Sunday, 13 August 2017

Keeping Travel Costs Down - Alcohol/Drinks

I did a post a little while ago about how to save money on the most requested topic when you’re abroad; and that was food. However, there was a close second, and that was today’s topic - alcohol (or drinks in general). It stands to reason that this is probably big on the itinerary when you go travelling, and so a lot of your budget can easily be eaten up by drinking if you don’t make sure that you’re keeping tabs on it. Though a lot of people worry about this biting right through the centre of the budget, it seems to me as though this is one of the easiest things to keep your money low on when you know how - so here’s a sober girl’s guide (don’t worry, my girlfriend drinks alcohol, I didn’t just pull these out of thin air) on how to make sure you aren’t spending too much on alcohol (and other drinks) when abroad.

I’m going to start with a practical one, but one that not everyone is going to like - and that’s opt for wine, especially when in Europe. When out for meals wine is typically cheaper purely because you share the cost of a bottle, but if you’re in and around Europe, most regions, countries, cities or even villages have their own bodegas, and therefore their own wines. These will be cheap, strong and easy to share over a good meal (or even a bad one) - so, I know it’s not a great tip for all of you travelling around that don’t like wine, it’s definitely a good way to keep alcohol costs down. Plus, it’s an acquired taste - if you drink enough of it, you’ll be a connoisseur by the time that you jump on the plane to come home.

Not about to opt for a drink that you don’t like just in order to keep your costs down? Well, that’s fair enough - and there’s definitely other ways around it. Try to drink whatever is native to the country that you’re in - something you’ll know, because you’ll find it absolutely everywhere; Super Bock and Somersby Cider in Porto, Black Balsam in Riga and pretty much any type of vodka in Poland - anything that doesn’t have to be imported is going to run much cheaper than anything that does. Pints of Strongbow might be so much you’ll feel like you’re about to faint when they hand you the bill, but there’ll almost definitely be some sort of alternative that they don’t have to use a huge carbon footprint to get in, and that’ll have a much lower price tag. 

It’s not just alcohol that’s going to burn a hole in your pocket, but any kind of drink - whether you’re in a hot country on the beach, or a city break walking right around the town, you’re going to need some sort of hydration; and bottle after bottle of water is definitely going to build up cost wise. Take and empty water bottle through in your hand luggage and have any Costa, Starbucks or even McDonalds fill this up as you travel around to keep costs low - if you can’t stand water, just buy squash and keep a small amount of it in your bag. Coming prepared is a huge part of not spending more than you’d budgeted, and this simple trick can definitely help you keep on top of that cash trying to escape from your pockets (though I’d like to point out, a vodka and coke or a Starbucks iced tea here and there probably isn’t going to nip away too much of the money you’ve brought along).

As a general rule though - drink at home as much as possible. Whether it’s a night in, a round of pre-drinks or a drink after a meal so you don’t have to shell out for alcohol at restaurant prices - the same as it is in England, alcohol bought from a supermarket or off license is always going to run considerably cheaper. Share a bottle of wine before you go out, buy some plastic shot glasses and start the rounds before your feet ever hit the floor in a bar and you’ll be much better off by the time that you make it home (of course an alternative is to only take the money that you can afford to spend on a night out, then when you run out you really have no alternative but to stop spending).

Furthermore, and most importantly when it comes to drinks, whether you’re in a hot or cold country, walking around or just having a relaxed holiday - make sure to stay hydrated, and make sure to keep drinking in between that alcohol to keep as healthy and hydrated as possible. Such a sad mum thing to say, I know, but very important (and water is typically free!). If you have any tips for keeping drinks costs down, or any places you struggle to save money when abroad, let us know down below.

Sammy xo

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Kat Von D Rock Candy Studded Kiss Lipstick Set

If there's one thing that Katy and I don't really need, it's lipstick. Conversely, if there's one thing Katy and I will always weirdly store though we use the same 6 colours between us, it's also lipsticks. So, when Kat Von D sent me a set of goodies that included the Rock Candy Studded Kiss Lipstick Set, I was more than happy to see a new set of colours to add to our ever-growing collection. I'm pretty familiar with Kat Von D makeup, though I've only used their liquid lipstick in the past, and so it was good to get my hands on these and try them out to see if they matched up the the high standards I'd normally expect from Kat Von D.

These range in colour from bright pinks to a soft lilac grey, and each one is in a pretty plastic packaging that looks like squared based studs. As pretty as these are, they aren't very sturdy - the lids come off with little to no pressure and I quite often find them lying around with no lid to be seen, but if you can get past that, they're definitely a nice little set to have in your collection. That’s not to say though that they’re particularly out there colours - though the lilac grey and the dark purple are something a little different - that will be severely lacking in you make up bag.

These do have a good formula though, I have to be honest - they're pigmented, smooth and opaque in just one go - but they just don't really catch my imagination like I hoped they would. Though the lilac grey has me thinking of new looks that I could wear alongside it at V Fest in a few weeks, the other colours just don't inspire me as much as I'd hoped when I initially saw the packaging - and some of the colours actually just look really similar, to the point where I feel like I just don't need them in my collection; something I don't usually feel this soon into my ownership (buyers remorse usually kicks in three weeks or so in, in those last painful days before payday. We've all been there.).

