Saturday, 18 November 2017

Cheap Or Free Things To Do In Porto

One of my favourite places that we travelled this year was Porto - it was an unexpected gem full of beautiful beaches, rivers, religious monuments and spaces and thriving cities (plus the cider was so cheap, and they let you drink it whilst you walk through the streets - it's a whole thing). It was, however, also one of our most expensive holidays; probably due to the sheer amount that we ate, drank and did escape rooms. If you're heading there, however, it's definitely worth noting that there's a lot that you can do that will cost your nothing or next to nothing, and here are my favourite ones, and the ones I can definitely vouch for.

1: Saint Maria Adelaide
If you're going in the height of Summer, I would certainly recommend ditching the holiday clothes to go here because it's a really religious place, when we went it was full of mourners wearing black full length dresses and praying and so definitely dressing a little more conservatively is certainly more recommended - however this is a tiny little crypt within the most beautiful graveyard that has an incorruptible body.

If you don't know much about incorruptible bodies, these are the corpses of saints or religious figures that haven't decomposed as expected (that is, not as rapidly, or sometimes not at all), that typically exude sweet smells. This isn't for the faint hearted, but there's something really beautiful about this place as a whole. You can go, light candles, say a prayer and see the offerings of wax limbs to the corpse. It's quiet, a lovely place to reflect and generally an amazing sight whether you're of the Christian faith or not; it's not a tourist spot, and it goes without saying a lot of respect is demanded if you're visiting, but it's an amazing sight. It's in Gaia rather than Porto and you'll definitely need to get a taxi, but it's more than worth the fare.

2: Capela De Senhor Da Pedra
I've never been to anywhere quite as pretty as this before, but essentially this is a huge church on a boulder overlooking a really, really beautiful sea (if you have me or Katy on Twitter, you'll likely have seen pictures form here). Not only is the beach amazing (and it is, though often busy) but this is apparently an 'intersection between Christianity and Witchcraft' and everything about the building is beautiful, unusual, and generally just a really nice little spot to look out over the sea.

Flips flops are not recommended within this very echoey little chapel, but also more generally they aren't recommend on this beach at all - it's pretty rocky and hurts your feet to walk both with and without flip flops; if trainers on the beach doesn't make you want to gag, it's definitely worth considering. Behind the chapel there's a popular tourist photo spot where people stand to look like they're towering over the sea, and you can walk right round the back to get views from all angles, so even if you don't want to take a trip to the church itself it's still worth nipping over to this beautiful seaside spot.

3: Livraria Lello
If literally anyone that you know has been to Porto, this is probably the thing that you will have heard about; because this is allegedly the bookstore that inspired Hogwarts when JK Rowling was living in Porto (another cool reason to visit if you're a Harry Potter fan). Now this one is sort of free and sort of not free depending on why you're visiting; because the tickets are €5 (and yes, you do need a ticket to get in) but this is then redeemable against any books you buy; so if you plan on buying a book anyway, this is free. Sort of.

If you don't want a book, €5 is pretty steep for a building that you can spend a maximum of 45 minutes inside, but it is beautiful with a big, old, majestic staircase inside - and the books are pretty cool and cater for most languages; plus, if you like to people watch and you can nab an armchair, there's definitely worse ways to spend 45 minutes. If nothing else; this book shop seems like a right of passage, and in the shop where you buy your tickets you can also get a platform 9 and 3 quarters picture of you running through the wall with your fake Hogwarts suitcases, if that's your jam.

There's a lot more free things to do in Porto, undoubtedly - you can spend hours walking down the river, there are even more beaches to be found, you can visit beautiful stations, buildings, churches and the most amazingly pretty McDonalds that I've ever been in; but these are definitely my personal favourites.

If you've been, let me know what you did in Porto without breaking the bank!

Sammy xo.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Hitting The Wall

It seems ironic that now I've sat down to write and found the time, I don't really know what to say. Posts after prolonged absences are always difficult, I don't want to feel as though I owe people a explanation and yet it always feel weird to spring right back in with five affordable things to do in whatever country we've travelled to most recently. You all know why I've been away though; I'm constantly complaining on Twitter about the sheer amount of work that I have to do; I take time consuming subjects, I work hard and actually do as many of those extra ten hours a week I'm supposed to do at home, and I also work a full time job - it's no joke.

Now I've found the time and I feel like I'm not really sure where to start. Blogging, at the moment, seems like that mate that you used to know in high school and sort of want to reach out to every now and again; but you don't really know how they'll react, or what you would even say, if you did. Whenever I've had a spare ten minutes I've spent it staring at an empty blogger screen and so I'm trying this 'pouring-out-all-my-weird-thoughts' posts, in the hope that I can put it out there, get over the fear of writing that first blog post and move the fuck on to something a little better than this mind dump.

I guess beyond not finding the time I just feel a little disillusioned with everything at the minute - I didn't expect to have to work quite this hard just to get by week to week; starting University with the purpose of actually hustling and getting that degree is a very different experience to starting University to put off life for a few years like I did last time. We're having to take time out of travelling, something that was a big part of both mine and Katy's lives prior to this, we've had to knuckle down - we work alternative shifts and sometimes don't see each other for more than an hour a day - I guess it's just not what we imagined.

This is a total mind dump but I hope it starts to explain why there'll be periods of time when I'm not around on here - and I'm not explaining it because I feel like I owe the posts, but more so that you all understand why on twitter I complain and cry and have roughly 2 meltdowns per academic day. Everything's a little hectic right now and I'm working on getting to a space where I'm one of those people who can juggle it all effectively without ever dropping a single ball; but until then? Blogging has to be the ball I leave on the floor in order to keep the other's up (has this juggling analogy gone on too far? I'll stop now)

Hopefully at least for a few days I'll be back here, but beyond that I'm not promising anything.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Making Winter Mornings More Bearable With Lumie

I think even those people with the best mental health can struggle with cold, dark Winter mornings - but I notice a marked difference when it comes to my depression and anxiety and the grizzly, pitch black winter mornings where I feel like I'm being cruelly dragged from slumber. Combined with the fact that I'm back in a state of sporadic sleep that comes often for me with stress and generally being busy and it's safe to say that me and these grim mornings really aren't getting on. With that in mind, when Lumie asked me if I'd like to try their Bodyclock ACTIVE 250, I was intrigued to see whether this might be the miracle cure for my grumpy, sleepy self.

