Earlier in April, I was asked to speak on the expert panel at the Galway Start Up Weekend, Food Tech Event! The event was sponsored by Bank of Ireland and hosted at the epic co-working office space SuperPixelLabs, Galway City. I was excited to visit theSuperPixelLabs on the day which is a brand new and exciting co-work office space in Galway.SuperPixelLabs provides an ecosystem designed to help entrepreneurs and startups succeed. They provide not only office-as-a-service, but also events, resources and a supportive network to help your business thrive. It has to be said, this place is unbelievable!! The offices are full of colour and movement. I definitely want to be working here at some stage!


Anyways, back to the Startup Weekend – Over the course 54 hours, participants experience the highs, lows, fun, and pressure that make up life at a startup. As they work to create a real company, they meet and work with the very best mentors, investors, cofounders, and sponsors who are there to help participants get started. We live in an exciting time when new technologies are changing our interactions and relationships with food. Foodtech is fundamentally changing how we cook, eat, find, share and experience food.

“The hardest part of starting up is starting out.
 At Startup Weekend, you’ll be immersed in the ideal environment for startup magic to happen.”

When surrounded by smart, passionate people and with the best tools and approaches at your disposal, you’ll take giant leaps toward creating a business, becoming a founder, and connecting with the right people and resources. On the panel with me on the day was Olivia Collins of FoodPR.ie, Mark McGann of SuperPixelLabs & Keith Bohana of Bank of Ireland. The MC was Robbie Skuse of Kollect.ie (check him out, I love the Kollect.ie idea!!). We discussed blogging, content creation, website design & photography. My emphasis was on the look & feel of blogs with great content and the need for good photography on a blog. There was a great buzz about the place with the teams eager to ask questions and learn about blogging & design.

BIG congratulations to everyone who attended, sponsored, mentors and of course the winning team themselves; Scanitive. Scanitive is an app which will allow consumers to see how many teaspoons of sugar is in their food and drink purchases. The team included Saileog Droney, Conor Aspal, Jane OConnor, Ciaran Monoghan, Marc Vandenberg and Kim Tighe.

I really enjoyed this event, more than I thought I would to be honest. Theres nothing like being in a room full of people how are geared up and inspired to make and create things!! I loved the passion that everyone brought to he table and to say the chats went on for hours – would be an understatement!!

The next Galway Start Up Weekend, Food Tech Event is in October 2016 and I cannot stress how much fun these events are!! Definitely worth getting involved in. Meeting new people, getting the brain working, having fun and creating things – nothing better!!

Well done to co-ordinator in chief – Olivia Lavelle and team on this amazing addition to the Galway Event’s Calendar.

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On the trail of Irelands brightest stars in Fashion and Design, there really is one place to be, the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards. Now in its 7th year, the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards are not only the one of the hottest dates in Irish Fashion, but a break through showcase of Irelands most innovative, fresh designers. Described as a right of passage for any emerging Irish designer, the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards are certainly that. The show which is listed by Goldenegg Productions and managed by the show-starting Eddie Shanaghan is perfectly constructed and executed by him and his team.

This year, Into The West Blogger Network worked alongside Goldenegg on getting the bloggers the VIP treatment at the fashion events in the city; the Irish Fashion Innovation Awards were one event on our calendar. Fifteen bloggers were selected to attend the awards as VIPs for the evening. The show was held at the Radisson Blu (see our event there here) and was sponsored by Colm Quinn BMW, Hartmanns of Galway, Brown Thomas & the Local Enterprise Office. We arrived to a sparkling reception, brimming with fashion statements and colour. The Irish Fashion innovation Awards being what they are, this is one night in the West’s calendar where the bigger, brighter, avant garde and the more over-the-top you are with your fashion choice the better!

The show, was as always fantastic. The team always produce a fast paced, colourful show with a supreme soundtrack and light show. The designers who stood out for me had to be Fintan Mulholland of the Ones to Watch category, his oversized knits inspired by ballet dancers were stunning, Hazel Greene of the Accessory Designer of the Year category, KiKiNaArt and Vivienne Martin of the Jewellery Designer of the Year category. Caithriona King stole the Millinery show I think with her fascinating creations and our of course, Andrea Tighe, whose pieces wowed the crowd, both in the Millinery Designer of the Year category.

Carla Johnson of Mona Swims was named fashion designer of the year. Student designer of the year was Colin Burke of NCAD. Dee Mangan of Kinsale Leather won accessory designer of the year. Elaine Keogh won millinery designer of the year and jewellery designer of the year to Emma Bourke.

