Friday, 27 February 2015

The Cohorted Debate

Now, I hate to be one of those people that takes their issues with brands public - but in a modern day world, it's a game changer. Brands that could, and do, ignore your emails because they'd rather not talk about the content now face the public scrutiny of the issues if they're posted on social media. So, after weeks of trying to get something from Cohorted about those rumours about sourcing and discontinued products, after replies off some of the brands that they're selling on the site, and after some frustratingly vague replies to other people - I did something I'm not all that proud of (although suffice to say, it worked) and took to Twitter to ask for a statement.

Cohorted Box March

For those of you who missed it - Cohorted met their first roadblock when Benefit officially denounced any knowledge of supplying the brand with their products. There was a scuffle, but ultimately Benefit said there's little that they can do, but beware if you're buying product from them. After emailing other companies, both Bobbi Brown and Hourglass said the same (with Benefit further reiterating their point through email correspondence.) Up until Tuesday, Cohorted had stayed aloof and mysterious - then, it all changed. After posting a picture of the Bobbi Brown reply email, saying that Cohorted doesn't source from them - Cohorted suddenly found the time to reply. So did it clear up the confusion? ... Not so much. But here's what we learned -

1: Cohorted source from "reputable and established UK companies" and are "100% genuine" - they themselves are a registered UK company. 
To me, this seems no more clear than it was before they replied - it seems strange to me that they wouldn't just source from companies direct as opposed to even taking the risk with other companies, but take from this what you will.

2: They're more than happy to explain how discontinuing products works - multiple times.
They're not so willing to discuss paying nearly RRP for products that are months past discontinuation, some older - they will however tell me that these come from the brand, to a wholesale company and are then sold to brands like Cohorted. This process can take months, hence the age of the products when they go on sale.

3: They always price their stock fairly
We might have to disagree on this one. I buy discontinued make-up, knowing that it's in my hands if it's bad for me or it's out of date or whatever - however, I buy it basing the price on my knowledge that it had been discontinued for however long. I'm not sure it's fair to lead people into believing that they're getting current products at a bargain, when the products really might have been discontinued for months. Check your prices on Amazon, check the Company Cosmetics Store - make sure you know how much you're paying for discontinued products, and if it's too much.

So is Cohorted legit? Well, isn't that the big question. For me, there's just too much going on for me to consider buying from them. I find it strange they're not sourcing directly from companies, I find it borderline underhand that they're knowingly selling discontinued products to people with prices in line with their newer products. Is it illegal? No, Cohorted said they'd leave it to the discretion of the buyer, and obviously I would always do the same - but just make sure you know what you're buying, and be aware that it hasn't been sourced directly from it's brand.

What do you think of Cohorted?

Sammy xo.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Moving Forward - Healthy Relationships

Some of you may have seen my tweet yesterday that I'd finally found it within myself to walk away from some toxic relationships in my life. These weren't romantic relationships, but friendships - and after a conversation with Frankie, it occurred to me that I wished that I'd known earlier that just because these relationships weren't romantic, and just because they weren't physically abusive - it didn't mean that they were healthy relationships that I should be in.

Toxic relationships are defined in a number of ways - some are physically abusive, but that wasn't the case in the relationships I was in. I felt insecure and worthless, like nothing I said was ever right - my depression means that I have a very little self-worth to begin with, but I was made to feel like the problems that seem overwhelming to me were insignificant, that I came second in the relationships - when I brought grievances up, no matter how calmly, I was made to feel as though I was picking a fight, forced into backing down and apologising for my feelings. I was frozen out and ignored, left to apologise until I hit on the right thing I was being ignored for - things that were important to me were brushed off as unimportant. I stopped wanting to share things that made me happy, or things I was doing, or things that mattered to me; as they didn't seem important to the other people in these relationships anyway.

Toxic Warning Sign

Things came to a head for me during a particularly low point last week - where the people in these relationships had little interest; one even seemed to attempt to one-up the problems that I was facing. Upset and hurt, it made me consider whether these people are ones that I want in my life. I've met so many people through blogging, and through forging relationships with people like Katy, Rachel, Emma, Summer and Lauren - I've realised that that's what friendships are supposed to be like - encouraging, strong, supportive. These are the kinds of women that I hope will be by my side, or at least only a whatsapp away, for the foreseeable future - not people from relationships that make me feel such self hatred that I don't believe that I can do any better.

Relationships that make you feel worthless, insecure, insignificant, bullied, belittled, hurt, insulted - all of these are toxic relationships; whether they're friendships, romances or family connections. You are worth so much more. You should be in relationships that lift you up, grow you. It's hard to walk away from relationships that make you feel this way - but it's a necessary evil. I stand on the cusp of a future with only positive relationships in my life, and it's so worth it.

Have you ever had to suffer toxic relationships, how did you get through it?

Sammy xo.
If you're worried you might be in a toxic relationship, you can find five basic signs you might be here. If you're in an physically abusive relationship - please, please search out help, or call Refuge on 0808 2000 247.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Etiquette I Don't Get(iquette)

I'm naturally a horrendously awkward person (just to demonstrate this point, I've laughed at the title of this post for about three minutes straight) and there are a lot of things in life that have silent social etiquette rules which I just don't understand, at all. I brought this up on the bbloggers chat with a topic that I'll get onto in a minute, and it was strangely reassuring to find that I wasn't the only one. It got me thinking though, about how many things I wish I had the social etiquette answers to, so I thought I'd share them with you - in the genuine hope that someone can explain the etiquette that I don't get(iquette) (seriously, I'm hilarious, I know you're laughing inwardly).