If you've never heard of a Lumie Light, these are basically dimmable lights that can be set as alarms to mimic both sunrise and sunset (or, you can use them like a traditional lamp set at any setting between the two). The bulbs emit a yellow/orange light which mimics the suns colour that you would typically see at both the beginning and the end of the day and, in the case of the Bodyclock ACTIVE 250, it even has gaps cut into the back of the device so the light appears ray-like. I have been trying (and by extension so has Katy) this out for a few months now; but essentially the idea is that you set the light to start lighting up around 30 minutes before your alarm (you can change this time period but this is the suggested so I stuck with it) and it lights gradually, so that by the time the pre programmed alarm goes off, your body is used to the light, tricked into thinking it's daytime, and is ready to spring into action.

Now, I have to be honest, this isn't a miracle worker; but it is going to help you feel a little more human when it comes to that first alarm in the morning. Going to sleep with this dimming itself down is surprisingly calming and when I remember to set the light, I definitely feel a lot more awake when it comes to my alarm going off. The Bodyclock ACTIVE 250 isn't the top of the range Lumie clock and so this one lacks some of the new features, but this does have a radio alarm, a clock display and multiple light settings as well as a number of alarm sounds and, I suppose the benefit of this not being the top of the range options is that this definitely is more affordable at £95.00. Expensive, yes, but definitely not the most expensive option out there.

I have to say that this also does look really pretty - it's clean and pretty and it doesn't look out of place in my room like some sleep aids that I've had in the past. Best of all though; I think this works for me so well because to reap the benefits I don't have to do anything else that I wouldn't normally; I just set my alarm, as I always would - I don't need to download an app, I don't need to remember to set night mode on my fitness bracelet. I just set the alarm, and then go to sleep. Easy as pie. An added bonus? From the first day I used my Lumie light I noticed the difference; it may not be a miracle; but it's definitely a little powerhouse that'll help you to get through the winter mornings.

If you've tried a Lumie light I'd love to know how it worked for you!

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, 22 October 2017

My First Four Weeks Of Language Learning

When I started learning Spanish at degree level (from beginner level, I need to point out here) four weeks ago, they warned us that we had to get used to feeing uncomfortable; and four weeks down the line? No truer word has ever been spoken. My life now is a flurry of vocal words, anxiety at the idea I might be picked in my grammar class and wondering how the fuck I am ever going to be able to pass this exam come January. There's nothing more rewarding than learning a language and there's also nothing I've ever faced that's quite this soul-destroyingly hard.

(not actually learning through the open university but ANY degree level book is helping right now)

You know in University there are those lectures that you come out of and, no matter how good you are at your subject or how hard you've worked and prepared, you feel as though you probably know less than you did going in? That's exactly what all of my seminars have felt like so far. At this point in my life, I'm starting to feel as though I don't actually know anything about speaking, listening or reading comprehension in English, never mind Spanish. The girl next to me is on her way to speaking 5 languages fluently and I still struggle to tell the difference between ser and está (that's a joke for all you Spanish students out there; you need all the laughs that you can get). I'm struggling to conjugate some words in English, I'm just adding letters and hoping for the best in my second language.

But the weird thing is? I love it. I love being challenged every week, I love it when I get picked on in that aforementioned grammar class and I get the answer right (nearly always by fluke, rather than method), I love it when I know the work for something, when my Spanish pen pal can understand my crude sentences, when I don't have to google translate the words for any of my sentence. I love feeling as though I can measure how far I've come, I love watching Gilmore Girls with completely different voices to the same people, I love listening to Bomba Estereo and singing along (probably incorrectly).

The fact is - gone are the days of doing now work, turning up to seminars unprepared and guessing what happened in the plot of books; this time around I have to have learned my grammar rules in advance, I need to constantly keep on top of my vocabulary, I need to be able to ask general, every day questions fluently, and answer the in return. I have to work 24 hours a day at this, or at least I feel like it, until I'm not uncomfortable with it anymore, until Spanish speaking isn't just a wall of noise with the occasional recognisable words, until my messages to Spanish friends on tandem aren't 99% corrections by the time they've finished with them.

Right now it's a love hate relationship with language learning - but if you've learned a language at degree level I've love to hear your experience. If not, I'll keep you updated.

Sammy xo.

Friday, 20 October 2017

My Top Travel Picks For Prague

I can't believe we've been back from Prague an entire week by the time that this post goes live; it's gone so quickly and it seems like weeks ago that we were wandering the Charles Bridge and eating traditional gingerbread (okay, I brought some home so that definitely wasn't weeks ago). We crammed so much into four and a bit days in Prague and there are bits I've already forgotten off the top of my head; but it's such a fascinating city that I definitely came away from our adventure there with some firm favourite things out of everything that we did. If you're heading to Prague, buckle in and get a list ready, because you're definitely going to want to see most of these things.

1: Sex Machines Museum
This was a weird thing to do on holiday, mostly because if you've never sat in a room with seven strangers watching turn of the century porn, it's definitely an experience that you won't forget. Having said that - there's a lot to be said about what can be learned within the Sex Machines Museum. Far from just having a lot of sex toys to marvel at (though there really are a lot of them) there is a lot to be done here, from reading about women's hysteria and it's treatments, to watching tiny dolls houses that work via crank to show pornographic scenes. 

This is a strange little museum right next to a Starbucks that has everything sex related that you can even begin to think of; but it's definitely worth a visit. It's pretty expensive and 200czk (around £7 per person) for a museum that'll maybe take 2 hours depending on how long you stay in the erotic cinema, but it's definitely worth splashing out on to spend an hour. You do, of course, need to be over 18, but with valid ID students can get in for 150czk (£5, give or take. No pun intended).

2: Prague Nightmare Horror Bar
If you plan on heading to see Fred and Ginger (more commonly known as the dancing houses) then this is a stop that you should definitely take. In fact, even if you're not visiting the nearby attraction, this is worth a trip in itself. This is a tiny little bar with the doors and windows completely blacked out and when you step inside, it's a wonderland full of horror memorabilia that will have even the bigger horror enthusiast marvelling. Sit in between dummies of famous horror villains, grab a drink and enjoy the music - they even have horror scenes replaying on the TV screen by the bar.

With drinks that'll cost you around 140czk (just around £5, though some are cheaper) these aren't to be sniffed at; and we all know I love a gimmick so the fact you can order a drink that relates specifically to a film (The Re-Animator, The Leprachaun's Revenge...) and have it come in a glass that has a vinyl sticker of the films scenes on the side it just something I can definitely get on board with. Be aware when going into the toilet that the red lighting relies on motion sensors and so it looks for all the world like you're walking into the pitch black surrounded by life sized models of fictional murderers. It's definitely worth visiting for the photographs alone.

3: The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians of Old Prague
Make no mistake that this museum is kind of crap, but you can get a joint ticket for this and the Ghosts of Prague Museum (hilarious, also kind of crap) that I think works out about £8, and this is worth it for one reason alone. In an unassuming courtyard there's a room full of stories of alchemy and when you finish these stories, one of the staff will lead you up the steepest, scariest and most dangerous steps you've ever been up; and what lies at the top is the true magical experience that makes the ticket worth it's price based on this alone.

