Saturday, 22 August 2020

Yard and Coop Liverpool

There are very few restaurants I'll go back to multiple times in Liverpool; not because they're bad because nearly every one is amazing, but because there seems to be an ever-expanding catalogue of places to choose and I just really want to try them all. Having said that, out of everywhere I've been around town, there's one old faithful I will always pick, always recommend, and always suggest to my friends; Yard and Coop. They've been a venue for an event I've held in the past and were absolute brilliant and that, combined with old school dance and arcade machines, and incredible playlist and some of the best chicken that Liverpool has to offer has definitely cemented them as a firm favourite for me.

The premise in itself is basic, you pick drumsticks, thighs, breast or not chicken nuggets (which is cubed halloumi, deep fried, and honestly might be one of the best things on the menu), pick a sauce (the two top ones were unanimously voted to be Ranch and the Dr Pepper BBQ) and then some sort of fries (the salt and pepper were the all round favourite here, though I do want to give a shout out to the loaded tatties, which are basically tater tots covered in a mix of sauces that tastes alarmingly like Big Mac sauce). Want something less simple? They have an all week round Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, and burgers that you'll definitely need to pick apart and cut up to get your mouth around, with everything from chip shop curry sauce to tinier burgers on them.

What could so easily feel like a boring, repetitive menu is truly anything but; the chicken breast is buttermilk battered and so juicy inside, the salt and pepper chips come with crispy seaweed; literally everything that I have ever tried has been executed perfectly, and it isn't hard to see why I'm yet to meet a scouser who doesn't love this place. Drinks prices are a standard pub pricing and they offer beers, cocktails, ciders, spirits and wines but, if you want just one pro tip for this place? Skip the alcohol and get the cherryade. This has long been a favourite of mine, and if I could buy this bottled I absolutely would - you really won't understand the hype around this until you try it, but trust me.

Safety measures here are the best of most of the restaurants I've been back to since everything reopened; they're only taking bookings, you're socially distanced really well and staff are literally only coming to the table to drop food and drinks off as you order and pay through their website. The system, in my opinion, really works; and it's great if maybe only one person wants something extra as it's so easy to just order it on your own phone without the pressure of calling a member of staff over to order just one drink whilst everyone else is pretty much done.

TL;DR? Yard and Coop has social distanced, good food down to a tee, and I couldn't recommend it more. Plus, if you don't work weekends, they're starting a bottomless brunch this weekend with chicken and waffles, pancakes, mimosas and more. Trust me, if you're there the weekend I'm off in a few weeks, you're going to find me in there chowing down on chicken and drinking as many mimosas as I can whilst still being able to justify it to myself. If you haven't been to Yard and Coop yet, you need to go and see why it's fast becoming my friendship group's favourite place to eat in Liverpool; you won't regret it.

Have you been to Yard and Coop? Tell me what I should try next time, I'm definitely eyeing up the Katsu!

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

[GIFTED] Book Review: Sex and Vanity - Kevin Kwan

[GIFTED] Post contains gifted products from Penguin, however all views and opinions are my own.

 Some of you may know, because I honestly feel like I talked about it on my twitter for about four weeks after I went to see it, that I thought Crazy Rich Asians was such an incredible, well done film. The story, though seemingly from the outside an age old Cinderella story, brings a new twist to something we might have loved as children. So, when I was sent Sex and Vanity to review by the same author who wrote the book the film I love so much was based on, I was more than excited. However, due to lockdown, extra work shifts and just general life fatigue, I only got down to reading it this week; and the very modern take on 'A Room With a View' certainly didn't disappoint.

Sex and Vanity is a beautiful book, set across three parts. Part one centres around a high society wedding in Capri, part two around Lucie (the main protagonist, who is Chinese American) and her life since the wedding, and part three? Well, that bit is a pleasant surprise for all those reading. Like it's best-selling predecessor, alongside the culture difference cleverly explained within the book, it feels like all along you're being let inside of a society that you'd never normally be rich enough to be a part of; and even reading about the events and getting caught up in them - it feels special. You come to love, hate and spite characters alongside Lucie, and you see how places within this elite society are sought after, hard to come by, and so easily lost. As Lucie worries that she may not fit in (or indeed may not want to if it means giving up what she truly wants), you begin to realise just how easily the life that all of these people have been accustomed to can so easily crumble.