 (Bottom To Top: Ziggy, Babe, Crush)
(Bottom To Top: Ozzy, Roxy, Zero)

All in all - these are definitely pretty, and the formula definitely doesn't disappoint - but I just want more from them. Perhaps it's just that I'm spoilt by a huge lipstick collection and so these just seem to blend in too much for me to really consider them some sort of special addition, but I only wish that the lipsticks themselves stood out as much as the packaging does. I would say these are definitely good to try out a few options of Kat Von D lipsticks, or if you're starting out and your lipstick collection isn't very big or very varied (especially for only £34 for the 6 smaller sizes), but if you've got a collection as big as ours? Probably save your money (to spend on some other make up product that you have less of, of course).

Though the set itself didn't impress me, the formula really did - and so I'll definitely be looking into more Kat Von D Studded Kiss Lipsticks, I just wouldn't be rushing out to buy this set again (or really in the first place), any time soon.

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

Friday, 11 August 2017

Keeping Travel Costs Down - Food

A lot of people ask us about how we afford travelling so much and we truly do try and answer this as broadly as possible, but sometimes I know it's like clicking on a link for a blog post about how to get soft hair, only to find that it's specifically targeted at blondes and you're a redhead. As in, there's definitely some tips there that you can take away with you, but mostly it's tips that you sort of already knew, or aren't really helping you out that much. So, I took to twitter to ask you guys what it was that you really struggled saving money on when you went abroad, and though I'll do a mini series targeting as much as possible that was mentioned, the main one was definitely food.

Eating abroad definitely can be a tough one - especially as most of the time you don't have that helpful, genuine word of mouth that you would have at home; at most, you have a hotel that may get a cut from sending you to the restaurant they've chosen, or menus that you can try and decipher when you walk past. The internet can definitely help you - and if you've got the time to scour through pages and pages of tripadvisor, this can definitely be one of the best ways to find little haunts; but don't just blindly trust their pound sign rating system, as we've been to £££££ restaurants that have cost less than £££ ones. If you want to use tripadvisor, definitely take the time to check through the reviews and try and compare them with online menus - if the site doesn't have a menu, make sure to check tripadvisor photos or do a quick google of the name of the restaurant followed by the word 'menu' and there'll likely be at lease one tourist that's helpfully taken a picture and popped it up on a random review website.

There is an old saying that can often be more fruitful however, that tells you to follow the locals; and it stands to reason that this one would work. Locals aren’t going to pick bad places to eat, nor are they going to pay excessive amounts for foods readily available in their area (and these are usually the foods that you want to get your hands on) and so this can be a good choice - though likely will lead you down tiny winding roads in the centre of town somewhere, so make sure that you have your google maps ready to find your way back out. When you find your way to one of these restaurants, bear in mind that cheaper restaurants serving authentic foods don’t typically have English menus, so if you don’t speak the language you may have to pick randomly, rely on google translate or get over to the waiter that you’ll have what they suggest (if you’re not a fussy eater and have no food preferences or allergies, this can be a great way to try some fantastic dishes).

However food doesn’t have to be restaurants and bars - pound the streets to find food. You’re, realistically, never going to eat three meals per day in restaurants, bars and cafes and still hit your trip’s budget quota - but that doesn’t mean you have to cut down on food. Bakeries, fast food joint and even street food booths are all fair game that’ll barely break into the note in your pocket. Bakeries, in particular, are a goldmine. In many countries, baked goods are done by weight rather than number, and so one bread roll, one pizza slice or one sausage roll will weigh nothing, and therefore cost next to nothing - it’ll be fresh, hot and, more importantly, in budget. Similarly, if you need food and you’re low on cash? Don’t be afraid of opting for fast food. Probably don’t eat it every single day for every single meal, definitely do see what’s out there on offer - but a McDonalds for breakfast one day, or a late dinner one evening, will definitely help to keep you full, whilst keeping though finances in check.

One last tip, but this is only for if you’re staying in somewhere with a kitchen - but, use the supermarket. This might sound obvious, but you can save money by dishing out your own pasta and having food in before you head out for the night - there’s no shame buying vital bits from the supermarket and using these to keep costs low - after all, the less you spend on food, the more you have for other bits and pieces.

These are just some of the tips I could think of for keeping costs low on food, and I’ll be talking about some more bits and pieces about ways to save money on specific things, so keep in touch. If you have any places you struggle to save money on holiday, or any tips - definitely leave them below!

Sammy xo

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Hotel Chocolat Little Dippers

I love chocolate year round, but there’s very little that I get as excited for as I do for Hotel Chocolat new season releases. Normally, I have to say, it’s Christmas that makes my heart skip a beat and the butterflies in my stomach flutter - but this year, there’s one particular Summer release that has truly won over my heart; the Little Dippers. I was lucky enough to get a package from Hotel Chocolat that had both the Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream and the Choc Ice Little Dippers in, and I have to say that they’re something pretty special.

Not only are these tiny bites of chocolatey goodness, but they come with a special superpower; these ice creams themed treats can be put in the fridge to chill them down and make them seem even more authentic - you have to admit, that’s pretty cool. These don’t come in cheap at £6.50 a bag, but in the smaller bag you can get Strawberry Ripple and Choc Ice flavours, and there’s a bigger £10 bag of Scoops To Chill Big Dippers including flavour as wide as blood orange and melon amongst others. They’re gimmicky (and we all know I love a gimmick) and expensive, but are they worth parting with your hard earned cash?

Well, in short, some are. Namely, I would say that the Choc Ice variation are - they're crisp, milk chocolate on the outside, with a soft, creamy vanilla filling; and when warm these taste like choc ices (though that taste does edge close to what a vanilla liqueur tastes like, if that's something that you don't like) - but when cooled down, these really do mimic the taste of the ice cream that they're named ever; with the centres firming up slightly and generally the whole thing changing texture just ever so slightly, to the extent it genuinely feels as though you're eating a tiny choc ice.