At the top of this stairs lies a loft with a fake dragon egg and multiple scenes set up to show you about the alchemists that cam before that once called this loft home and the stories that they had to tell. The one story I think makes this worth the money? This is supposedly where Shakespeare found his inspiration for A Midsummer Night's Dream - and you can definitely feel his presence there - mostly because there's a huge dummy version of him towering above you. This place also has a really cool bar, and if you do the toy, as they'll consistently tell you, you get 10% off the cocktails which they call 'elixirs' to fit with their theming.

4: Sedlec Ossuary 'Bone Church'
This is by far one of the most amazing things that I've ever seen. I've cheated a little here because this is actually outside of Prague, but you can get an express train to Kutne Hora, where this is based, for around £16 return and it takes just an hour (worth the time and money, trust me). Whereas Kutne Hore's city centre is tiny, idyllic and filled with nice cafes, restaurants and bars - there is a part of the town that's a little more interesting in my humble opinion and that's definitely the Ossuary. This is an absolutely beautiful church with a basement completely decorated with human bones; think skull chandeliers and radius tombs. 

You can take photos here, but it seems very inappropriate when you see people taking selfies with skulls and so that's definitely worth thinking about if you're that way inclined, but this is amazing and I've really never seen anything like it. You have to pay 90czk to get in here (around £3) but all money goes to the upkeep of the church, which still has a functioning chapel upstairs that you can also visit should you wish. There are some more cathedrals and cool things to see in Kutne Hora and you can get conjoined tickets that will save you a little bit, so if you want to see them all and plan on spending the day there

5: Grotta
This is one of the most beautiful places that we visited in Prague and we were so lucky that it was literally on our doorstep due to the Airbnb location we had picked. If you're staying in the centre of Prague, this is a little further out than most other tourist attractions as it's in Prague 10 - but a taxi here will cost you around £3 and there is plenty of public transport options to get you here too. This is basically a fairytale grotto in the centre of a park in the middle of a thriving district in Prague 10 and it's truly worth seeing.

From the outside, this essentially looks like an abandoned mansion with a fountain too, but head inside and up the stairs and you can find links of interconnected caves that look like a mix between an abandoned crumbling mansion's bedrooms and something out of Star Wars. This is something fun to explore, nice to do on a beautiful day and is great for photo opportunities. Whatever I say won't do it justice, but a single visit there definitely will; there's also gorgeous ponds and bits and pieces in the park to visit, so definitely take a picnic and soak in the surroundings.

So there are my top favourite things that we did in Prague, though there is so much to do that I really did struggle to cut it down to just 5. If you've been, I'd love to know what you'd recommend (I might just have to go again in order to make sure I see everything...)

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Amazon Echo Dot

I love gadgets, but I have to admit that I get bored quickly. Gadgets get unplugged to make way for the newest addition to the family and sit at the back of the shelf gathering dust; I'm not proud of it, but as someone who likes to keep on top of the tech trends, we simply don't have enough plugs to use everything we have, and many things we don't use when we're finished with the obsession with the gimmick. When Amazon offered to send us an Echo Dot I thought that this was going to be a similar story; I knew I was going to like, but how good could a glorified Siri (which I don't use on either my phone or my laptop, I'd like to point out) really be?

It turns out, Siri pales in comparison to the all powerful Alexa, something that became clear just seconds after plugging in the tiny disk. Not much bigger than the palm of my hand, this tiny gadget packs a serious punch, and though it's annoying with it's extension lead (surely a charge system would be better, to allow for a better aesthetic?), Amazon have seriously created a tiny masterpiece here. Gone are the days of shouting at Siri and getting random answers back, Alexa is all but perfect at understanding my accent for the most part, she's reactive no matter how softly I talk, and the activation word (Alexa, though it can be changed to a few other alternatives) has her springing into action to help you to order goods off Amazon, listen to the latest podcast, or play the charts through Spotify.

But if music and online shopping isn't your thing? Well, never fret as Alexa has it's own app with an app like store of all it's 'skills'. Want to install Ocado so you can order your shopping from your bed, or want to play rock, paper, scissors? It's as easy as downloading the skill on the app and then using the trigger word to have Alexa ordering your yoghurt, or helping to figure out a tough decision. With Alexa so personal to each household that the echo dot is in, it's hard not to fall in love with this as a gadget; it grows as I grow, as my skill base gets bigger, I can ensure that hers does too - meaning that Alexa is probably always going to be one of the perfect gadgets for me. As more and more companies add skills to the Alexa app, it can really only go from strength to strength.

Are there downsides? Of course there are, to anything there is - I hate the fact that this is a plug in device, I find it ugly and unnecessary for a product that would otherwise we really aesthetically pleasing; I find the buttons on the top completely useless when you can trigger Alexa with your voice, record using a voice command and change the volume by just asking her to do so, there are some voice commands that are difficult to do and require specific wording that is uncomfortable to use (mostly the inbuilt alarm, I find). However, this is £50, it's a gadget you can constantly work with to fit your life, and it's useful for everything from basic every day tasks, to more specific tasks that are  important to you as an individual - for me, the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

I thought I was going to find this mediocre but I really would recommend an Amazon Dot - and now with inbuilt calling and messaging features, it's becoming something Katy and I rely on more and more.

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

Monday, 16 October 2017

4 Apps That Changed How I Travel

As two people that rely heavily on the internet, says the girl posting her first blog post in however many weeks as starting a new university is a lot harder than you might imagine, it goes without saying that technology and our phones play a huge part when it comes to Katy and I travelling. There are a huge amount of apps that we use when we're away, but there are some that have completely changed the way that we travel, and so I'm here to depart some words of wisdom upon you, and give you some apps that need to be on your phone home screen; you're welcome.

Holiday Pirates
This is a bit of a cheat one as it's not all that helpful when you're actually already on a trip; however, this has changed the way I look at travel. Holiday Pirates, if you've never used it, gives offers on hotels, full holidays, or flights - and inspires me regularly to travel within the UK, look at flights to places I've never considered and find good deals for holidays I maybe wouldn't book otherwise. It's definitely not changed the way I travel after I've gotten off the plane, but it has definitely changed the way I travel when it comes to getting out of my 'holidays-must-be-in-europe-and-in-an-airbnb' mindset; so I'm definitely allowing myself to add it here. 

