Monday, 30 November 2015

A Film A Week For December

Christmas is the time to eat, drink and be merry - and I know for a lot of us being merry around December time means sitting down to watch a good film with the family or a group of your friends. With this in mind, I've made up a list of a film for each week in December that aren't to be missed. Let the Christmas cheer begin.

Week One - December 1st to December 7th
Uncle Buck
This is without a doubt my favourite film all year around but this will undoubtably be on the the TV around this week (and every single week of the whole year, seriously, just check ITV3). This isn't technically a Christmas film but it is one that will get you laughing and generally appreciating all the crazy family that you have that will undoubtedly show their faces around Christmas. This is basically a film about appreciating your crazy family and nobody appreciates that more than at Christmas time - it's a chaotic uncle that comes to look after his nieces and nephews and it basically inspired Home Alone and so you know it's going to be good.

Week Two - December 7th to December 14th
Now it's getting closer to Christmas, this is acceptable and Elf is one of the greatest Christmas films to exist. Watch it even if you don't remember loving it because I guarantee it will make you laugh out loud at least once. If you've never watched Elf (where have you been living?!) it's about an elf who finds out he never belonged in The North Pole and so comes to New York. Think a Christmas version of Enchanted and times it by about ten times how good you think it could possibly be in your head. You might get the impression I like Elf. You'd be right.

Week Three - December 14th to December 21st
The Nightmare Before Christmas
You may think that this is a Halloween film - you'd be wrong. This starts and ends with Halloween but the main plot is about Christmas and nobody else can make me believe otherwise. This is a fi;m about a ton of spooky monsters from Halloweentown trying to take over Christmas. It's creepy, adorable and funny in equal measures and it's one of my favourite Disney films to date. Also, this is my birthday week so I think you should watch it in my honour.

Week Four - December 21st to NYE
Love Actually 
Okay so slightly longer than a week, but you get me. I always forget about Love Actually but whenever I watch it, it makes me happy and sad in equal measure and I only ever watch it Christmas week but I genuinely love it. This follows a whole number of different couples finding, losing and noticing love all around them and it's fricking adorable.

So there's my films for the month of December - tell me yours!

Sammy xo.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Gifts That Look Good and Do Good Gift Guide

The one gift guide I was determined to put together this year was of products that not only looked good, and were great to receive, but also that gave back to a bigger cause. So, I trawled the internet to find as many gifts to pop into this guide as I could, and I honestly think that I've done a really good job of putting together gifts worth buying not only because they're cool presents, but also for their wider cause; so, here we go.

Most of you will know that I love to read, and did so even more as a child and - as it turns out - Madeline is one of my favourite books, and a future tattoo for me and so this was a really good gift in my eyes. The t-shirt runs about a size smaller than you'd think and is a slim fit, it's also super soft and comfortable to wear; which is supposedly to fit the theme of a worn, well read book. These aren't cheap at $28, but for every one bought a book is donated to a community in need through their partner charity Books For Africa - so if they have your favourite book on there, I'd say buy one and get a book to a person in need.

I've worked with Treaclemoon in the past (I talked about their Marshmallow Bath and Shower Gel a few months back) and I really appreciate all the work they do alongside Bullies Out. These goodies are only £3 and you can pick them up from Tesco or Waitrose, well worth the money when you're also supporting an initiative like Bullies Out that work to help eradicate bullies within schools etc. I'm biased as I've done a lot of work with them in the past and think they're fantastic, but this is wonderful and chocolately and not even a fiver, so well worth adding to your shopping trolley.

These are gorgeous little glass beaded bracelets that roll on, available in just about any different colour and pattern that you could want. These would be gorgeous even if you could pick them up in Claire's Accessories, but given that they're really well made, comfortable to put on and wear and only $13 - combined with the fact that these are handmade in Nepal, help to empower both men and women in the communities they're made in and provide a living wage to their workers (paid promptly to avoid an issues), these are well worth the money. These are the type of things you could add to any present and they're next to nothing but do a lot for people in communities in real need.

These boots are not only pretty to look at but they follow the traditional TOMS one for one promise, meaning that when you buy a pair of shoes from them, a brand new pair of shoes goes to a child who really needs one. These are furry and comfy inside, and really gorgeous on the outside, but more importantly for £74.99 you're not only getting a fabulous pair of boots for yourself, but you're also providing a pair for a child who needs some. It's a win win situation!

Dalit Goods Co. - Karan Single Candle
I'm obsessed with this little clay potted candle, and even more so now I know the wider cause that's behind the candles. These candles are £6 and the pots are clay but the blended beeswax is scented like vanilla with hints of both lavender and coconut. Dalit Goods work alongside The Life Association to support Dalit families in India, and so these are affordable and really give back to a community in great need; not to mention that they smell amazing and burn really evenly.

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, 26 November 2015

John Lewis Liverpool Event

Last week I was invited to the new Beauty Floor over at John Lewis and, never turning down a good chance at being nosy, I graciously accepted. So, yesterday, Katy and I headed over to Liverpool - on seemingly the world's longest train journey - grabbed burgers as big as our heads from Almost Famous and then promptly went on our way to see whether John Lewis' new Beauty Floor would live up to the hype. With Harvey Nichols Beauty Bazaar right on our doorstep, us Scouse (and plastic Scouse, in my case) girls aren't easy to please.

