Sunday, 4 March 2018

5 Ways To Make Your Next Trip Easier

Now that we take so many trips together, Katy and I have gotten into a routine of working out what we need to know before we go. It's a fine art for us that just means that when we land in a country that we might not know very well, or at all, it's all smooth sailing from there on out. Some things are apps, some things are tips and some things are just little practises that we've picked up along the way that will make your next trip run smoother than ever.

1: Find a taxi app!
There are three inevitable things in life; death, taxes and the fact that taxis at the airport taxi rank will always cost you more than if you can ring or book with a company another way. Travelling in 2018 has made it easier than ever to find a cheaper alternative; and so whether you opt for Uber, iTaxi or a local alternative, have that taxi app downloaded or that taxi number stored in your phone. This sounds like something really basic, but some journeys can be less than half the price if you do them this way instead of just hopping into a taxi at the rank; and that money saved is another beer, so don't waste it!

2: Know where you're staying (and write it down)
I have to say that Katy and I are the worst for purely relying on the Airbnb app to let us know when we're staying, that is until we got to Nuremberg, where we found the building only for our phones to die. We ended up sitting in a building next to a plug socket so I could check the apartment number and where the keys were left; so from then on we always make sure to save it on both phones and write it down where possible. It's just another way to ensure you don't hit an infuriating snag when all you want to do is get to your accommodation and drop your bags off.

Bonus Tip: Ideally - learn how the address should sound in the language of the country that you're in, because it can be difficult to get this across in a taxi if you're unsure of how the letters should sound.

3: Find a place to eat for the night you get in
If you land in the middle of the night and eat on the plane, or land with enough time to actually explore, then this really isn't really necessary; however we've done that 'landing at 10pm starving and trying to find a 24hr Supermarket' deal before, and it ends up with everyone grumpy and hungry. So, before you go, or even on the way to where you're staying - find somewhere that's going to be open to get that midnight feast sorted. Garages are a good option, McDonalds, Tesco in some country, Carrefour... The options really can be endless, as long as you scope out some ideas before you go. Thank me when you're sitting at home with Pepsi Twist and a full stomach.

4: Know the best way to travel, and how you use the transportation
Some places we've been taxis have worked out cheaper for both of us than getting trains, but it's worth taking a look into the estimates of both to help you to decide how you're going to get about. If you're going to head out on public transportation; know the rules. Some trams don't let you off without scanning a ticket, some buses don't let you give them money because you should have bought a ticket before at the stop. Ticket machines for both directions can be on just one side of the road, sometimes they're in newsagents and sometimes you can use contactless card whilst you're actually on your chosen method of travel. Read up before you go to save yourself looking like a tit, or potentially even getting a mega fine you hadn't budgeted for.

Those are just some of the tips we have to make your next trip a little easier. Got your own tips? Definitely leave them down below so everyone can reap the benefits!

Sammy xo.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Make Up Geek Brushes

Now bear with me here because I know, when you think of Make Up Geek you think of those separate eye shadow pans and bright pigments, but this post is so worth reading if you're in the market for new brushes. Admittedly, you might be something like me - that is, always in the market for new brushes - and so when Make Up Geek asked me if I'd like to review their brushes, I absolutely jumped at the chance. Not only are they sleek, cruelty free and all synthetic, but they also won't break the bank if you want to grab yourself a full set.

I got quite a few and so it makes sense to start with face brushes and then move onto eyes, and I have to admit, out of the lot I was sent, the face brushes impress me a lot less than the eye brushes, but that's definitely not to say that they're not brushes. There were two that really weren't for me, and they are the Angled Stippling Brush ($17) and the Cheek Highlighter Brush ($10) - but these are definitely my least favourites, purely because of how I personally apply my makeup - both are stippling type brushes. Though I will never be a stippling kind of person, these are good quality brushes, with next to no shed even with a few washes. If stippling is your deal, these are good brushes that are definitely going to last a long while - and so I won't write them off entirely at the minute.

