Saturday, 14 July 2018

Learning To Live

This is a strange post isn't it? I know that breathing is a reflex my body keeps on top of fine, but if you've been following me for any length of time, you'll know it's everything between that reflex starting and that reflex inevitably ending that I've struggled with. Generalised Anxiety Disorder made, and continues to make me, a lot of things; it makes me panicky, it made me lonely, it made my brain a dumping ground of a thousand and one excuses why I can't make that party tonight. Most of all though? It made me scared. Spiders? I pick them up and set them free. Clowns? My favourite creepy pasta characters of all time. Heights? Get me a parachute and I'd do a skydive right now. General life though? That big, black abyss has been terrifying to me for so long. I don't know how people get through, and have always gotten through, every single day of their lives without a constant commentary of 'this can't be all there is', of 'you're not living up to your potential', of 'look at how much better everybody else out there is doing compared to you'.

At it's worst, GAD made me so scared of the world outside of my own head, about the inability to control it and the knowledge that I will never be able to truly tell what another person is thinking, that I avoided it all. I never got dressed, I walked to the worst corner shop in the world once a night to get a mixed slush that I never finished but beyond that? I stayed hidden under covers, letting the phone ring out, I left the post unopened, the bins piled up for weeks, the floor around my duvet was a graveyard of dishes, forks and spoons (usually because when I'd run out of forks I never wanted to wash them) that would get collected and washed once a month to start the whole cycle again. Generalised Anxiety Disorder for me has never been that cute Hollywood trait - it's constantly been a battle between wanting to do more, wanting to be better and being scared of doing anything beyond exactly what I knew; it's always been this stupid idea that if I don't try things, I'll never fail, combined with the idea that because of that I might never do anything good with my life. My head has been in a constant sense of checkmate for so long, it's been hard to know which side is winning on any given day.

So a few weeks ago, I went out on a limb. I went to a pub quiz I was comfortable with people I trusted. Then a few more pub quizzes. Then adventures to weird towns I've never been to before. Then came meeting people's friends I'd never met before; challenging every single barrier that I've ever had. Even when anxiety has me pinned up against a wall, I've battled myself out - I've not turned down plans just because it's safer to watch Nailed It in bed, I've not avoided new people in case they didn't like me (though I'm sure some of them really don't), I've not quietened down my voice out of instinct for fear of saying something stupid. Every single moment of it has felt impossible; my mouth forgets how to form conversation more than I'd like, I spend at least half of my time in public wondering if I'm 'drinking wrong' (if you've never had anxiety, this is probably a foreign concept to you. If you have, you likely know exactly what I mean), I still assume that every single person that I meet probably thinks I'm a bumbling idiot - but I still go out and do it anyway. It's not that I like the feeling, but more that I can't let my anxiety ruin my life by turning it into an existence; I deserve to take up space, use my voice. I deserve to actually live.

I could battle sharks, take Mulan's place to defeat the Huns and pull the sword out of the stone before Arthur got his hands on it and I have no doubt that this is still the battle I would come out of bruised, battered and having fought the hardest. Fighting your own head for the right to do more than exist every single day is exhausting; but getting through it is rewarding; and when I see myself laugh on videos, when I see the photos I take of my friends in their happiest moments, when I walk into a bar on my own and don't immediately have to fight the urge to leave? I feel like the ceasefire makes every single moment up to then worth it. I am lucky enough to have friends that help me push through, who constantly reassure me of their love for me, who never force me into situations that I completely shut down in - I am lucky to have a support system who help me every single day, because without them, the life I have created for myself in the last five months would have been completely impossible. I wish the Sam crying in bed at the idea of putting shoes on and seeing people she might know on a five minute walk could see me now - could see that the illness never gets better, but she'll have things in place to make it less bleak and all-consuming.

Learning to live properly has been the hardest thing I've ever done - and I'll truly never take it for granted. Every time I get in from a night out, exhausted and overwhelmed, I still have to remind myself how lucky I am to have gotten myself to this position. Maybe it won't always be like this - but for now? Here's me celebrating the fight, here's me celebrating finally getting here, here's me reminding myself of that time we managed to do in so I can look back in a few years time when I might need to remind myself that we did it once and we can again.

Sammy xo.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

A Birmingham World Duty Free Haul

If you saw my 24 Hours In Birmingham post, you'll know that this week I got to spend a night in the city with World Duty Free, and I'm well aware that most of you just want to see the goodies from the event and so here it is - the long awaited haul (it's been less than week, but you get my point). I wasn't entirely sure how it would work best when separating the products out, but I've opted for the way that gives the most transparency - and separated them into things that we got in the goodie bags, things that were gifted from brands on the night when we got the chance to speak to them, and then goodies that I bought with vouchers that we were kindly gifted.

Goodie Bags
When we got to the hotel rooms, our goodie bags were already waiting and it was probably the most exciting moment of the month for me. I posted this on instagram stories, but for those of you that missed it or want a further look, I'll go through it again on here.

I won't lie, I don't really understand the principle of this mascara, but I'm really, really excited to get it out and give it a go anyway. I believe that you squeeze the barrel of this and it helps to give more volume, so I'll definitely be doing a video on this to see whether it works, keep an eye out for that (plug; you can subscribe to my YouTube here).

I'm so excited about this - the smaller Urban Decay Naked palettes are much better for me; they're easier to carry, they're still fantastic quality, and this one in particular has five matte shades and only one demi matte, which better suits the looks I'm always planning to put together. I haven't bought this purely because the price tag seems so excessive, but I'm so, so excited to finally have it in my collection.

For those of you who know me in real you'll know that Viktor & Rolf Bonbon was one of my favourite perfumes of all time, and so I'm really excited to have these minatures in my life. Not only are they absolutely adorable replicas of the full sized bottles - but they're perfect for travelling with, which is of course, probably why they're exclusive to World Duty Free.