Fancy etiquette

Shopping At Mac
Ah, the straw that broke the camel's back - the one that kicked off the topic. I don't understand shopping at Mac, at all. It's like a counter, but in shop form - like some warped Argos with no obvious system. I don't understand why there's no logical system - who do I ask for things? The moody looking girls doing makeovers? Do I queue and ask the girls behind the till? Do I look around in confusion before I inevitably leave on the brink of tears? It's always been the latter for me - but I'm assuming there's a better system than that. For the love of god, somebody explain to me how shopping at the Mac shop works.

Almost Strangers and Public Transport
We've all been there - you leave work and realise in horror you're headed out with someone that you know, but you don't really know. You make awkward chitchat for a while, only to realise that you're about to board the same public transport. How does this work? Is it acceptable to part ways and sit separately, or do you now both have to sit together in uncomfortable, barely-there conversation, even though both of you know that it's painful for each side? Am I still allowed to put my headphones in and blast heavy metal music? See, these are the questions!

Calling Somebody Your Friend
This is one I struggle with, especially as I meet more and more people through blogging. Sometimes I have an overwhelming urge to call people my friend (not to their face, in a "hello, friend" fashion, more like when talking about them in conversation to a third party) but stop myself, because I'm not sure how well you have to know a person before it's acceptable to officially call them a friend. Is it only me that worries about this? Also, whilst we're at it - how old is too old to officially have a "best friend"?

When Is It Not Okay To Text
This is one that I really struggle with, because except for really formal occasions, or really sombre occasions, I thoroughly believe that there is never a time that it's not okay to text. I don't mean permanently attached to the phone, ignoring those around you texting, but more like dropping an answer or checking somebody's okay sort of text, a four second job. Is there a time it's never okay to text? Am I being really rude without realising?

Working Out If It's Flirting
This is the last one, but one of the biggest ones. What's the etiquette for finding out whether somebody is naturally flirty, or they're actually flirting with you? Is it okay to straight up ask? Do you just need to work around it until you end up making out or one of you ends up married? 

These are dilemmas that I hope might make you laugh, but genuinely - if you have the answers to any of them at all, I am begging you to share them with me and the rest of the world. Share the wisdom, guys! What etiquette are you unsure of?

Sammy xo.

If you liked this you might like: Etiquette I Don't Get(iquette) Pt.2

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Paperself Tattoo Me*

If you know me - you'll know that I'm right at the beginning of my adventure into big girl tattoos. I'm about two in, with one on the horizon - and I'm always looking for something new. So, when talking to their press team and it was suggested that I might like to give Paperself's new Tattoo Me range, I couldn't contain my excitement. Non-commital tattoos that I could wear like jewellery? Yes, please. I've always pledged to keep my tattoos black and grey, so a company offering real looking alternatives to the standard gold and silver I see floating around was very well received by me.

Adult Temporary Tattoos

I was gifted the My Favourite Things - Charm Bracelet set* which is inspired by a Victorian tailoring room. It's probably not something I would have picked for myself, but I've really fallen in love with the dress form and collar charms - so they were actually a really nice fit. These go on exactly like those temporary tattoos you had when you were a kid (or the kind you get in Cheeto packets if you live in Europe) so you just cut them to size and then press some wet cotton wool or kitchen paper across the back. Word to the wise - these takes a few attempts to get right, the bracelets in particular, you need to work out how to cut them to size and try and get them to fit together. It's fiddly, but it does soon click. Also, do not get the underside wet - they won't stick at all if you do.

Okay, all that out of the way - hold them under the wet cloth for thirty seconds and voile, new tattoo, no pain. You can then add the charms, or you can cut the attachment loop bits off the charms and wear them as separate tattoos altogether. These last a solid 2 showers. I'd say two days but none of mine came off due to wear, just in the shower - so I'd say about 2 showers is your max. That's pretty good going though, I reckon, especially for something so delicate looking.

Temporary Wrist Tattoo

These are difficult to photograph as the finished product has a slight sheen. They have some gorgeous designs, I love these 3 Of A Kind Cats, and with the bracelet set retailing for £6 for two sheets, I'm not sure you can really complain. It's a shame that these will be hidden under my sleeves for the next few weeks, but when it gets warmer and closer to festival season, I might see if I can fashion some sort of sleeve out of them, so that's something to watch out for.

Just before I head off, I thought I'd make the announcement that Paperself are proudly working alongside #NWBloggersmeetup in March, and so some lucky bloggers will have a chance to win some tattoos and also some paper lashes on the day - just a little something to look forward to if you're coming along!

Will you be wearing some fake tattoos come festival season (or year round)?

Sammy xo.
*Products marked by an asterisk(*) were sent by Paperself in consideration for a review, however this has not swayed my opinion and all views expressed are completely my own. Please read my disclaimer for more information.

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Friday, 20 February 2015

3 Things - The Less Talked About Netflix Picks

I have the worst sleeping pattern known to man, I am often asleep at 11am one morning, but still wide awake at 5am the next. I watch a lot of Disney films on NowTV to pass the time (as well as a sneaky episode of Girls now and then), but mostly my attention stays with Netflix. Although I'm loyal to my old faithfuls - Breaking Bad, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, they're the obvious choices, and Netflix honestly does have some real gems to offer if you search long enough. Here's my top three, lesser talked about Netflix picks.