Next up are two that I definitely can appreciate, the Face Buffer Brush ($18) and the Angled Contour Brush ($10). The Buffer Brush is similar to an old favourite of mine, and not only is this good to apply foundation (though nowhere near as flawlessly as a sponge for me personally), but it's great to really buff out that harsh contour when you got a little too over eager with the bronzer. It's soft, hasn't ended up shedding or out of shape after multiple washes and it's definitely worth the money that you're going to drop on this, especially if a certain brands perfect face brush was an old school favourite for you. What I'm quickly discovered whilst writing this post is that I haven't been using any of the brushes for their correct intent - and so we'll quickly move onto the Angled Contour Brush that I've been using perfectly for highlight. It's soft, has short bristles and is angled perfectly to get that beautiful sweep of highlight I'm always look for - for $10, if you can buy just one of these face brushes, this should definitely be the one.

The two eye brushes I was very, very excited to add to my collection were the Pointed Crease Brush ($8.50) and the Small Crease Brush ($8.50). I truly never know what type of brush that I'm supposed to be using on my crease and so it's definitely nice to have brushes that have their use clearly printed on the outside, so even for makeup novices like me they're easy to pick out and use. These are both soft and fluffy, pick up product easily and are big enough to not feel fiddly, whilst being smaller enough to get that perfect crease blend without ending up with shadow by the arch of your brows. Similarly, the Outer V Brush ($8.50) is a nice, compactly bristled brush that is perfect for picking up that darker colour and keeping it where you wanted. If you're the queen of the accidentally smoky eye, when what you really wanted was to deepen a colour slightly, this is definitely the perfect brush for you.

Nearly there, gang! Just two brushes left; one my least favourite, and one my most. We can certainly start with the least; the Soft Dome Brush ($8.50). Once again - this isn't a bad brush as such, but it just really doesn't fit in with my typically makeup routine; it's too big and fluffy for a crease or dome brush, and it's way to fluffy to pack colour onto my lid. If you have use for a brush this shape, this is a good one, but I definitely feel as though this doesn't add anything to my makeup brush collection. My favourite brush though, easily, is the Bent Liner Brush ($8.50) - and I have to say I have a solid 8 of these in my collection, and they definitely make liner so much easier. Some are easily split, and others are rubber instead of actual bristles, but this is the perfect bristle brush that genuinely seems to stay in shape no matter how often I wash it.

Overall, the brushes are beautiful - they're classic grey with gunmetal barrels, the bristles are soft and wash well and overall - they're affordable. If you're looking for new brushes, Make Up Geek should definitely be your first stop.

If you've tried any of the brushes, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies however all opinions are my own - please view my disclaimer for more information.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

How To Make Sure You Get A Good Review On Airbnb

We've all been there - you think you've been the best guest that you can be and someone leaves you a neutral review. It can be super annoying, but there are definitely ways to ensure that you get a good review on Airbnb, even if it feels at the time like it's all gone tits up. Some of these things are just tiny little notes, but they're things that we've had hosts comment on in the past; and so they're definitely things that we can vouch for.

If you eat it, unwrap it, or finish it up...
Throw your rubbish away. Know the bin procedure of the country that you're in - whether you take it to a communal bin store in an apartment, or to a dumpster in the street in place of a wheeley bin, make sure you get rid of all of your crap in the place you're staying. Nobody wants to deal with other people's crap, so take it out on your way (and remember bathroom bins and whatnot too). It seems like such a small thing, but I imagine if you go in every single week and have to clean up after other people, it can be really, really annoying to find that somebody else had neglected to sort out their rubbish. Also, wash your dishes; nobody wants to scrape used cheese off a strangers plate.

If you break something...
Get it sorted. If you break crockery or plates, replace them; they'll cost like a euro and your host will definitely appreciate it. If it's something bigger but you can fix it? Then do it. I've climbed on chairs to fix blinds, hooked curtains back up and rejigged shower doors we've shifted by accident. If the problem is beyond fixing? Let the host know straight away and be sure to offer to pay for any damages that you've caused. This might not be good enough to get a good review if you've knocked a hole in the wall, but it definitely might not get you a bad one if you've gone out of your way to be as friendly and helpful as possible to deal with the problem.

If you have neighbours...
Respect them. The one vaguely bad review we have ever gotten has come from a noise complaint that actually turned out to be mistaken identity with the house next door as we were just playing uno and getting drunk on blue wine. Nevertheless, keep the music low-ish, keep your shouting outside to a minimum and try not to smoke or drink right next to other people's houses. Have fun, just do it like you would have fun at your mum's house, with those judgey neighbours that she has.