I have to say - first impressions are good. Gone are the somewhat old fashioned beauty halls that John Lewis had offered Liverpool before, and in their place stand the soft rose gold of Charlotte Tilbury mirror, huge carnival lights announcing the arrival of Loved and Sound and the pleasantly approachable new Chino clad Clarins' Beauty Bar staff. Everything about the new Beauty Floor seems fresher, newer, younger - and it really does make the difference. Halls I used to bypass in favour of internet shopping I happily browsed through, hands full of swatches and questions for nearly every counter. Call me fickle (there's a joke in there somewhere, I'm sure) but the new bright, approachable, open stance that John Lewis seem to have implemented really does make the shopping experience much more pleasant.

First noticeable difference; Loved and Found. The new Loved and Found area is amazing - bright, fresh and new - with Skinnydip, Trinity and Paddywax Apothecary in amongst the huge offerings of clothing and homewares. Think a smaller Urban Outfitters within John Lewis - it's surprisingly enjoyable and really is somewhere that I'd shop and browse through - it's a unique new addition to the somewhat traditional brands that John Lewis have stocked in the past; and it was nice to see them embracing the new in such a huge way.

Next, and perhaps most notably of the whole newly refurbished floor; Clarins' Beauty Bar. Luckily I got a good amount of time to ask my questions, and although I opted out of getting a facial as I was full of cold, they let me in to observe Katy's and so I got to watch a few going on. The idea is an affordable spa treatment (£25) within 30 minutes - and it's genius. Not only are the girls really well read on their treatments (I quizzed poor Lottie for the entire time Katy had her SOS Facial), but they've thought of everything from specialised skin services with specialised products for men to the fact that they'll even redo your make up after your treatment so you can literally have one done on a lunch hour. Amongst everything we saw, I found the Beauty Bar the most impressive by far - it's affordable, ingenious and perfectly tailored to a busy modern day life.

All in all, I had a lovely night at John Lewis, and it's really lovely to see a brand embracing something new and innovative, and I can't wait to see how it continues to grow - I can say for sure though, you'll definitely see me in the beauty halls more often than ever.

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Girls' Night In With Debenhams

A few weeks ago Debenhams emailed Katy and I to ask us if we'd like to have a girls night in, on them - and, given that we love any excuse to get cosy and watch bad films, we jumped at the chance. Fast forward to last week when we came back to Katy's university house to a huge package labelled fragile - only a little confusing as we thought it was only going to contain pyjamas!

When we opened the box, we were delighted to find all the goodies we needed to make it a really cute night in - mugs filled with hot chocolate and marshmallows, mini OPI nail varnishes each, some Benefit goodies, a Yankee Candle (Snow in Love, because, you know....), some Lindt chocolate and a Baylis and Harding cracker each; as well as the pyjamas that they'd let us pick out a few weeks before (of which I picked the Iris and Edie Purple Ribbon Set and Katy picked the Floozie Grey Heart Set). So, the day after we threw on the pyjamas, dug into the box and got our cuddly toys at the ready for a night in.

We had a good night all in all - Katy tried hot chocolate for the first time (and promptly declared it to be chocolate flavoured hot water and abandoned it), we painted each other's nails, lit the candle and settled in to watch Pitch Perfect 2 whilst gobbling down chocolate reindeers, bell and bears courtesy of Debenhams and Lindt. We unraveled the Baylis and Harding Crackers to find gorgeous little hand creams inside and did a little bit of pampering with our benefit minis and our Baylis and Harding goodies.

I can't thanks Debenhams enough for giving us all the goodies for a girls night in - we had a really good laugh eating, pampering and generally being cosy in our new jarmies. Thanks guys!

Sammy xo.

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

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Red Queen - Book Review

When I picked up Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, I expected nothing more than an easy read that strayed somewhere between Game Of Thrones, The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner territory and, if I'm honest, to be fair I wasn't far wrong. Red Queen is the newest in a long line of young adult action novels hitting our shelves, but that's not a bad thing - after all, there's a reason that they seem to be taking the book world by storm.

This book is deceiving to read - we are thrust into the world of Mare Barrow, a Red in a world where Silver rules. Red are human, they lack any extra abilities and have red blood, the silvers have powers beyond red comprehension and bleed silver. The language is reminiscent of The Hunger Games - with the Capitol remaining the centre of the story even though Mare is from nowhere close and this is only something she's even seen through TV or heard about in passing, and it's impossible not to make the connection between the two stories, however Red Queen definitely does stand up on it's own.

We follow Mare as she lives a difficult life in the world of the Red's, her brothers have been conscripted into a war and she is to be next, and no matter how she searches for a way out she can't seem to find one until she stumbles into a stranger on her way home from a bar late one night and he pulls her into the world of Silver before finding out more about Mare than he ever could have imagined possible. Like similar books in it's genre, it follows a certain theme; a life at home that's less than perfect, a ceremonious fall followed by a rise to the top, drama and then a cliff hanger. It's a tried and tested book method, and it's not a bad one, but it's undeniably one that we've seen done before.

The writing of this is beautiful, and Aveyard really does do a good job of keeping you in the air about who to trust. Despite our stark warning that anyone could turn on Mare, we find ourselves trusting the people in her life that just might end up being her downfall. It's beautifully written, there are nice additions to explain technology that we have now that is technology from a time long past in the book - there are undoubtedly some nice additions to this book that capture your imagination and just in the same way as I was hooked to The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games (and I don't want to keep comparing, but it's impossible not to), I wanted to keep reading this until there were no words left, which only left me scrabbling on Amazon to find a sequel.

Have you read Red Queen? What's your favourite book at the moment?

Sammy xo.