The ones I'm less fussed on, though Katy loved them, were the Strawberry Ripple Ice Cream variation. These are white chocolate on the outside, with a very strong strawberry filling in the centre - and I have to admit that, though these do taste like ice cream, I find them to be a very strong taste. To me, the strawberry in these is overpowering, and the whole thing is just a little too sickly for me to be on board with - but Katy really liked these; so if you have a big sweet tooth, and a love for white chocolate and strawberry, you just might be on board with these.

All in all - I think these might be gimmicky (okay, so they definitely are), but they are something cool and inventive, and something a little different to treat yourself to over the Summer months. Get some in the fridge, get the BBQ going, and get ready to get into the true spirit of Summer with Hotel Chocolat.

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

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

(TW:SH) The Reality Of Self Harm - A Year On

It goes without saying that there's a Trigger Warning for Self Harm attached to this post and so please don't read if you think it'll negatively affect you in any way, always take care of yourself.

It’s been a year since I wrote about the reality of self harm and it wasn’t pretty, and this post won’t be either - reflecting on the whole thing more than a year on. The year and a half since kicking my self harm habit has seemed so much longer than the twelve years that I was in it - I have done a lot of growing, a lot of learning about myself, learning to be independent and getting to grips with the person that I am now. Maybe it’s been that so much has happened since I kicked the habit that it feels like it couldn’t possibly be less than eighteen months ago - all of these things couldn’t have fit into that pocket of time, I couldn’t be this different a person in that little time.

The reality is - some days it’s easy to forget how easy a liar the habit made you, it’s easy to forget that it used to take over your life at every moment, it’s easy to forget that I would lie in bed at 4am willing that Katy wouldn’t wake up before I could get to the bathroom for the next indulgence, the next hit, the next mess to clean up. It’s easy to forget that these scars that are starting to blend in with my skin were once something I would trace and cry over and purposely make more of, and it’s easy to forget all of the time I sat in therapist sessions, and doctors surgeries, and my bed, and I cried because I couldn’t get this monkey off my back, and I was tired of carrying it around. It’s not just easy to forget, but impossible to remember, how it started when I was eleven, or how that snowballed to how it was when I was 22.

The reality is - sometimes I want to go back there and it kills me. It itches under my skin and I feel like I can’t possibly survive without hurting myself; I remember how easy it was to lie and I know how easy it would be now to fall back into old habits. It’s easy to forget how it destroyed the people around me; it’s easy to get selfish about the whole thing and get back in that hurting-nobody-but-myself mindset. It’s so scarily easy for the ‘this-will-make-you-feel-better’ part of my brain to take over the, ‘you-are-strong-enough-to-get-over-this’ one, and it’s so overwhelming to have days where you can’t truly tell which side of your brain that you want to win.

But mostly, the reality is that life is so much brighter now - it’s so much nicer to live and sleep and snuggle with Katy without worrying about ruining our bedsheets, and it’s nice to learn to talk about how I’m feeling - and it’s a relief, to be in recovery, and to cope without taking it out on myself. The reality of self harm is that when you’re in it, you can’t find a way out - and sometimes when you’re out of it, you still sort of can’t find a total way out; but it’s doable. Recovery is genuinely possible, and for now - and I hope for a long time in the future - I am a genuine story of how true this is. It’s been ugly, upsetting, traumatic, happy, and make me angry, frustrated, stronger and bolder - but more than anything; it’s been worth it.

If you’re struggling with self harm please do reach out to your doctor, or find help through The Samaritans, but please also know that there is a way out, and you are strong enough to find it.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

How To Travel On An (Incredibly Tight) Budget

Katy and I are always broke, and yet we always go on holiday, and a lot of people mention this to us, in fact so often that it’s become a running joke that whenever we book a holiday we always mention about who we think will be the first person to ask about just how we’re affording it. I wrote a little about How We Travel So Much back in March, as did Katy, but I felt like now it was time for an updated version to tell you just how we manage to travel on such a tight budget (and still manage to bring some make up bits back).

Be Flexible
This is always ideal when it comes to location, but even if you have a particular location in mind; be flexible. With your flight times, dates, months and days of the week - the more flexible that you can be, the better. Generally speaking, you obviously want to head on holiday outside of school holidays, and generally Sunday-Thursday or Monday-Friday are the best times to be looking for. Cheap flights tend to be cheap for a reason, but if you can be flexible enough to make them work, they’ll definitely bring the cost of your holiday right down.

Sit Apart On The Plane
Okay so there’s more to it than this, but don’t pay for extras. Don’t pay for a 20kg case if you’re only going for three days (and actually note that with most companies you have a choice of a bigger or smaller bag if you absolutely can’t live without a bag), and don’t pay extortionate prices to get seats together. Katy and I usually opt to sit together if we can get seats for £3 or less, but otherwise you’re adding unnecessary costs. If you’re doing a cheap holiday chances are, it’s short haul - and so use this to your advantage and sit apart knowing you’ll be back with each other in around 3 hours time maximum anyway.

Where You Can’t Eat Local, Eat Chain
Often the cheapest way to eat when you’re abroad is, of course, to try local restaurants. Not only does this make things more affordable, but you certainly get a chance to try food that you likely wouldn’t otherwise - however this isn’t always practical. If you’re out and about and don’t have the time or inclination to find somewhere local to eat, it can be just as cheap to eat chain for that one meal. Head to McDonalds, Pizza Hut or Subway - you’ll find one in most European cities, their prices are pretty standard and you can usually take out so you don’t have to stop sightseeing. Not ideal, but definitely an affordable option.