Google Translate Camera
Google translate is just about everyone's holiday staple. right? But, the app has another little trick up it's sleeve that cam prove invaluable when you're in a rush translating huge chunks of text (like those on skincare bottles, for example) or faced with symbols that might not be readily available in your language. This is, essentially, a pack that you download in your chosen language (this is a saviour for Polish, trust me) and then when you hover your camera over passages in the chosen language, it'll show up on your phone screen in English (or your native language, I suppose?). This is far from perfect, and especially for long chunks of text it can sometimes be a little hit or miss, but it definitely is still worth downloading to help to get you out of a jam.

Map For Atlas Obscura
This isn't the official app for Atlas Obscura but does seem to include most of the tourist attractions that you can find on the site itself. If you've never used Atlas Obscura, it's essentially a list of unusual things to do within a country, and we've done many an interesting thing purely based on things that we've found on this site; including an incorruptible body and a bone church. The map, though, is a lot more helpful as you can see the points plotted on a map which enables you to see the closest exciting thing to see to you at any real given moment. Though the direction function works with Apple Maps, it can be a little hit or miss - it's worth using it to find hidden gems really near to you, though, even if you the have to map them separately.

Apple Maps
Specifically Apple Maps is my one true love when it comes to navigating round new cities. I know people say that you should take it I your stride and getting lost is part of the adventure, I know, people tell me all the time - but when you're on a time constraint and paper maps just aren't cutting it, it'd be ridiculous to forgo the obvious benefit that our technology gives us; instant maps. I always stick with Apple Maps as it updates faster, adds new roads regularly, works alongside public transport in many countries and stays on your home screen when you lock your phone - sorry to say it, Google, but apple maps is definitely the superior map app.

So there are the four apps that changed the way I travel. There are far more country specific ones (Delivery Hero, Uber Eats, iTaxi) but these are definitely the ones that work I most countries that we have travelled to and have changed the way that I travel myself, or perceive travel. If you have apps I should definitely download for future trips, do leave them below!

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

The Best Netflix Originals To Catch Up On This Autumn

Some of you may know that I'm working on my degree lately and that means practising my Spanish and trying to take on board as much vocab as humanly possible. This, as it's turned out, means watching a lot of Netflix. That isn't me procrastinating, for once, but rather a tactical way to learn the language as most Netflix originals often have both audio and subtitles in other languages - so, I've finished a fair few Netflix originals in the last few weeks. As such, I feel as though I can start to discuss some of the best offerings that Netflix have put out there with their own name attached to them.

1: You Me Her
I had to put this at the top because I finished both seasons and then ended with that fantastic feeling that something was sorely missing in my life now that I'm done with it which, as we all know, is the true sign of a good TV show. This is a really heartwarming show about polyamory, coming to grips with a new relationship and the effects that it can have on the world around you, and the relationships within it. There's also a very interesting contrast between the concept of sexual idolisation and relationship realism here - and though it isn't perfect, I certainly don't feel as though it falls down that trap that Netflix Originals all too often do of being not well enough researched. This is definitely one to binge watch on a rainy weekend.

2: The Good Place
This is bizarre, and I really like it. It's sort of an elaborate show that depicts a version of heaven and the very blunt effects that karma can have on your life. It's funny, it pokes fun at some ideas that many of us hold, and it's genuinely just one of those shows that you can stick on in the background and go about your daily business. Is it going to be my new favourite programme? I mean probably not, but it definitely is good, and I will be looking forward to a new series. If you like The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, this is probably a pretty solid choice when you've finished up all of the episodes that you might have left.

3: Casting Jonbenet
I don't really know where to start with this one because it's just such a good documentary. I can't wait for the actual documentary that this is casting to come out, but I almost feel as though it won't be as good as this offering. In essence, this is a lot of people looking to be cast within a programme about Jonbenet Ramsey's murder, all from her hometown. Not only is this a look into how people think about documentaries on true crime, but this also looks much deeper into the case, and the beliefs of the people who lived within the area at the time. Eye-opening, frank and almost scary - this is one not to be missed, for sure.

4: Coin Heist
This is a kids version of a real heist movie, and I actually really like it. This is targeted at young teenagers, but don't let that put you off; it's clever, full of tense moments and it has the added aspect of humour - it's definitely a good adaptation of the traditional heist that we've become accustomed to. It's got a good cast, a nice little romance plot, a cool school prom and a lot of random additions to the plot - definitely worth a watch if you want an easy film.

5: Death Note
Last but by no means least. I know so many of you out there are screaming at me that 'IT'S NOT AS GOOD AS THE ANIME AND THE MANGA' and I don't disagree, but it feels so different that it deserves a place on here. It's dark, confusing and exciting to watch - and if you've ever seen the anime or the manga, it's definitely a lot easier to catch up on and keep up with. It's a film rather than a series which I feel lets it down a bit, but the story is definitely there, and it's definitely a good enough one that I'm recommending it to you, here!

As always, if you have favourite Netflix Originals, please do let me know!

Sammy xo.

Monday, 18 September 2017

A Story About Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder

If you read the introduction to this in the voice of the Jane The Virgin narrator, I assure you that it will be considerably funnier than reading it in your own voice. Trust me on this one. If you do it in the voice of Lemony Snickett in the new Series Of Unfortunate Events, that would also work.

Whilst reading this review, you may be fooled into thinking that it's a positive review; you may even be fooled into thinking I like this product. Rest assured that this is not the case. In the way that the fact you're not suited to your partner sometimes creeps up on you in the form of a three month itch, this literally caused me a reaction that I wouldn't like to repeat anytime soon. Nevertheless though, I'm getting ahead of myself. To understand, you need the full story - and so let's start with me ripping this open whilst we were decorating. By the way, as I've realised reading back I didn't tell you, this is about the Kat Von D Lock-It Setting Powder.

I love a good baking powder - I usually use Vichy Dermablend, but I'm open to any suggestions that don't cake up and so, when I opened a tiny version of this I was absolutely thrilled; although, a little pensive as this thing is hella yellow, and as you might be aware, I'm quite pale and very, very pink. Nevertheless, I set to work with this and it's pretty solid - it's not as yellow as it first appears, and it definitely does seem to be translucent. A little bit of this seems to go a long way towards a bake, something I'd expect for $30 per pot, and it's easy to use, brushes away nicely, and is thick without being cakey - which is just about everything I want in a powder. It's sifter is also in the shape of a star which is just so cute.

This has a slight smell, which reminds me of real old fashioned cosmetics - it's not offensive or particularly strong but, especially when you open the tub, it is noticeable. Having said that, you can't smell it when it's on your face, and so it's definitely not a deciding factor for me, though it is worth noting if you're sensitive to things like that. I put this on with a wet sponge, which seems to work really well. Though I can't vouch for it's use with a brush as I avoid them whenever possible, I would imagine this would be harder to really pack onto the eye - but again, that's more a preference thing.