Monday, 23 November 2015

OOTD; These Boots Were Made For Walking (With TOMS)

Some of you may know that I'm obsessed with boots, I think I mentioned it when I did a full boots wishlist a few weeks ago - so when TOMS challenged me to style a pair of their Nepal boots, I absolutely jumped at the chance. Pretty, colourful boots that gave back when you buy a pair? Definitely right up my street. Interestingly enough, through working with them I've found out that not only do Toms provide shoes to children in need when you buy a pair yourself, but they also have similar initiatives for eyewear, safe birth plans and also clean water - pretty impressive if you ask me. Anyway though, onto the shoes. I picked the Cognac shade, a slightly red coloured boot, and got to work with how to dress it.

Jumper - Primark // Jeans - Marks and Spencer // Backpack - Missguided // Boots - TOMS// Scarf - Primark
Choker - Primark // Bracelet - El Camino

Honestly, in the few weeks that I've had the boots I've tried them with just about everything - and they really do work, with dresses and jeans and leggings; but undoubtable the best way to wear them in my opinion is shoving them on with jeans and an oversized jumper. These are made to look cosy, and so I put them to work - thick socks, comfy relaxed skinny jeans and this jumper I managed to liberate from Katy's wardrobe (alongside the scarf). I threw on a bag and some bits of jewellery and we were good to go.

How would you style these Nepal boots?

Sammy xo.

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

Friday, 20 November 2015

Hard Women To Buy For Gift Guide

I don't know about you guys, but the women that are hardest to buy for in my life don't include my mum or my family - they're my brother's girlfriend and my girlfriend's mum and suchlike people. With my mum, I know that I can get her a bar of Turkish Delight and a bottle of wine and just be done with it but with the other women in my life, it's a little harder - you want to get them an impressive present and you also probably want to make sure you don't offend them. In their honour, I put together some bits and pieces for the hard women to buy for in ourselves (and only some are cliche).

This is one of those products that you can't believe you haven't been using your whole life - it's a gradual tanner with no DHA. Supposedly, within around 3 days this will react with your skin and create a golden glow. I don't think this creates a golden glow but it definitely does add a luminous quality to the skin - it's a good addition to anyone's skincare regime and at £20, its not going to break the bank (and it looks like it's worth more than you'll pay).

You can't really go wrong with a candle - there is nobody who doesn't like a good candle, even if they don't actually light them. For this one, I decided against the traditional candle brands and opted for the ever adorable Primrose Hill. These aren't the cheapest, their large candles retail at £20-£25, however you can pick your ribbon choice, your glass colour and then your scent (Christmas Cranberry is a favourite, however I can vouch for the Gingerbread as well). There's something just a little more personal about a lesser known candle brand and one where you've picked all the specifics, at least in my opinion.

This is a little different - a subscription box literally full of tea. This is one of those gimmicky presents, but it is adorable - you can get all different varieties of tea including a flowering tea (a flower that blooms and infuses) and even a caffeine free box. These work out pretty cheap at £4.50 per box, so for a box a week for a month you wouldn't even shell out £20; something a little different to consider as a gift that gives for a little bit longer (also a great choice for a present you don't have to wrap if you've you know, theoretically forgot to buy something until Christmas Eve.) You get 4 teas in a box, and even some fillable tea bags if that's your jam - pretty cool.

On the theme of tea - Crabtree and Evelyn have some brilliant food and tea offerings this Christmas (who even knew they did food, right?) I've had the chance to sample these, the Christmas Pudding Biscuits and their breakfast teas and can vouch for all three, but these are the standout - think nutella in a creamy biscuit; I demolished the whole packet in about a minute. Not one as a standalone present but add tons together to make a hamper or chuck them in with some other bits and pieces and you're golden.

Back to a more traditional offering here, but I thought this was a good call for people you might not know too well, even if it is a little cliche. Baylis and Harding have tons and tons of offerings this year, but this one is £45 and contains a dressing gown, body cleanser, body cream and some foot soak crystals. This one is the sleep set - the Lavender and Bergamot scent - but they do have a few others. Potentially a bit of an easy gift, but a lovely one nonetheless. 

I was lucky enough to be able to try out all 8 of the fragrances from Aura Soma Pegasus and all are gorgeous, although some definitely aren't for me. The real bottles for these are absolutely gorgeous (go and take a look, seriously) and all of the fragrances are made using only organic and natural essential oils, they're also intended to "Demonstrate the visual and non-visual energies of colour". I really like these, overall, but my top three are 30, 56 and 80. I do particularly like 56 though, it's sweet without being too floral and a very wearable daily scent. These don't come cheap at £85, but if you're looking to splash out and get something a little special - these are my recommendation.

So, there's my picks for hard women to buy for in your life (or men, because some of these things are awesome) - let me know what you think!

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, 19 November 2015

For Blog's Sake

Now, before I start I just want to say that this isn't about any of you in particular, but subtweet me to your heart's content. In nearly every blog chat that happens (and my lord there are a lot of them lately) - you will undoubtedly find at least one cry of; "Blog For You!"/"Your Blog Is Your Space!"/"Nobody Should Dictate Your Blog/You As A Blogger!" This is great! And supportive! And usually only what people think about their own blogs. The same people that make these cries in chats to look supportive, cool and accepting are all too often the same people criticising people for choosing to do things in a certain way, for using the #prrequest hashtag, for emailing companies.