This is quite literally the best set of lipsticks I have ever received based on their packaging alone (hello? The packaging matches the actual shade colour!) From Velvet Teddy to the iconic Russian Red, there's a shade for just about every single person out there, and if you're looking to extend your lipstick collection (and who isn't) these minis are definitely something you need to pick up next time you're travelling through the airport.

This is honestly probably one of the best value sets that you can get in the airport at the minute in my opinion, and with it being a travel exclusive I can absolutely understand why this is currently sold out. If you love NARS, or if you're just trying them for the first time, this is a fantastic place to start - it'll set you back just over £50, but includes an Orgasm Blush, Dolce Vita Lip Pencil Crayon, a Radiant Creamy Concealer and a #20 Blush Brush, which is more than worth the dollar.

Brand Gifts
We were also so lucky on the night of the event that we got to speak to the counters within World Duty Free, they demonstrated their latest products, let us know what was airport or travel exclusive and so many of them were so kind and actually provided us with gifts to take away with us, so this is a quick rundown because some of them are really cool and the type of thing I would definitely pick up if I was going through an airport.

This is the Duo Fibre Face Brush with the shortened handle, and at first I was a bit confused about how to even use this brush, but I watched the girl on the MAC counter do foundation for Kirsty on the night using a similar brush, and so I'm actually really excited to give this one a go because if Kirsty's make-up is anything to go by, then the end results with this brush can actually be really natural and not cakey, which I'm having a bit of an issue with right now.

I wish you could buy these cologne sizes just on their own., but unfortunately I believe that they either come as samples or in sets of 5. You all know that I'm obsessed with travel sizes of anything, but having this version is going to be really handy and practical when it comes to travelling towards the end of the year. Super cute, and really practical.

This is actually one of my favourite things of the whole night because I didn't realise how much my face needed moisture until I got the chance to test this out and my face all but scooped it out of the jar by itself. The formula for this is cooling, it's refreshing and perfect for the Summer and the eye serum can even be put into the fridge prior to use which sounds like the absolute dream with this bloody heatwave that doesn't seem to be shifting at all.

Summer beauty was definitely high on the agenda for this event and so it was nice to see some form of SPF being promoted. I mean admittedly, SPF 10 is going to do absolutely nothing for me but for you beauties who aren't quite as fair in complexion as little old me, this is a really lovely sun cream that doesn't feel greasy and actually smells pretty good too - if SPF 10 is your jam, picking this up for the Summer comes highly recommended (additionally, they do have some options with higher SPF, so don't rule it out if you have a similar complexion to me either!)

What I Bought
Last but not least comes what I bought - and I was so lucky to receive vouchers from World Duty Free to allow me to treat myself in the airport. One of the best things about the event was actually seeing what everyone else who attended picked up (I won't ruin it by spilling on the others, but I can tell you that there was a LOT of Jo Malone...) and I'm sure I'll say it at the end of the post but I definitely want to take the time here to thank World Duty Free for putting on the event, and for spoiling each and every one of us rotten. With that all said and done, here's what I bought.

- Godiva Naopolitain Chocolates
Come on, I had to buy expensive chocolates - it would have been rude not to. These actually aren't on the website and so I can't link them for you, and also I ate them prior to this haul (Birmingham was hot, okay, they weren't going to make it home) so I don't have a picture, but basically these are tiny bars of milk, dark, milk hazelnut and milk pistachio chocolates. Expensive? Yes. Worth the money? Definitely, in my opinion.

I figured this was a go hard or go home sort of situation, and the fact is until now I've never been able to go hard when it comes to Jo Malone. The candles are so beautiful, but so expensive and so I whipped this up whilst I could - the Lime Basil and Mandarin scent is one of my favourites though I find it a little too sweet on my skin. In a candle though? It's a 100% s yes from me. I mean I'm almost definitely never going to light a candle that costs this much, but it really is beautiful even just to look at.

I absolutely fell in love with this when I saw it and it ended up in both mine and Kirsty's basket. This is, essentially, Fix+ but with a pink shift glimmer in it and it gives the perfect Summer skin all year round. This is going to be gone by approximately next Wednesday as I'm using it between every single layer of my makeup to get that Summer glow without any cakieness, but oh my god it'll be good whilst it lasts.

Come on, this perfume is iconic, and I am such a princess that it only seemed fitting to buy it, plus it was the exact amount I had left at the end of the night and so it really felt like an omen of some kind. It's sweeter than I'd normally opt for, but I am excited to wear it on nights out and the bottle is so pretty that really it doesn't matter what the perfume is like inside because I probably would have still bought it. This was one of the more affordable perfumes that the airport had to offer, and so it's definitely worth taking a spritz if you're on the hunt for something new next time you go on holiday, but you're not quite ready to break the bank.

This is such a beautiful palette (full review almost definitely coming soon) but it was also a really nostalgic palette for me. If anyone knows me, you'll know that probably one of the only makeup pieces I've ever held onto (I don't use it anymore, don't worry) is a Bobbi Brown palette that is basically an older version of this palette, and so I was definitely excited to snap this up. It's a really beautiful, pink toned nude palette and anybody who says they're not in love with the packaging on this is straight up lying.

This was a really really spendy purchase, and it was almost eyewatering to pick it up and put it in my basket but I already knew this was going to be my big purchase the minute I saw Jo Malone had a full counter. If you're heading to the sea, there's no reason you wouldn't want to smell like it every day even when you come back and this is the perfect, clean smell for that. Plus, now I have a full family including the little bottle mentioned above, and that's really, really satisfying to me.

So that's everything I picked up! If you've tried any of it hit me up and let me know your thoughts, or feel free to leave a comment below to tell me what to pick up next time! Thanks again, World Duty Free, I feel like a VERY lucky girl right now.