So, Sam, what is the aforementioned problem! I hear you shout from the back rows. Well, let me take you back to Manchester airport, which is the first time that the issue really dawned on me. Find me in the queue of terminal 3, gate 54 with my antihistamines in hand, eyes streaming and snot free flowing - and find yourself in the midst of my lightbulb moment. What I am suffering from, and what I have been suffering with on and off for the last few weeks, is not hay fever that is suddenly cured by taking my make up off - it's an allergy to the best powder I have ever used. Since, I have tested this theory and - sadly for me - this does seem to be the case. I'm not a particularly sensitive person either, so definitely be aware of this.

So there you go, a sad tale of my allergy to the best powder ever. If you've had issues with this I'd truly love to know!

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, 17 September 2017

(Just Shy Of) 48 Hours In Paris

Katy and I are the queens of the short trip. We like to city hop, fit in as much as we can into tiny amounts of time and then fly back and head back to work like it was nothing but a slightly long dream - but Paris was stretching it, even for us. With travelling, the flight times and everything else that we had going on, we barely had 48 hours to enjoy Paris and get as much of it done as humanly possible (or at least the things we had in mind that we really wanted to), and that's a bit of a challenge even for the most seasoned traveller. So, without further ado, here's what we got up to in 48 hours during my first trip to Paris.

We had to do about an hour of extra travel to get from our airport (Paris Beauvais) to Paris city centre, and so after this it was already after 5pm on our first day - so we head straight to do the big things whilst it was still light. We got an uber straight to the Eiffel Tower just as the weather was finally clearing up, and got some great photos, took a wander round and uploaded our first Instagram pictures. From here, we decided to make the most of the already slightly fading light and head off to the Arc De Triomphe (my first time in Paris definitely called for all of the tourist sites). Again, we got a lot of photographs, stored some future Instagram pictures and head off to the Champs-Élysées, which we knew was both close and had a Paris Saint Germain shop which Katy wanted to sneak a peek inside of.

We actually ended up spending most of our night walking the Champs Élysées - the shops here stay open pretty late and so it's definitely a great option if you're getting I pretty late like we were. We ate sitting on the street side, wanted through the biggest Sephora I've ever seen and marvelled at Louis Vuitton and Cartier (which was closed off as a celebrity was inside. How fucking glamorous.) I've never been anywhere quite like the Champs Élysées, and I definitely could have spent more time there, but around 9pm we head off back to our hotel which required heading to Disneyland and then back to the Kyriad on a shuttle bus. Luckily for us (and you, if you're heading to Disney but going to Paris first!) the RER A Line that we needed goes straight from opposite the Arc De Triomphe, and you just need to stay on until the last stop.

After getting to the hotel, we saw the goats (the Kyriad is a Disney partner hotel and has a farm!) and then head to bed for an early night, because the next day we spend the whole day at Disneyland. We saw both parks and went on all of the rides that we wanted to in one day; get there for opening and don't leave until closing to get the most of your money and make sure that you get everything that you want to do, out of the way. We ate in the park, which meant that when we got back we could pack, throw some pyjamas on, sleep and get ready to head back to the airport, which we pretty did immediately the next morning, doing the same journey in reverse (back to Disneyland to get to the station, then the RER A back to the Arc De Triomphe), and then spent an hour wandering through Porte Maillo, where we got our coach back to the airport from.

48 hours in Paris was magical, crammed full and still much too short - but if you only have 48 hours, a lot can definitely be done. Please do let me know what you'd do in 48 hours in Paris so I know what to get done next time!

Sammy xo.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Battling Cold Weather Chapped Lips With Balmkind

Where I live, it feels like we've skipped Autumn completely and landed slap bang in the middle of Winter. Okay, okay, I'm being dramatic - but we've definitely hit a seriously cold snap that has me bundling it and plying my skin with as many moisturisers as humanly possible; and so when Balmkind offered to send me their lip balms, I jumped at the chance. In hot weather and cold weather, my lips are always the first parts of my body to really suffer, and so I was happy to put something billing itself as being intended to, 'nourish, soothe and protect' to see if it could help to tide me over through the winter.

First we have to talk about the packaging - perhaps the least significant part of this post, but always good to know if you're going to be pulling this out in front of your work friends day in and day out (this is quickly reaching innuendo levels, my bad). Think dusty pink, high end, and a tube like the gel version of Carmex; they're definitely bordering on looking high end, and for £14.50 you would definitely want this to look high end, but it's just so pretty that I felt as though it was probably relevant to mention this. The applicator, however, is that slanted top with a hole in the middle - I know some people don't work with these very well, and so that's worth taking into consideration if you're looking to purchase this.

Balmkind have put all of their eggs into one basket with this product, and it's the only thing that they currently sell; however, I really don't feel as though this is a bad thing at all. All of the focus from this brand has gone into one product, and though it's expensive at £14.50 for a lip balm, I almost feel as though it deserves to be. These are suitable for vegetarians, not tested on animals and packed full of good ingredients, and the focus taken to make this the best lip balm it can possibly be means I wouldn't at all be pissed to lay down £14.50 on this. I can read and understand most of the instructions, I feel as though it's been well thought out and beautifully designed.

I have to say - there's one fatal flaw for me, but its definitely a personal thing and that's the rose scent (Well, actually, Alpine Rose and Lysine). I find this to be just a little too much, I find rose a powerful scent and not one that I really like to smell or, in this case, taste. Having said that, I can almost forgive the scent because I'm so fascinated by the product. As a long term Carmex user, finding something that sinks into my lips and genuine seems to cure that quenched feeling, as opposed to that petroleum sitting-right-on-top-of-the-lips feeling, something really special. I feel as though this does what a good lip balm should, and it took me trying it a few times to realise that although this is exactly what I envision a lip balm should be, I can't think of any that are even vaguely similar in feel.

All in all, I have to say that I'm actually pretty excited about this; which is something that I didn't see myself saying about lip balm. Instead of applying lip balm that feels greasy on my lips every hour in winter, I might be able to throw this on every few instead and get a much better effect. I have to say, this is worth the money and Balmkind are definitely a brand to keep an eye on (though please, guys, come out with a scent other than rose!) As always, if you've tried the product or have any alternatives to share, please do so below.

NB: Not an important part of the review, but kind of nifty. These guys send the box flat packed next to the lip balm so if you want it, you can slip the product in when you assemble the box (it just needs popping into place) but this means that the package can fit through most letterboxes, so you don't need to make an annoying trip to the post office if you're not in to get it!)

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

Friday, 15 September 2017

How To Visit Disneyland Paris Without Breaking The Bank

Katy and I have wanted to visit Disneyland for a pretty long time and, as you'll know if you follow either of us on any of our social media - this week, our dreams came true and we made it into the happiest place on earth. As you also might know; Katy and I pretty much live off of one low paying wage, and so we've had to keep the trip on the cheap - so, I thought that I'd share the tips and tricks that we took to allow us to spend three amazing days in Paris (and one beautiful day within the Disneyland Park!).

