Thursday, 31 August 2017

My Top 3 Dream Airbnbs

I spent a huge amount of my time flicking through Airbnb listings and trying to sort them into wishlists. It's not that I think we're going to travel and stay in every single one (though, that's definitely a nice thought) but it's more that when we are heading to stay in a country, it can be good (and very helpful) to know that I have a list of apartments at my fingertips that are both functional, in good locations, beautiful and (usually) easily within budget. I have way too many of these to share them all with you, but I am willing to put some of my favourites out there - hey, if I don't get to stay in them, at least somebody I know will, right? So, in no particular order...

This is actually definitely the flat that started the whole wishlist thing - when looking for a present for someone else, Katy and I cam across this beautiful flat in the centre of Krakow and we talk about it at least once a week even now. This is a beautiful flat, the right cross between modern, industrial, cost and old-fashioned, and it's in an area we have stayed in before and felt really comfortable in, right in the centre of town.

This flat is definitely a standout one for me, and we've stayed in a few different places both in Krakow, and Poland as a whole - but this is something special, whilst still being affordable (depending on what time of year you go, and how many people are staying). The one thing about this is definitely that it's nearly always booked up, so if you want it? You're going to have to think a fair time ahead.

When Kaz, Katy and I were booking Boston, we weren't entirely sure where we were going to stay, and so we also looked at areas around Boston - and that's how we found this little treasure in Lawrence. This is a reall industrial apartment nestled in the most beautiful, classic building (it seems industrial is my theme, huh? Who knew. Not me, that's for sure.) I just find this so beautiful, with old fashioned chairs, modern prints and such a beautiful wooden kitchen.

This is fairly affordable considering that you're in downtown Lawrence, and though we decided against this one and decided we were going to stay right in Boston, pretty much - this still holds a dear place in my heart. It's all about those red reading chairs, I won't even lie. If you're ever around the area and looking for somewhere instagram friendly to stay - this is definitely the one to keep an eye out for.

Finally! A non-industrial option! Katy and I have put off heading to Tokyo for 2018, purely because it's going to be hard graft to get the amount of money that we need whilst I'm in university and whatnot  - but, for a while when looking to see if this was going to be possible, I most definitely fell in love with this beautiful apartment. It's tiny, perfectly formed and full of bright colours, toys and everything you could possibly want from a home away from home.

When Katy and I were looking into this we were absolutely convinced we would have to share beds, super weird when I'm looking at it now as they are clearly two double beds. Freudian slip? It seems so. Bagsy the pink and yellow bed is mine.

If you have your favourite Airbnbs, please do let me know!

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Mental Illness And The Ever-Looming Future

It's a total cliche but it's definitely true - life doesn't work out how you expect it to. I expected by 24 I would be married, moved out with kids; instead, I'm gay, living with my girlfriend's parents and going back to university. That isn't a bad thing, don't get me wrong, but it's pretty far from where I had anticipated being at this point in my life - and it's got me feeling some anxiety. Life is more complicated than ever, and I feel as though I'm constantly running as fast as I can in a circle but never getting anywhere - the future is so uncertain that the idea of it can leave me crumpled in a ball at any given moment.

For now life is one big limbo, pretty until I go on my year abroad; we aren't really planning on anything big. I don't think we're planning on moving out before then, we aren't planning the wedding before then, we aren't really planning anything too much in the long term as this is like a huge giant on the horizon casting a shadow over my life now. I am so excited for that chapter in my life, spending a year speaking my new language in a culture I have spent 2 years learning about by then - but it's also scary. However I look at this, I'm likely going to spend just shy of 12 months in a foreign country on my own. Though I know this is a life experience I will thank myself for later, right now it feels like a hurdle I need to get over before embarking on the other things going on in my life.

Before we even get close to that though; I'm scared of starting university. My time at Chester wasn't great for me, and I'm holding out serious hope that Liverpool will prove to be a better experience - with both this and my year abroad, I'm worried about how this will effect my mental health, knowing that more than anything I never, ever want to be in the position that I was two years ago. I still struggle to find the line between natural, typical anxiety and 'this-is-too-much-for-me-get-me-out' jarring anxiety that GAD used to bring me. I know the feeling is very different for each, but even the slightest hint of anxiety or fear has me at panic stations that I'm falling back into old patterns.