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

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Tavern Co Liverpool Review - The Student's Favourite

For someone who spends a huge majority of my life in Liverpool, I never really branch out from Liverpool One. The main thing is, of course, that I'm lazy (as we all know) but, beyond this, I never really know where's worth heading towards and so I never just wander out to see. However, my brother works outside the city centre and so when I met him for lunch, I got the chance to try this little gem just by Penny Lane - The Tavern Co. is a student favourite and it's really easy to see why, plus word on the street is that their breakfast is amongst the best in Liverpool. Without further ado, I'm about to take you on a virtual tour of Wonderland (which also happens to sell boss food).

From the outside, The Tavern Co. seems wholly underwhelming, it's bright and airy, sure, but just wandering past it could really, really easily just be mistaken for another chain pub. It looks small, and nearly always full - but don't let this put you off. Head inside to find an entire museum of items you never knew you were interested in - neon lights, old comic books, nurses outfits, phones, one armed bandits and old newspapers line the walls, so head to book yourself in (especially around mealtimes, you're probably not going to get a table straight away, but it's 100% worth the wait), go and take a nosy around and wait for your name to be called. Don't be surprised when, when your name is called, you'll probably be lead through a maze of doorways and stairs to lead you to more seats that you likely didn't even know existed had you never been before.

When you sit down though, the experience is far from over - whilst you look over the menus, feel free to ask each other questions from the vintage Trivial Pursuit cards that are on each table, and wait for tea and coffee to be brought around and served diner style from glass jugs. Pick from all day round breakfast foods with a twist, or grab yourself a burger - all of the food looked amazing when it came out, though I personally opted for French Toast With Bacon. The food is fantastic, obviously, I'm sure my tone for the beginning of this post clarify just how positively I feel about The Tavern, but the one thing that I would say is don't over-order - it's easy to do as so many things on the menu sound amazing, but I couldn't even finish my own meal, and seeing people order full breakfasts with sides of pancakes almost made me feel queasy at the sheer amount of food piled onto the table.

The french toast is amazing, the bread is the size of a mattress and it errs on the side of savoury rather than sweet (which I'm okay with, sometimes that icing sugar taste really hurts my back teeth) but it does come with syrup on the side for those of you with a much sweeter tooth than myself. The bacon is American style bacon, so it's that greasy, streaky type of deal - again this is something I'm totally okay with, but I know this can be an issue for some people so it's definitely worth knowing. All the food we had was amazing and even now, knowing how full I was then, I still really wish I'd gotten a cake to see what those offerings were like.

The atmosphere, food and the location of The Tavern Co. make it something really special, and it's fair to say that it's reputation amongst students and nearby workers alike is really, really deserved. Plus, and I saved the best point until last here, the food is so cheap and so big that it's the kind of restaurant you need when it's two weeks before student loan and you need to get as much food as humanly possible with your money.

If you've tried The Tavern Co. I'd love to know what you'd recommend, so definitely leave any recommendations down below.

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

24 Hours In Birmingham

A lot less exotic than the places I usually travel? Probably. Twenty times hotter than most of the places that I usually travel? Definitely. Some of you may know that I had the chance to visit Birmingham for a blog event with World Duty Free this week (I say this week, I actually mean today because you are getting this written on my laptop with one hour of free wifi in the station. It's about 12,000 degrees, so if I don't make it home tell my family that I love them). Save the Clothes Show and a fleeting trip to a spa in Sutton Coalfields, I've never actually been to Birmingham before and so I was really excited to get there, meet Kirsty, get some food and see what the city is all about. Here's how THAT 24 hours went.

11:20am: Leave the house for a coach from Liverpool. The journey to the coach station takes approximately 20 minutes, my coach is at 11:35am

11:32am: Miraculously make it thanks to a tunnel fast tag, not much traffic and managing to hit green lights all the way across The Strand, which we all know is basically unheard of. Luck is definitely on my side, to the extent I feel that like girl in Deadpool 2. I got this shit.

11:35am: Get on a heavily air conditioned coach and decide to travel as much as possible via MegaBus whilst the weather is this hot. Potentially just around the country without really getting off.

11:37am: Original route is closed, so go a different route on the coach, straight past my house where I have just rushed from.

12:15pm: Well this coach is taking a while, isn't it?

12:45pm: Probably won't get as many coaches as planned this Summer as it turns out I fucking hate coaches.

1:21pm: This is fucking boring.

1:50pm: Text Kirsty as coach is very clearly not on time. Where am I? Not sure. How far away am I? Too far.

2:22pm: Finally make it to Birmingham, step off the coach with no fucking clue about where to head to. 

2:28pm: Text Kirsty confirming I have no fucking clue about where to head to

2:31pm: Okay, so Kirsty says it's a straight road, I've got this. It's so hot though isn't it? Liverpool seems like an icebox compared to this place.

2:35pm: Follow the straight road until I get lost. How can you get lost on a straight road, you might ask? I have absolutely no idea, but here we are, by a Rag Market, considering sitting down on the floor as the heat is too much.

2:38pm: Drop pin location to Kirsty so she can direct me. Follow the instructions, get lost again and after walking up the same street no less than four times, FINALLY find Birmingham New Street to meet a waiting Kirsty

2:45pm: Is anyone else this hot? Maybe I shouldn't have worn jeans.

2:46pm: Finally meet Kirsty and decide to head to food. Why is the station not air conditioned? WHY DID I WEAR JEANS?

3:00pm: Make it to Nando's. Eat Nando's, gossip, take in the cracking air conditioning that they have going, both drink soft drinks with entirely too much ice in.

3:40pm: Finally concede we may have to leave Nando's and head out to take photos for various campaigns. Melted chocolate was not a good choice for today. Head to Primark and Superdrug and then, having sweat every single ounce of makeup on my face off, head back to the train to go to the airport.

4:40pm: Get the train (crowded but at least cold), then the Tram from the station to the airport (hahahaha help, a glass box of HEAT), check into the hotel, throw shit on bed, complain about how hot it is for a solid hour, and how much we need to get ready anyway, without actually doing anything. Switch the aircon up as high as possible, crack open a cold (lukewarm) one with the lads (Kirsty).