Not only is the book captivating, funny and genuinely easy to get drawn into, it is so wittily added to by author footnotes explaining traditions you might not be aware of, details of celebrities that Western readers may not be quite as familiar with or artists that people may not have heard of before, and even just genuinely humorous additions to the story that aren't needed but are much appreciated. What could so easily have become 'just' a romance novel (though I have to say, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that in my eyes) is so richly added to by the genuine warmth and humour in both the characters and the author himself.

The book mainly centres around Lucie Churchill and her obsessive dislike of another guest of the lavish wedding we see in Capri, George Zao. It seems George is everything Lucie doesn't like about the affluent guests invited, and although she's happy to never see him again, it seems that that might not quite be on the cards. However, when Lucie leaves Capri, and the room with a view of the sea forced upon her by him and his mother, surely she'll leave George for good? The story, cleverly filled with emails, Lucie's thoughts and more lavish events that you could ever dream of will have you captivated until the very last word.

I loved the book from start to end, and I'm now devastated to know that I didn't read Crazy Rich Asians before seeing the film, but there's plenty more books from Kevin Kwan that I'll definitely be picking up to read in the next few weeks.

If you've read any, please do let me know your thoughts! 

Sammy xo.

Sunday, 16 August 2020

Death By Chocolate - Dyll's Bakery

 Living near Liverpool is both a blessing and a curse. Amazing restaurants, bakeries and coffee shops? Right on the doorstep. Too lazy to go to town? Greggs, or a trip to the other side of the Wirral it is then! So, when somewhere fantastic opens up within walking distance? I'm always excited to try it out. Dyll's Bakery was no exception - and with a menu that lasts until 4pm or until sell out both Friday and Saturday each week, with a prime location outside of Prenton Park? Definitely count me in. Now, before we go on, I feel this post needs a disclaimer; we were excited about cake, and I make the mistake of sending my hungry boyfriend to pick the goods when I was in work, and so we might have ended up going a little bit overboard.

The bakery offers savoury options, such as pies and sausage rolls, but we were really in for the sweet goods - and with the menu changing every week and me not going to get them, I really was in for a sweet surprise here. Josh really did pick a good selection, and so we went with a Nutella and Kinder Blondie, Homemade Milk Chocolate Caramel Shortbread, a Caramac, White Chocolate and Malted Milk Brownie, a Crispy M&M brownie, a Nutella Blonde Brownie and a White Chocolate and Oreo Brownie The whole order came to just over £21 and made a fantastic feast over a few days for me, Josh and his parents.

I will say, you really can't argue on the price here; the portions are huge and easily could serve two people, with it maybe being a little rich for just one person depending on what you pick. The blondies and brownies have a fudgey inside, almost closer to cookie dough in texture that brownie batter, and they're sweet, creamy and very, very moreish. They really do have that distinct 'homebaked' feel about them, they're rustic to look at, they take risks with the ingredients, and I can easily see why they're quickly dominating the Instagram stories of the people that live in the area around them. They also still are offering delivery for as far as I can see within the local area, which you can see the menus for weekly on their Instagram.

The breakout winner for me here was the Caramac, White Chocolate and Malted Milk Brownie. Sickly? Yes. Incredible? Yes. The one most people asked about when I shared the photographs? By far. The idea of cakes changing every week means it has even those of us who stocked up on six the week before wanting to queue to try something new, and it means that every single week I'm excited to see what might be on offer. I can only imagine that when match days can resume with crowds, a bakery that's already selling out before it's closing time will quickly become a staple for a lot of people on a Saturday, and the taste of their goods easily match the reputation that they're quickly getting around town.

If you're in Liverpool and willing to risk a 15 minute bus ride in order to try some of the best cake that I think I've genuinely ever had in Merseyside? Dyll's is definitely up there as a recommendation from me, and now I'm just waiting for Friday to roll around so I can try and convince Josh to grab (maybe a normal amount...) of their savouries.

If you go and try Dyll's please do let us know what you had!