Alternative Netflix Logo

1: Community
This is a firm favourite series of mine. It's essentially about a lawyer who's qualifications are faked and so he has to go back to community college to get what he needs to keep practising law. This is a stereotypical American comedy, in the best way. There's something for everyone here, it's snidey and bitchy and funny, it's stupid and clever in equal measure and it's an easygoing watch for background noise, if you're into that kind of thing (I am, never work in silence - golden tip from me.)

2: Excluded
This is the stupidest, cheesiest film I've ever watched - and I've watched it about four times this week. It's literally a film about a boy who is excluded from school but attempts to pull off the biggest prank ever - not telling his parents about his exclusion. It has a lovable rogue for a main character, a million completely unrealistic scenes and a good underlying romance - what more could you ask for in a film?

3: Hebburn 
I loved this so much when it first came out, and now it's on Netflix it's definitely a renewed love affair. This is a series about a boy who marries a girl in Vegas - it follows their life living with his parents and his family members in their home town. This is such an underrated comedy, and my dad who finds literally nothing funny agrees with me about this one - so you know it must be good. This is most definitely a Netflix underdog.

I highly recommend Pretty Little Liars, Gossip Girl and Breaking Bad (preferably back to back binge watching, because that's the kind of TV watcher that I am) - but it's also worth having a scope around for some new favourites, see above, and also some good old classics - Coyote Ugly, anybody?

What are your top Netflix picks?

Sammy xo.

If you liked this you might like: Getting Past Bad Days

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Does Teetotal Really Mean Boring?

After what seems like days of endlessly trying to write and getting nothing, it turns out all that it took for me to get back to the keyboard for a triumphant return was a Guardian article suggesting I was boring. Okay, I'm paraphrasing, the actual article was - "I was a teenage teetotaller... and boy was I boring" by Peter Ormerod. Here's the thing, boring is as boring does - with or without a drink in it's hand.

I was a teenage teetotaller and - unlike Ormerod, I'm not here to defend it. Now that I don't go to University, and spend a lot of my time past 11pm lying in bed watching Netflix, I still consider myself a teetotaller - I can tell you the last time I got drunk was the Summer after I turned eighteen, and even that was a mix up about the potency of shots provided by rural Spanish bars (seriously, I only had one drink then we ran up a practically vertical hill to look at a church, not my finest moment). It's not, as the above article suggests, through fear of embarrassment (although, I don't like to vomit - but I'm not sure anyone really does), or necessarily down to witnessing alcoholism within my family, nor was it for health reasons, or to be edgy and cool by being the exact counteroffer to edgy and cool - it just was. Drinking was expensive, sticky and uncalled for - I am a hyperactive child wrapped in the body of a babyfaced adult as it is, I didn't need alcohol to have fun. I had absolutely no qualms about ordering a diet coke at the bar, bouncing back to my group and necking a random stranger, then making sure everybody got home safe. Plus, I can confirm - absolutely nobody gives a crap about whether you're drinking or not, most people literally don't notice unless I actively tell them.

Teetotal Quotes

Ormerod is quick to suggest that these increasing levels of sobriety are making us a generation of boring, apathetic conformists - and I couldn't agree less. He's right, in some ways - gone are the days of rock'n'roll being controversial, and our parents banging on the ceiling with their brooms, willing us to switch it down (I'm pretty sure our parents knowing about the volume and content of our music died alongside the invention of the headphone), but it's only because we're on to bigger and better things. Our eyes have been opened to the world's events better than ever before, and our plight is no longer about defying out parents and sneaking out to dance with cute boys (I think I might be mixing up older generation's upbringing with Footloose a little bit, come to think of it) - we've got bigger fish to fry. Our sobriety, or lack of, has little to do with it - our witnessing of daily inequality, religious intolerance and general ignorance shown by such a vast amount of people means that we're done overruling our parents, we're too busy trying to change the world - and if you think it's only through violent, thuggish means, you've obviously not been on change.org, or Facebook, or Tumblr in a while.

Sobriety and boredom do not go hand in hand, and neither are we forced to stay within the realms of our own "pack", I've joined in many a drunken debate - stone cold sober. It doesn't take courage to drink, nor does it take courage to opt out - especially as we get more and more accepting as a society. It's not us judging each other that's making young people feel like they have to drink, but rather articles exactly like Ormerod's. Our drinking has nothing to do with our apathy, or lack of - just because our courses, methods and pastimes are different - it doesn't make us a boring generation. After all, our generation is more tolerant, empathetic and strong willed than we've seen in a long time. As I sit comfortable, sipping my coke and flirting with girls in a bar at the weekend (girls I can now marry, should I want to - just one thing our generation helped change) and telling jokes, I'll be sure to remind everyone how boring and conformist we all are, that's sure to get a laugh.

Do you drink, do you think people who don't are boring?

Sammy xo.

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Monday, 16 February 2015

Update - All Quiet On The Social Media Front

I'm always treading a fine line about what I feel comfortable and uncomfortable putting on Little Fickle. It's not just about me, it's about all of you too - I want you to feel like this is a place you look forward to coming to, I want it to be a positive place, and sometimes I struggle with being the sassy, mouthy almost-scouser you've all been so supportive of. I wasn't sure what to write on the post about taking a few days out, or whether I should write one at all - but I promised I'd try to talk about my depression, so I'm going with honesty.

