now encouraging customers to buy dry shampoo made with natural ingredients; in order to combat this issue. And now you know where to find one.

If you, like myself, are looking for all the natural alternatives; for an affordable price, then a trip out on the 501 east streetcar to ROWAN is what’s needed.

All information on the Wildwood range can be found by clicking HERE

Information on upcoming workshops can be found HERE.

For great products and great customer service, get down to 2196 Queen Street East today, and see it all for yourself.

Have a magical day my fairy followers.

 

Out with the ‘new’ and in with the ‘old’: How today’s fashionistas are bringing back timeless styles

imageWhether you are a fully fledged fashion guru or a bit of an amateur like myself, you cannot deny that fashion is constantly evolving. Fashion Blogs, Pinterest, Instagram and all types of social media are constantly showing you new ideas, but what if I was to say that the way to discover new fads and trends is not to move forward…but back.  Many will agree with me that in the past two decades, the runways have been somewhat of a disappointment. The 90’s and 00’s seemed to be absent of a signature style that defined that era; whereas the 40’s-60’s modeled characteristics that will go down in history.

 

Take for instance the 1940’s. With World War 2 in motion, you would think that fashion would be the least of people’s worries, but female styles during this decade are what we remember and recreate today. Much attire took the form of afternoon or tea dresses by some.With shoulder pads becoming popular, and button down or wrap-over dresses becoming the next big thing, ladies sported quite a sculpted, pristine look. Despite the limited use of fabric; due to war shortages, the style remained classy and proper.

The 1950’s soon followed and with it brought the slimline waists and so-called ‘circle dresses, which accentuated the bust and hips, as well as creating a style that could flatter all female shapes and sizes. Colors became more vibrant, creating a dress style that not only could be admired by day, but could be remolded and revamped…to be envied by all at night. It was a timeless characteristic that entered more into the public’s awareness, through the fashion efforts of some of Hollywood’s most memorable female star’s of the 50’s.

Actresses like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn showcased this style many times; incorporating it into both their on-screen and off-screen wardrobes. Probably the most photographed actress of this time, sporting this trend was Lucille Ball, whose vibrant personality matched her fashion sense perfectly.

Lastly, the 1960’s…what can I say? Figure hugging and accentuating outfits; both casual and formal were all the rage. As hemlines got shorter, hair got higher, and the introduction of solid prints and matching headbands was in full swing. The 60’s were all about discovering yourself, and releasing previous inhibitions. This era created the mini-dresses and classic, pencil dresses favored by icons like model Brigitte Bardot.

So where does that leave us today? My maternal grandmother once said, as I sat by her feet at her sewing machine, “You know what? There will come a day when all these fashion designers are going to run out of ideas and what I was wearing at your age, will all be back in mode once again. You wait and see.”

And she was right. As a lady who could take a needle and tread to anything and make it into a masterpiece, she had a wonderful fashion sense. She appreciated style and elegance when she saw it, and there are others out there who think the same way. Vintage fashion bloggers are taking the media by storm nowadays; showing us how to not only embrace past trends, but also to make them our own. With fashion…there are no rules. These so-called ‘vintage girls’ are taking those pieces, adding a bit of magic and create masterpieces that not only work well, but honor the past also.

Of the many vintage fashion portals I have come across, one that has stood out to me is that of Instagram Vintage fashionista Rebecca Phippen, whose photos, tips and run-through of outfits are posted regularly. Her vintage and retro styles not only emanate elegance and grace, but promote confidence and personality, which empowers all.

When I go to my wardrobe and look inside, I usually sigh with disappointment. Why? Is it because I do not have the latest look modeled within high-street windows….NOPE. Is it because I cannot afford the likes of Dolce & Gabbana…NOPE. It’s truly because I sometimes lack the styles that will get heads turning…an outfit that will catch someones eye. Because that is what we want in the end. We want the public to go WOW!!!

Embracing the vintage styles can be somewhat daunting, and hit-or-miss, but undoubtedly exciting at the same time. And if you pull it off, this just proves that these trends are timeless.

So what do you think? Got a summer holiday planned? How about going searching the stores or even online for a vintage bathing suit, that personifies the style of the 1950’s. You too could be like the beautiful Debbie Reynolds.

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Or how about embracing the style of a 1960’s Maureen O’Hara on a romantic date, by going for a glamorous solid, figure hugging dress, which exudes confidence and sexiness all at once.

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Model and singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey once said:

“Fashion is inspired by both youth and nostalgia, and draws inspiration from the best of the past.”

So lets get shopping girls. And make sure to add @myrockabillysummer on Instagram for upcoming, revived styles. These looks are not only affordable, but easily found. And just think…you may just awaken your inner goddess in the process.