Don’t Automatically Choose The Cheapest Accommodation
It’s tempting to look for the cheapest accommodation and book it straight way, but don’t fall into the trap. Air BnBs are often cheaper than hostels, but may be considerably further away - there is absolutely no point in opting for a cheaper option if it’s going to cost you nearly double when you peg on your travel costs. Make sure you weigh up travel options and their general cost and make sure you make an informed decision to make the most of your money (after all; more money means more treats for you when your budget is this tight)

Know Your Budget
Now, this one should be obvious, but this is where Katy and I have fallen down on more than one occasion. To stick to your budget, you need to know what that budget is, and what it equates to per day; then make sure you’ve accounted for anything big that may not automatically fit in with the day’s planned budget. If you need to take money out, take less than you need and try to make it work instead of taking a huge amount out and then feeling like you have to blow it. A small tip, but one that’s surprisingly effective.

So there are my tips for travelling when you’re on a tight budget, but leave below anything on holiday you struggle to save money with and we’ll certainly share any tips we might have come across!

Sammy xo.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Amazon Fire 7 Tablet

I’m really not one for gadgetry other than sticking to expensive apple products because that’s what I know best - and so when Amazon offered to send me their new Fire 7 Tablet to try, I jumped at the chance. I’m always looking for things to make my life easier, and something like a Fire can go a long way to making day to day life run that bit smoother. Whether it means not having to carry heavy books on holiday when we only have hand luggage, or having an extra screen to play around on and browse the internet with when my phone has died unexpectedly at 16% - I was all for giving the Amazon Fire 7 a real run for it’s money to see just what it’s made of.

I have to admit that I was really dubious about this thing, especially when I saw the price tag. Call me an electronics snob (is that a thing?) but a tablet with claims that range as far and wide as the  Fire coming in at under £50 (for 8gb of storage, a 7” display and compatibility with Alexa) definitely seemed to be too good to be true - and so I’ve been testing this for around two and a half months to check the longevity, durability and general wear and tear that this thing could last through. I wasn’t going to be tossing this around and sitting on it, of course, but chances are this would have to last through being chucked into my bag and dragged around university at some point, and so it only seemed fair to give it more than a few days of light testing.

 The one thing I will note about this in comparison to the Apple products that I’m used to is definitely the battery life, something that really has it’s pros and cons. Though the battery on here dies much slower, in my experiences, that it does on it’s Apple counterparts, the very frustrating thing I found personally was that it took so long charging it up that I began to really dread doing it. Though it’s probably not too much longer than my laptop or phone, it felt like it was almost cartoonishly slow, and this was one of the major niggles for me. Though it did last longer on one charge than I’d expected, it just didn’t seem to be long enough for me to justify the incredulously slow charging speed.

Having said that - the device itself is fantastic. Less customisable than I’m used to on most modern devices, though plenty of apps to make it perfect for you anyway, but I found that I liked this - I found I liked the easy to use setup, the idea that this was for business and pleasure but without the bells and whistles that you don’t really need and so, therefore, without the giant price tag. These are user friendly, hard wearing and generally just a pleasure to use - they’re not made to be customised and shown off, but rather they’re made to do a job - and it’s certainly a job that they’re doing well, whether I’m playing Papa’s Pizzeria or getting some blog work done sitting in bed.

It isn’t perfect; save the charging issue I mentioned before, I noticed that it’s easy to scratch, it can be slow at times and it can be a little too child-friendly looking in it’s primary coloured options, but is it worth the £49.99? Undoubtedly. If I get a year’s worth out of this and it breaks on me, it still would have been worth the money, though the way that it’s looking - it’s going to last a fair bit longer than that.

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

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Mental Illness and The Fear Of Relapse

Lately, I’ve been doing well - and it feels like a curse. You know what they say about pride coming before a fall? I can’t help but feeling like recovery always peaks right before a relapse - and maybe it won’t happy, but it’s a constant fear crawling under my skin. The more stressful life gets, the more I let the worry creep in - until the anxiety of feeling regularly anxious again is unbearable; on the peak level of the feeling that you get when an insect disappears god-knows-where in your room before you have the chance to get rid of it. Relapse is a constant blur in my peripheral vision, the monster hiding under my bed, and some days I feel like it’s closer than ever.

Recovery for me was easy. Not learning how to recover, or clawing my way up to it by crying every week in therapy sessions, but actually being in recovery? It was easy for as long as my life was safe. I lived in my parents house; didn’t work, didn’t study, saw a handful of friends and was seeing a boy that was safe for me. Recovery is easy when it’s all you have to do - balancing is easy when all you have to do is stand stock still on both feet. The last year or so has been difficult; it’s been full of adventure, fun, new experiences, work and study - it’s been everything I need to do in order to fully live my life, but it’s been so much harder for me to maintain recovery this way. It’s the difference between standing on a pillar and being asked to walk a tightrope; it’s not safe any more, not still, not all I have to focus on; and staying in recovery? It’s a lot harder now.

Fear of relapse is something that I live with every day. Every time I feel like I don’t want to go out, my body is screaming the words ‘generalised anxiety disorder relapse’ at me, the mornings I can’t drag my lazy ass out of bed, all I hear is ‘depression’ ringing in my ears. It’s an exhausting way to live - and the anxiety about one day being anxious again is almost making it happen - it’s become a vicious circle that has me worried, sad and irritated; and I can’t tell if I’m in relapse anymore because I’ve suffered so long anything less than peppy and perfect throws me into such a big panic I’m making myself ill by worrying that one day I will be once again.

