Considering my love for pasta (I'm that girl who eat's it roughly 3 - 4 times a week), it was always a surprise that I'd never even visited Italy before. So when I sat on the sofa at Christmas and opened my present from the male, tickets to Florence, I couldn't wait to get on the plane (albeit, it turned into an unpretty sight, because hangover...).
Leaving ours at 4am on a Friday morning, we arrived in Pisa airport at 10.40am and managed to find a bus heading to Florence, for only 24euro return (Autostradale if you're interested). Even arriving to rain, didn't stop us instantly falling in love with the city, and no sooner had we wandered a few streets, did we stumble upon a cute little restaurant and fell into gnocchi heaven (also, what DO they do with their cheese?). We pretty much spent the whole weekend eating our way around the city, drinking endless glasses of wine, and admiring all the quaint streets and spots that Florence has to offer. After all, isn't that what you're supposed to do, in a country that's food is like no other? And also, HOW do they just get it so right?

- Pointe Vecchio: The most famous bridge in Florence, and undoubtedly a breathtaking sight (whether seen from afar or walking across it). Full of jewellery shops and beautiful views, it's worth a little stroll.
- Boboli Gardens: Located just behind Piazza Pitti, these are one of the largest and most elegant Italian style gardens. The views are gorgeous and in warmer weather, it's the ideal place to have a picnic overlooking Florence.
- Piazzale Michelangelo: Another view point, and ultimate tourist spot. It takes a little legwork, because, lots of stairs. But once you've worked your way to the top, you won't be disappointed with what you'll find at the top. Best for golden hour/sunset!
-Vintage Photobooth: Collect memories and photos in this cute old booth, located on the corner between Via Nazionale and Piazza Della Stazione (near the station basically). After one too many drinks, pop your 2euros in and pull your best pose. The results are worth the five minute wait!
- Mercato Centrale: Food lovers heaven! With downstairs hosting traditional vendors offering fresh vegetables, fruit, meat and the best cheese, upstairs has an incredible food court with five hundred seats to choose from. So that means, eating your way around each stand. Try Il Pane e la Pasticceria for some of the best Focaccia.

- Dal Barone: We stumbled upon this place, having wandered a few streets looking to satisfy our hungry travel tummy and it did not disappoint. Quaint, cosy and delicious with amazing service. Try the gnocchi dish (perfect thing to start your weekend!)
- Ditta Artigianale: Located in Florence's hippest district (think the cool, lesser-known tourist spot) and a secret gem, Ditta serves some of the best coffee in an incredibly designed space. Ultimate comfort, and a place to unwind (and upload those IG stories) for a few hours.
- La Menagere: Everyone and their mother's will tell you to go here. A concept restaurant, that is romantic, cosy and filled with blooming flowers and tasty treats. Whether it's brunch, lunch, dinner or just some drinks, this place is incredibly inviting. Try the cocktails - winner!
- Trattoria Zaza: Our favourite restaurant of them all. Located in San Lorenzo, with raving review, amazing prices and a true Italian experience to remember. Order everything with truffle, and you won't be disappointed. Just make sure you book, as you could be waiting a while...
- Fuoco Matto: Just outside of the centre, but worth the walk. The decor is simple and understated, with the main focus of food - Pizza! Make sure to try the aged ham, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella for a mouth-watering taste. Plus, complimentary prosecco on arrival? Sold.
- All'Antico Vinaio: Whilst we didn't get to visit, word on the street is that these are some of the best sandwiches in the city. And a tip? Get everything with truffle too. Because, why not!

- Loft, San LorenzoA perfect find on Airbnb and amazingly located - right opposite Mercato Centrale and above Trattoria Zaza (double win!). Hosts, Annalisa and Leonardo are nothing but welcoming, warming and helpful. Their guides on where to eat and what to see are well and truly thought through, and of course, the Loft, is just pure bliss. Once you've climbed the 60 stairs to the third floor, you'll soon forget as this place instantly oozes design and comfort, with weird and wonderful touches such as the cheeky window on the bedroom floor looking into the shower. Also, make sure to look out of the skylight for some beautiful views of the Tuscan Mountains.
You can read my full view of the Loft, here.

