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.