This week has been difficult. My friends from school all seem to be finding their paths and it's hard not to feel like I'm being left behind - with no idea at all about what path to take. This, and high levels of insecurity regarding my body and arguments with people around me reaching their peak means I've dropped into a bit of a lull. It's not been pretty, and I write this through a haze of tears as my phone goes off every three seconds due to my dutiful best friend checking in. I'm not looking for sympathy or pity, just understanding. Bare with me, I'll be back to that mouthy little gobshite in no time, but right now I'm taking a few days away from Little Fickle and (probably) my twitter account.

I want to make this a positive space for you, and I'm sorry that this seems like a downer, but telling the truth seemed the only way to go - I hope to be back with another post on Wednesday, but realistically it might be later in the week than that. Thanks for sticking around guys.

Sammy xo.

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Will Of Iron Triathlon

Okay, full disclosure - I'm not great at sports. I fell over on the treadmill when I was in year seven and skinned my knees and shins because I forgot to let go, my dad and brother can tell you a hilarious (or at least they think so) story about me cycling straight into the back of a car - I wasn't good in games, in fact I regularly skived off. However, you all know I have that strong belief where I feel that we should be using our blogs for good to the best of our abilities. So, when Beth from over at Beauty In Beta posted on Twitter saying she was looking for blogs to help promote an event for a charity, and in return bloggers would receive a goodie bag - I jumped right in and promised I'd do it for nothing, especially when I heard about the charity.

The Willow Foundation is the only UK based charity that provides special days for seriously ill 16-40 year olds - providing hope and support when it's needed most. In the past, these have included everything from family stays and west end shows in London, to archery and quad biking. Now, they're asking for some support - in the form of their Will Of Iron Triathlon.

Triathlon Advert

I have to agree with Beth's post, when she said this isn't a task for the faint hearted - but it isn't impossible. You can do a full ironman distance (2.4 mile swim // 112 mile bike ride // 26.2 mile run), or you can do a half ironman distance (1.2 mile swim // 56 mile bike ride // 13.1 mile run). You can do the distances on your own, or in a group - you can split the distances how you like and do them in the gym, on the road, at home - it's completely up to you. It's £25 to enter, and the start date is May 2nd 2015 - from then, you'll have 7 consecutive days to finish the challenge. Simple, when you see it written down like that! Willow will support you every step of the way (and I have no doubt that so will all of the bloggers helping promote).

If you'd like to get involved, you can click the photograph above to sign up - or get in touch with Beth to see about collaborating and helping to promote. If you want to see the community that you're contributing to, you can take a look at Willow on Facebook here. It's a fabulous cause, and who knows - maybe it will be enough to get me back onto the treadmill practising to do one next year.

Sammy xo.

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Friday, 13 February 2015

Being Taken Seriously

A lot of people have different reasons for why they started their blogs, and they have their own stories about how they adapted to become the piece of the internet that they are now - and I'm no different. I've been asked in the past four months why I chose the name "Little Fickle" - and with good reason, when I like to think of my blog as anything but fickle. The answer is simple, the blog was always meant to be a fickle little place, a place to discuss the trivial aspects of my life - a site that would indulge my proudly fickle side. However, when I realised people were listening, taking note, willing to discuss bigger issues, it changed something in me and Little Fickle became not as fickle after all, or at least I hope that's the case. 

Why? Well, I am twenty one years old, and I stand a little under five feet and four inches. I have honey blonde hair, insanely pale skin and big blue eyes, I'm normally wearing a dress with flowers on and carrying a Michael Kors bag. I never leave the house without make-up on, and I wear lipstick at every given opportunity. I have a real baby face, I still get a half on the bus - and all of this means that I'm taken less than seriously. For my entire adult life, people have talked down to me - as a waitress, rude customers regularly asked why I wasn't still in school, as though I had personally let them down, long after I had finished my A-Levels. I found myself growing a strong voice - born purely out of the fact that everything I said was diminished by the way I appear. Sometimes it feels like I have to fight to validate and justify every single thing I speak out loud, and it's more than a little frustrating. When people started listening to me on the internet, that feeling of being heard out was addictive, and it only spurred me on to write more, talk more.

It's not that my baby face doesn't have it's advantages, see the aforementioned point about getting a half on the bus - and my mum assures me I'll be more than grateful for my tendency to look younger than I am, in the future - but the fact is, I can't help but feel offended (if strangely satisfied) when people looked shocked at my offering of a well thought through, carefully worded opinion. The main charm behind the creation of Little Fickle for me was easy - people took my opinions at face value, instead of judging them against what I appeared to be at face value. Being taken seriously as a young person is hard enough, being taken seriously as a woman is hard enough, but when you appear to be both - it can be ridiculous the amount of times a day that my opinions and views are brushed off. It's not just me, a woman who looks like she wouldn't be out of place back in school, that will find a time  that they aren't being taken seriously - it will be all of us, for some reason, at one point or another.

Being taken seriously is hard, but here's the trick - never back down, or apologise for yourself. When somebody brushes your opinion off, you pick it right back up and defend it for all it's worth, revel in the shock that strong opinions can conjure up, make sure you never make another person feel like they're not being taken seriously. The only way you can be taken seriously is to make sure that you take yourself seriously, and it's truly something I wish I'd realised earlier. I have gone from a girl who felt like her looks impacted all too much, to a girl proud to put her face to her opinions and contributions to the world. So here's my promise to take myself more seriously (but not too seriously, have you met me?), and to try my best to never make anybody else feel inadequate at my hand (or, words, as may be the case). Never let yourself be taken any less than seriously, irregardless of what you look like, or your age, or background - you're worth more.

Do you find it difficult to be taken seriously? How do you overcome it?

Sammy xo.

