Saturday, 30 November 2013

Anxiety Diaries | Trust yourself

I've learned over the past few weeks that even when it feels as if everything is complete chaos, a part of me has it covered underneath the surface. Underneath the panic attacks, the fear of not being able to write or study, the feelings of frustration, the sadness that comes with feeling misjudged, the sadness that comes with uncomfortable change, somehow I've got it covered. My subconscious, my soul, my something has got my back and it will be OK. 

When I couldn't seem to write or study or rest, somehow underneath it all I was picking up what I needed to and soaking in more than I realised at the time. I'm still feeling a little wobbly and I'm finding it frustrating that I can't seem to write what I feel I need to write, but I think that's because I'm processing and reflecting and sifting through things. It doesn't mean I'll never be able to write! It just means I need to take it easy and ease the pressure. 

Whatever you're finding difficult, trust that your soul is doing what it needs to do to make sense of it all. Don't give up!

Baci e abbracci, 

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Friday, 29 November 2013

Life Lesson | Be Accountable

Have you ever had an argument with a friend during which you've swung from anger to sadness, guilt to outrage, confidence to insecurity, back and forth a million and one times? Only for that argument to be swept under the carpet in the hope of avoiding further upset or the discomfort that can arise when having a frank discussion of your feelings and the feelings of those involved? Ever noticed how these arguments tend to rear their ugly head again months or even years down the line, as if out of nowhere? Unspoken feelings tend to fester. 

Being accountable means spending time figuring out what your real feelings are, behind the anger. It means being honest with yourself. Without honesty you can't apologise sincerely. Without honesty you can't be kind. 

Being accountable means accepting and understanding that everything you do stems from the choices you have made. You always have a choice. 

Being accountable means truly apologising for the hurt you have caused through your words and actions. It means owning and apologising for your part to play, regardless of how the argument started.

Being accountable means having, or at least attempting to have, an honest and open conversation with whoever you have argued with, and it means doing this soon after the argument, before it can be brushed aside or shrugged off. 

Being accountable means listening with love. You owe it to yourself and to whoever you have argued with to really listen, without a hidden agenda.  

Being accountable means keeping an open heart and mind, a willingness to appreciate hindsight and alternative perspectives. 

'He/she started it! Why should I be accountable? They haven't!' Because to be accountable is to be at peace. It's not about feeling forced to claim sole responsibility for a situation or 'admitting' things are all your fault, as everyone has their part to play and life is more complex than that. But you can't reach a place of inner peace, understanding and love, or understand and love a friend if you refuse to really dig down deep and get to grips with the emotional roller-coaster you've experienced, and take responsibility for the part you've played.

Acknowledging and articulating your feelings may be frightening and uncomfortable at times but it enables an understanding of why you acted or reacted the way you did. You know the saying 'knowledge is power?' Self knowledge really is self power. When you're willing to try to understand your feelings you're far better able to accept responsibility for your words and behaviours, your moods and emotions. You're no longer at risk of playing the perpetual victim. 

You own your shit. 

You're far better able to listen and listen properly. I know, I know... It isn't always easy to be accountable! I struggle with it and it's difficult when you're wrapped up in what the other people involved have said or done instead of focusing on your own part to play. I find that questioning myself, asking myself how I really feel, leads to a tentative understanding of my true feelings. What is my anger masking? What's really at the heart of the matter for me? 

Once I've started asking questions and demanding answers from myself, there's a far better chance I'll be able to understand myself, explain myself, own my shit and apologise from the heart. There's a far better chance I'll be able to listen properly and understand where other people are coming from. Brushing your feelings or the feelings of others aside constitutes a false apology. You want and need to develop an apology rooted in truth. 

Once you've had that conversation with yourself, you can instigate or participate in a proper conversation with the person or people you've argued with, aiming at really listening to each other and understanding and respecting each other's true feelings. They might refuse to engage, and that's their choice; but even so, through the process of being accountable you will start to feel far more at peace than if you agree to brush a situation aside and hold on to anger out of fear of momentary discomfort. It's better to at least try. 

Don't let things fester. 

Own your shit, be accountable, be at peace. 

Baci e abbracci, 

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Thursday, 21 November 2013

Wedding | Menu tasting

A lot of wedding planning tasks are undeniably fun. I loved trying on wedding dresses, I loved visiting our venue for the first time, and I loved finding our wedding cars. But the wedding menu tasting was without a doubt the most fun Chris and I have had together throughout the wedding planning process. Eating plate after plate of delicious food isn't exactly stressful! It's pretty much the best date ever as you're being waited on hand and foot, a never ending supply of wine and food being brought to your table. Yes please! 