In a world saturated with a million and one blogs, to make it you need a good dose of luck and a standout personality - contrary to popular belief it's a lot more than just marble backgrounds and good photography (which is lucky for, you know, me.) You need a business head on your shoulders, a huge shameless gene and a voice; or at least one of those things. Blogs are our most personal things, in my opinion, it's the innermost parts of us popped out into the world for everyone to see - it's subjective and intimate and completely mine; irregardless of how little or much I immerse myself into it's community which, for the most part I'll take the time to point out at this point, is actually really supportive.

But, to stand out you need to be different, and there are a good few bloggers that seem to think that this is where the issue lies and I'm acutely aware that I'm not the only one that's starting to see Twitter as one huge, bitchy subtweet. 
"Wow, stop emailing companies about your gift guides, could you look more thirsty?"
"I think you need to be a bit more famous than that to try your luck"
"Imagine using the #prrequest hashtag though"
"People emailing companies about blogging are making us all look desperate."
The issue with bloggers doesn't lie with those being proactive (and I'm using the word proactive, because actually life doesn't come to those who sit and wait for the most part, and many do want to do this as a career), it lies with all of those people who feel the need to shame them on twitter, kick them back into line for doing things that some people wouldn't do for their own reasons (and honestly, maybe I wouldn't do the things either but you do you, Sister.)

In a world that doesn't always understand blogging, we shouldn't be turning ranks on ourselves, always picking at niggly things that annoy us, always following one drama immediately with the next. What's giving bloggers a bad name is the incessant public spats, the arguments and the need to subtweet about every little thing that you don't agree with as though you can't just click the "x" button to minus out of a blog that isn't to your taste. Blogging is personal, it's subjective and it's about time that we started realising that people doing things differently to the masses doesn't always mean they're doing it wrong.

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Liverpool's Best Kept Secrets With Travelodge

If there's one place I'd happily spend the rest of my life, it'd be Liverpool - I'm not far, just the other side of the Mersey in fact, but sometimes that ten minute bus ride seems to make me feel a little like a tourist; and not in a bad way. I grew up in Liverpool, my weekends as a teenager included tons of us gathering at the courts, in St. John's Garden or down at Pierhead - and as I've got older I've found different (and much more pleasant) haunts. So, in collaboration with Travelodge, I've written a list of some of Liverpool's secret gems by those of us that spent way too much of our time curled up in them.

LEAF, Bold Street
There are a couple of restaurants in Liverpool that cater for just about everyone but LEAF is one of the most affordable and also the most charming. No matter what time of the day that you go to LEAF there are always such a mix of people in there - middle aged women catching up over coffee, students using the free WiFi, families eating breakfast and elderly couples enjoying the various goodies on offer. There's something truly magical about a place that seems to be packed to the rafters between 9am and 2am - and with offerings for the vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian amongst us, and considering they even have a fully stocked bar as well as a whole menu of loose leaf teas, it's not hard to see why LEAF is one of Liverpool's Best Kept Secrets. It's well worth going a little out of your way to grab a bite here (or checking out their sister venues - Oh Me Oh My and The Garden @ Fact), and if you're lucky you might even stumble across a Vintage Fair or an Open Mic Night in their upstairs venue.

There are actually three Utility's around Liverpool, two up Bold Street (one gifts, one homewares) and one in Liverpool One (mostly gifts) but all three are worth checking out. If you're looking for them summed up in a nutshell, they're like a high end ikea mixed with Paperchase - find the latest up and coming homeware designers alongside beautiful stationary brands such as Happy Jackson and Ban.Do and you can literally browse through everything for hours. The shops, particularly the Liverpool One branch, take the time out to showcase not only the best of designers but also the best of Liverpool designers - and if there's one thing scousers love, it's other scousers that are doing well for themselves (we'll never let The Beatles or Cilla Black be forgotten, they were from here, did you know?). There's just something lovely about a shop wherein you can buy an offensive card and a mug made right on your doorstep in the same beat, and it's definitely worth checking out if you're around one of them (and you're never far from at least one.) These guys also supported my first ever meet up - it was awesome.

If you want a cheap, tasty lunch then P&D's is your safest bet - on the corner of Williamson Square, you need to take the time to get there before or after lunchtime in order to get a seat as this place gets seriously busy, seriously fast. With authentic Italian dishes on offer, from pizza to filled sandwiches, alongside some of the most amazing cakes and ice cream you'll ever see (if you can get the Nutella Cake, do, it's a bit of a local celebrity as food goes) for the price of a McDonald's meal - it's not hard to see why this place is as popular as it is. It's worth waiting for a seat, or coming back in half an hour, because the food is so much more amazing than the fast food prices would suggest.

Pop Boutique was infamous when I was at school - racks and racks of checked shirts, northern rock bags and £1 tote bags made this the coolest place to shop and, although it fell out of favour a little for a few years, since it's reopening of a shop up in Bold Street, this has definitely had a resurgence. If you're looking for something a little bit different, a little vintage, this is definitely the shop for you - you could spend hours browsing through different bits and pieces and still not see everything. Definitely worth going to have a look.

So there are my favourite picks! Where are your hidden gems for Liverpool? If you're interested in coming to visit all my picks - you can stay in plenty of hotels in Liverpool, check it out!

Sammy xo.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Mental Illness - We're Facing Enough.

Those of us battling with mental illness - we're facing enough. We're facing enough with a trial in our own head every day wherein we ourselves are both defence and prosecution, we're facing enough living with dread heavy in the pit of our stomachs, we're facing enough with the stigma that surrounds our illnesses every single day - it's not cute, or endearing, it's hard and we're facing it every single day.