The future is a huge fear for me - partly because once I never saw myself having one; it scares me every day I see this black, unsure future; which everybody has, but each person reacts to differently. I have no idea how the future is going to go, and it's really triggering my anxiety; as ridiculous as that is - because in this case I truly am fearing the unknown, fearing a big, fat nothing. I've been doing so well that this idea of change has me right on the edge, and I feel as though I'm teetering and I haven't even started yet; the idea of not knowing what is going to worsen my anxiety has my generalised anxiety disorder running riot - and though everything will be fine, I feel as though right now I can't really convince my head that that is the case.

This isn't a sympathy post - just an honest one, I know that when everyone around you is excited for their future, fearing yours can be a really isolating prospect; and I hope this makes anyone feeling like that feel less alone. Here's to seeing what the future holds, and hoping it reveals itself soon.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

My Top 3 European Cities

The more that we travel, the more that I fall in love with cities. I feel like I can truly say that there are no cities we have visited that I don't fall every so slightly in love with, but there have been some that have definitely come out on top. So, without further ado, here are my top 3 European cities (so far...)

1: Poznan

Poznan barely grazed past the others to get to the top spot of my favourite European cities, but it definitely has forged itself a strong place there. Poznan is like no other city I have ever been to, with winding streets of old fashioned buildings interspersed with glass and modern clubs - it's lively, modern, old fashioned and charming all mixed into one perfect city. It almost feels like there's something around every single corner when you're in Poznan, from Pacha in the city centre if you're that way inclined, right up to the military museum in the centre of the Citadel Park; Poznan is a city for everyone in it, no matter how young or old, or what they're interested in.

Must see in Krakow? The fighting goats underneath the main square clock. Following the streams of tourists (and many, many locals) to get a good view at midday each day of the two little mechanical goats coming out and butting heads 12 times. Pointless? Yes. Adorable? Too right. There's also a croissant museum 2 minutes past it - when in Poznan, right? (I don't know what I meant by that either). Take time out of your day to visit the zoo and play with the horses (though beware, it's a very, very long walk around the lake in the centre), take a trip to the palm house (there's a fantastic aquarium here for the price) or head out to the huge manmade Lake Malta for bowling, skiing, churches and much more.

2: Riga

What I truly remember about this trip was how frigging cold it was, and in fact the day we left I felt as though I was the coldest I had ever been on a trip with only one exception (which you'll read about in my third entry). However, Riga is beautiful - with colour, rainbows and lights everywhere - it's definitely not to be sniffed at; and whether you find your way to the frozen river underneath the freedom statue (rumour has it this is a non-frozen lake in summer but I really can't imagine it ever warming up enough for that), or into the NYX shop in the city centre; Riga is beautiful, full of people and so, so welcoming.

Visit the zoo to see a real life Sven, do an escape room, find the Harley Davidson restaurant and eat lunch in a car- the possibilities are endless. Don't miss the shrieking cat house in the city centre, or the rows and rows of houses that look like their windows and doors have been painted on they're so intricate - and whatever you do, don't leave without trying a bottle of Black Balsam; which will set you back less than €1 for a small bottle in most supermarkets in the centre. In the winter, though freezing, I have to say; this city certainly is a beautiful one.

3: Krakow

The original love of my life in terms of European cities, and rightfully so. The first time I ever visited, Poland were in a particularly cold snap and temperatures with wind chill got down to -26 degree celsius, it truly got to the point that I started to think that I would never be warm again, but it won me over even there. Krakow isn't very metropolitan for the most part, even the main parts of the city feel like big villages, with elaborate parks, buildings and markets around every turn. Krakow isn't just for Christmas markets, vodka enthusiasts and school trips - there's so much to be seen that you'd be stupid not to grab flights and a cheap Air BnB when you see them (though, admittedly, that tends to be few and far between these days).

Beyond the obvious trips of the salt mines and Auschwitz (and I truly believe everyone should take the time to do these) make sure you take a trip to the fascinating and truly immersive Schindler's Factory Museum, make sure to fit in an escape room and go out of your way to have great vegan food. Visit the Circus Family chocolate shop in the city centre for melted chocolate in cups, visit the worst wax museum I've ever been to and dip in and out of the huge market in the main square. Pick up a shot (or a bottle) of vodka and enjoy the beautiful city come to life as much at night as it does in the day.

So there are my favourite European cities! Please do share yours with me, I need to get some trips booked for next year...