Sammy xo.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Buying Glasses Online - An Ace and Tate Review

  I am willing to admit that, despite the fact I've worn my glasses for nearly 26 years of my life? I'm definitely guilty of all manner of glasses sins, and on a daily basis. Lying down and squashing the arm? Guilty. Placing them face down without thinking? Guilty. Sleeping in them at least two days a week? Very, very guilty. To be fair - this has always been an issue. Since I was a teenager I've always been the type of person to have my glasses tightened one week, bend them completely out of shape, only to need it doing again the next week. It's never massively come back to bite me though - or at least it hadn't, until lockdown.


Just before lockdown I realised that my glasses were getting really, really bent out of shape - to the extent that wearing them out looked strange and they were kind of uncomfortable; only, before I could get them sorted, everything closed. I've been wearing glasses since I was a baby and had always opted for a physical brick and mortar optician to get them because I wear an awkward prescription and, like I said, I need them to be tightened more often than the regular person - however, as lockdown went on I started to realise that this definitely wasn't going to be an option any time soon. In a complete fluster, knowing they weren't going to last all of lockdown and I literally cannot see without them, I took to twitter to ask for online glasses companies; only that sent me into a worse fluster. Someone recommended a company, somebody else told me to stay away from them, someone told me I needed my pupillary distance (which isn't on a typically prescription, by the way), and it just seemed like I was going to have to deal with what I had.

That is, until I settled on Ace and Tate. Even with a complex prescription they seemed pretty affordable, I could opt for blue light lenses (which is great for me, because I work a laptop based job at home), they had  frames I liked and - the big one for me - they have a physical store in Liverpool, and so when I inevitably needed them tightened after lockdown, I could just pop over. I have to admit, I was really nervous ordering my new glasses; though £120 is a good price for my prescription, it was only a good price if the glasses were actually a decent choice, and I didn't know anybody personally who had bought from them to check. Still, I was pretty much out of options and so I just bit the bullet and ordered anyway - their online glasses try on made it really easy to check that a frame would suit me, and the only real problem I had was playing around with my favourite colour options. I personally opted for the Wilson frame in the Tigerwood colouring - all glasses are £98 with standard lenses, I also opted to donate goggles to the NHS, and opted for a blue light filter, and paid nearly £120 on the nose.

When ordering, I needed my prescription and that aforementioned, much dreaded, pupillary distance measurement. With absolutely no idea how to find this, I emailed Ace and Tate with a cry for help, and they emailed back within 24 hours to tell me that I could either call the prescription issuer and ask them for this information, which would be kept on their files, or I could use a handy dandy ruler that you printed off, and I could get someone to measure it for me. I tried the first, but my optician is Costco and so it wasn't hugely easy to get through to them at the height of lockdown, and so I opted for the second. I had my parents double and triple check the measurement and then sent it off.


The glasses came in around 5 days, and I have to say; they're genuinely one of my favourite pairs of glasses that I've ever had. I love the shape of them, the blue light filter lenses mean I get less headaches from work, and the pupillary distance seems fine (in that, I don't notice that they're a different prescription in any way to my previous pair). The one noticeable thing is that they have a slight tint for the blue light filter, however I don't notice this unless I'm swapping from my old pair to these, and though sometimes when I look in the mirror this feels really obvious, I've seen them in photographs and I really don't think you can notice (plus, I'd take slightly tinted glasses in places of regular headaches). I've now been wearing them for around 3 months, and they truly are the the best, low end pair of glasses that I've ever bought.

All in all, it seems like you shouldn't have gone to Specsavers all that time; it should have been Ace and Tate all along. You'll also be thrilled to know, I've stopped sleeping in my new pair.

If you've tried other well priced, online glasses retailers, I'd love to know how it went!

Sammy xo.

Friday, 7 August 2020

The Basics of MLMs - The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

If there's one thing that's really nostalgic for me, it's flicking through an Avon catalogue. I remember being a kid and my mum buying her lipstick from there, picking the catalogue up from the doorstep and filling in the little form, only for it to appear a few days later. When we were older, our cleaning products always came from a similar catalogue. Then, in my teenage years; pyramid schemes fell out of favour. (and rightfully so). But, how did it happen? And what changed that lead to the rise of the multi-level marketing scheme?

