It's been a while since I did a Life Lately post, considering all I've done in the past 18 months is eat everything, travel more than usual and sleep very little. But I'm back again, sharing all things daily life to trips, because to me, that's where it all started for Little Winter. And alas, weekends in this household (and week days for that matter...) are for catching up with friends over a few Aperol Spritz and gins (or wine, we're not fussy) and pizza. After all, is it even summer if you're not hungover and lacking sleep most days?

My job leads me to all kinds of wonderful things, and last week was spent at Taste with Asia de Cuba. After a morning of some stand installing (actually, I can't take credit for this - I totally sat in the sun and helped with the ivy arrangement. Oh and some time-lapses, cause social), we spent the evening debating which dishes to order, admiring all of the beautiful stands (Ketel One have nailed it) before heading to Laurent Perrier for a bottle of the good stuff. THIS is why I love London life.

Last weekend, the girls and I took a spontaneous trip to the New Forest. We headed straight for Lymington where we pottered the quaint streets, ate our body weight in delicious food and refused to leave the cute town without buying an ice cream. Once we'd ordered our favourite flavour (honeycombe for me, Candy Floss for Kim), we jumped back in the car in search of horses. To our delight we came across plenty, along with some baby donkeys - which distracted us right until the evening. Pro tip: don't carry carrots in your handbag - they'll definitely try and befriend you a little too much!

Currently feeling all of the feels for my family who took part in the London to Brighton bike ride. After waving them off at 6.30am on Sunday and falling back asleep, then realising how late I was to get on the road myself, it was tense whether they'd beat me to the finish line (could you imagine, especially considering I was driving?!). Unluckily for them they had a bike issue, which gave me plenty of time to park up, grab a bite to eat (and pop to a few shops) and collate 12 videos of other bikers cross the finish line (I could not let myself miss that moment!). Whilst a brief trip to my favourite seaside town, it's always a pleasure to be there.

I couldn't not share a Life Lately post without this one popping up. What a character he's turned into since we moved to London. With the options of heading outside, some days he merely sits at the back door and declare that plenty of fresh air. And other days, he'll be out whizzing about on the grass for hours on end, inviting all the other cats in the 'hood to our home. Not that I'm complaining, because cats. This is his favourite spot - the perfect place for checking if his food bowls been filled up, keeping tabs on when the front door opens and which neighbour cat is coming in through the back door. He's got it good.

We're always heading home, because there's nothing like spending time with family. So the other weekend, we loaded up the car, picked up Kim and Stew and took them for an adventure to the smallest county of England, Rutland. The weekend was absolute bliss - making ourselves at home in the garden with a glass of wine in hand, evening walks in the field (not so ideal for those with hayfever) and tucking into a delicious home-cooked dinner before curling up for a peaceful night sleep. Once awake and fed (again), we popped on our trainers and went in search of bikes to hire at Rutland Water. With 11 miles under our belts, and a hungry stomach, we finished up the weekend with lunch in Stamford before venturing home, all calm and completely content.

Here's to more weekends like these.
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I'm going to be honest here, if not a little naive, and say that I never in my life imagined that mental health would affect me on a personal level. I was always aware of it, acknowledged it, helped in raising awareness of it, and tried my hardest to understand it for others, and be the support that they needed.

But I never expected to deal with it myself. In such depth.

I always thought my nervous ways were down to me being a downright wimp.
I always thought my constant worries were purely because I was an overthinker.
I always thought my insecurities were just from school years of bullying.
I always thought my feelings of comparison were just what every other girl dealt with in their life.
I always thought my overspending on clothes each month, was down to being indecisive.
I always thought my morning tears from my reflection, was a sign that I was just a bit of a diva.

I always thought this was, just how everyone felt.
This was life.

Until the day I broke down in a way I'd never broken down before. I sat on the sofa, having picked my scalp to pieces, the entire contents of my wardrobe piled up on the bedroom floor and in floods of tears. Exhausted. Because those feelings had increased more than ever before. The feeling of guilt and ungratefulness when people would say such kind things to me, I couldn't take it. I couldn't believe them. And that feeling of hate towards my body, my face, my thinking, and my full self, was real. So very real.

It took me a while to pluck up the courage to actually talk to someone, someone who could help.
We talked about everything: how I felt towards my body, my looks, my personality, the way I perceived life and my worries.
And we carried on talking some more. And then I cried. So we talked some more. And it was draining, it was really draining.
I was horrible to myself, and that was hard, but that was also reality. And I had to be, in order to be helped.

When I left the kind lady that afternooon, I felt deflated and confused. I also couldn't help feeling embarrassed.  I didn't want to appear like I was purely vain, or that my image was the be all of how I was defined. I worried that I worry too much. I worried what others thought from it, including the kind lady.
People always said to me that as you get older you find yourself caring less, and you worry less about what others think. I wanted to believe them, I really did. But why couldn't I? Why did I feel like this? Am I a failure that I'm nearly 30 and I care more than I ever did before? That I care too much? Do I appear vain? Or difficult when I don't want a photograph? Or dramatic when I feel nervous in a situation.

I wish I knew the answers. But I don't.