If everything has gone smoothly...
Fantastic! Make sure you check in with your host as your leaving, reassure them where you left your keys and for if any reason anything is broken (even if replaced!) or you can't get those bins out (one apartment in particular we needed a key for the bin sheds) let them know! Keep them updated with your trip and explain any issues; most hosts are understanding as long as you don't leave them coming into an apartment full of mismatched crockery and bags of rubbish with no clear explanation. 

So there is it, a few strong steps to probably get that good review, even if your trip went a little tits up (and it can happen to the best of us, even when you're just there to play uno and drink blue wine).

If you have any tips, do let me know below!

Sammy xo.

Monday, 26 February 2018

How To Spend 14 Hours In Warsaw

7:32am: Arrive in Warsaw, absolutely desperate for the toilet and horrendously on your period. Seek out toilet by walking in a big circle around the station. Find toilet, laugh along with a woman talking to you in Polish as to not seem rude. Change menstrual cup, complain about your life, wash hands, find an uber.

7:37am: Try and find out which McDonalds you should choose out of a long list of Warsaw McDonalds. Pick one at random, wait for Uber whilst wishing literally anything was open as your hands are turning blue and the fog is so thick you cannot see the end of your nose.

7:40am: Take Uber to McDonalds of choice, whilst constantly being offered Werthers Originals by the driver (who doesn't have the heat up even nearly high enough).

7:42am: Arrive at McDonalds, which is still far, far too cold. Find out they make up for it by offering either two hash browns OR large fries with your breakfast. Absolutely cram it down your throat as you've been awake since 3:00am and on a coach since 5:00am. Promptly fall out of the door when leaving McDonalds, much to the amusement of your girlfriend.

8:31am: Decide to look for the ghetto wall, which should be just seven minutes THAT Way

8:33am: Maybe that way?

8:34am: No, definitely the first way

8:37am: Still looking....

8:49am: Thoroughly sick of looking. We passed this building when we started 15 minutes ago didn't we?

8:57am: After google mapping the ghetto wall, find it. Out of site. Behind a locked gate. Give up on ever seeing it, cross a dual carriageway in a dangerous way to get to the mall, find a Starbucks (thoroughly desperate for the toilet again).

10:00am: Having visited Bath and Bodyworks, H&M, Bershka and the usual cosmetic shops, make the decision to head into the old town. Use iTaxi and get a really nice taxi driver who is happy to act as a tour guide. Pass many beautiful buildings, end up in the old town square and find out that the symbol of Warsaw is a mermaid, which feels like some sort of sign.

10:30am: Having wandered for a while, find a vent from a bakery and stand on it to stay warm, eventually admit defeat and decide to brace the cold (now wearing gloves and earmuffs) to get to see Sarkis: Angel Rainbow. Take pictures in front of a giant neon rainbow, guess the name of pictures in the gallery, take cool instagram shots

11:22am: Stop for a cocktail, in order to brace yourself from the cold you know is coming, of course.

12:40am: Call for a taxi to get to the Neon Museum, arrive and take approximately 20,000 pictures outside with signs that aren't even on. Once again make a mad dash to the toilet, buy tickets and head in.

2:10pm: After spending nearly 3 times the average visit time in the museum, and armed with photo after photos of bright coloured lights, head out to take more with the signs outside. Try to find somewhere to eat, with no luck. Watch your girlfriend jump on a zipwire, get chatted up by a 14 year old. Head out to get yet another taxi back to the old town.

2:40pm: It's getting dark - head into Tiger, buy things that we definitely don't need but love anyway, come out desperate for food.

3:20pm: Pizza hut is full, not a good sign. Walk to another place on google maps.

3:40pm: Also full, is it national pizza day or something? 

3:50pm: Finally find pizza place with heat, alcohol and a spare table. Settle self at table, order beer, bask in the warmth, drink beer and order food.

4:00pm: All of the lights go off. Then someone goes to fix them and they come on again. Repeat this for at least 8 further times until the lights stay on for good. Eat the best pizza probably in the whole world (you were hungry, okay?), finish beer, pay up the extortionate (not) £16 and head back out into the night.