The after show party was at the Veranda room with the Amazing Apples banging out the tunes! We had a drink or two and discussed the show, the designers, blogging and had general Into The West Blogger Network banter afterwards till the late hours. All in all, a wonderful show abundant in fresh ideas, new thinking in design and innovative student designers.

A huge shout out and thank you to Patricia McCrossan and her team at GoldenEgg & Galway Now Magazine who presented an amazing show as always and welcomed us with open arms to join in the fun!! Can’t wait for next year already!

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All the Into The West Blogger Network bloggers in attendance at the awards as VIPs. L – R Ruth, Amie, Colette, Shona, Triona, Laura, Sinéad, Becky, Ruth, Edel and Sandra.

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Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 3.32.21 p.m.Last month, Into the West Blogger Network was a placed as a finalist in the 2016 Accenture Digital Media Awards.  The Accenture Digital Media Awards are the most prestigious Digital Awards in Ireland.The  Accenture digital Media Awards were held in the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road (formally the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel) on Friday 19th February in Dublin. They recognise creativity and innovation across multiple areas of an ever-evolving sector, which includes digital content creation, advertising and marketing, social networking, web design and development. The category we made finalist in was ‘Best Company Using Digital‘. As Creative Director of Into the West Blogger Network, this was a huge honour for me. Sure, Ive been in design and media for almost ten years but I hadn’t ever entered into nor been nominated for an award.

Over the past two years I have put everything I have to created a fresh, young, interesting and ever-evolving brand for Into the West Blogger Network. Every single aspect of its design and branding, from fonts to colours and photography have spilled from my brain and into the universe and so, to be up in a category with such brands as Jameson, Danone Aptaclub, Fáilte Ireland, Permanent TSBand Twin Strangers was such an honour!!


Dresscode: Black Tie and Neon Bling!

Sinéad and I headed up to Dublin early that morning with dresses, handbags, shoes and all things girlie in tow. We stayed DoubleTree by Hilton for the night which was such an experience in itself! Warm Cookies and a smile on arrival was just what we needed, thank you Hilton! After a quick bite, chat and some tweeting at the B Bar, we ran upstairs to get made over!

I wore a stunning Magenta (hello BRANDING!!) raw silk skirt I bought in Thailand last summer teamed with a simple, elegant black top, black Kurt Geiger shoes and pearl earrings beside my black plugs. Sinéad then did my makeup and I felt like a goddamn princess for the evening! Sinead wore a dazzling black and beaded gown from new Galway based store Ellie & Dal – she turned a few heads for sure!

We headed down to the event, where we then met up with our friends from An Púcan who were up for Best Start Up Using Social Media and we all represented for the Mighty West for the evening. Being the only fab ladies at a table with the most dapper men in the room was as always, brilliant fun!

The event itself was a show stopper!! Think ‘Party Like A Hilton’ vs 90’s Rave scene!! I kid you not, the theme for the evening was Neon Rave!! Im talking glowsticks, UV paint and 90’s dance music (the old raver in me certainly came out!!). There were photo-booths, competitions (of which we won two – one for best group photo and one for best selfie – Doug from An Pucan won this one, the handsome git!). There were fire dancers, hoola-hoop performers and much more. The awards were given out during out four course, lavish meal complete with endless wine and bubbly! After the awards, the house band Good Times absolutely killed it with the tunes as we danced the night away on the sparkly dance floor, followed by Podge back on the decks with a 90’s set for us old skool ravers! (ME!)

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And the Winner is…

Okay, so we didnt win but Im not surprised not am I upset in any way! Um, hello!! We were up against massive competition and to be really honest, making finalist and having a much need night out was a winner for me! Sinéad and I were long overdue an evening out to let out hair down and where better than at the Hilton! The start of this year has been super tough for me personally so being able to attend this event really brought me some much – needed happiness!

Huge congrats of course goes to the boys at An Pucán who won bronze in Best Start Up Using Social Media category and Matt Healy (Whiskey Blogger) who also won bronze for his blog Potstilled and the guys and gals at Maximum Media who won Media Brand of the Year! We made lots of new friends, danced the night away and had a wonderful time. Definitely the highlight of my year so far and I cannot wait to see what else it brings! Roll on Accenture Digital Media Awards 2017!

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Photos 1& 3 by Hazel Johnston


** NOTE: The Double Tree Hotel is now the Clayton Hotel Burlington Road.

Last week I was invited to attend the 2nd birthday of one of my favourite stores here in Galway – Amber! Located on Marys Street, Amber stock wonderful range of products from all around the world including beautiful jewellery from India and Morocco, singing bowls from Tibet, powerful and stunning gemstones and healing crystals from South America, Incense from India, the bestselling Angel cards and books, Natural organic oils, soaps and more.. Amber believe in the power of positive energy so each and every product is sent with high vibrational intent, ensuring that your product is ready to use the minute you receive it.