The menu tasting fell slap bang in the middle of a hectic wedding planning/hen do/stag do week and it was most definitely the break we needed to chill out and have some fun. We both want great food at the wedding and getting to try all kinds of different dishes was awesome. Neither of us had been to a tasting before so we weren't quite sure what to expect. It turns out the only rule is to go with an empty stomach because you get given SO MUCH GOOD FOOD! I hadn't eaten all day, which was perfect, and I more than made up for it! 

First up were glasses of Prosecco followed by various different red and white wines. Now, neither of us are exactly wine connoisseurs so we sort of bluffed our way through it but we were eventually able to decide on which wines we liked best! We joked that as we'll be so busy on the wedding day we should treat the tasting like our very own wedding meal, so there was lots of clinking of glasses and toasts between the two of us. It sort of felt like we were celebrating our wedding and marriage together, just the two of us, in secret before celebrating with everyone else on the day itself. 

We tasted six canapes, all of which were incredible, and we ate every last bite of the dishes brought out to us. I brought along my trusty wedding planning notebook to make notes, all of which went along the lines of 'amazing, delicious, fab, to die for'. There wasn't a dud canape to be found! We tasted three main meat courses, plates piled high with lamb, chicken, beef, potatoes, veg, Yorkshire pudding, gravy... There's something super luxurious about having someone constantly bring you plates of fine food! We polished off the lot and again there wasn't anything we really didn't like. We also tasted a vegetarian option which was delicious, and I made sure I tucked into every helping of roast potatoes brought out as HELLO, roast potatoes are insanely tasty.

Next up was pudding, aaaah pudding! The best part of any meal! We tried apple crumble and custard, creme brulee, chocolate brownie and ice cream and once again managed to finish absolutely everything. I've never felt so well fed in my life! The atmosphere at our wedding venue that evening was magical. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and excited for us; it only served to confirm that we've picked the right place and we left feeling even more excited about the big day. With only months to go I was starting to flag and needed something to give me a wedding planning boost! The wedding menu tasting did just that! 

Trusty notebook at the ready

Post dinner cocktails!
As for what we picked... Well, that would be telling! You'll have to wait until January to find out ;)

Baci e abbracci, 
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Monday, 18 November 2013

The hen do | Ladies who limo!

He put a ring on it!
 I feel a little bit sad writing this as my hen do last weekend was absolutely perfect and I can't believe it's all over so soon! It really hit me that the wedding is only two months away and after almost two years of planning it's all about to happen! I've already read up on post-wedding blues to prepare myself for the wedding planning hole in my life I'm bound to feel, haha, I've got lots of goals to crack on with come February to see me through! 

My incredible Maid of Honour (or, rather, Maid of M***** F****** Honour) Alice organised the hen do and it was everything I could have wanted and more. She knows me so well as every aspect of the day and night was perfect! It felt so 'me' and I loved celebrating and having fun with such a wonderful group of girlfriends. I didn't have a clue what we would be doing, everything was kept a surprise and it was so much fun discovering things as they happened on the day! 

Festivities kicked off at 11.30am when Alice and I had our hair and makeup done, and people started arriving at Alice's at around 2pm. She had set up a gorgeous afternoon tea in her dining room complete with homemade sausage rolls, rocky road pieces and heart shapes scones with jam and cream, as well as lots of adorable decorations. We had Prosecco and pomegranate to drink, complete with willy straws of course! Alice also sourced a box of my all time favourite snack, Cheeselets, and there were plenty of sweets on offer too. 

So many homemade sweet treats! All delicious of course! And check out the party bags on the table to the right, so cute!
Ever so slightly embarrassing photos taken by Alice when Chris and I got engaged!
Cute love confetti
After general mingling and picture taking Alice started the party games. I don't think I've laughed so much before in my life! My cheeks actually ached from laughing, it was all so much fun. We played pass the parcel with a twist; for those who didn't find a present hidden in their layer of the parcel, a cheeky shot of cherry liqueur was required. We played 'dress the bride' which was hilarious! Myself and Marie-Claire were the brides and we each had a team of 'designers' making our perfect wedding dresses for us. I was impressed with the attention to detail that both teams showed and it did get quite competitive! Unfortunately my team didn't win, meaning even more shots for us... 