Simply put - under the consumer protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, pyramid schemes were made illegal. They were considered 'unsustainable' and it was deemed that 'the only people that usually profit from a pyramid selling scheme are the ones who create them in the first place' (Monzo.com, 2019). Pyramid schemes rely on you paying an upfront fee to sign up, and thereafter convincing other people to do the same (wherein you take a cut from the sign up payment that they made). It took a few years after the new legislation, but the premise of the scheme was soon redeveloped and made popular once again as a scheme known as Multi-Level Marketing, or MLM; and trust me, you'll have been sucked in by at least a few, have DMs off at least a few representatives, and you'll likely have bought from at least one or two.

A picture of a work from home set up

Though they're often billed as a quick money making scheme, readily available income reports for most MLM companies online show the realistic numbers that often a heavy percentage of people signed up make the lowest bracket of money possible within the company. It's not just about sales though; time and time again MLMs have proven that being predatory works and, to climb to the top bracket of that money making, you need to be willing to have people you know, respect, or once met at a party in University also join this scheme.

So what separates an MLM and a Pyramid Scheme?
Short Answer;
'Even though pyramid schemes might sometimes look like an MLM business, they don't actually sell a product or service.' (Monzo.com, 2019)

Long Answer; 
You can no longer gain a specific bonus from signing up another member and adding them to your team as this is considered illegal. The focus for an MLM comes from earning money selling their available product or service. That's not to say however that you don't make money from them in other ways - you can make money from their purchasing or selling products, likely at varying levels of commission and you still also likely earn a level of commission from anyone that they then sign up, but only when they make sales and not just for purely existing as a part of the business hierarchy being created. This may, however, include when they buy a kit that is required at sign up; thus creating a hidden sign up bonus that has been disguised as something else.

Can you make a real wage from an MLM scheme?
Short Answer; 
'The vast majority of commissions paid by MLM companies go to a tiny percentage of TOPPs (top-of-the-pyramid promotors) at the expense of a revolving door of recruits, 99% of whom lose money.' (Taylor, 2011)

Long Answer;
There's a reason that even people within MLMs often call those making profit 'The 1%'. Truly, I think since 2011 this probably has changed slightly, if nothing else due to the use of social media on a much wider scale, however almost every income disclosure agreement shows that over 80% of people who sign up are in the lowest earning bracket. There are, of course, many ways that people can become profitable however, especially without recruiting and earning commissions from other people's sales, it's very unlikely. A very popular fragrance MLM is currently completely free to join and displays between just under £5 up to £20 (numbers may vary, however these are those found readily online) commission per product on one of their distributors websites. With the lowest average monthly income in Liverpool coming in around £1,791.66 (Salaryexplorer.com, 2020) you would need to sell around 359 of the lower commission items, or 90 of the higher commission items (or some mix of both) every single month to earn the commission needed to meet this lowest average on your sales alone. Some other popular MLMs offer a base rate of 25% commission per sale, meaning total monthly sales would have to consistently equal £7166.64 to meet this lowest average, without including the sign up or 'kit' fee needed to pay into the company to begin with. This is an example of course, many of us live on less and some commissions can be slightly higher, but it's still an alarmingly large amount of sales to need to consistently make in order to comfortable bring in a reliable salary. The fact is, even at a 50% commission, you would still need to sell £3583.32 worth of product to match the lowest average salary detailed above.

This is, of course, where hiring other people come in. If the money needed can be split across commissions made my six or seven people that you have hired, this becomes much more profitable in a much more hasty fashion. However, that relies on them also being able to sell a huge amount of product, and for them to become profitable also hire a huge team to help them do so. As stated above, unless you're close to the top of the pyramid, your earnings are likely to be minimal.

Is an MLM a viable long term option?
Short Answer;
'Over a five-year period, at least 95% typically have left the company; and usually after ten years, nearly all but those near or at the top of their respective pyramids will have dropped out.' (Taylor, 2011)

Long Answer;
95% of people participating within MLMs don't seem to think so. The very best case scenario for the average MLM distributor is that income will be variable and sporadic in a way that doesn't allow for any real financial security for the long term. In fact, at the bottom of every single contract or leaflet I have read with regards to becoming a distributor the exact same warning is printed; 'do not be mislead by claims that high earnings are easily achieved' and yet, typically, this is exactly what distributors in messages are trying to sell; the idea of an easy, remote home job, where income is readily available. Statistics seem to show that for most people, just like their pyramid scheme predecessors, MLM options continue to be unsustainable, at least over any substantial period of time.