Living like this is exhausting, and I know it’s probably only tiredness, isolation, irritability and spending most of my time staring at the same four walls that’s leading me here; but I’m scared, tired and worried about relapse; I certainly feel like I owe my recovery to a lot of people - they deserve it as much as I do, and my health is something that I need to keep up for both myself, but also them. Recovery might have been easy for me when that was all I had to do, but now I have to keep my head above water too? It’s not as easy as it once was. It’s difficult, time consuming, scary and unreliable. There’s no point to this post, I don’t want pity; I just want to share the truth of my mental illness like I always did, I want to share the brutal facts about my own recovery in the same way that I shared the brutal facts about my illness originally. I want people to feel less alone if they also feel like this.

If you’ve found ways to deal better with mental illness when times get difficult, please do let me know in the comments, all methods appreciated.

Sammy xo.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Salt Dog Slim's

There are some places in Liverpool that I’ve just never gotten around to going, or at least definitely not when I’m sober. It’s not that they’re lacking, or that I don’t think I’ll like them, but more that they’re too far out, I’m not entirely sure where they are, or by the time I’ve started walking there I’ve found something else to peak my interest and headed in there instead. Salt Dog Slim’s is one of those places. I’ve been once, slightly worse for wear, and barely remembered where it was - but when they invited us over to try their hot dogs and cram in a few sneaky cocktails, there was absolutely no way that I could have refused (or rather Katy could, I was simply a lucky plus one).

Though there was some slight confusion between the staff at Salt Dog Slim’s and Slim’s Pork Chop Express about where we actually should be, we finally managed to settle into some bar seats and get chatting to their lovely staff, who talked us through the menu and drinks and handed us sharpies to leave a very permanent mark on the walls. On first glance, Salt Dog Slim’s definitely seems like a typical dive bar - polaroid photographs, old apothecary shelves and twitter handles written in sharpie (my own included) litter the walls - there’s some old leather benches making up pub like booths, tall stools around the bar and a half sized bath surrounded by fairylights. It’s a dive bar that would make even the most intense instagrammer break their theme - it’s unkempt and rundown in all the exact right ways.

After a few moments though, you’ll notice this is one of the best dive bars you’ve been to - with hot dogs being made right in front of your eyes, and cocktails using fresh fruit, bold flavours and good alcohol. You’ll notice that in place of typically cheap beer options, there are some really spectacular offerings from smaller breweries, and it becomes clear that this is so much more than the dive bar that it’s billing itself as. I mean don’t get me wrong; the alcohol is strong and plentiful and the food is greasy, covered in American favourites and served in paper trays - but this is a bar that has so much more to offer than you might imagine at first glance.

I opted for the Chicago hotdog and a fair plethora of drinks, including Catro Vs Vader and a Instant Power Sour. The hotdog was smothered in mustard and pickles, tasty and just right to hit the spot if you need something small for a meal, or even if you just need a carb boost when out drinking and the cocktails were strong, beautiful to look at and generally just amazing tasting. The bar is small, and people seem to flock in and out of it constantly, but there’s something special about it that makes this bar that could be in the middle of New York feel so quintessentially Liverpublian. Off Seel Street and right up towards Chinatown, this isn’t the easiest bar to find yourself in, but after trying their offerings, it really isn't hard to see why people make the trip out of they way in order to grab a drink or something to eat here.

With prices averaging around £6.50 for a hot dog and £8 for a cocktail, this really isn’t going to break the bank - and beers come in cheaper again. For an even cheaper option, the bar offer grilled cheese as a Sunday Brunch with a choice of bottomless cocktails - which is definitely worth checking out. If you’ve tried any of the food or drinks from Salt Dog Slim’s, I’d love to know your favourites!

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

Friday, 4 August 2017

Creating Our Perfect Room

For a while now Katy and I have been discussing the possibility of us creating a room that better represents both of us, especially as we don’t really have the money to move out currently. Though we’ve tossed around a lot of ideas, from completely upcycling everything, to buying brand new white furniture and nothing else, we finally settled on a mixture of the two to put together a room that most felt like we belonged in it. We’ve stuck with a simple white and grey theme when it came to walls, blinds, carpet and so on, and so that’s allowed us a lot more colour to play with beyond this - something I can’t wait to put together properly.

Our main issue with getting all upcycled furniture was that, though we had some furniture that needed to be cleared out due to splinters, broken bits and general wear and tear, we had a lot of brand new furniture that we really didn’t want to have to get ride of and replace, and all of this furniture is bright white, clean cut Ikea offerings. So, we decided that, as we were going to need some more bright white kallax boxes to make the base of our bed (you heard that right, we’re making our own bed), it was best to keep all of the furniture a uniform white Ikea offering. White on white for furniture and walls might sound boring, but we both agreed that this was the best way to create an easily changeable blank canvas for us to work within. 

After the furniture and carpet are in, then come the fun parts. Katy and I, with some help on this part because though DIY has been a steep upward learning curve - power tools are something else entirely, have decided on a window seat, allowing for more storage. This also allows for better use of a piece of our room that has no really vertical or horizontal walls to utilise, and so we’ll again be painting this white, creating a grey cushion to form the top and then decorating with bright coloured cushions to add a pop of colour when you’re sitting in front of the window, or when you’re walking into the room as this is what you face.