But what I do know, is that I'm not alone. Body Dysmorphic Disorder affects 1.7% to 2.4% of the general population* and may be even more common than this, as people are reluctant to reveal how they truly feel. Which is why I am. I've always been fairly open with my insecurities since teenage, but it's taken me to this year to finally open up and talk about it.
I want the help. I'm getting the help. But also, I want to help others.
These feelings, they don't go overnight, and it's hard when they become so time-consuming and impact your daily life. And there are times when it's stopped me, and there will be more times when it'll hold me, but I'm working on it. Slowly.

I'm trying to talk when I'm having a bad day, rather than hiding and pretending I'm just tired.
I'm trying to make more time for me. And self care, however big or small.
I'm trying to look less at my reflection, and walk away from my negative thoughts.
I'm trying to accept that this is me, and that nobody is perfect.
And I'm trying to be honest. With myself. And everyone.

And, I'm still ordering all of the ASOS parcels, because new materials definitely help ease those feelings for a short while.
After all, we all need a little pick me up (or three right?).

"you must want to spend the rest of your life with yourself first."

*(taken from www.bdd.iocdf.org) 
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After my first trip to Italy, I was completely sold (because eating all of the pasta OBVS), so when the male booked a surprise trip for his dad’s birthday to Sardinia, I couldn’t wait. Packing up my bikinis and summer dresses excited for a few days in the sunshine, I’ll be honest and say I was a little disappointed when told that actually it wouldn’t be that warm. And winter coats were still needed. 
Sitting on the plane with my trousers and jumpers packed, I was unsure what the long weekend would bring but the moment we drove out of the airport towards the neighbourhood (it took all of 15 minutes), my views changed, and the jumper on my back didn’t quite matter anymore. I was blown away by the blue seas surrounding the island.
Rain and sunshine, Cagliari, and Sardinia as a whole, had so much to offer. The atmosphere was constant, and the restaurants were flowing with locals throughout day to night. It didn’t feel touristy at all, but the views from the winding streets were ones that should be shared more with the world. Hiring a car was definitely up there for us, and travelling around the south coast, just added to our list of why we fell in love with the rugged landscaped island. Have you ever seen such bluer seas? And actually, the cooler temperature meant that stopping at every opportunity on the roadside to explore those beaten track was not impossible. Sweaty humidity mess? Not us over here!


WHERE TO SEE
- Pula: We'd hired a car for the duration, and made our way around the South West coast starting with Pula. For peaceful and mesmerising beaches, Pula is the one. Also, behind the beach are FLAMINGOS!
- Teulada: Drive through the mountains and towards Teulada. Make sure to stop at every opportunity because, you'll be blown away at every sharp turn. Sunglasses on, petrol filled up. Roadtrip a go!
- Calasetta: On our drive, we headed to the island, Sant' Antioco connected to Sardinia. Whilst it was quiet in some areas, Calasetta is absolutely beautiful with trees lining the roads, making for the perfect spot for lunch and a potter.
- Poetto: Close to Cagliari, Poetto has the marina and whilst quiet when we visited, it's where everyone flocks to in Summer. Think delicious gelato whilst losing a few hours listening to the sounds of water hitting the rocks. Absolute bliss.
- Villasimus: Quite possibly my favourite spot from the whole trip. The beaches are something else, like a picture from those magazines, with the coastline being among the most spectacular on the island. Park up, and explore off the beaten track for endless views, and I guarantee you'll fall in love too.


WHERE TO SIP AND SNACK
Su Cumbidu: We’d just arrived, with that post travel hunger, and found this within moments of stepping into the centre of Cagliari.  Resembling a rustic beer cellar with traditional Sardinian food, this was the perfect place for lunch and to fully embrace the Sardinian way of life. Order the Sage & Saffron pasta filled with potatoes. Because OH MY GOSH.
L’oca Bianca: I’ll be honest and say, that upon entering the restaurant, we were a little hesitant. It just didn’t have much appeal, and lacked customers. However within ten minutes of being at our table, the wine was delicious, our wood oven cooked pizzas were nothing short of taste and the locals soon flocked in creating such a vibrant atmosphere. Never judge a book by it’s cover! 
Sa Domu Sarda: Another restaurant we stumbled upon where the atmosphere picked up as the night went on. Rustic furniture with a homely feel and again, dishes to delight. Order the Sardinian dumplings (because potato and cheese filling) and all of the prosecco for the perfect evening meal.
La Perla, Calasetta: We came across this seafood restaurant after driving for a few hours and ending up in the little town of Calasetta. For the small island, there was plenty of life inside. The dishes were fresh, tasty and light and the prosecco? Perfect!


WHERE TO STAY
Villa Fanny: Considering the name (I wonder why the male wanted to book this place?!) this place exceeded expectations. I’m always hesitant of hotels that are in more residential areas but the moment you entered Fanny (no puns intended…), you’re greeted with complete style and elegance in their decor, with attention to detail throughout. The boutique hotel is made of 18 rooms, with stairwells everywhere leading to each beautiful and unique room, along with views overlooking their gardens. Inside are the most welcoming relaxation areas that are perfect for a pre or post tipple, and the staff were nothing but welcoming. We could have easily stayed in the garden room for our whole trip.
You can read my full review of Villa Fanny, here.


Sardinia, you completely blew away my expectations and delivered above and beyond with your scenery and food. And the prosecco? That won't keep me away for long...


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 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?


WHERE TO SEE
- 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.


WHERE TO SIP AND SNACK
- 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!


WHERE TO STAY
- 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?
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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.


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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."

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