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Beanies Instant Flavoured Coffee

My life is one constant vicious circle with coffee. I love coffee, I drink coffee, sometimes it keeps me up at night, sometimes my insomnia keeps me up at night, either way that fuels me to drink more coffee and then I sleep even less. Literal story of my life. Me and caffeine go way back, I've been a Diet Coke fiend (the bubbly kind, in case it wasn't clear) since my pre-teenage years and that grew until black coffee was the drink of choice. I spoke about my love for flavoured coffees back in my Hot Drinks For Cold Days post - and so when I was offered the chance to try a few more of Beanies flavoured range, I jumped at it. I'd been stone cold caffeine free (okay, coffee free, I still live on a diet of Tea, Irn Bru and Diet Coke - but I think the caffeine content is negligible) for a few months but hey, if there's anything worth falling off the wagon for - it's flavoured instant coffee (or a Starbucks caramel cappuccino.)

Flavoured Coffee Jars

This was my original pick, fuelled by a late night trip to Tesco where I found myself in the company of not one, but two of my ex boyfriends (only one of whom I arrived with). I'm not sure this is the flavour I would have picked under less stressful circumstances, in fact I'm pretty sure I just Supermarket Sweeped the shelves in an attempt to escape, but I find the marzipan, amaretto smell alluring in the jar. I have to say, this doesn't really translate to cup when the coffee is made up, it loses most of the sweet, almond smell and, although there's a pleasant underlying sweetness, I wouldn't say this tastes like Amaretto - that's not to say it's not pleasant, just not what I'd expect it to taste like.

This was my immediate pick when I got the chance to pick some flavours - but when it arrived I was a little disappointed, it definitely doesn't smell like chocolate in the jar. Don't be fooled by this one though, it's the dark horse of the group - when you make up the coffee, it's smell changes to a thick, syrupy chocolate aroma and out of all of the flavours, this one is the closest to it's intended taste. It takes away the bitterness of the coffee completely, without being too sickly. Considering this seems a bit nothing-y in the jar, it's probably my favourite one out of the bunch when made into the actual drink.

I'm a bit on the fence about this. The smell in the jar does have a sort of toffee smell, and it translates into the cup, but I'm not sure that it's for me. I don't know what it is about it; whether it's that I fully believe that the entire fun of cinder toffee is the honeycomb crunchiness, or just that the lack of chocolate make the cinder toffee taste seem a bit strange to me but this isn't my favourite. It is pretty much what it says on the jar though, that's just a personal preference.

This one is definitely losing out, out of the four flavours I've had at my disposal. The smell in jar is sickly sweet, and the vanilla/coffee combo has a strange tint to it which I find distinctly overwhelming, in cup it smells the same and, although not unpleasant, it's hard to distinguish any kind of taste underneath the coffee in this one - which seems strange to me considering the power of the aroma.

These jars are £2.50 each and I think that's a pretty good price, considering they handily have a screw cap and not a sealed lid like other companies that cause you to fling coffee all over your kitchen floor (naming no names, but I'm looking at you Douwe Egberts) - and I'm loving the fact that on the website you can also pick up a surprising amount of flavours in decaff (maybe something I should look into...) There's definitely a flavour for everyone out there, and although some are easier to distinguish than others, most that I tried have a pleasant underlying sweetness that's not to be sniffed at. Flavoured coffee is never going to be as strong as syrups, but they're also a better everyday alternative (and at 2 calories a cup definitely better for my waistline) and a fair bit cheaper. Beanies, I might have to try some other flavours to be sure - but you just might have a fan in me.

Sammy xo.
*Products marked by an asterisk(*) were sent by Beanies Flavour Co. in consideration for a review, however this has not swayed my opinion and all views expressed are completely my own. Please read my disclaimer for more information.

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Monday, 9 February 2015

3 Things - Books That Changed My Life

In true Sam fashion, this seems aptly dramatically named - I'm sure you want to know why I couldn't have just gone with "books that I liked'. Well, the answer's easy - I've been able to read for as long as I can remember. I could read when I started school, when I was a kid I used to sit on the landing and shout stories through the bathroom door to my Dad whilst he was in the bath (he found this very annoying and - to this day - he still rants at least once a week about how he still doesn't know how All American Girl by Meg Cabot ends). Since I've been able to read forever, I've read a lot of books, and I've loved a lot of books - but there are very few out there that really altered my perception on things, or brought something out from within me, or just generally changed my life even in some tiny, seemingly unremarkable way. So, I thought I'd pick my top three out of that lot - here's the three books that (at least somewhat) changed my life.

The Night Circus

This is the newest addition to the lot, and I devoured it in one sitting, it's a lovely offering about a girl who is given a miniature version of her own house as a wedding gift, and as new miniature fittings, furniture and dolls start to arrive, she realises that the miniaturist might just know more about her life than even the people in the household. This is well written, and the subplots are so intricate and captivating at times, you forget there's a main plot at all. This made me think about the way society has changed for women, the protagonist is an all too young 18 year old girl in 17th century Amsterdam, but it is also a stark reminder that sometimes the clues to what seems obvious in hindsight just might have been hidden in plain sight all along. 