Whatever Italy's secret, they've well and truly hooked me in to their culture and lifestyle. And I can't wait to return again.
Road trip anyone?

it’s been a long while since I sat down and actually wrote something, for me.
It’s not that I didn’t have anything to say.
I just didn’t know how to say it.

Last year didn’t really start how a year should. All the plans that had been put in place, the excitement of starting a new year fresh - full of travel, aspirations and things to tick off the list, were washed away within weeks of welcoming in the New Year. 

What should have been excitement, warmth, and constant date watching, for the arrival of my new niece, and opportunities, anticipation and nerves for a career change ahead, were no sooner shattered and replaced, with emptiness and grief when the unexpected loss of my little grandad happened. The death of my first grandparent.

In such a short space of time, I felt so many emotions, but mostly I felt lost. 
In myself, and everything I did.

I felt like everything I’d done leading up to this moment in my life, in this now without him, were done wrong. I questioned and doubted every single aspect of life. Everything I ever knew, and loved, didn’t quite feel the same anymore. 
Without him.
I felt like I didn’t cry enough, and then I cried too much. I felt like I couldn’t live quite the same anymore. I couldn’t laugh, or do things that felt too fun. And no sooner, was also faced with remorse and guilt towards my niece, because I hadn’t welcomed her into the world the way she should have been, only a day after his death. I should have been there for her, but I just couldn’t deal with these two contrasting emotions and this grief that I’d never experienced before.

And so I put my all into work, I focused on the new. 
And I fell in love, with a career.
I began to feel happy in my work life. I put my all into everything, because I wanted to succeed and do well. And most importantly, I was being praised for what I was doing - I was respected. 
I realised, that for the first time ever, I was officially career driven. 

My relationship was strong, stronger than ever. The support, and the love was there and whilst the doubts came from the grief, I never for once thought it would fail. And with that, it only grew stronger.
To what it is today, real genuine love.
Quality time was a whole new thing. In one sense we became selfish, wanting to spend time with just each other, but equally wanted to be surrounded by the ones we love. Helping family out, when times were dark and hard. Spending numerous times walking up and down hospital corridors, waiting for things to get better. Endless hours driving around the country ensuring that everyone was seen, everyone was content, and everyone was healthy. Because they mattered.
People mattered.
Love mattered.
Life mattered.

No sooner had the summer arrived, and it felt like those darker times, were years back rather than months. It became one of the best summers we had. Work was blossoming, with events every other night, socialising and exploring. Living on 5 hours sleep because commuting life was just the norm. The best trip of a lifetime to Miami that will never be forgotten. Constant plans in the diary, from week night dinner dates with friends, to weekend staycations with family. The complete adrenaline and buzz.
Summer just felt so. 
Until I went back to my hometown. Every time.
And we’d drive past the house that was no more.
Guilt washed over me, like I shouldn’t have done the things I was doing. I should have grieved more openly. I should have talked about my feelings more.

It never left me. 

And, it brought out a secret. A secret that I’d been hiding inside of myself for a very long time. One that I ignored, and put to the back of my mind. But this grief, just overcame me. It stood out, and it made it a bigger problem. 
A problem I couldn’t hide from anymore.

I hated every aspect of my appearance. Not a day would go by in the Autumn, where I didn’t cry or feel anxious in the morning.
I couldn’t stop comparing my face to others.
I couldn’t stop feeling sick everytime I caught sight of myself in the mirror.
I could stop picking at my scalp, and pulling at my hair, wishing it to be different.
I couldn’t stop thinking my body was disgusting.
I couldn’t stop the voices in my head, telling me I was ugly. That I looked like a boy. I wasn’t pretty.
And I couldn’t stop, wondering why I even worried so much about the way I looked.

And it took me until this time, to admit to a few of my closest people, that this was more than just a social media comparison. A vain feeling. This was real life. This is mental health. 
This called for help.

Life tests us, in more ways than we can ever imagine and describe. But we can only learn from it. And grief taught me a lot. It tested me, but it really opened up my eyes to the things I needed to address. A year on, and I’m finally coming to terms with things that once weren’t so relevant but really reflect on me as a person. I realise how important family and friends are, more than ever before. And I believe hugely in gratitude.
I am thankful, for this life. The path that we pave ourselves.
The opportunities we are given.
And the fact that love, it doesn’t cost us anything.