And so you may be asking yourself; if statistics show so little people earning money, at the very least consistently and in an ongoing way, why does the MLM scheme seem more popular than ever?
In my opinion, that one's easy. With people currently furloughed, redundancies being commonplace, and more people that ever being settled and comfortable working remotely it seems obvious that people will be more likely to be won over by a pitch that promises good money, your own business (which is debatable, but we'll come back to that another time) and the option to work when you want, where you want in whatever way suits your needs. MLM schemes are now preaching to a captivated audience that need exactly what they're promising, and their (arguably intentionally) confusing materials and explanations of practises help to sweeten a deal that's already sickly sweet during the current times. Though I really do hope that anyone out there already part of, and happy within, an MLM is doing well, it seems to me personally that the facts don't lie, and for most people partaking it could be a really slippery slope to something genuinely dangerous and potentially financially damaging.

If you've ever been part of an MLM I'd love to hear your stories, good or bad, so feel free to drop me a line on twitter or instagram.

Sammy xo.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

My Top Nostalgic Disney Plus Picks

I have to admit that a huge part of getting Disney Plus for me was their newer offerings. I think Coco is one of the best films that they've ever made, I love watching the new Disney shorts when they come out, I was really excited to see the new documentaries that were created or curated for the service. However, when the whole premise is creating an archive of both old and new Disney offerings, it's hard not to come across something that reminds you of the good old days, and so I thought I'd share my top picks to watch when you'd like to be a little more nostalgic.

Recess
Possibly one of my favourite cartoons of all time. There is possibly nothing better to pass the time than weirdly shipping TJ and Spinelli, hating on Randall and wishing you were one of the Ashleys (they're just so, so, so... scandalous!) Seriously, this is every bit as good as I remember it being as a kid, it's probably the one show that I've watched so far that gives me that warm, nostalgic feeling in my stomach. They also have all of the films and spin offs, so it's good if you're looking for a long term watch when you've finished running through just about everything on Netflix and Prime.

Flubber
Is this film absolutely ridiculous? Undoubtable. Is the plot the oddest thing that's ever been proposed? It's definitely up there. Did I sit and watch it anyway this week? 100%. It's a known fact that any film with Robin Williams in is always worth a watch, however this genuinely is a great film that takes me back to my childhood. If you've never seen it before it's odd, stupid and really, really hard not to love. Just trust me on this one.


Cheaper By The Dozen
A classic, old school favourite. I'm pretty sure I remember going to see this in the cinema and it always reminds me of me and my friends doing the stupid lie detector scene to each other. Not only is it brilliant to see so many Disney film stars as children, but it's also just so fun to watch in general. Plus, when you've finished it and you're really sad at how quickly it was done? They have Cheaper By The Dozen 2 so you can keep the vibe going (at least for another hour and a half or so, and that's an hour and a half closer to the end of lockdown!)

Honey I Shrunk The Kids
This used to be my brother's favourite film (well other than Toy Soldiers, but anyone that watched that as a kid will tell you that it's genuinely horrific) and so I always remember it so fondly. I haven't actually gotten round to watching this one again lately, but it's right there at the top of my list. It's probably not nostalgic to you guys in the same way that Disney Princess films are, but it's definitely worth a revisit and I can't wait to do it.

Freaky Friday
The more I think about this film, the more I think it genuinely may be one of the best films ever made. Okay, so I'm being dramatic, but this is a comedic masterpiece. Every part of this is so well thought out to create a film that I remember all of my family constantly reordering on LoveFilm's DVD service when my brother and I were a lot younger than I am now. Plus, the soundtrack to this is lowkey really, really good.

So there's some nostalgic favourites I definitely think that you should go back and revisit, but what nostalgic favourites can you recommend to me?

Sammy xo.

Monday, 30 March 2020

How To Support Freelancers Right Now

I am one of the lucky few who worked from home even before the current lockdown and so, though I have lost a small part of my wage, overall I am in a good financial position. However, a lot of my friends are freelancers or self employed, and so I've been reaching out to them to see how we can help so I can compile a list and as many of us as possible can help as many of them as possible.