Me and my amazing MOMFH Alice!
Bargain Primark rocks at the ready ;)
Marie-Claire, me, Michaela
Marie-Claire, me, Victoria
My tiara and sash! And my last minute dress and shoes!
Shot time 
Marie-Claire and her sweetheart neckline, traditional ballgown wedding dress!
It was all too much! Getting emotional in my beautiful mermaid fit gown :p
Bride wars!
Ripping off the dress after throwing our bouquets!
We played a game of 'inappropriate' charades... Needless to say a lot of laughter was had by all! 

After the games we made our way outside to have a toast with sparklers which was a really nice touch. Alice gave a little speech and then I blubbed my way through a few words, trying hard to compose myself but losing it completely when thanking Alice for everything she's done as Maid of Honour. She really has been incredible and I couldn't be without her *starts blubbing again*

Raising a toast with sparklers
Trying hard not to cry!
The BIG surprise was the limo that pulled up outside after the toast. I've always wanted to ride in a limo! Haha, we became the definition of tacky hens but in our defense we weren't too rowdy! We did crack open a bottle of bubbly and sing along to Beyonce's Single Ladies on repeat, but you've got to love a cliche once in a while! And it really was awesome, the limo was amazing inside and it felt pretty surreal driving through the neighbourhood in a Hummer limo! We were dropped off at a gorgeous American restaurant in Shoreditch and all of us pretty much stuffed our faces with the best burgers EVER. We played a few rounds of 'never have I ever' while waiting for our food, always an interesting game to play..!

Clearly VERY excited about the limo
With my GPs
Well, a hen do wouldn't be complete without a willy straw!
After dinner we headed to a cocktail bar where we had a few cocktails and a dance. So many of the songs reminded us of being in school, so it was a rather nostalgic blast from the past! Admittedly I usually hate dancing in public but I made an exception as I was wearing a tiara and sash and felt special! Haha, so I joined in and discovered that once you start you sort of don't want to stop... Until your feet start to hurt, stupid shoes! I loved every minute of it, it was such an awesome night. 

Once home Alice came to mine for a cuppa and a chit chat, a fitting end to an awesome day. I refused to take off my tiara until I climbed into bed and immediately put it on again as soon as I woke up the day after, along with my sash! Alice came over in the afternoon and we ordered a well deserved and much needed Domino's for lunch, and a marathon of Say Yes to the Dress and Brides of Beverly Hills topped off the weekend nicely! 

I honestly couldn't have asked for a better hen do, it was absolutely amazing and perfect, and I'm so happy that I got to celebrate with my wonderful friends. Everyone was so enthusiastic and game for a laugh, it was so much fun and hopefully you can tell from the photos that we had a great time! With only two months to go until the wedding a weekend off from wedding planning was just what I needed to unwind and let my hair down.  

Thank you so much Alice! #MOMFH 

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Sunday, 17 November 2013

Sunday Gratitude | November 17th 2013

Happy Sunday everyone! Once again I've fallen behind on the blogging schedule (oops!) BUT this week has been full of nice things so I'm trying not to be too annoyed at myself. Here's this week's Sunday Gratitude list!

I'm grateful for popcorn and chocolate

Chris has had the week off work so we've had lots of time to hang out and plan wedding things, as well as laze around! We started a new movie night routine this week involving blankets, DVDs and a big bowl of popcorn mixed with all kinds of chocolate treats. Not the healthiest snack in the world but soooo tasty and as I'm such a homebody it's been really nice snuggling up inside from the cold with snacks galore and movies on tap. 

I'm grateful for celebrations with friends

Last night was my friend Michaela's engagement party, which was so much fun! Michaela and her fiance Josh are such nice people and make a perfect couple, I'm so happy for them! Lots of dancing, eating amazing food and catching up with friends. I'm so excited for their wedding! Last weekend was also full of celebration as it was my hen do! I'm planning a post all about it, aaah it was the BEST day and I had such a great time celebrating with my friends and getting excited about the wedding. Only two months to go!!