7:00pm: Finally ready, go and meet the others to get temporary passes for the airport. Leave your much needed ID in the hotel room and, knowing you have six bags up there, take Kirsty to help dig it out. Look very, very strange coming back downstairs less than 2 minutes later because it was right in the middle of the duvet.

7:05pm: Head to the airport (completely different post on that soon).

10:10pm: Get kicked out of Frankie and Benny's as it's closing, head back to the hotel, all glance adoringly at new purchases and goodies and then opt to head down to the bar with Kirsty and Kirstie to get drinks.

11:05pm: Prosecco is a no go after a wild goose chase of a conversation, so get spirits and mixers, drink, invite new friends to Liverpool, see Kirstie nearly fall out of a rocking chair, opt to head to bed.

12:05am: Take far too many selfies in hotel mirror, lock self out of room and have to get a new key card, take a shower with an all in one product, knowing my hairdresser would kill me if she knew.

1:30am: Bizarre game of Tetris that includes stacking new products in makeup bags and folding down boxes to take them home, manage to fit at least most things in a bag.

2:20am: Finally head to bed.

9:00am: Assure Kirsty you are up and will be heading to breakfast with them. Promptly fall back asleep, opt out of breakfast and rush through a makeup routine - finish the game of Tetris much to Kirsty's amusement and bewilderment, manage to cram everything you brought, bought and were gifted into nothing but a Kanken backpack and a very, very non-stretchy Michael Kors bag. Pray you have to get nothing out on the way home because if you do, you're fucked.

10:30am: Head back to station, wait for train, head back into Birmingham. Hot isn't it? STILL WEARING JEANS as they wouldn't fit in my bag and I wasn't willing to leave anything else behind. It looks like the chocolate in my bag is going to melt very, very soon.

11:05am:- Return something to primark, head to take photos.

12:11pm: Buy Starbucks, sit in Starbucks with cracking air conditioning. Discuss all the things we should do with the day then all decide the bags are far too heavy, and we're just going to head to our respective stations.

1:15pm: Can't find a Magnum anywhere so head back to the coach station, write this blog post, sweat profusely but feel grateful you don't have to hold those fucking bags for a while.

2:54pm: Only an hour to go....

So now you're up to speed with how Birmingham went. It was wild, so fun and I have so much more to write about, but now excuse me whilst I sweat profusely in my jeans and boots and wait the next hour for my coach. English heatwaves are really no joke.

If you've been to Birmingham please hit me up with more things to do when I go back and it's hopefully cooler and I have more time to play around.

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Affordable Places You Should Eat in Liverpool

Until a few years ago, I swear I barely knew that any food in Liverpool existed outside of the two McDonalds either side of the town centre (I know, there's 4 now, but let's talk OG). Realistically, it actually wasn't until my brother moved here and I got to the end of my first year at university in the city that I stepped out of my comfort zone and started looking further afield to grab myself some lunch. There's so much to eat in Liverpool, though, that making the decision can be overwhelming, and deciding which is the most affordable option is a whole different minefield - so I'm here to take the difficulty out of the decision, and tell you where you should eat to take care of your pennies and your stomach alike.

(Halloumi salt and pepper fries)

1: Mowgli (Around £50 for 7 small dishes and drinks)
Okay, so this one isn't exactly cheap - but it isn't expensive either (I promise this is the most expensive on the list, though!). We have two Mowgli's in Liverpool, a walk in only option on Bold Street, and one on Water Street that allows you the luxury of booking if you want to be assured a table. The Water Street restaurant is big, white and airy, but it's the Bold Street choice that will always have my heart - it's small, cosy and dark in the best way possible; so if you're willing to risk it and grab a spot here, I'd definitely recommend it.

Mowgli is really, really good Indian food - gone are the greasy takeaway foil cartons you're thinking of, and in their place are delicious, clean and healthy dishes that all have amazing, intricate flavourings. They have fantastic options for sharing, a full gluten free menu, and an extensive vegan menu - so there really is something for everyone. If you're nipping in for lunch, the tiffin will set you back £14-£16 depending on your choices, but get you four mini random dish picks; so this is a great way to try something new. Not a big fan of taking a risk? Opt in for the Himalayan Cheese Toast, or the Mother Butter Chicken. Thank me later. 

2: Tusk (Around £15-20 for two small dish each and a soft drink)
Nestled in a bright coloured building in Brewery village, Tusk is a tiny hidden gem that more people in Liverpool need to get acquainted with. Vegan and vegetarian options aplenty - and in fact they call themselves a 'Vegan Led' menu - there's something tasty and well thought out for everybody to eat.  The restaurant itself is set in a large, warehouse gallery like space - it's airy, bright and full of families, students and workers all digging into amazing, unusual food, working and just general having a lovely time.

Tusk offerings seem to change regularly, so check the big blackboard on the side of the till area to see what specials they have on the day you head in, though be aware that anything super popular will sell out really quickly (I didn't manage to get avocado hummus when I went, much to my annoyance) so you might want to get out there early if there's something in particular that you have a hankering for. My favourite though? Definitely get the salt and pepper halloumi fries if you can get your hands on them, they're exactly the right amount of greasy, they're spicy and sweet in equal measure and they're probably the best salt and pepper chips you will ever have.

3: Paolo and Donato Deli (Around £15 for a meal, slice of cake and a drink)
If you've ever walked past this little shop in Williamson Square, you'll probably have stopped to gawp at the cakes - but inside lays one of my favourite lunch spots in the whole city. This looks like nothing but a little pastry shop, but give it a chance and you're about to fall in love - I guarantee it. This places gets really busy with workers around 1-2pm so if you can get there before or after then, I'd definitely recommend doing so; but if you have to wait, it's definitely worth sticking around anyway if you have the time to spare. 

There are a million and one great Italian options to pick up from here, and they're all really, really affordable. Grab a pizza, a sandwich, a san Pellegrino or even an ice cream and settle yourself down for fast food that feels surprisingly luxurious - and if they have their Nutella cake in stock, you better buy as many slices as they'll let you have, because I swear that cake is some next level dessert. All in all, it's a beautiful, little deli with a real homely feel, and it's the kind of place you'll go back to time and time again. 