We're facing enough without having to face your criticisms, without having to explain our lack of enthusiasm for menial day to day goings on, without having to defend our inability to work. We're facing enough without having to worry what people are thinking about us every day, without having to try to keep our illnesses secret for fear of how it will make us appear, without having to worry about how the future will pan out for us as we are so acutely aware of what the world can be like for sufferers of mental illness.

We're facing enough without having to face an eight month wait for help beyond medication, without facing up to a fortnight for emergency mental health assessments, without facing patronising attitudes from doctors who should be offering support, without facing cuts to our sector (which is lacking to begin with).

Those of us battling with mental illness - we are facing enough. We are facing enough without feeling like we have to defend the fact we're not just jumping on a bandwagon (a bandwagon I can point out, at this point, that none of us chose or wanted to be on), we are facing enough to be facing anything but support from those around us.

I will you to think about your attitude to mental health, because when you're frustrated at how we're being - just remember how much we're facing, and try to help us; we are facing enough.

Sammy xo.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Girl's Day Out Liverpool

A few weeks ago an email popped into my inbox asking me if I might like to receive some tickets to head down to Girl's Day Out, a trade show in Liverpool the weekend of Halloween and, never one to turn down a good time, I graciously accepted and headed down there with my best friend Ruby. We were a little later than we might have liked to have left, but given that it was the morning after Halloween (which need I remind you fell on a Saturday this year) I don't think we did too badly all in all.

Now, first things first, this was in the new Liverpool Exhibition Centre down on the waterfront and having never been in this venue I didn't really know what to expect; it was nice though, clean looking, if fairly small for a trade show. Walking in, you'd be forgiven for thinking that you were walking into a very pink themed Clothes Show - with the heavy music, the individual stands and even a double decker bus (I'll get to that, in a minute.) It's important to point out, at this point, that although this is a huge trade show, it's not even near the same level as The Clothes Show (but that is the top of it's game, whereas Girl's Day Out still is only just setting out.)

It was a good way to kill a few hours, if nothing else. There were some really good brands there and although I was just in the market for a browse, Ruby was really ready to buy - and buy she did. After picking up our free gift bags (containing some samples, nail wraps, mini deodorant, an ariel liquitab and a mini tube of toothpaste) we used the free gift vouchers to go and grab some cocktails - the event was sponsored by Funkin' Cocktails and everybody got both a Strawberry Daiquiri and a Mojito voucher when they went to pick up their gift bags - and head out into the madness to see what we could find.

Almost immediately Ruby dragged me in so Bperfect Cosmetics so she could have her brows done as they were doing them free o the day - I had to admit that they did look boss but I just wasn't willing to make the commitment to take mine off and be seen sans brows in public so I gave it a miss. They used (and Ruby bought) their Semi-Permanent Brows which gives you eyebrows to last  24 hours, which is pretty cool for £24.99. I will say - they made it out as though they were giving you a deal on the day but the prices online are exactly the same so, there's that. Ruby also picked up an Aurora Band (which I got to watch a tutorial on, which was awesome, although again there was a little misleading statements regarding whether or not you were getting a deal) and also some cheap gel nail varnishes from RYV Gel to be used with her (my) Sensationail lamp which worked out 3 for £10 and she tells me they're brilliant.

I also got to catch up with a few brands I worked with on #NWmeet, Kiss Cosmetics and This Material Culture, which was cool - and there really were some notable brands there, there was a double decker Elemis bus, as well as Boozi Bodycare, Dorothy Perkins and Atkins; and there was also some dancing, Juice FM and Radio City both took part and it was a nice few hours out. Did it have some way to come? Of course, it's in it's first year - but it's definitely a show to keep your eye on as it grows and develops, because I really think that it might be something. I would say though, be aware that there are some brands outright lying about you getting a good deal so - just check it online first.

Did you manage to get down to Girl's Day Out?

Sammy xo.

Girl's Day Out Tickets were complimentary however all views are completely my own.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Halloween Hangover Gift Guide

If there's one thing that I really love - it's Halloween, and so I'm still mainly stuck in the Halloween mood year round; it's all about the black, the skulls and the creepy additions to my bedroom. I know I'm not the only one (black is the staple colour for most 20 somethings, isn't it?) and so I thought I'd kick my Christmas gift guides off with a Halloween Hangover themed one - you're welcome.

This little beaut is a surprising little edition to my gift guides, but I really do love this formula and I think the packaging and bottle are adorable. At $15 these aren't cheap - but as a little treat to someone special, they're ideal. I went for "I Can't Even", a glossy black, to add to this set of gifts, but they do a little something for everyone ("Bitch, Please!" Is another favourite of mine). This goes on opaque with a single coat and doesn't chip for a solid few work days, which is pretty impressive.

I have a further post coming on Dark Bunny Tees (they have jumpers that come in pizza boxes for God's sake) but this is a standout product for me. I love a good vest top, especially to wear around on Christmas day (getting dressed whilst not really getting dressed, it's the future) and this is stretchy, comfy and just generally really cute; plus, pretty good value for only £18 in my opinion. They also have an adorable Gremlins jumper that's not long been on the site and I'm obsessed with it.

Products with amazing packaging are one thing, but products with amazing packaging that also hold their own are something else entirely - and LunatiCK's contour kit definitely falls into the latter group. This opens like a book to reveal 12 contour shades, ranging from cool greys, to beautiful rosey pinks right down to warm browns - there's something for every occasion and every skin type and although this is seriously pricey ($74 is some serious money, even by my standards) each shade is buttery and easy to work with, as well as being seriously pigmented - this is definitely an investment, and I don't see myself hitting pan on mine any time soon.