1: Find the cheapest transport
This sounds obvious, but was only obvious to me in hindsight. We personally flew into Beauvais, which is around an hour away from the city centre. Though the flights were cheaper flying slightly further out (and it is really only about half an hour further out than Charles De Gaulle) we then had to pay around £50 in return coach fares to get the shuttle into Paris, and so this didn't really work out any cheaper than paying for the 'better' (read; closer) airport. Definitely make sure that you've looked at the options fully, and book anything that you can ahead of time, because this usually also works out a little cheaper and, after all - every little helps!

2: Stay in a partner hotel
I would recommend, for any Disney trip, to stay somewhere with transport links; you have to get up early enough to make it in the park for the 9:30/10 opening time in the morning, and there's no point prolonging your transport links. Having said that, look into partner hotels - they'll usually still have these transport links, be Disney endorsed (providing an assured amount of quality for the most part), they'll be fairly close, and they'll often be much cheaper than a typical Disney hotel. It's true that you don't get the extra magic hours, but getting in there for ten does allow for plenty of time, and the money that you save can be well worth it.

3: Consider a packed lunch
Leading on from the above; most of the partner hotels also offer breakfast included in your package (bonus!) and they also often offer ready made packed lunches to take into the park which can save around £30 per couple, per counter service meal. It also means that you have to take considerably less time out of your day to get your meal, which is good if you're only in the park for a short while. Similarly; if you can't get a packed lunch, or you're determined to grab some food on Disney soil - definitely opt for the counter service restaurants, that can save a small fortune per head compared to sit down meals, or cart food like hot dogs etc. can also be a great option, and you don't have to sit down at all to eat them.

4: Buy at the end of the day
It can be so tempting to step into the shop right by the gate entrance and grab the first cuddly toy that you see because you're 'SO IN LOVE WITH IT'. However, reign it in - some shops hold things that no other shops do and so you want to check them all out first, allowing you to buy only the things that you really want; it's also pretty twofold as you probably don't want to take those huge blue bags on the rides with you and try to cram them between your feet alongside your backpack and everything else. Hold off on buying - you'll thank yourself for it when you come home with money in your pocket (Katy and I actually did, believe it or not!)

5: Consider just going for a day
It's a lot cheaper and you really don't have to scrimp on most things. Admittedly, we didn't get to meet minnie and mickey or the princesses as these queues were too long for just one day; but we did get to do all of the rides that we wanted to - and in fact some we even did twice. You'll nearly always save money when it comes to going for just one day, and it's definitely enough to get a big chunk of both parks out of the way. Conversely, if you're going for more than three days, definitely consider an annual pass, and that means that in the future, any extra trips will be a bonus that almost work out free, depending on the option that you pick.

All in all - Disneyland really doesn't have to break the bank; and including spending money for Paris, the parks and transport, as well as our flights, transfers and hotels, I spent around £800 for two people for three days. It's never going to be the cheapest holiday out there, but it also can be done within a budget. Need it to be lower? Just take spends and buy less merchandise; taking almost £450 off the price above; simple.

If you have tips for keeping Disneyland Paris costs down, do let me know!

Sammy xo.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Crabtree And Evelyn Overnight Hand Therapy

A few months ago now, I got a package off of Crabtree & Evelyn which was filled with products from their La Source range - the smell of which is fantastic. Though I've used the traditional hand cream and the eau de toilette a fair amount since then, it seems as though the overnight hand therapy got lost somewhere and was only rediscovered when we shifted all of the old furniture out in order to get the new carpet fitted; and I have to admit, I was intrigued. Isn't an overnight hand therapy going to be a really thick cream on my hands? That surely can't be comfortable to drift off to sleep to? In the end, I was dreading the idea of using it so much that I simply had to try it to see if it was as bad as I had built it up to be in my head.

This isn't in the typically crabtree and Evelyn plastic-that-looks-like-metal tube with an angled cap but rather, a white plastic tube with a clean, round, blue cap. This looks like the more elegant, older brother of the daily hand creams and truly, I'm not against it - it falls in between the size of the small and the large hand cream tubes, and the packaging in general is just neat, mature and well thought out (this is a much more matte feel, which is what you need when you're going to be slathering hand cream, on; no slippy plastic!) This is the perfect size and style to look neat on your bedside table - it's very old-american-film esque, like it should be next to a powder puff and a decorative pot of face cream - but it's got to do more than look good, especially if you're shelling out £19 to buy it.

So, is it worth it? Surprisingly, I'm sort of a fan. This does go on thick and oily, but it settles in much more quickly than the name would have you think - this isn't an overnight deal, a small bit will sink in in less than 5 minutes and will leave hands shiny, soft and rejuvenated. These aren't the oily hand creams that I used to put on as a teenager that stopped me doing anything other than sleeping, or the ones I used to have to wash off because they felt so gross - this is thin, light and leaves my hands feeling like no other hand cream. I probably won't be using it in place of my actual hand cream, mainly because of the price, but you definitely could, if you were in a pinch, without it leaving you with things slipping out of your hands left, right and centre like you're in a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

These are available in four different scents, but there's something about La Source that just has me that little bit obsessed with it. It's the smell of a beach in a foreign country somewhere, when the salt hits the air - which sounds really specific, but honestly, trust me on this one. I find it to be a really clean, fresh scent; something that I would definitely opt for over fruits or flowers, especially if I was going to be wearing it and smelling it all night. I know one of the other variations is Pomegranate,  Argan and Grapessed, which I think would also be lovely, however I imagine due to the additions of grapeseed and argan this may be slightly more oily.

All in all though, it's definitely worth the £19. You need a tiny bit to make your hands feel amazing, and it definitely doesn't have to be limited to wearing it at night; especially if, like me, you work at an office so have the time to let it try (I mean obviously when typing you'll rub it off your fingertips, but you get my drift). If you've tried any of the other variations, I'd love to heard how they are!

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, 13 September 2017

My Favourite Planner Sticker Shops

It's been a long time since I've spent nearly all of my free time scouring etsy - but, it seems that that fixation is back. I made the huge jump to buy a real, expensive planner a few weeks ago; something that I'm definitely going to need when it comes to starting university, keeping up with a full time job, my blog and the events. So, with a new planner comes a lot of new planner videos, and watching those planner videos has lead exactly to... well, stickers. So many of them - full week spreads to make your weeks go faster or look cooler, right dow to functional stickers (you'll see). So, I thought I'd share the love for my favourite etsy creators and give you some links in case you need something to spruce up your planner for September/October (or anytime, I suppose) - with each, I'll show you pictures of my favourite creations in the pictures, whilst discussing the shop more generally underneath.