This is one of the only books that me and my brother have ever had differing opinions on - it definitely is a marmite kind of book and I do get why. The first time I read this, I found it magical, and yet I didn't really see the point in it at all. This is, I have to admit, a strange book about a young girl and boy who act as the counters in an elaborate game set up by two men, each with strong magical abilities. Both children show extraordinary gifts and, unknowing what a dangerous game they're a part of, soon find their homes in a mysterious circus where they find their game seemingly never-ending, drawn ever closer to one another. This was a book lost on me the first time I read it but, as stupid and deep as it sounds, the second time I realised that this is about being a part of the bigger picture - or at least that's how it reads to me. It's about how the tiniest, most insignificant people and things can have a knock on effect that lasts for years. I found this charming, and magical, and well written - and to this day it's one of my favourite books.

Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Okay so this one is a little different as it's a set of short graphic stories by Brazilian twins, Moon and Ba. If you've read The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance fame you might recognise the pictures - but basically this is a graphic novel showing stories of urban brazil. Although the stories are sweet to follow, this changed my life for a very different reason - when I felt like I was the very bottom of a school full of amazing girls, my mum got me a copy of this (my brother later replaced it with the hardback version, hence two), and captivated by the harsh lines and block shading, I was amazed to find that I could recreate them, it really gave me a boost. If you read my A-Z of me, you'll know that I wanted to go into animation, and things like this are where it all started (helped along by Banksy, Blek Le Rat and The White Violin from the aforementioned Umbrella Academy).

So there they are, three books that changed my life in one way or another, hope you enjoyed! Have you read any of the books? What books changed your life?

Sammy xo.

If you liked this you might like: The Promise Of Happiness Book Review

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Should I Vote?

As a young person with a massive gob that went to a good school (allegedly, I didn't turn up all that much) I fell into Politics as though it was made for me. For two years every day I sat in a Politics lesson and became a little more fascinated with how the world seemed to work behind the scenes, I even considered it as a job - until my teacher told me that I probably wouldn't get far with an accent like mine (it turns out not even the most eloquent of words can make the world's biggest borderline scouse scally be taken seriously.) The more I see about the run up to the election, the more young people seem to be looking for the answer to the big question - Should I vote?

In the past few years, ever since Nick Clegg made the U-Turn that will for the forseeable future have Liberal Democrats deemed liars - 18-25 year olds have feel disheartened by the political system, and as I was a part of the first school year that saw our University fees raise to over £9000 a year, I saw it a lot within my peers, I understand the animosity. Young people don't see the point in voting, if the government can turn on their heels and run away from their promises anyway, although I am keen to point out that Liberal Democrats running the country as a single party as opposed to a coalition might have been very different, not that that makes it any better. There have been campaigns out there to suggest young people shouldn't vote - naming no names - as they aren't represented accurately in Whitehall, the decisions made there don't affect them. It seems a lot of people don't see beyond the fact they aren't represented to understand that not voting only secures this as a vicious circle.
Let's put this simply, split England into 3 sections - young, adult, elderly. If only the adult and the elderly population are voting, they are the two groups to target, so the parties improve pensions and tax credits, make promises about work, family and security in later life. There is very little point in targeting the young if they are not turning up to vote - as opposed to enticing them in with promises, you are having to convince them that not only your party, but politics itself, is worth taking a part in. Many parties are going to secure the votes they know are most possible, and as such very little will be done for the young in England. The young then feel like they're not being represented and so don't turn up to vote, and as such the next general election sees parties make the same decision to target the adult and elderly people in England, as statistics show the young aren't voting anyway. We feel disheartened, they see us as a wasted vote, and as such nothing is being done for us.

The fact is - not voting is not going to help us, but there's steps that you can take that will. If you want to vote - check official manifestos or the list of issues the parties are making promises to change. They can be found on the party websites, I'll even link you to the top four main parties (Labour // Conservative // Liberal Democrats // Green Party) see if any things fit that you might be interested in, remember that they will be in power for up to five years - I might not be interested in certain things now, but when I'm 24/25/26 will I want different things? It's worth thinking about. In the current climate, it's perfectly fair to say none of the parties fit you, but if you turn up to vote and spoil your paper - literally just deface the paper in any way, draw on it, cross through it - that still counts as you voting, without you having to pick the best of a bad bunch. I don't believe in compulsory voting, nor do I believe that I can force you to vote or tell you who to vote for - but instead of complaining about how we'd aren't being heard or represented, we could be making ourselves near possible to ignore. We are lucky to live in a democracy, it's time we learned to make it work to our advantage.

I've also seen a lot of people over on Twitter who are unsure about how to register to vote, but if you'd like to, you can register here and all you need is your national insurance number. Even if you don't think you want to vote, which is fine and your choice, it's worth checking out your options. Education towards politics for young people is poor, but we have no excuse not to be educating ourselves. Oh, and one last thing - Nadin, you were totally wrong, regardless of my accent I clearly would have been an immense politician.

Sammy xo.

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Friday, 6 February 2015

The Body Shop - Bouncy Sleeping Mask

I'm not a huge beauty type person - don't get me wrong, I love makeup and I own an insane amount of it, but I've always been poor at remembering to cleanse, tone and moisturise. I've been getting better lately (hell, I even remember to use eye cream these days - my forty year old self better be thankful given the amount of time it takes me to wash my face) and so when Ash suggested at The Body Shop Event that there was an extra step that could really help, I decided to take a shot on it and picked up The Body Shop Drops Of Youth Bouncy Sleeping Mask.