I'm grateful for a successful spending ban

What could be fun about a spending ban? Especially a ban borne from necessity rather than choice... For the past three or four weeks all my pennies have gone on bills and bills only, but I actually haven't missed buying things, which is quite a big deal for me as I often use shopping as a way to hide from anxiety. In the summer I wasn't able to go inside a Superdrug without buying a heap of makeup, whereas now I can browse and not feel such a tug towards anything. I had a little bit of money to buy some hen do bits and bobs but only felt the need to buy one lipstick and one lipstick only! I tested a million makeup items but just didn't feel an urge to purchase anything, and it felt amazing! I'm sure a time will come when I want to spend spend spend instead of dealing with anxious moments but at the moment I feel like I'm doing really well at working through CBT exercises instead of distracting myself in unhealthy ways. 

I'm grateful for November walks

On Friday Chris and I went for an afternoon walk (got to burn off all that popcorn and chocolate!) and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. Clear blue skies and a crisp Autumn chill in the air. I love this time of year when the weather is clear and everything feels so fresh. Getting outside and stepping away from my laptop always makes me feel a hundred times more motivated and mentally refreshed, and it gave me a nice early weekend boost. 

I'm grateful for hot bubble baths 

There's surely nothing better than soaking in a bath full of bubbles after a long day, especially when your feet are killing you due to evil ill fitting Primark shoes! I much prefer baths to showers as you can bring in a stack of magazines or a good book, a nice cup of tea and lots of pampering products. I've been using a brilliant Elemis body scrub perfect for perking up winter skin, and a scrummy smelling Dove bath soak. Bliss!

Until next weekend!

Baci e abbracci, 

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Love, Health, Purpose

I am a stress head. I find molehills and turn them into mountains. I pick, pick, pick at teeny tiny issues until they're suddenly 'The Most Pressing Issues Ever' and I'm tearing my hair out with worry. I am the queen of catastrophe! However, I also have moments of recognition, of realising that I'm actually blessed to be able to worry about such small things when there are far worse circumstances I could find myself in. My life is filled with good things. 

I'm healthy, my family and friends are healthy, and I am loved. I do not want for food or shelter, I am fortunate to have an education and I have gifts and talents I am fortunate enough to be able to cultivate and share. I realised just how blessed my life has been so far when my soon to be father in law was rushed to hospital a month or so ago. My fiance and I caught the bus into central London at 12.30am that night, walking part of the way and saying silent prayers. When someone you love is sick, every other worry pales in comparison. Material concerns suddenly seem wickedly indulgent. Love and health become everything. 

My father in law has made a full recovery, thankfully, and the relief felt when his good diagnosis was given was incredible. I do believe love is tangible; the energy in that small hospital room was strong, and although the result of difficult circumstances I'm sure we all gained a lot from spending so much time together that week. Before we knew what was wrong I spent some time meditating with my tarot cards, wondering if I should do a reading and if I was able to accept whatever might show if I did. I felt a huge responsibility all of a sudden; reading tarot is no joke! When I read for someone I'm taking their situation and holding it gently in my hands while being trusted with the task of aiding clarity and understanding. Tarot has the amazing ability to heal, and to read tarot for someone is always a healing experience in some way. 

I did go ahead and conduct a reading and it was the right decision as everything suggested by the cards unfolded and reaffirmed to me that I'm on the right path. The cards taught me in that moment to trust in myself, to share love with my loved ones and to appreciate the incredible blessings I have in my life. I've felt quite low and despondent recently, yet when I think back to my father in law being in hospital all I wanted for was good health and love. How easy it is to forget that so quickly! I have three incredible gifts in my life right now: love, health and a recognition of my purpose. With health, love and purpose anyone can achieve wonderful, spectacular things. Incredible things! 

I urge you to take a moment to stop, look around and count your blessings. It isn't always easy, by any means. Hello, I'm the queen of the catastrophe! Force yourself to do it. Be strict with yourself, discipline yourself, write a list if you have to. Commit pen to paper and commit to remembering your blessings. I promise your mood will begin to lift and your strength will grow. Great things will happen! Not least a deeply felt sense of gratitude for the good things in life, both big and small. 

Baci e abbracci, 

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Thursday, 7 November 2013

Tarot | Here comes the sun

As the weather turns colder I increasingly find myself playing a game of 'chasing the sun' whenever I'm outside. If it's particularly chilly in the morning I make sure I walk on the side of the road where the sun is hitting, so I can soak up the few rays available! It's amazing how even a tiny amount of sun on a cold winter's day can make a difference; immediately I notice a slight tingling on my cheeks and frozen hands, a little bit of warmth combating the cold wind. 