1/2: Oddloop
I almost never use two spaces to showcase one shop/creator in my wishlists, but I'm just so in love with Oddloop as a concept, and the artwork is just something that I wish that I could have in my planner every single week. From Nighmare Before Christmas weekly kits to Princess weekly kits, it seems that Oddloop has something for everybody, and they're the masters of a bright coloured, high energy kit. I should say though, these things aren't cheap (though really not expensive for a small business with such high quality, especially for the amount of stickers you get) at £15.63 each for something that's only supposed to last a week, but this is something I might fork out for in the future because I haven't stopped thinking (or talking) about them since I first saw them. Naturally, however, I will have to make sure to add a lot more bits to my basket to justify the £5.88 shipping from Etsy....

NB: These sticker kits are ideally made to fit inside vertical Erin Condren life planners.

These guys specialise in little tiny bubble people called munchkins, and they're so cute I can't cope with them. You can find them doing all sort of functional things like washing, changing bed sheets, shopping and doing work - perfect to stick into your planner in order to represent whatever you're doing that day. Keep an eye out as it gets closer to holiday season as these guys find halloween outfits (there's a Wednesday Addam's one that I'm pretty in love with right now) and become cuter than ever before. These cost around £2.66 - £3.68 per sheet and shipping will knock you back another £4.20, and they're so cute that they're definitely worth stocking up on. Also, if nothing else, definitely check out their wacky holiday stickers to see what bizarre days fall in that month and when.

I watch Tesia over on her YouTube channel and the enthusiasm that she has for her shop and business is infectious. She creates the cutest, most beautiful stickers that tackle everything from everyday tasks, to more humorous introvert cacti and subtle jokes. Tesia has a gentle pastel colour scheme with a real bang in between in the way of deep burgundy, fiery orange and mustard yellow as we get closer to Autumn and Fall and I just love everything about this shop. General sized sticker sheets come in around £3.09 with a hefty £7.05 for shipping - but it's definitely worth it, and once you see the site I think that you'll definitely agree.

Planozo are definitely a go to shop when it comes to functional planner stickers, and they/re always on a thick, good quality sticker paper than almost borders on a vinyl. These are definitely the company I'd go to for blog planning stickers - but they offer many other options, from weight lose and exercise stickers right through to hobbies and food. These stickers will cost you anywhere between £1.50 and £3.50 with £1.50 shipping and, mark my words, even if your planner is completely functional and non-decorative, you'll probably find a sticker for your over on their etsy site.

So there are my favourite sticker shops but please do enable me by leaving yours in the comments! No sticker shops have paid me to be here, I just love a good sticker.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Charlotte Tilbury Unisex Healthy Glow

I'm so pale that I constantly glow, but never in a good way - more in the way that Casper The Friendly Ghost has about him, you know that gentle, neon, luminescent glow. For me personally, fake tan has never worked - nor have spray tans, and I burn way too easily (and am way to conscious about skin cancer) to ever consider going on sun beds or getting a sun shower. Still though, I do always wish that there was a bit more of a natural, sun kissed glow to my skin - and so when Charlotte Tilbury offered to send out a Unisex Healthy Glow for me to try, I jumped at the chance - in theory, this was everything I wanted. Glowy! Natural! Strangely named! (isn't all makeup technically unisex?) and so, I put this to the test.

This essentially looks like the the Wonderglow Primer, but in an opaque tube rather than a transparent one, but even hitting the skin this doesn't look world's apart from the aforementioned primer - until you start to rub it in of course, when it explodes into a deep tan colour which, as it's rubbed in, lightens considerably and turns much more glowy (truly, borderline glittery). A small bit of this goes a long way, which is something you want in a product that's going to set you back £35 plus shipping, but is it all it's cracked up to be, and is it worth splashing the cash on in the first place?

Well the answer really depends on your complexion in the first place. Does it make you look slightly more golden and glowy? Yes, it genuinely does - it seamlessly seems to melt into skin giving it a gentle glow which doesn't look patchy (a big plus, as you'll know if you've ever tried a facial tanner before; it's a risky business). Does it work for me though? No, it really doesn't - it makes my skin look disproportionately tanned compared to my neck and my body which just looks strange if I'm not wearing make-up - it's a beautiful product but, like most types of makeup I've tried that are intended to 'mimic my skin tone', this just comes out that tiny bit too dark for me.

Which brings me to my final point which is; I just don't think that this can meld to any skin tone. Presumably, if this is too dark for my skin, it's also going to be much too light for a multitude of skin tones - and I feel like this could easily be resolved by offering a few more variations to cater for some more skin tones. For £35, this definitely isn't the cheapest facial tanner on the market - but for giving such a natural tint with a real glow, this is something I would definitely consider buying for when my skin wasn't awful; only that this one is something that I definitely couldn't get away with with no other makeup on; which sort of defies the object of why I, personally, would be wearing this.

So all in all - this is a good product, and if you would normally fall within the 'medium' range of skin tones, I would certainly recommend this as a nice summer holiday type tint - however, if you're any lighter or darker than that? Probably hold off to find something more suited.

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

Monday, 11 September 2017

5 Reasons That Porto Is Underrated

I don't tend to head out on a Summer holiday - I go away over Summer, but typically not to a beauty type place where I have to battle the sun and try to protect my very, very pale skin. Having said that - this Summer we did adventure out to Portugal, but we managed to avoid the resorts and hotels and instead head to the beautiful city of Porto. Due to cheap flights, Porto is definitely on the up as a holiday destination, but I'm here to tell you the five reasons that I think that Porto is under-rated (and the five reasons I definitely think that you should book the flights to go out there right now).

1) It's a beach holiday and a city break all in one
Can't decide whether you want to laze on the beach or head out to adventure round the town? With Porto, you can easily do both. Head down to the beaches to laze on the sun, stand on boulders and do Moana impressions (just us?), play with dogs loving the hot sand, and head up to the adorable churches that tower over the seaside, and when you're bored? Simply head back to the centre of town and lose yourself down deceptively modern streets, marvel at the buskers and head to escape rooms and the very book shop that JK Rowling reportedly based Hogwarts on. It's the perfect cultural mix, and there's something for everyone that you're with.

2) Their public transport is second to none
Top your card up for around €6 in any of the metro stations, and then head all around the city, as often as you need to, within the next twenty four hours - just tap your card on the way in, and the way out. Don't be thinking that their metro is like ours here, enjoy regular trains that are nearly always on time, late night trains (all night through the weekend) to get you home after a good party, and more importantly; you get wifi, signal and air con in most of them, to keep your comfortable whilst you travel. Forget what you think you know about public transport, get rid of your uber app, and as long as you're close enough to walk to a metro station; definitely make good use of it.