Based around storage again, we are actually creating our own bed out of Ikea Kallax units, as a little DIY and some creative thinking allows for us to make a bed with a considerable amount of storage (much more so than a traditional storage bed) for a much cheaper price. We are using Kallax storage squares of various sized to create a square frame for our bed with a hollow gap in the middle, then making a basic timber frame with legs in order to hold our mattress. Although we will be losing some space in the middle (though this likely could be utilised in some way, I’m still sleeping on that one), the boxes around the outside create a veritable wonderland of space for nick nacks, books and new in bits and pieces that mean we don’t have to constantly dig round for whatever we’re looking for in boxes and bags. It will also have an adorable set of steps and appear to be a really cool platform bed.

The last thing I’m going to mention in this post (there’s so much more, but until it’s done and I can show pictures, trying to explain things has got me well and truly stuck) is our gallery wall, and this is something that we’re currently working really hard on. Katy and I each have our own creative talents, and where Katy excels at writing, I’m more a stick things together until you create something pretty kind of girl - and this is going to form the basis of our gallery wall. We are collecting old mismatched frames and painting them bright pastel colours, these will then be filled with Katy’s poems, my art, we’ll have some string art on the wall, some embroidery pieces and - right in the centre - a bright pink neon ‘girls girls girls’ sign. It’s going to be bright, mismatched and so gloriously Katy and I.

When it’s all done I’ll be posting about things that we’ve upcycled, and bits that we’re really proud of - but, for the moment I just wanted to take some time out to discuss why I’ve been away, what we have in mind for this DIY project and let you leave any cool homeware shops in the comments!

Sammy xo.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Changos Burrito

For someone who likes a lot of food, I'm quite a fussy eater; and so I tend to stray from anything that could contain anything that I don't like (which is a fair amount of things). So, when Katy told me that a restaurant had invited her to try them out - and therefore by extension, me - I was more than a little dubious when she told me it was burritos; aka. meat, rice and a lot of vegetables (most of which I tend to hate) all wrapped in a tortilla wrap. Nevertheless, I decided to stray out of my comfort zone so Katy and I headed to Changos to give it a go.

First things first; this is pretty much in a business district of Liverpool, just shy of being in hub around Liverpool One, and at first this seemed odd to us, but we head inside anyway and were met by a literal wall of people. After battling our way to the front, we got talking with the cashier who told us the guy we needed to speak to was working on the middle station of the burrito bar, which I have to say was really nice to see - as someone who has worked in a lot of food establishments where those higher up don't pull their weight, it was good to see him right in the centre of the action. Grabbing two trays, we joined the ridiculously long line and got ready to make up our burritos; and to be fair, as long as the queues get here, they do get through them all incredibly fast.

The good thing about Changos for us fussy eaters is definitely that you can pick and choose what it is that you want; so you can pick from wholegrain or white rice, different meats (pork, beef and chicken) and vegetarian options, then opt for peppers and onions if it floats your boat, then you can pick a sauce, have spicy or sweet salsa if you feel like it, then choose if you want nachos, cheese and guacamole. You can truly make these burritos yours, which is something that I really appreciate as there are so many things that I typically have to ask restaurants to take away of set menu items, this definitely takes the awkwardness out of a meal. 

Not only are the food options good (they offer gluten free and vegan options) and cheap (around £5.50 - £6.75 depending on what you pick and the size) - but the restaurant itself is lovely. Some small tables, with mostly canteen style dining, all kitted out with big murals, bright colours and neon lights - the whole place is cool, easy going and just pleasant. The longer we sat, the clearer it became that they were clever to put this on the edge of the business district and Liverpool one, because both tourists and shoppers, and office workers seemed to be flocking and queuing out of the door for affordable, quick and tasty food. I opted for a medium chicken burrito with peppers, onions, nachos, cheese and house sauce and it was amazing - well worth the price of McDonalds, for much nicer food (you even get an adorable bag of nachos).

Not only are Changos pulling off great food at even better prices, they're really friendly on social media, and they just seem to get the lunch market - filling a gap of something that Liverpool was sorely missing. I'd recommend popping in for a visit if you're around that way, and it's definitely worth the extra five minute walk to get there, even if you're not.

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

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Dove Advanced Hair Series

I'm a total sucker for buying things that look cool in beauty aisles, and even more so when I haven't seen them around and they're on offer; cue a trip to ASDA and me adding some Dove Advanced Hair Series Pure Care Dry Oil Shampoo and Conditioner to my collection of beauty products (which, by the way, is already so big that I have absolutely no business being in the beauty aisles of any shop, anywhere, in the first place). Dove are, admittedly, a little hit and miss for me - they've had a lot of poor campaigns, and I also just tend to find them a little boring in terms of product choice, but this is a dry oil shampoo and conditioner that claims to be non-greasy and, for the sheer fact that my hair has never been in such a poor condition, I had to go out on a limb and give them a second chance.

I have to say that, for this range (and the partner ranges that were alongside it, of which there are many) they've definitely upped their packaging game. Gone is the white packaging and blue lids that I remember from my childhood, and in it's place stand bottles of white with pops of different colours depending on the range you're opting for - and it's doing good things for them, it caught my eye in an aisle full of bright colours, and it's more luxurious; put simply, the packaging makes me feel like Dove has grown up, and the transformation has been a serious glow up.

I'm always dubious about hair products packed with oil, for good reason, I have the oiliest hair known to man, but this stuff genuinely does seem like it's doing good things, without making me reach for the dry shampoo any earlier than I typically would. It does have the sort of scent that I typically associate with Dove, but it's just a clean, simple sort of smell, and so it's definitely not something that puts me off, especially when the shampoo and conditioner work as well as they do. Because, I have to be honest; these really do work - my hair hasn't been this soft for months,  the ends are much less prone to breaking and overall, I just really like how my hair feels after using it.