While generally I'm an autumn/winter kind of gal I sure do miss the sun once the clocks change in late October. I find it quite hard to motivate myself to do anything other than hibernate when it starts getting dark at 4pm, and it often feels as if the day is over before it's even begun. We can feel a little lost without the bright sun guiding our way and bathing us in warmth, and by December my soul is itching for lighter evenings and brighter day times. 

The Sun in tarot is a card of warmth, of growth, of energy and of joy. It is a 'happiness' card, a card of illumination and clarity. The sunflowers burst forth and reach out to the sun, and likewise we spend hours during winter slowly growing roots and shoots and buds before bursting forth come Spring time. We might not always feel the sun's presence or guidance, but we can hold on to the rays felt in warmer months and draw upon them during the colder months.

Sometimes it can feels as if we lack guidance and warmth, struggling through what can seem like an endless winter without anything to light our way or nourish us. Yet eventually the sun rises higher and sets later, and we no longer have to play so many games of 'chasing the sun'. Suddenly the sun is everywhere! 

Keep the sun in mind during your winters, and trust that he will always return. 

Baci e abbracci, 

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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Afternoon tea at the Athenaeum Mayfair

I love everything about afternoon tea! If only I could be a lady of leisure and take afternoon tea in a 5* hotel every day... Alas, I will have to make do with formal afternoon tea on special occasions! When our good friend Michaela got engaged recently, Victoria suggested we celebrate by treating ourselves to afternoon tea, to which we all replied with a resounding YES! On Sunday Michaela, Victoria, Marie-Claire and I met for tea at the Athenaeum hotel in Mayfair and much fun was had by all! 

The GPs! L-R: Marie-Claire, Victoria, Me, Michaela

The hotel itself is lovely both inside and out, and the afternoon tea room was particularly resplendent in appearance. Soft plush chairs and carpets in reds and creams, we had a lovely big section to ourselves, perfect for a much needed catch-up and general GP fun (more on that later!) 
Top L-R: Victoria, Michaela, Marie-Claire; cake stand!; Holding the amazing tea menu; Victoria looking gorgeous 

Top L-R: Marie-Claire sipping her fruity tea; Michaela's special congratulations cake!; Victoria holding the much coveted tea menu; Michaela showing off her special cake (and beautiful engagement ring!)

Top L-R: Spotlight on delicious hot chocolate and my Jasmine Green Tea; the GPs (that's us!); the GPs again; random naked lady in the lobby

I need to get my hands on a tea menu like that for home. It's basically a tea book! Loved it. The selection was extensive, making it quite difficult to make a decision but I finally decided to try the Jasmine Green Tea as I'm a green tea obsessive at the moment. I have to admit, it wasn't quite what I was expecting, in that it tasted kinda like sipping on a bunch of flowers... Which I should have realised, because, duh, it's jasmine flavoured tea. Anyhoo, it was still tasty, just a little too strong once on the third cup! 

Victoria also went for the Jasmine Green Tea, while Marie-Claire had a fruity berry concoction and Michaela opted for a hot chocolate. Coffee was also available for coffee drinkers! We were presented with various sandwiches and sweet treats, including a cream cheese and cucumber sandwich (tradition at its finest!), a ham and pickle sandwich and the humble yet popular egg sandwich. A little selection of chocolate covered strawberries, cheesecake chunks,champagne jellies and fruit tarts were also included on the cake stand, all of which needless to say got munched sharpish. As soon as you empty a section of the cake stand it's immediately restocked, meaning you can be as gluttonous as you like without feeling like a greedy guts! 

After the sandwiches we had a selection of warm scones with clotted cream and runny jam, which were sooooo good. After we'd polished those off a waiter walked by with a cake trolley and we each had a slice of cake. I went for the banana cake which was delicious, although I was feeling really full by this stage! Michaela was presented with a special engagement celebration cake which caused all of us to squeal loudly before diving for our phones to snap some pictures, clearly a sign of our times! Everything tasted amazing and the tea was lovely, well worth the £29.50 per person price tag. You really can stuff your face and keep on going until your time slot expires! We were there from 12.30-3pm (there are three slots throughout the day, we picked the 12.30 slot) which gave us plenty of time to chit chat. 

I've known the GPs well for almost seven years now after the four of us bonded during a school trip to Italy in Sixth Form. We had the BEST time abroad and basically didn't get much sleep as we couldn't stop talking the. whole. time. What does GP stand for?! Erm, well, none of us are qualified doctors so it doesn't allude to a profession! I'm afraid that's a secret I'll have to take to the grave, but I can say we each have a special GP nickname. While I can't divulge our secrets at risk of being excommunicated, I can tell you a little about each GP!