Sammy xo.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Lauren Graham - Talking As Fast As I Can; A Book Review

Okay so fair disclaimer, there's a random picture in here because I'm an idiot - I read this on the plane to Portugal when we went a few weeks back, but as we were bringing a fair amount of makeup back and sharing one case between four people it didn't make the cut to come home, and I forgot to take a picture. Bad blogger award goes to me - but, the book review will still be relevant without the pictures, I promise.

I went through a stage a few years ago where all I seemed to read were the autobiographies of women that I found interesting, inspiring or generally cool. I read Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling... The list could go on far beyond female comedians (these were the only ones I had on my bookcase to recall in the long term); but the point is, I found myself really enjoying reading about the lives of women and how they got to the point where they are now. I was late on the bandwagon with Lauren Graham, partly because I was worried that Lauren Graham was so far from Lorelai Gilmore, a mother than I grew up with and loved, that it would ruin this idea that I had of her in my head. Nevertheless, a year or so late to the party, I picked the book up and used the time I spent sitting along on the plane to settle in and give it a fair go.

First of all I want to say that you probably want to have watched Gilmore Girls before reading this. It's not necessary, I'm sure you'll get by without having done so, but when reading it come clear that Lauren Graham's career and life is so rooted into playing Lorelai Gilmore, than you'll feel as though you've missed out on something great when reading if you're not familiar with what she's talking about (and actually if you haven't watched Gilmore Girls, you really have missed out). If you are a fan of the iconic show, you'll find yourself feeling like you got this special, behind the scenes look at something special - and in my case, reading Lauren Graham's feelings behind iconic scenes I used to watch on E4 before school is just something bizarre and amazing - Lauren is so like her character that it's like having Lorelai Gilmore comment on integral points of the show's history, and it's so different to things I've read in the past, that I have to admit I truly was suckered in.

I found the book an easy, yet charming read - Lauren Graham is fascinating to listen to, and that definitely translates to her writing; you feel as though you are truly part of the events that she's talking about within the book. With filming life on Gilmore Girls interspersed with snippets from her life both before, after and in between, it really feels as though Graham has poured her heart into the book - to the extent I cried about the death of Edward Herrman through her eyes on the plane (seriously, it was embarrassing for me, and for Katy who had to get up from her seat to comfort me). Lauren Graham has such a beautiful, frank way of talking that I personally couldn't help getting too involved in her story, and it made a 2 hours planer journey fly by (no pun intended).

The one thing that was so blatantly apparent for me when reading was how much of Lauren Graham is truly in Lorelei Gilmore, and how different the programme would have been without her. She speaks about Gilmore Girls like Lorelai was a period in her life and I suppose, in a way, she was - but the way she speaks about the cast like her true family is heartwarming, and the way she talks about her return to the revival is enough to have the stoniest of hearts breaking. I'd recommend the book purely for the way you finish it feeling as though you've read the life story of a friend; and writing like that really isn't easy to do.

If you've read the book, I'd love to know your thoughts!

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Lancome Monsieur Big Mascara

Though, in my eyes (no pun intended), mascara seems to go unnoticed as one of the more 'boring' makeup products; as I sit to write this post I realise that, second only to base products, it's the one makeup item that's pretty much always on my face when I come to put makeup on. High end mascara really isn't my jam; Benefit let me down in my late teens when it was a huge chunk of my wages to buy, and since I've gotten older - and my lashes have gotten thicker and longer - I just always splashed my cash elsewhere. However, when Lancome offered to send me their new Monsieur Big Mascara I couldn't resist seeing whether it would win my heart like the original Mr Big won the heart of an entire generation.

The packaging for the mascara is sleek and understated, but that's certainly not a bad thing. In between bright, metallic tubes in my makeup drawer, the black is stands out, and looks like something much more unique and adult than it's drugstore counterparts. The brush is also a real throwback to mascaras I remember using in my early teens; gone are the flexible plastic brushes that we're used to seeing each time a brand releases a new mascara, and in it's place is the classic bristle brush - there's something old fashioned and classical about this mascara, but it's refreshing, it only stands to show that sometimes if it isn't broken, you don't need to fix it.

The mascara itself has it's good and bad points but I do truly feel that, predominantly, this mascara is a pretty nice addition to my makeup bag. It's got a fairly wet consistency, but this does work in it's favour, lengthening and volumising the lashes without adding any extra clumpy mess where it doesn't need to be; though, I will say, that this is far too wet for me to use on my bottom lashes - it just causes too much transfer for me to be comfortable with. For top lashes though, this is perfect; and though it boasts a serious amount of volume, which is delivers on, don't be fooled into thinking that this is lacking on the lengthening aspect, because it really isn't.