5:40pm: Google maps back to the old town to find out you walked in a huge circle to get from tiger to this pizza place, and it was approx ten minutes down the road. Throw a strop and threaten to sit down if you don't get a taxi. Realise you're being dramatic and the Old Town is only 15 minutes away, grumpily agree to walk.

5:53pm: Absolutely desperate for a wee. Again. How long until the old town?

6:23pm: Arrive, desperate for a wee, only to find out cafes here don't really have toilets. Finally find one in a tiny tea cafe that you have to go downstairs to find. Aim to empty your cup out due to aforementioned horrendous period, only a woman knocks on the door the whole time you're in there so instead finish up and head back to drink pepsi in a dedicated tea cafe.

7:13pm: After playing peekaboo with the cutest baby in the world for a while, head out into the cold to wander for a while.

7:45pm: Bored of wandering, head back to the town centre, find a tiny bar and try to get across the fact that you want vodka AND coke in the same glass. Finally arrange this to drink a glass of what tastes like you imagine turps would taste like. Drink it anyway whilst looking out of a window that appears to be made of scuffed plexiglass.

8:30pm: Pleasantly buzzed due to the half a bottle of vodka you've now had, head back to the coach station. 

9:14pm: Board, get comfy and settle down into your seats, having been awake for 18 hours, walked 27,000 steps and possibly contracted frostbite in your extremities. Vow to come back one day.

Sammy xo.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Jamie's Italian Liverpool Review

In the past I've done a review of Jamie's Italian in Covent Garden in London but I've never been to the one just across the water from me, in Liverpool. When they invited us to give it a go, I jumped at the chance - I wanted to know whether the menu had stood the test of time, and also whether all branches were as good as that initial one was. So, last month we head out into a very rainy Liverpool One to fill our stomachs and find out whether the hype I created for them last time I went still stood.

 I'd like to start by saying that in a city where food can be eye-wateringly expensive, it was nice to see a menu that offered two course for £11.95 (or £14.95 if you opt for dessert, which you definitely should). Obviously you have to pay your drinks on top of that, but it still works out being a pretty affordable, and very filling, lunch - I say lunch, but this is served 12pm-7pm Monday to Friday, so this could definitely also be a very cheap date night. Katy opted for the Elderflower Spritz to drink (elderflower liqueur, prosecco and soda) which was nice, but really not for me, and I opted for the sugar free karma cola, which is nice but has quite a strong after taste of celery, so take that as you will.

Instead of opting for a starter and a main we opted for a main and a dessert, but we couldn't turn down the garlic bread from the a la carte menu. This was really tasty, and came as a tiny load of bread (is there anything more satisfying than a mini version of something else? The correct answer here is, of course, no) with whole cloves of roasted garlic as well as garlic butter and melty, strong cheese. I loved all of the meal, but this was definitely a highlight so whether you order is as a starter or a side, this is the item on the menu you should definitely be forking out for.

Next up came the mains - and I went for the steak and chips as this was so good in Covent Garden I had to see how it measured up. The meals seemed a lot bigger than I remember them being (and the pictures on my other post do seem to support that) but that's not a bad things - chips have gotten skinnier and steak has gotten bigger for this dish - it could have been a lot rarer for me, but it was good nonetheless. Katy opted for potato gnocci for her main and it was delicious and filling in a tomato sauce. The mains on the set menu are classics, nothing exciting  or particularly unusual, but definitely very, very good.

Finally, dessert. Our eyes were definitely bigger than out bellies when we got here because we absolutely, 10,000 percent didn't need any dessert here, but did opt for it anyway. Katy opted for the chocolate brownie with popcorn and salted caramel ice cream, and I opted for the mandarin sorbet with blackberries. The brownie was amazing, but a little dense after the meal, and so the sorbet was the surprising winner here - with the light, sweet sorbet combined with the sour coulis and the berries, this is the one to beat for me.

All in all, we ate a lot, drank a lot and came out paying less than £50 on the bill, so Jamie's is definitely worth a look into when it comes to dining in Liverpool. The staff are super friendly, the restaurant is beautifully decorated and the food is definitely worth a lot more than you're going to pay for it.