Bouncy Sleeping Mask

A lot of people on Twitter have been talking about this and asking about whether it's worth the money and I feel like it's biggest advocate, it's seriously killed me to wait the week fair test period to try this out properly before I talk about it - but I have figured out some finer points in that time. I'll be honest, I bought this not because of the benefits as much as me and Katy were completely fascinated by the feel. This is really hard to scoop up with your fingers, it's almost like starting to set PVA glue in the tub, and I love it. It comes with a plastic spoon to scoop out about the right amount, which is helpful as sometimes it's like pushing it away with your fingers instead of getting any out. I also like that it's not "wet" like a lot of heavier moisturizers - I so nearly used the word moist, couldn't bring myself to do it - because I am prone to spilling literally everything on my bedsheets (get your minds out of the gutter). I tip my hat to the fact I don't have to get up out of bed to wash this off as you sleep in the mask, it's the ultimate lazy girl skincare helper - you do have to wait a decent ten minutes for it to start to soak in before you settle down, though.

This goes on as the last step of your skincare routine at night, so after moisturiser - which felt a bit weird and foreign to me, but seems to work. I've been using it alongside Hydraluron Moisture Jelly and it seems to work wonders, I'd be tempted to say it's the mask doing most of the hard work though, I've used Hydraluron in the past and results were pretty negligible. I have some niggles with this, and they're things that seem stupid but do somewhat take the shine off the product - the first is that the sticky nature of this product means stuff does get caught up in it in the jar, fluff off bedsheets, hair (if you're anything like me that seems to moult regularly)... I know, pretty picture right? It's also sticky on the skin, which isn't that bad if you sleep on your back, but I'm prone to sleeping on my front with my head tipped sideways, and sometimes I feel like I'm peeling my face away from the pillow when I move around.

Drops Of Youth Bouncy Sleeping Mask Inside

Is it worth the £22? I'm going to say yes - although I think I got discount on this at the event, but I can't find the receipt to confirm - I have combination skin and this has worked wonders; my skin is smoother, brighter and does look refreshed (The Body Shop have also promised it would be more bouncy, but I'm not sure how to measure that, so I'm going to go for a massive question mark on that one.) You get a lot of product for your money, and I've barely made a dent in the pot in the last week of generous use - although, admittedly, it's hard to tell as this is a lot like Illamasqua Hydraveil in that it resettles after you mix it up. It's, as people have rightly said, a lot more than you'd expect to pay in The Body Shop, but even with the niggly bits I have issues with, it's well worth the money - this is territory that The Body Shop haven't really strayed into before, new, unique product with the ability to gain cult following.

Have you tried The Body Shop's Bouncy Sleeping Mask? Will you be buying it?

Sammy xo.

If you liked this you might like: My (Guilt Riddled) New Skincare Routine

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Apologies

I'm one of those girls who seems to constantly apologise for herself. For someone who aggressively talks about ignorant people in the supermarket, I spend a considerable amount of time apologising to inanimate objects that I bump into, or sometimes even people who bump into me. It's not just literal, physical things that I apologise for either - I apologise for myself, for the things that bother me, and for the things I like. Nearly every sentence out of my mouth either starts or ends with the word "sorry", some days. In the same way that when you're big on eyebrows you can't help noticing whether everybody else's eyebrows are sound or not, as someone who spends stupid amounts of time saying sorry, it's glaringly obvious to me that there are some people out there who don't say sorry at all.

I've always been one of those people - poor at playing hard to get. I feel mean not texting back straight away, I will still check you're okay even in the middle of an argument, and if you need me? It wouldn't matter if you'd attempted to murder one of my family members days earlier, I'd still drop everything to help you. I've always been like that, you can ask Ruby. She used to rat me out in the playground daily, but I'd never tell a teacher on her - mainly because I'd feel too bad (also because she told me I wasn't allowed.) In a weird way, this warped sense of neediness has only attracted people that are the exact opposite to me, for the most part. I spent my teenage years growing up playing textperiment (I went to a girls school okay, we did weird things - basically, this meant spanning the whole day without texting anybody unless they text you first) and consequently fuming when my phone lay silent, and then texting to check nobody was unhappy or in mortal danger.

As I've grown up, I've learned to see the subtle differences in apologies between people like me, "I'm sorry, I honestly didn't mean to do that, are you okay?" and people who token apologise, "I'm sorry that you felt that way about it." It baffles me how many people seemingly can't just say, hey, I'm sorry, and move on with their life. It frustrates me how many apologies I've gone without, and moved on anyway - but I think that says a lot about me as a person in a positive way (maybe.) Mostly - I just don't get it. An apology isn't a sign of weakness, it's an acknowledgment that what you did was crappy, or uncalled for, or plain ignorant, it's a promise to at least try to remember to not do it again. Apologies are cool, I can honestly say I've never gotten an apology that made me feel worse rather than better (although, I am picturing the "I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you" scene from The Hills, right now, so there's that.)

So, ironically, I've written this post to say; actually, I'm not sorry for being sorry all the time. Sure, it might annoy you that 19/20 times you probably don't have the faintest clue what I'm apologising for. But if that twentieth time I genuinely hurt you, and the apology I give helps to fix that? Every single one was worth it. So next time you think you've messed up, just send the text, say I'm sorry, and don't try to make it more than it, or blame the person's reaction, or justify it - trust me, I guarantee it will feel better.

Are you a person who apologises?

Sammy xo.

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Monday, 2 February 2015

StripTeas 14 Day Teatox*

Since I lost a considerable amount of weight a few years ago, I've tried pretty much every single diet, gimmick and weight loss option on the market to keep it off the best that I can. So, when StripTeas got in touch in the New Year (doesn't that seem an age away, now!) and asked me if I'd like to give their 14 day 3 step teatox* weight loss tea out, I couldn't type back fast enough to agree. This is the 3 step daily teatox, so in basic terms - you have three teas a day, morning, day and night and carry on for fourteen days; I think most teatox systems are pretty similar. I do, however, like that these come in different flavours - vanilla, berry burst or original. I picked vanilla and even my Dad, the world's biggest tea snob who firmly believes only breakfast tea should grace the lips of the English, admitted the nighttime tea in particular smelled gorgeous.