One thing that I truly would have to disagree with, though? There is no way that this is going to last all day, especially not if it's on bottom lashes. Will it look boss when you first put it on? Yes. Will it last if there's even the slightest threat of your eyes watering? No. This will look pretty, make your lashes thick and long, and will be the mascara of your dream but - if you're a contact lens wearer, or if you have permanently watery eyes like I do - there's a serious time limit on how long that'll be the case for. It's a truly lovely mascara, but I'm just not sure it's £21 worth of good - I'll be using it up for sure - but would I repurchase it? Probably not, realistically.

If you've tried this, let me know your thoughts! Or, if you have any high end mascara recommendations, please do let me 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.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Keeping Travel Costs Down - Trips/Excursions

You all know that if there's one thing that I'm passionate about, it's seeing as much of the world as you can on a budget. This is the third, and final, post drumming up some tips on how to keep specifics on holidays down, and thought much broader than the food and drinks posts, this one is definitely one of the most important; trips and excursions. Nobody wants to get cheap flights, accommodation, food and drinks on holiday, just to sit in an apartment overlooking some of the most beautiful cities and landscapes in the entire world. It's natural to want to get out there and explore each new place that you're in - however, this is usually the most expensive part of the trip; so here's how to keep the costs as low as possible, whilst seeing as much as you can.

The main one is, of course, opt for free activities. Some of the coolest things that we've done in foreign countries were free; from the witchcraft church and incorruptible body in Porto, to the fire breathing dragon in Krakow. If you know where to look, each city has a plethora of hidden gems that you need no money in your pocket (though usually, you do need to have the willpower to walk around a while) to see - and with trip advisor in your pocket (and free EU roaming!) finding these beautiful little pieces of magic has never been easier. I find the best things won't be on the front page, but dig around a little, take a peek at lonely planet, and you'll have a whole schedule of must-see things that won't cost you a single cent.

Not everything that you're going to want to see is free, however. Having said that, most European cities are a lot more flexible on ticket options; so grab your student card, make sure you ask for a youth (which is usually under 25) if you can get one; know your tickets, take some ID so you have evidence that you can rightfully buy one, and head right on in for a (usually seriously) reduced price. If the ticket options aren't cutting down the price for you, know your days; in certain countries and places, for certain galleries and gardens, some dates allow for free or reduced entry prices, and if you're there for any length of time, chances are you might hit one of these days. Do your research; know whether you'd be best going to the gallery the moment you see it, or waiting for a lazy Sunday - because the difference could be a good amount of money you could use somewhere else.

My biggest tip for this, by far, is don't rule out things that would normally be expensive in England, because these can be some of the cheapest pass times in other countries and cities. Zoos, escape rooms and even quad biking and similar (though drive responsibly) often work out much cheaper than their English counterparts, and in fact zoos have proved really affordable in just about every country that we've visited - so find the costs of things online, because they just might surprise you; which, in turn, means that you can fit more incredible, fun things in whilst you're away. Slot these adventures in between beaches, parks and gardens? You're schedule is about to be filled right up in just about no time, and you'll have some spare cash lying around.

Overall; I have to be honest - you can get a budget holiday, but you can never really pull off a 'cheap' holiday as such - and trips are always going to be a huge chunk of what you pay out whilst you're there. That doesn't mean, however, that you should throw money at them unconditionally; so heed my tips above, and enjoy an extra glass of wine on me.

Sammy xo.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Urban Decay Naked Skin Shapeshifter

If there's one item that graces nearly every beauty blogger's makeup collection, it has to be a (at least one of the now five fold collection) naked palette by Urban Decay, surely? I'm definitely no exception, and the eyeshadows can be found decorating my eyes on any given day (okay, I don't wear makeup most days now I work from home, but when I do, it's usually got at least one Urban Decay offering mixed in there) - and so when they offered me a Naked Skin Shapeshifter to try, I definitely wasn't about to turn that down. This comes in only two colour ways, a light-medium shift and a medium-dark shift; I can only speak for the lighter of the two, but I was certainly ready to put this through it's paces to see if it could stand alongside it's colourful family members.