That’s the most wonderful thing.

There is a saying on Stand By Me, that stuck with me ever since I heard it..
"I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve"

I'd always promised myself that I wouldn't let that quote be the same for me, I tried to tell myself that actually, I WOULD have the same friends when I'm older, watching them as they walk down the aisle, having children who play together, and looking back at the school days fondly.
But reality is, is that it really doesn't always happen.
And it's OK.

There comes a time in your life, when you've grown up with friends and maybe you were put together because of family circles, or you buddied up at school because you played the same sport, or you took dance class together. You had the same interests when you were ten, and you liked doing the same thing. You liked the house they lived in, and enjoyed cycling together on the weekend. But as you get older, your views and interests change. You don't have the time to dance on a weekend, or spend Friday nights in the pub because you have responsibilities. You move away, because you meet new people and you realise that you were friends because your parents were. What you once had in common with a friend at thirteen, may not be quite the same as you do when you're twenty seven.
You begin to lead different lives, and all of a sudden those messages exchanged daily, turn into once a week, and then before long the 'Hey Stranger' comment appears, and you realise in that moment that months have passed. The connection you had with someone you classed as a close friend, someone who had your back and who you really believed would be there when you're older, sitting in the park with your children and hosting dinner parties together, can disappear almost as quick as friendships start.
And just like that, friendships fade. It is no longer there.
And you question why, you wonder how it got to that stage. Whether there was more effort from one party more, or if they disliked you for some reason, or if they simply just didn't want to hang around with you anymore. And it can hurt. But it doesn't reflect on you as a person, or as a friend. And it doesn't mean that you are disliked. It's just simply that sometimes, some things, we cannot always control.

We have certain chapters in our life that end, to begin new ones.

Friends come and go. Friends change.
Only you're expected to feel nothing. Not know a reason why the friendship fell apart, and just continue without having an explanation and quietly avoiding the subject again. Brushing it off when questioned why you two parted ways, and making excuses about living away/change in lifestyle, when all along, you just don't quite know yourself either. There is no answer. Except life.
You don't live together, you don't have children to raise, and you don't share money like you do with a partner, and you can't help but hold on to something because it should be easy. It should be easy to be friends. Everyone can be friends with anyone.
It's harder to walk away from a friendship. Because you can either feel like you've let it down, that you didn't put enough effort in or you weren't ever a good enough friend, but also when you feel like the friendship isn't healthy anymore. You constantly feel like you're trying to impress them, to be wanted and liked by them, and they may put you down, instead of supporting you, but instead it only brings negativity with you. With that friendship.
So it's hard to know when you should let go. Remember it for what it was. Not what it is.
Just like in a breakup.

And actually, it's a pity, because losing a friend I think, is far more painful than losing a partner, a lover.
You're never quite prepared for it since you simply invited someone round for tea.

"It might take a while to realise but eventually you'll find the good in goodbye."


To the both of you,

It's not often that we really thank our parents for everything we do, except for Mothers Day when we buy you the biggest bunch of flowers and take you to see a show, and Fathers Day when we treat you to a nice shirt and head out for dinner, but we never truly say thank you. Like really mean it.
For everything that you do.
After all, as a parent, you bring us into the world, and you bring us up. You teach us things to help live the best life that we can. And that, is a pretty important job.
Maybe the hardest too?
But actually, the most important job.

We grow up, and become who we are because of you. We look like you in many ways  and notice similar traits that we learnt and took from you. At a first glance, I look like you mama, with our dark sleek hair and slightly bigger noses than we'd like (oh and early grey hair..), but really I carry more similarities to you Papa with my natural curly locks that I got from you along with the unfortunate dry skin, and also, that thing called road rage...! I have my stubborn streak from papa, my way with words and my creativity and sometimes determination, yet I talk to everyone, I laugh and cry at everything and I over share, just like you mama. But I want to know, where did I get my over worrying, cuckoo land thoughts and gullible brain from? Because I'm really not sure on that one..
And actually, characteristics, genes and all, I don't mind all of these, because I'm a complete mixture of you both, and in my humble opinion that makes me feel pretty good (well, give or take a few health issues...). Getting older doesn't phase me with that.