1: Share as many of their posts as possible
Now more than ever our freelance friends are sharing their work and skills on a lot of social platforms, I know it's likely not possible to share them all, but share as many as you can as you see them. You never know if one of your followers might be able to provide a little work for your friends or family, and so it's always worth the three seconds it takes to retweet.

2: Consider paying freelancers that you would regularly pay
Pay to have your hair and nails done every few weeks? Now is the time to consider paying your freelancers even if you can't be there to have the treatments done, if you can afford to. I know many people are facing financial troubles now and it's not always as easily said as done, but if you are in the financial position to, and you'd usually give the money to them anyway, consider doing it now so they'll still be there in the job they love - and ready to do your gels or roots - when all of this starts to calm down a little. Even if you can't afford the full amount, a little donation goes a long way to help people during this time.

instagram header of @rebxrat
@rebxtat - a fantastic tattoo artist and great human based in Liverpool

3: If people offer gift vouchers, buy gift vouchers
Probably going to want a tattoo in the future but can't get it now? Buy a gift voucher. Hairdresser offer gift vouchers and you're going to need your ends trimmed at the end of all of this? Buy a voucher. Where possible, if a service that you're going to use in the future offers a voucher and you can afford to do so, buy it. It's win win, you help to keep a freelancer a little further above water, and you get a little treat for yourself on the other side of this (and you deserve that).

4: Pay your fucking freelancers
We get it, times are hard right now, but pay for work that's been done. There's absolutely no excuse for it, if you had the budget and they did the work under that agreement, you owe them the money.

Twitter header of @katygilroyblog
@katygilroyblog - A content writer and social media specialist based on The Wirral

5: Need something doing and can afford a freelancer to do it?
Get them on board! Need a new blog template and got some cash spare? Need something writing?Hire a freelancer. Obviously don't go beyond your means or get pointless jobs done, but if you've been putting off a job for ages and you can afford it now? Now's the time to get them in to help. They'll appreciate the work, and you'll get that niggly job you've been putting off done!

6: Consider giving work to freelancers with no other income
I am really lucky to still have consistent work during these weird times, and yet weirdly I still get a few stray offers of paid posts etc. Where I can, I've been trying to recommend other freelancers who I know don't have this work coming in, and no steady income. I know we could all use the extra money, but I don't need it nearly as much as other people, and so definitely throw someone a bone if you're in a position to do so.

Instagram header of @benjofbagend
@benjofbagend - A brilliant photographer and filmmaker based in Liverpool

Like I said, it really all depends on your position, times are difficult for everyone, but we rely on freelancers more than we know and so if you can afford to help a freelancer? Now's the time.

Sammy xo.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Why Come Back Now?

From an admin point of view, coming back to blogging now seems like a weird choice, right? Especially given that all I've read for the last month is how blog views are down across the board. To me, though? This seemed like the obvious time to come back to blogging. As I write this it's the first morning of lockdown, things feel different and - just like when I first started Little Fickle - all I really want is a place to help, if I can - a place to speak, given everything. I feel like I should preface this by saying I am aware I am lucky right now, I have managed to keep a job that I normally work from home in anyway, I have good open spaces that are ours privately, I am within walking distance of shops that are seemingly fairly well stocked. However, in times of uncertainty like we're in now? It's okay to still feel down, or upset.

Already missing the boys.

Mainly, though? I feel completely hopeless. Not only because the wellbeing of myself and those around me still feels out of my hands despite lockdown, not even because I can't see my partner, mostly because I want to do more for people if I can and I just don't know how. So, I've decided to write. Like every other time that I've written when I felt like I couldn't or wouldn't get through something. Little Fickle has always been a home for me, and now feels like the exact right time to come home, if there ever was one. I'm going to share what I'm doing to keep my head above water, what I'm doing in order to help businesses around me and literally what I'm doing to get through lockdown every day.

I know it's been said so much that it doesn't feel like a real phrase anymore, but we really are in unprecedented times. We've never gone through something like this before, we don't know how to act in this situation, and that's okay. Do whatever helps you get through this. For me, that's writing, and so welcome back to Little Fickle.

Sammy xo.
 
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