There were so, so many restaurants I could have put on here, you wouldn't even believe - and I'm sure in the future I'll be sharing many, many more picks; but for now, trust me when I say these are some of the top, affordable restaurants you can grab some food in whilst you're in Liverpool right now.

Do let me know your favourites down below, what can I say - I'll just have to go and give them a try!

Sammy xo.

Friday, 30 March 2018


(TW: Self Harm)

I don't really know how to start this post because, in simple terms, I didn't ever have to expect to write it. I hear a lot about relapse, but I just never though that I would be there - and that was naive, and wishful of me, and now I know better because here I am babbling instead of writing a clever first line to catch your attention. I've put off writing this post because it's messy, and sad, and I feel completely different to how I felt then, but I feel like it's important to put it out there. In February, I relapsed.

I wish I could sit here and say x and y caused this relapse, I wish I could say it helped, I wish I could say that I got the support that I needed when it happened; but that really isn't the case. What caused the relapse was how lonely I was. Life was isolating and grey, and I kept trying to reach out for the support that I needed but it just wasn't there; and that isn't me putting my actions onto someone else's shoulders - I made the decision that night - but shouting into a void was getting too much. Then one night, a Friday night after a day that I don't care to remember now, I relapsed. It didn't help, I didn't feel better.

The support I got afterwards was minimal. A lot of people I felt I could reach out to I did, and that did help to have people remind me this wasn't undoing the stitching that I'd put in for two years before this - but there were a lot of people I should have been able to reach out to for support that I really didn't feel like I could and, as it turned out, rightfully so. So, I kept this quiet, I healed and I spent weeks angry with myself for making that decision when I already knew that it wouldn't help, when I worked so hard to get past that when I've been clean for so long. Then I identified the issue, I worked around it and I let it go. A lot has changed since then and writing this story up has definitely made me realise how lucky I am that this life changed and left me in a very different position.

I'm not letting myself be sad about this anymore, or angry about it. I'm letting myself heal and grow and start again to mark how far I've come in time. I'm not slipping back into old habits, I'm not blaming it on everyone else like I did last time; I'm taking a breath and letting it go, and realising how different - and for the better - my life is right now compared to that night that broke down everything that I worked for. Relapse is never easy, and I hope I'll never have to write another post like this again, but if I do? I do. It happens, I'm still growing and sometimes I'll make mistakes. I hope that the growth that I make far outweighs them.

If you have any tips moving forward, or even just kind words, please do leave them below.

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Obscure UK Attractions I Want To Visit

If you've been around lately you'll know that I'm really into the idea of travelling around the UK. I love travelling around Europe and the world, but with having to juggle holidays in work that's not so much of an option this year. So, with that in mind, I've been thinking a lot about the places that I want to travel within the UK - and with the help of a website I use a lot when I'm abroad, Atlas Obscura (absolutely not sponsored, just I use them so much they deserve a mention), I've found my favourite obscure UK attractions that I'm yet to visit.

Let's start pretty close to home; in fact close enough to home that when we get up early enough at the weekend my parents have been known to take me here for breakfast; and truthfully, I didn't even know that this existed. The library hosts Gladstone's collection of books but also boasts the cutest hotel I've ever seen; you can browse the library for five hours after closing (until the grand old time of 10pm) and even take books to bed with you, as though sleeping in the library wasn't cool enough to begin with. If anyone needs me I'll be on the phone working out when I can get a night here booked.

If you saw my post on my trip to Warsaw, you'll know just how in love with their neon museum that I  am. There's something about neon that just gets me; and so going to a warehouse that sells alcohol alongside handmade neon signs seems like the perfect fit for me. I believe they recycle and upcycle old signs, but also welcome those just popping around for the views. They're only open during the weekend, and they're slightly off the beaten track - but I would bet money on the fact that this is well worth a visit.

Now this is a weird one, I know, but hold with me here. Newman Brothers were the coffins of choice for both Princess Diana and Churchill; but now you can visit the factory that remains unchanged since 1960. Clock in, test machines and; here's the bit that interests me, you can even go for parties to celebrate Día De Los Muertos. Something about this place just really intrigues me, and though I can't justify an entire trip to Birmingham purely for this, if I find myself down that way anytime soon, I'll definitely be adding this to my itinerary.

We've all heard of this one, right? I know, I know - it's a cliche; but kids books hold such a place in m heart. I want to visit the fantasy worlds of the books I grew up with, and I want to see life size versions of the scenes within them; I think the whole thing is magical, and I don't get why you wouldn't want to go. Oxford is really beautiful and a place I've never really been able to explore, so I definitely might have to go down the two birds and one stone route here and visit (though note; they're only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in term-time, though every day in school holidays).

When I went to Prague; probably one of the things that I was the most intrigued about was the dragon that was supposed to be hatching under the bridge; only nobody knew when and so the myth is yet to be disproved. I love folklore, and mermaids are my favourites; so if you think I'm not going to visit 'Jenny Greenteeth' the nasty mermaid, you're so wrong. If nothing else, I've literally just read that in a bizarre twist of fate after an accident, there are 50 wallabies hanging around here; so they're 10000% worth the trip.

If you've been to any of these places, or if you have any UK locations you think should be on my list; hit me up down below.

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

5 Ways To Make Your Next Trip Easier

Now that I take so many trips, I have gotten into a routine of working out what I need to know before we go. It's a fine art for us that just means that when we land in a country that we might not know very well, or at all, it's all smooth sailing from there on out. Some things are apps, some things are tips and some things are just little practises that we've picked up along the way that will make your next trip run smoother than ever.