I fully believe that you can't go wrong with shot glasses as a present - they're always the type of thing that you think that you definitely don't need to buy yourself but then wish that you had when all your friends are over unhygienically from the same bottle of vodka before a night out (just me? Awkward). These skull shot glasses can double up as a cute decoration until that night rolls around and it saves them being shoved in the back of the cupboard - I'm only slightly obsessed with these.

So there's what you get a Halloween lover for Christmas to keep the spirit going! Happy Friday 13th!

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, 12 November 2015

Why A Menstrual Cup?

I'm a huge advocate, in case you haven't notice, for Britain giving the Tampon Tax the boot; however, in chatting to people about periods and my use of a menstrual cup (and I'm pretty insistent people listen to what I have to say when I'm off on one) I've realised just how many people have the same question - why a menstrual cup?

In school when I learned about periods it seemed as though I had two options - tampons or pads. Having listened to many a horror story about dry tampons, girls contracting TSS and women who had to have tampons medically removed, I opted firmly for the latter. This didn't really work for me - and after two years of seemingly changing pads every hour on the hour in order to feel clean, I got a public facing job which meant I had to stand on a till during 8 hour shifts with only a few breaks, and that meant back to the drawing board with my sanitary products. So, I went in search for an alternative - what did porn stars use to help with their period? What did those who didn't believe in disposable sanitary products use? After ten minutes of searching I was given a solid three more options on top of the two school taught me about - a menstrual sponge, a cloth pad and a menstrual cup.

I picked the least gross seeming to me - I didn't want to wash cloth pads, and I didn't really like the idea of using a sponge - and so I ordered a menstrual cup. I'll be honest with you - the first few times, I fucked it up. The cups are smaller than you'd imagine, you fold them down to a more comfortable size, pop them inside yourself, check they're up and the leave them to collect the blood for a few hours. How can you mess that up, you may ask? Easy. The hardest part of using the cup, in my opinion, is figuring the knack of making sure that it's completely popped open inside yourself or it will leak - and the first few times I messed this up (although I can attest for the fact that, once you've done it once, it's simple to do again and again). For this reason, I was disheartened and chucked it to the back of the cupboard.

A few months later, enough was enough and so I dug it back out, gritted my teeth and gave it another go. This time? I got it. It just seemed to work this time over - and my god did it change my life. Suddenly I didn't have to wear the world's longest pads overnight and swap them out to avoid leakage, suddenly I didn't have to make excuses to nip out on a break to swap my pad over so I didn't leak in work, suddenly I could go my whole period without feeling wet. I imagine if you've used tampons, this is how you feel anyway - only with the added bonus that these suckers can be kept in for a solid 8 hours at a time, in my experience.

So why a menstrual cup? From £12 for a year's worth of protection, it will save you a ton of money, it feels cleaner, it's reusable, it requires swapping less, it's eco friendly, they come in tons of sizes with different removal methods in order for you to feel as comfortable as possible, you can sleep in it. Overall, the question you should be asking in my opinion is; why not a menstrual cup? If you want to take a look for yourself, I'd recommend taking a peek over at Feminine Wear, not sponsored - just a great company with good customer service.

Have you ever tried a menstrual cup? Would you?

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Degustabox Review

If there's one thing you should know about me - it's that I love food. When Degustabox emailed me to see if I wanted a whole box of food sent to my door from them, I got my knife and fork ready and waited eagerly behind the postbox (only, you know, metaphorically, because I have an actual life to live.) In essence, Degustabox is a box full of yummy treats - some you can use to cook and bake with, some that you can chuck in your bag as snacks and many giving you a taste of brands you might not have heard of before.

The first thing I was very excited about - I bloody love Salt and Vinegar crisps and I expected these Chip Strips to be like my beloved Pringles. As much as these are pleasant (and, as predicted very much the texture of Pringles if Pringles were long and like, you know, strip shaped) they do lack a little on flavour, the Salt and Vinegar more so than the Sweet Paprika; as nice as they are they just don't have the salt burn feeling of Pringles. One thing that certainly doesn't lack on taste is the Geeta's Lime and Chilli Chutney - we ate this from the jar with cheap nacho's (probably some kind of sacrilege, but what can you do) and it was amazing; sweet with just the right amount of spice and so, so yummy. The third offering, the freeze dried Apricots from The Snack Organisation, went straight to mum as I can't think of anything I hate more than apricots. Apparently, according to Ka, these were really, really strong tasting (which was a good thing) but a real weird texture (not sure what she expected from something that was freeze-dried, to be honest).

I'm yet to use the Cirio Passata and Chopped Tomatoes but have used them before and know they're pretty good, as tomato goes - but if I do chuck them into any good recipes I'll be sure to post them up on here. The next thing struck Katy as hilarious but it was a full value voucher for President butter - so I nipped and picked up a spreadable tub of the salted kind, saving myself £1.70; score. The last thing in this row of pictures is the Lorina sparkling Coconut and Lime drink - this was actually surprisingly nice when cold, however anything liquid form that tastes like Coconut always seems to be the wrong texture to me (does anybody else get that? No?). Not a complete fail, but probably not what I'd pick in a restaurant.

I'd love to tell you about the Snack Organisation's Sweet Chilli Rice Crackers but they were completely demolished before I even got to touch them. My brother ate them dipped into Hummus and told me they were really nice, but just a pretty standard Sweet Chilli Rice Cracker (I wouldn't be able to confirm nor deny, not that I'm bitter about it.) I haven't given the Korma Curry Paste a go yet, but given the Chutney by Geeta's was so flavoursome, I have high hopes (I'll let you know when I do!) The next item was the one I was the most excited about in the whole box - I've been seeing a lot of The Naked Marshmallow Company over on Not On The High Street and so I was really excited to  give these Salted Caramel offerings a taste. Suffice to say, they didn't let me down - they were sweet and salty in all the right measure, nice and chewy with flakes of caramel on the top; amazing. 10/10 would recommend. 