Stripteas Sachets

They come in three different separate coloured packages, which I like - I also imagine it would be really handy if you worked, as you'd only have to take the relevant pack with you. I, however, mainly  sit at home and watch RuPaul's Drag Race, so I mainly just like the sense of order it gave to my kitchen cupboard. They come in those cute little chiffon-esque bags, and are pyramid bags, both of which I like and strongly believe helps greatly with a good brew.

Cereal and Tea

Other things worth noting - I think a seven day plan would have worked better for me, I stayed really dedicated in the first week, but by the tail end of the second, I was sometimes completely forgetting about some teas - but that's probably a me thing and not a general thing. It's also worth noting that I didn't actually lose any weight, although having said that I did feel a lot less bloated and my appetite was probably lessened, whether that was a placebo effect or not. The nighttime tea didn't help me sleep as such, but it was a nice addition to a nighttime routine.

Overall, if you're really into tea, this ones for you - I imagine swapping your normal brew out for these three times a day for two weeks would really make you feel better. If you're more of a coffee girl, like myself, and so instinctively make the grab for coffee over tea 2/3 times? I'd say this is probably quite a long plan for you to get used to and stick with. Although this might help you feel better in the long run, I'd say don't expect to drop a stone in the two weeks - but use it responsibly and it might work alongside a good meal plan for some fairly decent results.

If you do want to order yourself a StripTeas 14 day detox, you can do here for £29.99, however they've kindly given me a 10% off code you can use too - just pop LITTLEFICKLE10 in at the checkout.

Have you ever tried a teatox?

Sammy xo.
*Products were sent to me from StripTeas in consideration for writing a blog post, however all views expressed are completely my own, for more details please view my disclaimer


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Sunday, 1 February 2015

Mental Illness - Blame

Since writing my post about depression I wondered about posting another one. I wanted to, I wanted to allow myself to be a part of the support system for those struggling alongside me, I wanted to create a sense of togetherness, the message that no matter how isolating mental illness is, and no matter how hard it might be for someone to grasp the exact specifics of what you're going through - you truly aren't alone. I talked to some other bloggers (Rhianna and Rachel,who have been endlessly supportive since my first post) about the idea of writing more posts on it, spreading awareness, about people talking openly about what it was really like to suffer from mental illness - I was keen, and also worried. I worried people would think I was going on about it, would find it boring, would immediately unfollow me. I have literally been more worried about writing about mental illness than I ever have been about writing about controversial topics, or my sex life.

Alexander Graham Bell Quote
(source)

Some days I spend hours of my day worrying about the fact that I am all too aware that people find me frustrating to be around. The few friends I still have left have to deal with meltdowns, sob sessions and complete radio silence from me on a weekly, if not semi-daily basis - and I can't escape how annoying that must be for other people (hence the radio silence, when I feel like I'm taking up too much time, or space, or sucking all the happiness from people's lives dementor style). In my head all of these people wish that I would zip it, paint on a smile and at least try to be better. Some people don't understand that it isn't that easy. If it seems like I've let my depression take over my life? That's because I have to deal with it; every minute of every day. It's not as easy as waking up on a good or bad day and dealing with it accordingly, even good days can feel like I'm drowning, only the air is staying in my lungs that little bit longer, everything isn't quite blurring and blackening at the edges just yet - but it's right there on the horizon.

When I was diagnosed, it wasn't a relief, it was heart wrenching. Being diagnosed with a mental illness is like being told that other people don't think the same way that you do, even though you've always just assumed that they do. It's like being told that your brain is wired differently, even though sometimes you may not have a reason why. I didn't have a reason why, it led to a really difficult downward spiral of blaming myself, utter self loathing and destroying the very little self worth that I had left. I blamed myself for my depression without really understanding where it came from, I made myself more ill by managing to convince myself that I had made this up, that this depression was something I wasn't really suffering from. I still feel a lot like this now, even on days when I stay in bed under the covers, even on days where I cry for no reason, even on days when I only manage four hours sleep - the blame and denial is a part of my illness, as well as being an aspect that makes it a lot harder to deal with.

It is hard to fight a war in your own head and not blame yourself for what seems like a lack of basic armor. It's hard to fight a war that is invisible and silent to other people, a war with no news coverage, a war that - no matter how many words you find that sum it up perfectly for you - some people will never understand. That in itself is amazing, that some people don't understand. A part of me hopes that most of you reading this never understand. A part of me hopes that you find me frustrating, a part of me hopes that you're inwardly sighing about how I'm going on about this - because it means that you've never felt the way that some of us have to. I hope in a way that you never come to understand it, that you always manage to stay in that naive head space, whilst being supportive to our suffering of course, because that's exactly where I wish I was. However, I'm not in that head space - and I'm going to go on about it. I'm going to post on here until I have no followers left if that's what it takes, I'm going to scream about it in the streets until I lose my voice, I am going to take every single opportunity to talk about mental illness, and my experience - because if it helps just one person going through this alongside me feel less alone, it will all have been worth it. 

I am not to blame for my mental illness - we are not to blame for our mental illnesses.

Sammy xo.

If you liked this you might like: Mental Health - We're Facing Enough
 
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