I have to admit that the idea of this is pretty cool - the palette opens and has an almost fan like design, with a mirror that sits in the middle of the palette and can be flipped on way to reveal five cream colours, or the opposite way to reveal four powder colours; all for contouring the skin. It's innovative, sturdy and has typically beautiful Naked packaging; but, at £39.50 (that's right, this will cost you nearly FORTY QUID) - the same price as a full colour palette in the same range - I have to admit that I was more than ready to be critical. The packaging is cool, and it means powder doesn't end up in my cream product; but I was ready to call the company out if this turned out to be a mediocre product, where I was paying purely for the packaging.

Thankfully; I was proven wrong - but this palette is far from being free of faults. The cream products, though not something I would generally opt for, are surprisingly nice, with each bordering right on a cream-to-powder formula and making for very smooth application on the skin. There's a deep ashy toned contour in the cream products, as well as three concealers (one very pink, one very yellow) and a cream highlight. All concealers are wrong for me; one is too yellow, the other too dark, and one straight up salmon, and the deep ashy tone is something that I would never opt for; nevertheless, the products themselves are a great formula, and there's no patchiness, which is a nice little bonus. 

In the powders, there's a lighter and a darker contour, a pretty highlight and a setting powder; again, I wouldn't reach for the deeper contour shade, nor the powder (and I think this may border on the wrong shade for me anyway) - but the formula itself is great. For me though; therein lies the issue - I am buying a palette of great quality, but one that I will never get full use of. I know that's not usually the end of the world, and in fact something that you expect when you buy palettes of complexion products; but the fact is for £40, I would want a palette that I can use right down to the bitter end; and this just isn't one. The fact there are only two variations catering to millions of skin tones means that, unless you're a MUA and adding this to your kit, you're never really going to make the most of this.

Are the products in this palette great? Yes, no doubt - the formula is beautiful, the mattes are easy to blend and the highlights are strong and light without bordering on grey tin-man type looks; but my issue purely lies within the fact I personally feel I could never put down £38.50 on a palette I personally can't get the most of. If you've tried this and felt differently though, I'd really love to hear your thoughts!

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

Thursday, 24 August 2017

European Holidays You Can Get For Your Budget Right Now

I know a lot of people struggle to find cheap holidays and, though it's always easy to say 'this is how I do it', the whole thing can be a little bit overwhelming if you're not used to scouring travel websites to the extent that Katy and I are. I thought that, to better show you what you can get for your money, I'd set out a number of budgets and show what you can get for your money right now if you're willing to dig around a bit. This is only taking into consideration flights and accommodation, baggage and whatnot would be separate, but it's definitely worth considering taking only hand luggage.

Obviously, this can vary a bit depending on where you'd flying from (though I have tried to pick a variety of airports for a bigger cross section) - but here are some ideas of what you can get for your budget, starting from £75 per person. I have, it's worth noting, also picked 'entire home' Airbnb's - if it's your jam to have a private room in a house, you could probably do each cheaper again. All prices are correct at the point of writing this post, but do vary slightly day to day.

Under £75 per person (£75 exactly, or £108 for 2 people, based on sharing the accommodation)
2 Nights in Katowice, Poland (Flying From London)
The first time I ever went to Poland I flew back from Katowice; the airport is tiny, but the city is really, really beautiful. For this particular deal you would be flying with Ryanair from Stanstead on 15th November 2017, then back with Wizz Air to Luton on 18th November 2017; but you'd be staying in this gorgeous, modern Air BnB in the city centre, and it'll be a nice trip away from rainy England. Poland is always cheap - so even if this deal isn't one that you can make happen, definitely for a short break, it's worth considering to keep your costs low. I mean, come on, you couldn't get a night in a hotel for £75 in England.

Under £100 per person (£97 or £115 for 2 people, based on sharing the accommodation)
4 Nights in Sofia, Bulgaria (Flying From Doncaster)
Katy and I really want to go to Sofia, and there's absolutely no denying that this is a really, really good deal. For this one, flights would be both to and from Doncaster with Wizz Air, flying out on the 8th November or 12th November; and you'd be staying a little bit outside of the city (around 15 mins) but you'd have great transport links and a really pretty (if a little old-fashioned) Airbnb. The real hard bit here was finding centrally located places to stay for an affordable price, but if you booked this a fair bit ahead of time, I definitely think that you could recreate this at another time (you could probably even get it a little cheaper). This Airbnb and the above Airbnb also don't charge you for an extra person, so you can do a cheap break with a friend or partner and you'll cut the price down again.