Kabuto noodles used to be one of my favourite foods in college - and this one is the Chicken Ramen version. If you've viewed this as a posh pot noodle, you're not far off - much less cardboardy and absolutely full of flavour, though; it's like a proper meal whereas Pot Noodle is like a boredom killer. 9 Bar - now, as vegan snack bars go (and there's a lot of them around our house as my brother is on a paleo diet), these are a little on the rabbit food-y end of the scale - HOWEVER, for every bar bought they provide a night's worth of light to a child in Africa; and that's pretty cool, as giving back goes. Last but not least are the salted peanuts and cashews from Liberation Foods - which are currently sitting in my bag but I'm so excited to give them a good try and they look amazing and have such gorgeous packaging.

Not bad for £12.99, huh? If you use the code "BLDEG15" You can even get £6 off that (for a whole ton of food - student readers need to get on this!)

Have you tried Degustabox before?

Sammy xo.

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

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Book Review - The Gilded Life of Matilda Duplaine

The Gilded Life Of Matilda Duplaine by Alex Brunkhorst was one of those books that I didn't expect to like - not that I thought that it would be unpleasant, just a little chick-flicky and boring. I couldn't have been more wrong - this was captivating and enticing from the very beginning; wherein we don't even meet the title character until a number of chapters in. In a book named after the elusive Matilda Duplaine, you would be forgiven for forgetting that she was to even play an integral role in this surprisingly complicated book, with it's delicate twists and turns.

We see our antagonist, Thomas, thrust unexpectedly into the world of the ultra rich and famous - and we see him struggle to adapt and fit in a world that he doesn't belong to, with no other choice as he leaves a mysterious past and an even more mysterious woman behind. Thomas is both a curiosity and an open book in the same breath - we know nearly everything about him as person through his meetings with various others and yet he is devoid of any details for us, and so as he faces his own mysteries of the people in the world around him, we come up against Thomas' own.

This book is charmingly written - the important story almost an afterthought interjected in between Thomas' own story and, although it shouldn't work, it really does. In the same way Thomas is left to decipher the world around him, and how Matilda fits into a life that she seems to barely exist within, we are also left to decipher Matilda as a character - as well as Thomas, the job that he left behind and the love of his life that seems to remain heavy in his heart even as his life develops and broadens in a way that we could never expected.

This book is anything but high paced - it's a softly written book, a book that could be a true narrative of the lives of the rich that we don't get to see, and above all it's bittersweet and endearing in all the right ways. There is something charmingly written about a book that doesn't always go the way that you want it to, and a book that doesn't always turn when you expect it to and - for a surprisingly straightforward book - there are a number of turns that you just don't see coming; even when you think that you might have the plot figured out, chances are there will be at least one plot twist that you just didn't see coming.

Overall, it's a book that I'd recommend - probably not one that you will continuously turn back to, but one that will take a solid place in your bookcase, one that you'll lend to your friends when they ask for a book to take on holiday.

Have you read The Gilded Life Of Matilda Duplaine?

Sammy xo.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Paulie Clothing Wishlist

If there's one thing I love - it's designer fashion (read; fashion that's potentially way out of my league, at least for the time being). If there's another thing I love - it's websites that provide you with a sensible amount of pages of clothes instead of pages upon pages of practically identical jeans. Luckily, Paulie Clothing offer both of these things in abundance, making it the dream for someone like little old me. Here's my window shopping wishlist (ready for if I ever magically become rich or win the lottery. Hopefully both.)

Okay but, in all seriousness, I started with this because this is the one thing that isn't actually just a pipedream in my wishlist. I have wanted a cashmere jumper for literally years, and this one is a round necked, super soft blue one and I think I've fallen in love with it. I might just ask for this for Christmas and then wear it every single day for the rest of my life (or never wear it, given that I'm not entirely sure how you're meant to wash cashmere. Or anything, I just guess about washing machine settings, usually.)

This is so pretty, and admittedly I'm a sucker for something that I can wear Winter and Summer and this is one of those scarves you could probably throw on even if it's not cold outside (although, you know, it is England and so it's basically always cold here). This is literally 100% wool which means it's probably a better idea in theory than in practise however having said that, if I had the money this would definitely be in my wardrobe right now.

Black leather trousers have been forever ruined for me by Friends, but these grey ones just caught my eye (I'd like to think that I'd look fierce in them, but probably not). It was a toss up between these and the Suede Crop Trousers in Taupe but I'm a bit weird about getting Suede to all go one way and I figured I probably wouldn't be able to do this with a pair of pants so I used my better judgement to choose the leather instead.

This was the first thing that I fell in love with on this site. I love a good skater dress and this is absolutely gorgeous - heavy and structured with a classical pattern? Surely if there was a dress that was going to last you a lifetime over it's this, right? Right? Okay, admittedly I might just be trying to convince myself that buying this is a step too far this close to Christmas...

Heeled boots, sueded, black. Need I say more? I love a good pair of chelsea boots and I do think that a heel can add a whole new element to a basic outfit. I'm not normally one for high end boots but on this occasion I can probably make an exception.