3) They have so many fantastic spiritual places
From an incorruptible body of a saint that the citizens offer candles in the shapes of limbs to, to a church on the beach that people rumour also has links to witchcraft - Porto is beautiful, and full of regligion and spirituality. Wherever you walk, you can find catacombs, beautiful churches and cathedrals covered in blue and white tiles, a church that's almost completely gold on the inside - even for the most non-spiritual person, there are some things in Porto that will take your breath away. You could use a seven day trip just visiting religious sites and you would likely not see all that the area has to offer; but definitely take the time out to see some one-off amazing spiritual places.

4) It's cheap
Not incredibly cheap, but definitely cheap enough to make it worth it. Shell out €1.50 in nearly any bar in the city centre and they'll give you a plastic cup full of Super Bock or Somersby Cider for you to take out and wander the streets with. Whether you opt to shop, sightsee or travel; you won't be paying too much to do it, and certainly much less than you typically would in other parts of the country. Your flights and accommodation are going to be on the cheap site, so is your shopping and you can definitely save some serious money on eating out; so if you're after a cheap one? Look no further.

5) It's so authentically Portuguese
From the markets full of tiles and cork and bread shaped like penises (peni? And we don't know why the bread is shaped like that, either, really), to the fact we only met one other English traveller - Porto just felt so authentically part of Portugal, untouched by holiday resorts and huge chain hotels (neither of which are a bad thing, it's just strange not to see them). From tiny, heavily decorated little shops, to brand new glass buildings and old fashioned trams; everything about Porto is fantastic, authentic and beautiful - definitely get those flights booked.

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Past 12 Months

I know that this is such a cheesy, cliche thing to say - but isn't it made how life can surprise you? This time last year I was setting up to head to university, going through a (not all that heartbreaking) break-up and totally unaware that in 3 months time from that point, I would be a few days off being engaged. The last year has gone so quickly; it's been nearly a year since I got back with Katy, nearly a year since I moved in here, and nearly a year since we got engaged (which is so crazy in itself, it feels like it can't possibly have been that long). So, I want to take a little time now to reflect on the past twelve months, and everything that's changed.

In the past twelve months I went to university, sat in lectures I hated, found my subject way too triggering and so I dropped out - I also decided what I want to do in the long term. So, now I am right on the edge of starting at a new university, much closer to home, doing a subject that I actually care about. I've also travelled, like - a lot. In the past twelve months alone we have travelled to Krakow, Riga, Poznan, Porto and Nuremberg; and in the next twelve we already have Paris, Prague, Lublin and Boston planned - so with work, travel and university, the next year is certainly going to be a lot hectic than the one that's just gone.

Which nicely brings me to the next step - because in the last twelve months, I got a job! That's right, my therapy finally did me a solid and gave me the confidence to put myself out there and earn some money; admittedly, I sit at home on my computer - but it's a job nonetheless, and it's enough to keep up with that aforementioned travel. I've also started blogging more regularly, in the last few weeks, and expanding out to travel blogging, and so that's pretty cool. My waistline might have gotten bigger in the last year, but so has my wealth of experiences; and I know which one I care about more (hint, it's not the size of my jeans).

In the last year Katy and I have also spent most of it living together, as a couple, engaged. That's so strange to say now when I think how I was a year ago - but I truly feel like this is something good; we are both more independent, both more conscious of our futures separately and together; I am healthier, and stronger, which makes so much of a difference to the whole thing. I don't feel I'm dragging people down with me now, but rather asking them for a hand up - and that's a situation that I really didn't think I was going to be in at this point in my life.

The last twelve months have changed me - they've softened me, made me kinder, they've allowed me to work harder than ever, to see the world and to find my footing. I am different because of them, and I'll be eternally grateful - here's to the next twelve.

Sammy xo.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Rossi Uvema Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Face Toning Mist

I've reached the point with my problem skin now where I am willing to try absolutely anything - I feel like when I clear one patch of ugly, swelling blemishes up, new ones spring up elsewhere, and I honestly can't remember the last time that all of my skin was completely clear. So, there are certain words that will always make me buy, or agree to try, a certain product - and two of those words (okay, actually, both are 'terms') are 'Tea Tree' and 'Witch Hazel'; after all, they're the two OG blemish clearing ingredients. So, when Rossi Uvema offered to let me try the Tea Tree and Witch Hazel Face Toning Mist - there was no way that I could turn that down; especially because it comes in at £14.25 and the whole company are vegan - making it a steal if it's as good as it seems.

The packaging for this is heavy and glass with a pump spray, and for the most part I really like it - it works well, and it feels really sturdy; I personally don't really like a spray toner, but that's definitely a personal preference type issue. To give this a fair chance, I spent a few weeks trying this spraying it directly onto my face, and then another few spraying this onto cotton pads to see if either made a huge, noticeable difference, or if either worked better for me personally. I did find that, as you might imagine, press cotton pads with this sprayed onto them into the blemishes definitely did a better job of drying them right out and helping them heal faster. Though the spray is more refreshing, it didn't have the same effect, or it certainly didn't dry them out to the same extent - so maybe if you're using this preventatively, spray it, and if you're using it directly on spots, use cotton pads.

I will say; this thing is pretty strong, as you'd expect from the ingredients that are included. That's in no way a bad thing, especially for me; I feel like I need something that belongs in an apothecary with 'xxx' written on the front of a brown glass bottle, but it is something to consider if you've got sensitive skin. I did try this consistently for a fair few weeks, and it was fine for me, but it did dry around my nose; something unusual for me as I have such oily skin - so it's definitely worth considering swapping this out for something much gentler when you have gotten rid of spots, or using it in conjunction with gentler products if you're using this preventatively. Again; I can't stress enough that this isn't a bad thing, just something worth considering in terms of how you personally might use it if you purchase the product.

The one thing that does let the product down in my opinion is definitely the smell, which is seriously potent. There's not much to be done about this; it just is the mix of smells - there's no perfume added in any way, it's just the mixture of tea tree and witch hazel - but some days it feels like it's probably enough to take my breath away. This isn't so obvious when you're wiping it onto your skin (though make no mistake, you definitely can still smell it), but when you're spraying it onto your skin, you're going to want to make sure that you don't breath this in too much, as it really is strong. It's not so bad that it counteracts how good the product is, but definitely worth considering if you're sensitive to certain smells, as it's pretty unavoidable.

All in all though, this is a hero product - it's something I've been consistently reaching for when my skin is bad. It hasn't halted spots in their tracks, but I eat cheesy chips a solid twice a week if not more so I didn't really expect it to, but it really does dry out ay that are already swollen and red. It's affordable, vegan, and definitely something you should have on your skincare shelf.

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