1: Find a taxi app!
There are three inevitable things in life; death, taxes and the fact that taxis at the airport taxi rank will always cost you more than if you can ring or book with a company another way. Travelling in 2018 has made it easier than ever to find a cheaper alternative; and so whether you opt for Uber, iTaxi or a local alternative, have that taxi app downloaded or that taxi number stored in your phone. This sounds like something really basic, but some journeys can be less than half the price if you do them this way instead of just hopping into a taxi at the rank; and that money saved is another beer, so don't waste it!

2: Know where you're staying (and write it down)
I have to say that I'm the worst for purely relying on the Airbnb app to let us know when we're staying, that is until we got to Nuremberg, where we found the building only for our phones to die. We ended up sitting in a building next to a plug socket so I could check the apartment number and where the keys were left; so from then on I always make sure to save it on everyone's phones and write it down where possible. It's just another way to ensure you don't hit an infuriating snag when all you want to do is get to your accommodation and drop your bags off.

Bonus Tip: Ideally - learn how the address should sound in the language of the country that you're in, because it can be difficult to get this across in a taxi if you're unsure of how the letters should sound.

3: Find a place to eat for the night you get in
If you land in the middle of the night and eat on the plane, or land with enough time to actually explore, then this really isn't really necessary; however I've done that 'landing at 10pm starving and trying to find a 24hr Supermarket' deal before, and it ends up with everyone grumpy and hungry. So, before you go, or even on the way to where you're staying - find somewhere that's going to be open to get that midnight feast sorted. Garages are a good option, McDonalds, Tesco in some country, Carrefour... The options really can be endless, as long as you scope out some ideas before you go. Thank me when you're sitting at home with Pepsi Twist and a full stomach.

4: Know the best way to travel, and how you use the transportation
Some places I've been taxis have worked out cheaper for all of us than getting trains, but it's worth taking a look into the estimates of both to help you to decide how you're going to get about. If you're going to head out on public transportation; know the rules. Some trams don't let you off without scanning a ticket, some buses don't let you give them money because you should have bought a ticket before at the stop. Ticket machines for both directions can be on just one side of the road, sometimes they're in newsagents and sometimes you can use contactless card whilst you're actually on your chosen method of travel. Read up before you go to save yourself looking like a tit, or potentially even getting a mega fine you hadn't budgeted for.

Those are just some of the tips we have to make your next trip a little easier. Got your own tips? Definitely leave them down below so everyone can reap the benefits!

Sammy xo.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Make Up Geek Brushes

Now bear with me here because I know, when you think of Make Up Geek you think of those separate eye shadow pans and bright pigments, but this post is so worth reading if you're in the market for new brushes. Admittedly, you might be something like me - that is, always in the market for new brushes - and so when Make Up Geek asked me if I'd like to review their brushes, I absolutely jumped at the chance. Not only are they sleek, cruelty free and all synthetic, but they also won't break the bank if you want to grab yourself a full set.

I got quite a few and so it makes sense to start with face brushes and then move onto eyes, and I have to admit, out of the lot I was sent, the face brushes impress me a lot less than the eye brushes, but that's definitely not to say that they're not brushes. There were two that really weren't for me, and they are the Angled Stippling Brush ($17) and the Cheek Highlighter Brush ($10) - but these are definitely my least favourites, purely because of how I personally apply my makeup - both are stippling type brushes. Though I will never be a stippling kind of person, these are good quality brushes, with next to no shed even with a few washes. If stippling is your deal, these are good brushes that are definitely going to last a long while - and so I won't write them off entirely at the minute.

Next up are two that I definitely can appreciate, the Face Buffer Brush ($18) and the Angled Contour Brush ($10). The Buffer Brush is similar to an old favourite of mine, and not only is this good to apply foundation (though nowhere near as flawlessly as a sponge for me personally), but it's great to really buff out that harsh contour when you got a little too over eager with the bronzer. It's soft, hasn't ended up shedding or out of shape after multiple washes and it's definitely worth the money that you're going to drop on this, especially if a certain brands perfect face brush was an old school favourite for you. What I'm quickly discovered whilst writing this post is that I haven't been using any of the brushes for their correct intent - and so we'll quickly move onto the Angled Contour Brush that I've been using perfectly for highlight. It's soft, has short bristles and is angled perfectly to get that beautiful sweep of highlight I'm always look for - for $10, if you can buy just one of these face brushes, this should definitely be the one.

The two eye brushes I was very, very excited to add to my collection were the Pointed Crease Brush ($8.50) and the Small Crease Brush ($8.50). I truly never know what type of brush that I'm supposed to be using on my crease and so it's definitely nice to have brushes that have their use clearly printed on the outside, so even for makeup novices like me they're easy to pick out and use. These are both soft and fluffy, pick up product easily and are big enough to not feel fiddly, whilst being smaller enough to get that perfect crease blend without ending up with shadow by the arch of your brows. Similarly, the Outer V Brush ($8.50) is a nice, compactly bristled brush that is perfect for picking up that darker colour and keeping it where you wanted. If you're the queen of the accidentally smoky eye, when what you really wanted was to deepen a colour slightly, this is definitely the perfect brush for you.

Nearly there, gang! Just two brushes left; one my least favourite, and one my most. We can certainly start with the least; the Soft Dome Brush ($8.50). Once again - this isn't a bad brush as such, but it just really doesn't fit in with my typically makeup routine; it's too big and fluffy for a crease or dome brush, and it's way to fluffy to pack colour onto my lid. If you have use for a brush this shape, this is a good one, but I definitely feel as though this doesn't add anything to my makeup brush collection. My favourite brush though, easily, is the Bent Liner Brush ($8.50) - and I have to say I have a solid 8 of these in my collection, and they definitely make liner so much easier. Some are easily split, and others are rubber instead of actual bristles, but this is the perfect bristle brush that genuinely seems to stay in shape no matter how often I wash it.

Overall, the brushes are beautiful - they're classic grey with gunmetal barrels, the bristles are soft and wash well and overall - they're affordable. If you're looking for new brushes, Make Up Geek should definitely be your first stop.