There is one thing I don't like about this though, and that's the price; in fact, if these hadn't have been on offer, they definitely wouldn't have made their way into my basket, because where I might be able to justify 2 for £6, there was absolutely no way that I could £5.39 per bottle on a brand that my mum used to bulk buy because it was so cheap (to put this into perspective, ASDA were also selling litre bottles of tresemme for around the same price, these bottles weigh in at a measly 250ml). Although these aren't going to break the bank, I think I would resent paying nearly the same for Dove as I typically do for mid priced brands like OGX. Don't get me wrong, these are good, and my hair is soft, but it doesn't come close to the OGX Coconut Water Shampoo and conditioner.

All in all, if you can get this on an offer then definitely go ahead, you won't be disappointed in it by any means; but if you're standing in the hair aisle trying to decide between this and a typically 'mid priced' brand, definitely go for something like OGX (you'll even get more). Dove may have glowed up in terms of their packaging, but their size vs. price ratio still definitely leaves something to be desired.

If you've tried any of Doves Advanced Hair Series, I'd love to hear your thoughts below.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017


I don't know about you, but for me it seems that a lot of adult life is about adjusting. It's about learning to bend around the people in your life, allowing yourself to adjust in order for them to be able to maneuver themselves around you. It's adjusting the time you had for yourself, your expectations, the parameters of the money that you can spend on money, the late nights and late mornings that you used to love so much. It's a lot of seeing how far you can bend without breaking, and it's exhausting and satisfying, exhilarating and sob-worthy (that's a real word, in case you were thinking otherwise).

If there's one thing I've noticed since I've been learning to adjust, crying about everything, and generally stressing about every single tiny thing in the last few days (seriously though, the dog barking for her tea was the thing that set me off the other day) is that no matter how isolating and frustrating learning to fit into your adult life can be - we are all in this together. We are all confused, all trying to find our footing, all worried about what the future holds and shouting into a void asking each other a question that none of us really seem to be able to answer right now; will it ever really get better?

In some ways going back to uni was purely a selfish reason, it was getting three teenage, selfish, thoughtless years back that I never got. But, it's backfired a bit; because I have to work full time hours, keep up with learning two languages and still find time to spend with Katy that isn't me glued to a laptop working, as well as making time to see my family who live a considerable distance from where I do when I don't drive. Instead of getting my teenage years back, I've simply complicated my adult ones - I'm stressed, overworked, constantly tired and trying my fucking hardest.

So I'm here to say; I have no idea when it gets better, or if it does, but I'm holding out the hope that one day future Sam is going to look back at past Sam and tell me thank you for all the work and sacrifices that I'm putting in. I'm hoping she'll look back on 8am starts and midnight finishes as something that made us strong, versatile, and most of all - able to function on way less sleep than the average human typically does. I'm hoping that this is just the adjustment period for adult life, and one day everything will just snap into place.

Here's hoping we're all pushing through to bigger things, and in the mean time? Let's be a little kinder to each other whilst we're adjusting.

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Tips and Tricks For Easy Foreign Travel

Travelling abroad can be stressful. Okay, not so much now that I do it a ridiculous amount, but definitely when Katy and I started travelling, we used to pack weeks in advance and worry that we still didn’t have everything that we needed (for our latest holiday, we packed at midnight the day before we left and didn’t even check it over or look to see if our outfits matched. Mine didn’t). Now we’ve become the queens of the European mini break, we’ve found a lot of ways to make travelling that bit easier - so here are some tip and tricks for your next eurotrip. 

Take Less Money Than You Need
This is especially true if you travel as much and as widely as Katy and I do. We don’t often visit countries with the same currency more than one in a row, or sometimes even in the same year and we just don’t have the space, inclination, or money to leave leftover’s lying around for us to dig them out when we return to a place where we can use them. The last few trips Katy and I have done we’ve taken less money than we needed and taken money out there - we’ve had no issues at all, just use a reputable bank or cash machine there, make sure you inform your bank that you’re travelling before you go, and if you worry about being charged look into something like a Caxton Card in lieu of your own debit card. This way we spend less money, but we know we have it right there are our fingertips should anything go massively wrong (like, breaking a hole in the drywall of our apartment, or suchlike scenarios.)

Don’t Take A Case If You Can Get Away With Hand Luggage
Katy and I love a good case, and this is mainly because we don’t like to have a luggage allowance when bringing things home, however - there’s a lot to be said for just taking hand luggage. Many budget airlines will let you take a handbag that’s small enough to go under your seat, and a carry on that can go in your overhead, which makes for a lot of space, especially if you have a cabin sized suitcase. If you’re going for a few days, hand luggage is definitely more than enough, and if you want to bring liquids or makeup home? You can always book one of your bags on as hold baggage when you’re still in your holiday destination, but you’ll only have to have paid for it one way. Generally speaking, you could just not buy make-up and spend no money on baggage at all, but for make-up junkies like Katy and I, just remember that you don’t have to bring cases both ways if you can juggle your hand luggage the right way.