Sammy xo.
Contains PR samples/items gifted to me by companies however all opinions are my own - please view my disclaimer for more information.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

#CarnLIVal ; Why We Do It, And How It Helps

When we originally started planning events for people in Liverpool, I have to be honest, it was completely an opportunity to get drunk and have a gossip session. I didn't know that many people in Liverpool and I was totally going out on a limb, I didn't even know whether people would come or not; but when they did, and I saw the willingness to get together, spend time with other bloggers, donate to charity and generally just support each other - I was totally hooked. I wanted to plan more, I wanted to do more to help those around me.

*Post written in collaboration with Slater and Gordon, however all views, opinions, words and, sadly, sister stories are my own.*

So we did. We started planning more and more events, we tailored them to support causes and charities around where we lived. We donated to homeless shelters, women's shelters, addiction support groups, donated sanitary products to youth groups and schools that needed them. We became the pioneers of events that pushed people to give more and support people - and it worked. People came, had a good time, took part in some games and - through all this - we got a lot of money together in order to support the people that needed support, that deserved support.

Now, it's a tradition. We all get together in a bar, drink gin, do a raffle, get festive, easter-ey or summer-ey, we eat good food, do raffles, chat; donate food, sanitary products, warm clothes. It's just a little thing that we do, something that stemmed from us being super selfish - but turned into something great, and really selfless at the hands of everyone that comes. When Slater & Gordon Lawyers started their #mycommunityandme campaign, I knew this was something I wanted to talk about.

The campaign is essentially about the importance of pride in your community - and I've never been prouder as when I see all of those local bloggers turn up willing to help those in need. It's nothing big like community centres do, or charities, but it's something little that we arrange, that we do because we care about the local causes that we're supporting - we all do it because we're proud of the community that we're in, and want to do as much as possible to support people within it.

I'd love to know about pride shown in your community, or if you've been to any great events that support the people around you.

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Heteronormative Holidays

Holidays are a huge part of my life, but that doesn't always mean that they're smooth sailing, and likely even less so if you're a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, and twice fold again if you're travelling with a partner or group of people in the same community. This isn't a post about how this needs to change (you can totally find one of those that I wrote a while back here) though it really, really does, but this one is a little more light hearted, because I want to talk about how awkward it can be when I go on holiday and rock up with my fiancee. I know, it's unusual, me being awkward - but stick with me here.

Let me make it clear that for most LGBTQIA+ people travelling, feeling awkward is often the least of our problems; but it's still definitely not nice. It's all too often that Katy and I rock up to apartments and hotels to be faced with staff who laugh whilst apologising because they 'didn't realise we were friends/sisters/colleagues and so they've given us a double bed!' They offer to change it for us, they point out extra beds, hand out extra linen. When it happens it's awkward to explain, more awkward not to - it's something that Katy and I have come to joke and laugh about, but the fact it's happening in 2018 isn't actually all that funny at all. 

When you start to notice casual heteronormativity in holiday destinations, it seems to spread like wildfire - men on stag dos asking if you and your sister would like to nip out with them for a drink, people round every corner telling you if you go to certain bars you might find a 'nice man', not being able to sit on that bloody sofa to play cards and drink because it's set up as a second bed for the phantom man in your relationship. That was all a bit dramatic, but you get me. It gets old quick when people always assume that your girlfriend is your wing man, a relation to you, or someone you know well enough to share a bathroom but not a bedroom with.

As attitudes get slightly more liberal, travelling gets easier every time we go away (and to be fair, I just care a lot less than I did the first time around). It gets easier again when see that some companies now are offering gay friendly holidays (and of course, they're generally LGBTQIA+ inclusive, though they don't always state it that way). Getting to a villa where you can sit on the sofa without having to battle with a duvet that you don't need! People realising that you and the woman you're travelling with might want to share a bed! What larks! Such a novelty!

Seriously though - this post is all my own opinions but is in collaboration with James Villa Holidays, who are going out of their way to make their villas LGBTQIA+ and gay friendly. By rights I know all holidays and venues should be - but until that's a reality, this could be a godsend to people starting to travel as a couple; or to anyone who just wants to stay somewhere you don't have to worry about justifying yourself to; until that's every location, they're definitely worth a peek.

If you have any 'is that your sister' stories, please leave them below; after writing this I'm worried maybe me and Katy just look super alike.

Sammy xo.
Post written in collaboration with James Villa Holidays, however all views, opinions, words and, sadly, sister stories are my own.