If you've tried any of the brushes, I'd 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.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

How To Make Sure You Get A Good Review On Airbnb

We've all been there - you think you've been the best guest that you can be and someone leaves you a neutral review. It can be super annoying, but there are definitely ways to ensure that you get a good review on Airbnb, even if it feels at the time like it's all gone tits up. Some of these things are just tiny little notes, but they're things that we've had hosts comment on in the past; and so they're definitely things that we can vouch for.

If you eat it, unwrap it, or finish it up...
Throw your rubbish away. Know the bin procedure of the country that you're in - whether you take it to a communal bin store in an apartment, or to a dumpster in the street in place of a wheeley bin, make sure you get rid of all of your crap in the place you're staying. Nobody wants to deal with other people's crap, so take it out on your way (and remember bathroom bins and whatnot too). It seems like such a small thing, but I imagine if you go in every single week and have to clean up after other people, it can be really, really annoying to find that somebody else had neglected to sort out their rubbish. Also, wash your dishes; nobody wants to scrape used cheese off a strangers plate.

If you break something...
Get it sorted. If you break crockery or plates, replace them; they'll cost like a euro and your host will definitely appreciate it. If it's something bigger but you can fix it? Then do it. I've climbed on chairs to fix blinds, hooked curtains back up and rejigged shower doors we've shifted by accident. If the problem is beyond fixing? Let the host know straight away and be sure to offer to pay for any damages that you've caused. This might not be good enough to get a good review if you've knocked a hole in the wall, but it definitely might not get you a bad one if you've gone out of your way to be as friendly and helpful as possible to deal with the problem.

If you have neighbours...
Respect them. The one vaguely bad review we have ever gotten has come from a noise complaint that actually turned out to be mistaken identity with the house next door as we were just playing uno and getting drunk on blue wine. Nevertheless, keep the music low-ish, keep your shouting outside to a minimum and try not to smoke or drink right next to other people's houses. Have fun, just do it like you would have fun at your mum's house, with those judgey neighbours that she has.

If everything has gone smoothly...
Fantastic! Make sure you check in with your host as your leaving, reassure them where you left your keys and for if any reason anything is broken (even if replaced!) or you can't get those bins out (one apartment in particular we needed a key for the bin sheds) let them know! Keep them updated with your trip and explain any issues; most hosts are understanding as long as you don't leave them coming into an apartment full of mismatched crockery and bags of rubbish with no clear explanation. 

So there is it, a few strong steps to probably get that good review, even if your trip went a little tits up (and it can happen to the best of us, even when you're just there to play uno and drink blue wine).

If you have any tips, do let me know below!

Sammy xo.

Monday, 26 February 2018

How To Spend 14 Hours In Warsaw

7:32am: Arrive in Warsaw, absolutely desperate for the toilet and horrendously on your period. Seek out toilet by walking in a big circle around the station. Find toilet, laugh along with a woman talking to you in Polish as to not seem rude. Change menstrual cup, complain about your life, wash hands, find an uber.

7:37am: Try and find out which McDonalds you should choose out of a long list of Warsaw McDonalds. Pick one at random, wait for Uber whilst wishing literally anything was open as your hands are turning blue and the fog is so thick you cannot see the end of your nose.

7:40am: Take Uber to McDonalds of choice, whilst constantly being offered Werthers Originals by the driver (who doesn't have the heat up even nearly high enough).

7:42am: Arrive at McDonalds, which is still far, far too cold. Find out they make up for it by offering either two hash browns OR large fries with your breakfast. Absolutely cram it down your throat as you've been awake since 3:00am and on a coach since 5:00am. Promptly fall out of the door when leaving McDonalds, much to the amusement of your girlfriend.

8:31am: Decide to look for the ghetto wall, which should be just seven minutes THAT Way

8:33am: Maybe that way?

8:34am: No, definitely the first way

8:37am: Still looking....

8:49am: Thoroughly sick of looking. We passed this building when we started 15 minutes ago didn't we?

8:57am: After google mapping the ghetto wall, find it. Out of site. Behind a locked gate. Give up on ever seeing it, cross a dual carriageway in a dangerous way to get to the mall, find a Starbucks (thoroughly desperate for the toilet again).

10:00am: Having visited Bath and Bodyworks, H&M, Bershka and the usual cosmetic shops, make the decision to head into the old town. Use iTaxi and get a really nice taxi driver who is happy to act as a tour guide. Pass many beautiful buildings, end up in the old town square and find out that the symbol of Warsaw is a mermaid, which feels like some sort of sign.

10:30am: Having wandered for a while, find a vent from a bakery and stand on it to stay warm, eventually admit defeat and decide to brace the cold (now wearing gloves and earmuffs) to get to see Sarkis: Angel Rainbow. Take pictures in front of a giant neon rainbow, guess the name of pictures in the gallery, take cool instagram shots

11:22am: Stop for a cocktail, in order to brace yourself from the cold you know is coming, of course.

12:40am: Call for a taxi to get to the Neon Museum, arrive and take approximately 20,000 pictures outside with signs that aren't even on. Once again make a mad dash to the toilet, buy tickets and head in.

2:10pm: After spending nearly 3 times the average visit time in the museum, and armed with photo after photos of bright coloured lights, head out to take more with the signs outside. Try to find somewhere to eat, with no luck. Watch your girlfriend jump on a zipwire, get chatted up by a 14 year old. Head out to get yet another taxi back to the old town.

2:40pm: It's getting dark - head into Tiger, buy things that we definitely don't need but love anyway, come out desperate for food.

3:20pm: Pizza hut is full, not a good sign. Walk to another place on google maps.

3:40pm: Also full, is it national pizza day or something? 

3:50pm: Finally find pizza place with heat, alcohol and a spare table. Settle self at table, order beer, bask in the warmth, drink beer and order food.

4:00pm: All of the lights go off. Then someone goes to fix them and they come on again. Repeat this for at least 8 further times until the lights stay on for good. Eat the best pizza probably in the whole world (you were hungry, okay?), finish beer, pay up the extortionate (not) £16 and head back out into the night.