Remember New EU Roaming Charges (And Your Portable Charger)
New roaming charge laws mean you won’t be charged outside your normal tariff for use of your phone in other European countries (though definitely check a list of exclusions because I have no doubt that anyone who can get around this in any way probably will). Basically, your contract works exactly the same whether you’re in your kitchen at home, or lounging by a pool in Spain - so make the most of it. Bored one afternoon? Google map to the nearest big attraction, find ticket prices out for things you might be interested in, or even scout out your nearest ATM for no more than you would at home. Make sure you bring a portable charger though - maps are seriously draining for your phone, and you don’t want to be out of juice when you spot that perfect Instagram photograph.

There are a ton more little tips and tricks I have, and if you want to hear them please do let me know, but for now, leave any tips you have in the comments to make everyone’s life whilst travelling a little easier.

Sammy xo.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Waltz 7 - Make Your Own Shower A Spa

I really love it when products come along that are so simple, and so easy to use, that they really seem special. I’m not talking about big products that change your entire life, but rather little things that just makes you feel really relaxed and like you’re treating yourself. A little way to get this treat feeling without needing an hour or so to soak in a bath lies in tiny little foil packets from Waltz 7 - these Aroma tabs will make you feel as though you’ve just stepped into a spa when you’re just getting into your 8am shower before work.

Don’t get me wrong, these things really aren’t going to change your life, but on a day when you really need some sort of pick me up in the morning, or perhaps some sort of relaxation at night, these can really come in handy. These come in seven different scents; inspiring lemongrass, energising mint, relaxing lavender, calming forest, relaxing rose, inspiring lime and relaxing pine - and each one is a little slice of relaxation to put right in the bottom of your daily shower. So what are they? Tiny blocks of powder that you put under the stream of water, and when the water hits them they release aromatherapy oils to relax, energise, inspire or calm you, depending on what scent you’ve picked.

So do they work? Yes, they do. These little unassuming white blocks let out a serious amount of aromatherapy oil that makes you feel tranquil, energised or relaxed - depending on what you’ve picked. They’re not perfect, and you’re definitely not going to be mistaking your own shower for that facial that you had for your birthday in a spa once; but, they definitely are going to perk up your early morning shower on those days when it needs just a little something. I do think that these would work better in showers that are floor to ceiling, rather than those with open tops, as for the full effect I feel like the steam would need to be trapped and circulate the shower - but even if you can’t entirely redesign your bathroom based on a one-use product, you definitely won’t be disappointed.

The one thing I would say about these is, as you’d imagine, they’re definitely not for those of you sensitive to smell, and with certain scents in the range it really hits your eyes or the back of the throat and makes you cough, which is less than pleasant. I think it’s more a case of needing to get used to using something that is so overwhelming when it comes to scent, but the last few times I definitely haven’t had this reaction, and so hopefully it is something that you get used to if you carry on using these genius little products. Though, probably don’t use them every single morning anyway, just to be on the safe side.

These things will set you back around €14.50 for a box of seven, and you can opt for all one scent or a few different ‘mixture’ sets so you can try everything to get a real feel for what you might like, and they're even vegan! If you’ve tried these, I’d really like to know your thoughts!

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

Friday, 21 July 2017

How To Make The Most Of Travelling Light

I have to admit that, especially considering the amount that I travel around in England and beyond, I’m really not good at travelling light. There have been times we’ve done four or five days holiday and taken a case that’s teetering right on the weight limit when we get it to the airport, but I definitely am getting better, and travelling light can be really handy; especially if you need to be out of your accommodation early in the morning but don’t fly until late at night (ever tried lugging your 25kg suitcase into an escape room after a four day trip? I have). So, based on a lot of trial and error, here are my tips on making the most of travelling light.

1: The Paper Days Are Over
You simply don’t need a huge paper trail to get you through the airport these days, and in fact most things can be done just from your phone as long as you have internet, email capability, or you’ve thought ahead to take a screenshot. Travelling really changed for me when I stopped taking physical documents; download your boarding pass to your apple wallet (or the equivalent), keep your passport and EHIC tucked neatly Into your purse, and save all of your insurance documents to one email folder on your phone. You’ve done almost nothing, but managed to save yourself the space equivalent to that plastic folder your mum and dad still insist on taking to the airport.

2: Pick One Practical Pair Of Shoes
Try to base your outfits around one practical pair of shoes. We all have those shoes at home that we wear all of the time that seem to go with everything, and so just take them. I always take new shoes that I never wear because they cut my feet to shreds, and end up only wearing mint green high tops the whole holiday anyway, and that space has been nothing but wasted. If you’re walking a lot, you’re not going to need sandals so just wear your trainers, if you’re by a beach, you’re not going to need trainers so just pack your sandals. Doing a bit of both? Opt for something practical, then chuck in some 75p primary flip flops, which bend like you wouldn’t believe. Shoes are heavy and take up a lot more space than you’d imagine, so take as many out of your case as you can bear to part with.

3: Buy What You Can There, Or Take What You Can Leave
We’ve all been there in Boots two days before our holidays buying full bottles of shampoo just for us to lug it all the way to a foreign country; this is absolutely pointless when you think about it, and it’s just wasting space and weight. Take half empty bottles, any miniatures that you might have, or just buy it there. There’s no point in lugging heavy bottles of shampoo or body wash all the way to on holiday just to bring it back again, take half empty bottles that you can leave there at the end of your holiday to save on weight and wastage, or simply buy it there and leave it wherever you’re staying for the next person.

These are all simple tips, but definitely ones that have helped us the last few times we’ve been on holiday. When you plan on bringing a lot of foreign make up back, all that space and weight is absolutely vital, so no way am I wasting it on Elvive and uncomfortable sandals any more. If you have tips for travelling light, definitely leave them in the comments!

Sammy xo.