Paulie Clothing not only offers their own brand, but nestled in between you can find anything from Hogan to Rag and Bone so it has a little added something to the traditional high end clothing website.  What would you pick out of all of these clothes?

Sammy xo.

*Sponsored Post*

Friday, 6 November 2015

Will Barbie Ever Get It Right?

Barbie, for as long back as I can remember, has been a little bit of a sore point in the lives of girls. We'd all be lying if we said that we didn't love them as kids, Dream House and all, and to be honest - I still do love Barbie; disproportionate curves and all. In the past, Barbie has been criticised for nearly everything that you could imagine; from poor representation right through to promoting poor body image for girls. So, as a new age (complete with a new advert) for Barbie dawns - it's just about time for us to ask; will Barbie ever get it right?

The new slogan seems to at least suggest a little difference to what we've seen from Mattel in the past. Gone are the Barbies in skimpy bikinis playing in pools to get young girls interested in their products and this time they've been replaced by something amazing - real girls getting involved in real sectors (amongst the traditional vet and teacher, we also see a football coach and a museum tour guide), all set alongside a new tagline; simple but effective, it now reads "You Can Be Anything". It seems here, we've reached a crossroads - we need to commend Barbie for everything it has done, and yet there are still some major issues that they're yet to target.

For the first time in forever, Barbie has become more than a tiny waist - we see the impact that it can really have on girls lives if used to the best of it's ability; we can truly inspire girls, we can push them higher than ever before. We don't even see the classic Barbie shape until the last few seconds of the video: until then we see women of multiple races, ethnicities and professions - we see the kind of world we want our daughters, sisters and friends to grow up in; yet, Barbie still is falling short. Where are the boys who like Barbie? Where are the dolls that show diverse body shapes, heights, disabilities? Where are the girls that represent those sectors in a real life setting?

The fact is, Barbie is making huge steps forward - but they still remain years behind the times. With the Lammily Doll showing us what the doll would look like with proportionate measurements (and also, you know, more than half a liver which is all that the real life Barbie would be able to fit into that tiny body) surely tradition just isn't enough to keep Barbie on it's pedestal. With Barbie seemingly increasingly irrelevant to girls these days (trust me, find me one kid who'd rather have a Barbie doll than a Frozen doll) the reboot needs more than just an attitude change - it's a start, sure - but there's still a long way to go.

In short? Barbie might get it right one day, but that day still isn't today.

Sammy xo.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Vichy Dermablend

I'm a foundation junkie and, try as I might, I just haven't found the right base to settle down with (this is making it sound like a love affair, right? It is). I tend to swing between foundations but never really find one to repurchase, and when Vichy offered to send me their new Dermablend Corrective Fluid Foundation and the matching Setting Powder I didn't expect it to be a lasting contender in my make up kit, oh how wrong I was.

Not only did this come with a setting powder, but also with a blending palette and a brush which was a cool little addition, and I got to working with it almost straight away. What surprised me the most was just how yellow that this was - I'm porcelain which is the lightest shade that Vichy currently offer and I was surprised to find how dark it looked on my skin, but I persevered all the same. Full face, still yellow. Back to the drawing board (this, in this circumstance means I carried on anyway because nobody has time to do their make up twice) and I added concealer and the white setting powder - ah, now we're onto something; the setting powder definitely seems to bring down the tone of the make up and settled it down really well.

My go to before this was Naked Skin by Urban Decay and this couldn't be more different if it tried. This is medium to heavy and (although mostly airing on heavy) definitely builable and the yellow actually does seem to tone down the redness in my skin and so when my skin is particularly bad - this really works to counteract it. Having said that - I find the tools that came with this set don't work particularly well; the brush is the wrong shape to make this work and look natural (I'd say opt for a buffing brush for a cleaner, better blended look) and the palette is, beyond anything, just a little gimmicky - however they were cute little additions to the set. Also, don't get me starting on the vintage powder puff that came with the Vichy, I wouldn't even know how to make that look natural (the powder is silky and fab with a brush, though).

Now there are some downsides, I have to say. Although the finish and colour of this is amazing if you manage to do it right, it's very easy to be a little too heavy handed - and although it's hard to make this look cakey it does just look strange and too thick (and has a weird shine to it if you wear it without the dermablend setting powder.) This does look good on and, to give it it's due, it does look pretty natural - but it's undeniably a make up for people who like the made up look (which I do). It's a pretty good deal with the Corrector Fluid coming in at £18 - however, as I'd say not to use it without the powder (which retails at £17) that's bringing your total cost up to £35 which is actually around the mark of top end foundations, if not a little more expensive.

Would I say it's worth it? Yeah, probably - but just bear in mind that it's not without it's faults.

Sammy xo.

Contains PR Samples

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner - A Retraction

Eyeliner, they say, is subjective - and Kat Von D was once the eyeliner for me. Now, I have to post this disappointing retraction. Basic eye watering, Kat Von D can handle - full on hayfever/wind provoked streams? Not so much. I figured this would be a solid bet to wear for #NWmeet - but I was very wrong; let me tell you a little story.

I spent a solid 20 minutes getting my eyeliner wings even on the day of the meet, I made sure they were straight up perfect - in fact, they took me so long that I was late to meet Katy. I then helped carry all the boxes up no problem, and we settled for a break on the very windy roof garden - cue streams and streams of watery eyes and therefore messed up eyeliner.

This continued for the whole day - even with two top ups, I still ended up with awful eye make up for the whole event and so - here's my official retraction; you let me down Kat Von D. You should be ashamed.

Sammy xo.

This is a joke but also for real, this will run big style if you tear up more than slightly.