5:40pm: Google maps back to the old town to find out you walked in a huge circle to get from tiger to this pizza place, and it was approx ten minutes down the road. Throw a strop and threaten to sit down if you don't get a taxi. Realise you're being dramatic and the Old Town is only 15 minutes away, grumpily agree to walk.

5:53pm: Absolutely desperate for a wee. Again. How long until the old town?

6:23pm: Arrive, desperate for a wee, only to find out cafes here don't really have toilets. Finally find one in a tiny tea cafe that you have to go downstairs to find. Aim to empty your cup out due to aforementioned horrendous period, only a woman knocks on the door the whole time you're in there so instead finish up and head back to drink pepsi in a dedicated tea cafe.

7:13pm: After playing peekaboo with the cutest baby in the world for a while, head out into the cold to wander for a while.

7:45pm: Bored of wandering, head back to the town centre, find a tiny bar and try to get across the fact that you want vodka AND coke in the same glass. Finally arrange this to drink a glass of what tastes like you imagine turps would taste like. Drink it anyway whilst looking out of a window that appears to be made of scuffed plexiglass.

8:30pm: Pleasantly buzzed due to the half a bottle of vodka you've now had, head back to the coach station. 

9:14pm: Board, get comfy and settle down into your seats, having been awake for 18 hours, walked 27,000 steps and possibly contracted frostbite in your extremities. Vow to come back one day.

Sammy xo.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Jamie's Italian Liverpool Review

In the past I've done a review of Jamie's Italian in Covent Garden in London but I've never been to the one just across the water from me, in Liverpool. When they invited us to give it a go, I jumped at the chance - I wanted to know whether the menu had stood the test of time, and also whether all branches were as good as that initial one was. So, last month we head out into a very rainy Liverpool One to fill our stomachs and find out whether the hype I created for them last time I went still stood.

 I'd like to start by saying that in a city where food can be eye-wateringly expensive, it was nice to see a menu that offered two course for £11.95 (or £14.95 if you opt for dessert, which you definitely should). Obviously you have to pay your drinks on top of that, but it still works out being a pretty affordable, and very filling, lunch - I say lunch, but this is served 12pm-7pm Monday to Friday, so this could definitely also be a very cheap date night. Katy opted for the Elderflower Spritz to drink (elderflower liqueur, prosecco and soda) which was nice, but really not for me, and I opted for the sugar free karma cola, which is nice but has quite a strong after taste of celery, so take that as you will.

Instead of opting for a starter and a main we opted for a main and a dessert, but we couldn't turn down the garlic bread from the a la carte menu. This was really tasty, and came as a tiny load of bread (is there anything more satisfying than a mini version of something else? The correct answer here is, of course, no) with whole cloves of roasted garlic as well as garlic butter and melty, strong cheese. I loved all of the meal, but this was definitely a highlight so whether you order is as a starter or a side, this is the item on the menu you should definitely be forking out for.

Next up came the mains - and I went for the steak and chips as this was so good in Covent Garden I had to see how it measured up. The meals seemed a lot bigger than I remember them being (and the pictures on my other post do seem to support that) but that's not a bad things - chips have gotten skinnier and steak has gotten bigger for this dish - it could have been a lot rarer for me, but it was good nonetheless. Katy opted for potato gnocci for her main and it was delicious and filling in a tomato sauce. The mains on the set menu are classics, nothing exciting  or particularly unusual, but definitely very, very good.

Finally, dessert. Our eyes were definitely bigger than out bellies when we got here because we absolutely, 10,000 percent didn't need any dessert here, but did opt for it anyway. Katy opted for the chocolate brownie with popcorn and salted caramel ice cream, and I opted for the mandarin sorbet with blackberries. The brownie was amazing, but a little dense after the meal, and so the sorbet was the surprising winner here - with the light, sweet sorbet combined with the sour coulis and the berries, this is the one to beat for me.

All in all, we ate a lot, drank a lot and came out paying less than £50 on the bill, so Jamie's is definitely worth a look into when it comes to dining in Liverpool. The staff are super friendly, the restaurant is beautifully decorated and the food is definitely worth a lot more than you're going to pay for 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.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

#CarnLIVal ; Why We Do It, And How It Helps

When we originally started planning events for people in Liverpool, I have to be honest, it was completely an opportunity to get drunk and have a gossip session. I didn't know that many people in Liverpool and I was totally going out on a limb, I didn't even know whether people would come or not; but when they did, and I saw the willingness to get together, spend time with other bloggers, donate to charity and generally just support each other - I was totally hooked. I wanted to plan more, I wanted to do more to help those around me.

*Post written in collaboration with Slater and Gordon, however all views, opinions, words and, sadly, sister stories are my own.*

So we did. We started planning more and more events, we tailored them to support causes and charities around where we lived. We donated to homeless shelters, women's shelters, addiction support groups, donated sanitary products to youth groups and schools that needed them. We became the pioneers of events that pushed people to give more and support people - and it worked. People came, had a good time, took part in some games and - through all this - we got a lot of money together in order to support the people that needed support, that deserved support.

Now, it's a tradition. We all get together in a bar, drink gin, do a raffle, get festive, easter-ey or summer-ey, we eat good food, do raffles, chat; donate food, sanitary products, warm clothes. It's just a little thing that we do, something that stemmed from us being super selfish - but turned into something great, and really selfless at the hands of everyone that comes. When Slater & Gordon Lawyers started their #mycommunityandme campaign, I knew this was something I wanted to talk about.

The campaign is essentially about the importance of pride in your community - and I've never been prouder as when I see all of those local bloggers turn up willing to help those in need. It's nothing big like community centres do, or charities, but it's something little that we arrange, that we do because we care about the local causes that we're supporting - we all do it because we're proud of the community that we're in, and want to do as much as possible to support people within it.

I'd love to know about pride shown in your community, or if you've been to any great events that support the people around you.

Sammy xo.