I first came across Amber when they first moved to Galway. They took up residence in an empty store that held alot of memories for me. You see, when I was a teenager, my first job was in that store. At the time it was a launderette and I spent many hours there serving the people of Galway! When Amber arrived I hadn’t been in the newly refurbished building in probably four years so I just had to go in for a look. The store (and website) is a treasure trove of all things spirit infused. The moment you walk in the door, you will feel the good energy in the place. If like me, you recoginze different energies, Amber s such a nice place to be if yours is a little ‘off’. This is helped by the lovely girls themselves, Jessica, Heidi and Fiona who run the store but more than that, they help and work with the people who come to them for guidance.

Besides retail, Amber offers all the alternative products one may need for meditation, healing, relaxation, sound healing, tarot, reading etc. and they run lots of evening and weekend workshops too! From Mindfulness Meditation Workshops to Pendulum Energy Workshops, Understanding Our Female Energies, Angel and Tarot Card readings to Womb Blessings and Journey Through The Chakras & Pendulum Workshops too  – Amber offer so much more to people who want to learn and work with their spiritual/ holistic side. The girls who work there, Jess, Heidi and Fiona are a wealth of knowledge and are always on hand to help our their customers, have a chat and work with finding you the product which is best for you.

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On the day of the birthday I arrived to bubbles and treats! Th store was looking like an Aladdin’s cave of sparkles and wonder, the air was infused with sage and incense and there was tons of people popping in and out all day. I decided to avail of the Henna tattoos being done on the day by the lovely Vcenza.

Vcenza is from Co. Down and has worked with Henna for some time. I had heard some mixed review about Henna art but Vcenza assured me that the one she uses is all natural and no chemicals! The Henna she uses is natural Henna powder mixed with water, lemon juice and essential oils. She then piped the mixture through a funnel or icing bag onto her clients hand. The mixture is black and wet when it goes onto your skin but dries within a half an hour and starts flake off soon after. It smells earthy like the Henna plant or grass and the lemon smell is also very prevalent. Once dry it looks like yellow ink from a yellow marker, a day later its a gorgeous shade of brown and fading slightly. I have to say, I REALLY like it and have gotten very used to it on my hand.. Check out Vcenza here on Facebook (she does parties and weddings etc.) 
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Later in the day I had a Chakra reading by Shaman Janine aka Gentle Warrior. Janine is a Shaman and healer hailing from South Africa (my favourite accent of all time!!) She does a variety of Shaman work but focuses very much so on women and womens issues such as self empowerment, healing, women’s bodies and issues. She is trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming, Animal healings, Tarot reading, Indian Head massage and more. I sat with Janine for about a half hour. She read my Chakras, and opened up the channels of communication for me. Amazingly, she read me spot on and gave me some amazing words of wisdom and  guidance.

I am fully aware and understand that people may be sceptical to this type of work but once you allow yourself to listen and be willing to try it and will to receive it, its pretty amazing how much you learn about yourself. I suppose people have this image in their heads of people who do this work as a pagan witches with long dark hair and crystal ball but this couldn’t be further form the truth. Janine isn’t there to read your palm and tell you how many kids you’re going to have or when you will marry or die but she’s there with a direct line to something powerful which she taps into. Her messages and words, if you let them, have the power to guide you a little and maybe help you when you find yourself at a crossroads. She is a lovely, open and happy person who beams with happiness and love for her job and her journey! I really buzz of happy people and situations so I felt this with her.

Janine gave me the piece of paper which she was writing on during our session with the messages she had for me. She went through everything thing really well and explained evening to me too which was wonderful. I left feeling a great energy, a boost and somewhat lighter!  I felt I clicked with Janine on such a high level, I think we view life in quite a similar way and I had such a good laugh with her after my reading. Find Janine online at www.yourgentlewarrior.com – she does a range of courses and workshops in Ireland and in Amber too, you wont regret it!

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All in all, Amber‘s 2nd birthday celebrations were great success and I am happy I made it down to join in the celebrations. I met so many new and interesting people and made some new friends too which in my book is always a plus! Be sure to drop in for a look next time you’re in town, even to pop in and browse this gorgeous store is solo nice!! The energy in the store is super relaxed and you will definitely get lost in all their loveliness!

Find Amber online at www.holisticproductsireland.com, on Facebook too and on Twitter and Instagram too and tell them I sent you also! Find Janine online at www.yourgentlewarrior.com and check out Vcenza here too!


L-R: Fiona, Jess & Heidi

Have you been to Amber? does this sound like heaven to you too? Let me know in the comments or tweet me! x

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