Under £150 per person (£140 or £265 for 2 people, based on sharing the accommodation)
5 Nights in Prague, Czech Republic (Flying From Liverpool)
I'm so annoyed that Katy and I couldn't get this apartment for when we're going to Prague, because it's absolutely beautiful. However, for this one you'd be flying from and to Liverpool with Ryanair, and heading out on the 10th January 2018 to come back on the 15th. This apartment is gorgeous and centrally located, and Prague is so cheap when you're there that you'd really be silly not to book this right this minute (Liverpool is a great city too, stay here for a night, give me a holler and we'll go for drinks). The one annoying thing about this is that the apartment really spikes in price when you add a second person onto the Airbnb booking; it's still fairly affordable and will lower this price per person down, but you could probably get a better deal again if you found a better value apartment.

Under £200 per person (£198 or £231 for 2 people, based on sharing the accommodation)
7 Nights in Budapest, Hungary (Flying From Stanstead)
Another one departing from London, sorry, but I'm so in love with the idea of Budapest that it definitely had to feature on this list. You'd be flying both to and from Stanstead and would be in Budapest from 17th-24th January in this modern, really cool flat next to the museum. Katy and I are going next year and will definitely look at this apartment as it's so affordable, artistic and in a fantastic location. This is one that doesn't charge you for an extra person as well, and it actually sleeps up to four - so it could be worth paying the extra, calling all your girlfriends and staying here in order to bring the price down for you all. Any excuse for a holiday, eh?

I wish I could be more specific for each and every one of you out there (and actually if you ask me on twitter I'd be happy to find specific holidays for you because I bloody love doing it) but I just wanted to give you an idea of what you could expect for your dollar at the minute if you're looking at a European break. Let me know if you book them, use my Airbnb code if you want to send some dollar my way (and save some yourself) and happy holiday-ing!

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

A Life Update

Seeing as I've been sporadically in and out of here for the last few weeks, I thought I'd use this return to discuss where I've been and why I haven't been quite as regular as I have been in the past with posting. I know I don't owe it to anyone, but you all know how much I love Little Fickle and so being away from here always feels a bit strange, like a part of me is missing - and thought I have been keeping up for the most part, I wish that I could be here more, posting every day like I did in the year I was ill and this blog was life raft. I wish I had enough time to post about all of the good stuff that's happening now, but as life goes - I always had time to dwell on the bad stuff then, and I seemingly never have enough time to dwell on the good stuff now.

I've been working, a lot. This is stressful, tiring and it makes me grumpy a huge chunk of the time - but picking up my hours and going from part time to full time hours has allowed me and Katy to travel, a lot. Before the end of the year we'll be travelling to Disneyland Paris, Prague and Lublin, and then finally, in the New Year, Boston will actually be rolling around. By the time we go to Boston, it'll have been near enough a year from the time we booked it and I can't believe that it's finally coming round in a few months time, working is stressful, but keeping foreign places I can't wait to explore on the horizon is definitely helping to keep me motivated when I'm finishing at midnight and going straight to sleep to start again at eight.

Katy and I have also been trying a lot harder to get out and do things, we did a day at V Festival (not the weekend that we had hoped, as my anxiety was too bad, but still a win for me I feel), we've been going to the cinema a lot more, walking into town, and just making sure that I get out of the house. Spending all my time cooped up in one room can have me going a little cabin-fever-ish, but getting down to the sea can definitely help. I'm not really used to living with Katy quite yet, though it's been a year, and getting to the bottom of her road and finding a huge expanse of water, beach, arcades and beautiful views still sometimes takes my breath away, and it's definitely a huge change from the leafy, green, conservation area that I'm used to living in and growing up around. I'm only twenty minutes down the road from my parents, but looking out onto the water still seems very, very strange to me some days.

The biggest thing, of course, at the moment is the impending promise of a new university, taking a new course. I've had to put in a lot of work, asking permission to take a specific minor, working out how I'm going to afford to drop hours and applying for financial independence to try and work out how I'm going to live and study at the same time. It looks, for the moment (touch wood), like I will be taking Spanish and Basque, and so I'm going to be working pretty hard a lot of the time, but for me personally, I find that working hard and always being busy is pretty good for my mental health; I just need to make sure I'm eating good food and getting enough sleep, or you all know I'll be bitching all over twitter about how hard my life is.

All in all though, I'm not dropping off because things are so awful for once - things are good, and I've been so busy enjoying life that sometimes it runs away with me, but I do miss being here, and I hope from now forward I will be on here a little more often.

Sammy xo.

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.