Ever since Craig and I were kids, you've always taught us what I like to think of the right way in life. You made us realise that if we ever wanted something, we should not only go after it, but we should work hard to achieve and get it. Because just like that, life is all about working hard for what you want and we appreciate that. We value things so much more as we've grown ourselves and know that if we put our mind to it, we can do it. Whenever we wanted a new toy or gadget, or money for a McDonalds, you made sure we did our chores, and by doing those chores we were rewarded. Because we worked for it.
But you've never been pushy.
You've let us find our own paths in life, whether it's how you dreamt of your children's future or not, you've always supported our decisions in every aspect of our lives.
You've given us courage when we felt we lacked it and couldn't quite believe in ourselves.
You've always supported us and offered advice whenever we felt unsure on choices.
You've given us reassurance when we've doubted things.
But mostly you've given us love, in everything that we've done and continue to do.
And you've never ever given up on us when we disagreed with you, which was a fair few times... (because y'know, at nine years old we were totally right!)..
And I know, that, that is one of the things we're thankful of the most. Your love, support and the fact you've always been and hopefully will continue to be, our cheerleaders.
Just minus the outfits. I'm not sure your stomach would suit that papa...

We've had some times that have tested us, like many other families too, but when you look back on these moments, you realise they've only brought us closer. For the better.
And never have I realised, until them, just how strong you both are.
Whatever you're faced with, you've always dealt with it straight on. And with a smile.
Which inspires me, inspires us, to be like you.
We've learnt that whatever happens, happens for a reason and the best way to deal with things is by seeing the positive in everything. Even when you know that life is completely about to change.
You take things with a pinch of salt.
You deal with it calmly (OK, mama, sometimes, not so much...) and consider all options.
You realise that life is incredibly precious.
And you tell yourself that you're still here, in this life, which is the most important thing.

To me, that is what makes me most proud of, to call you my parents.

Your gratitude, your kindness, your humour and your warmth to everyone around you. Your appreciation and gratefulness for everyday, regardless of any situation. Your love and devotion to others, your motivational attitude and your pride for everything you do. And the fact, that you just, always smile. Even when things get tough.
That, is such an incredible thing. The best qualities in you both.

And how you work together, always. You're always there for each other, no matter what.
I hope to be like you mama, when I'm a mama myself one day, kind and caring (apart from when we were ill...) and always there when we needed you, and I want to make my children proud, be an inspiration to them, and live a life just like you papa (maybe without the hospital visits..).
And I hope that if I have a love like you two do, when I'm older, then I'll be a very content woman.
You both inspire me in more ways than imaginable, as individuals and as one.

And no matter how many times I thank you, tell you that you're both wonderful people and the best parents I could ask for, you will never truly realise, just how much I mean that.

All my love, always,

"Families are like branches on a tree. 
We grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one"

Hey it's OK...

If your underwear drawer is the most organised thing in your life. Those lacy knickers are high maintenance and need space dontcha know?!

To laugh when you can't sleep. Even if the other half is really trying to get to sleep.

When you watch the same Youtube video over and over again. And laugh just as much as the first time.

To stop and think about the fact that your super hot boyfriend actually fancies you back, and then proceed to well up. Because it's real. And you're feeling all the feels.

When you wear your new jacket all day every day for a month. Inside and outside. Because, fashion!

To crave cherry tomatoes everyday for all of a year.

When you eat the whole chocolate bar. That was for two people. Like, whatever.

To not question something for once. Yeah that one can of pop rule a day? If you wanna break it one day you can. You're a full grown adult now so make your own rules.

If you forgot to reply to your girls on WhatsApp, because you'd replied in your head. The thought was there.

If you laugh and a little bit of wee comes out.

When you choose your funeral song on a weekly basis, based on what you currently REALLY cannot stop listening to.

Or singing the whole of The Greatest Showman soundtrack over and over again. And refuse to be bored of it.

To cry happy tears. At like everything you see and hear. Happy tears are good.

To genuinely mean that life is going well, when people ask. Even if your brain thinks that people will question your honesty in the response. ADMIT IT. Embrace it.

"If it's meant to be, it will be."
I was sat in the bath shaving my legs (OK, I was totally shaving my armpits, but legs sounded way more glamorous...) when I got thinking about an article I'd read the day before, with women shaving their arm hair. And it had me debating..

Should I be shaving my arms?

I mean, it's one of my biggest insecurities, and if others are doing it, just because it makes them feel cleaner, and fresher, then maybe I should be thinking about this seriously. After all, maybe it would take away one of my worries, my strongest insecurity?

But then, I thought a little harder and wondered where this obsession with body hair had come from. Having body hair on a woman is seen as masculine, dirty, a sense of being unhygienic and not looking after yourself and even worse, the feeling of being labeled ugly. At school I was bullied for having thick, dark hair and dark features meaning my legs were hairier way before I had my first period, my eyebrows nearly covered my whole forehead and my arm hair struggled to lighten even after a tan (and before you shock yourself, this was before straighteners and eyebrows being a 'thing'). And it affected me so much as a teen. I became conscious and I went to drastic lengths to make sure my body hair was covered.
I pestered my mum to let me shave my legs when getting undressed for PE terrified me daily. It ended up in the biggest bloodiest bath, but I learnt never to clean a razor with my finger again...
I begged my mum to let me go and get my eyebrows waxed at a salon so I could be rid of the bushes. It hurt and I cried a lot. But I felt better, and I never looked back.
I cried to my mum about why I was born with hairy arms and if I could remove them with hair remover (thanks for standing your ground on that one ma!). I ended up wearing long tops for a while..
And I brushed my hair into a plait everyday to hide my huge thick curls wondering if they'd ever turn out into luscious locks. I booked in for six sessions of chemically straightened hair. It worked!

And like many other teens in similar situations, it was tough.
It wasn't fun growing up when everywhere you looked, people were looking flawless. It still isn't so much fun now. Photoshop was about to remove all these excess body hairs, and hair removal became a big thing. Even adverts, that are promoting hair removal creams and razors are being shown on women who already have no hair, because showing said hair is almost seen as unappealing, unattractive. Wrong. It's reality.

It's like we should be ashamed for the way we are naturally. And in a way, we are.

The pressure to look attractive from what is considered the 'norm' now, is huge.
And I'm sucked into it too...
I get my eyebrows waxed and threaded every fortnight.
I shave my armpits every single morning.
I make sure my legs and vagina are hairless at all times.
And I bleach my upper lip when it needs attention.

I don't like to admit it either. I don't like to talk about the things I do on a daily or weekly basis because, I don't want to seem like a freak. But nobody wants to really talk about it do they?
I laugh with the girls about booking my eyebrow appointments and declaring that I'll be late for cocktails that Friday night because "eyebrows', followed by hand gestures of being fabulous. But eyebrows are a 'thing'. Eyebrows are trendy and people talk about them. All the time.
But I don't talk about the fact I shave my armpits everyday, and instead sneak off to the bathroom as I'm getting ready in the morning and quickly whizz a razor over them. I also don't involve myself in the chat when some friends are talking about getting their vaginas waxed ready for holiday. Because I shave, and not only am I a pussy anyway when it comes to waxing (no pun intended either..) but it makes me feel uncomfortable. Like opting to shave instead of waxing, won't be seen as attractive and sexier.
And I never ever discuss my upper lip bleach session where I make sure it's done on a night when no-one is around. And the evidence is hidden away, at the bottom of a cupboard never to be seen again until it needs revisiting. And no mention ever of said bleach because it would also be seen as masculine, dirty. Weird. And especially unappealing.

Because, we don't talk about it.

We don't talk about these things as though they're the norm. Instead we're expected to shy away, and go through all the effort, money and pain, to make ourselves look sexy and attractive, worthy - whether we want to or not. Of course, I want to look and feel good, and I make sure my body hair is kept in check. But it doesn't stop me shying away from conversations about how I go about it, for fear of being abnormal.

Fear of being abnormal having body hair that I, you and everyone else was actually born with...

We don't think less of a man if they can't grow a beard or have chest hair. So we shouldn't think less of a woman for having hair on their arms or opting to shave rather than waxing their lady parts.

"Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself"
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