After out Italian trip, Marie-Claire and I ended up taking gap years before heading off to uni, and we both worked as Learning Support Assistants at our secondary school for a year. We had a blast planning and delivering extra curricular activities such as a Friendship Workshop and Creative Club, during which we showed a bunch of Year 7s an extensive clip from The Others during 'scary story week'... Only to end up screaming in the corner while the Year 7s looked on, perplexed. We spent a lot of time making resources for our students and generally trying to make classwork more accessible for them. Marie-Claire's out going nature and confidence gave me a huge boost, especially during times when I just wanted the ground swallow me up due to feeling insecure and really, really shy. Not with the students, but with the staff who just a year previously had been our teachers. I think Marie-Claire handled the transition better than I did! She always made projects so much fun and has a wicked sense of humour, meaning she was awesome to work with! Marie-Claire is also really proactive and is constantly planning things and grabbing opportunities, which I really admire. We both cried bucket loads when the last day of the summer term arrived, as it was off to uni and time to enter the 'real world' away from school and everything that felt familiar. I am so proud of M-C, who graduated with flying colours and has worked her ass off building a career in the media industry as a writer. She began a new job recently and I have no doubt she'll have her own column and book release before we know it! 

I ended up back at our old school in the role of Learning Support Assistant no later than a year after I left, and this time Michaela joined the team after graduating from uni. It's a great pit stop for gaining all sorts of work experience and once again I had a blast working alongside one of my friends. Michaela and I shared the same drive when it came to speaking up for the needs of the students we worked with, giving them a voice and making sure they were heard, even if it didn't always go down too well with those higher up... I'm sure that drive to help others is what led to our current career choices. Michaela is training to be a psychotherapist working with children and young people, and I have no doubt she will be absolutely amazing at it. We didn't just bond at work, though, as we're both interested in all things spiritual and while I read tarot Michaela reads runes! We both love spiritual events and I went to a Treadwell's Open Circle with Michaela which was so interesting and insightful. Michaela is the friend I turn to for all things spiritual but also for lots of relationship things, especially now that we're both wedding planning!!! Something I really admire about Michaela is how she won't back down if something she believes in is being attacked or ignored. We worked with some very vulnerable students, and their situations often left us feeling quite emotional and isolated. If those above us refused to acknowledge the extent of a situation, if they chose to slip into 'cheerful denial' mode, Michaela wouldn't let them get away with it, something we both felt strongly about. She would always fight for her students and that's a trait I'm sure she carries through to fighting for her family and friends too. 

Victoria went to primary school with Chris and now they work for the same company in the same office block! It's so funny how your connection with someone can weave in and out throughout life. After the Italy trip I continued to get to know Victoria in our Classics class (with Marie-Claire too!) and as she dated one of Chris's friends for a while we had a double date or two which gave us even more time to hang out. While we haven't worked together we've still managed to find plenty of bonding time! Haha, only one GP who hasn't worked at our secondary school, come on Victoria, it's never too late! ;) Victoria is super kind and caring, and has been there for me through some really difficult times over the past year or so without judgement. I know I can share health related concerns with her and she'll listen without telling me what to do, which is something I really value. I love our dinner dates, complete with a good bottle of wine and plenty of chit chat. Victoria is so assertive and is always willing to argue her case and have a good old debate.  She has a wide repertoire of random facts which always seem to come in handy!  I love her kindhearted streak and her focus on family, and she's a friend you can really rely on for support. If an event is organised, she'll always make the effort to attend, or better yet she'll plan something herself like our afternoon tea! I'd like to wish Victoria the best of luck this week as she's just started a new job. I have no doubt she'll settle in straightaway as she's so approachable and friendly. 

I'm so grateful for the friendships we share as the GPs and I know that we'll be friends for years to come, no matter how our lives may change or how our paths may differ. The plan is to have babies at the same time though, so hopefully we can share parenthood experiences ;) Thanks girls for such a nice Sunday afternoon, and thanks Victoria for organising such a special day out. And of course, CONGRATULATIONS to Michaela and Josh on their engagement!!! We spent a good chunk of time swooning over her amazing engagement story while sipping our tea. So romantic!

GP memories! Top L-R: Celebrating my engagement with dinner; Marie-Claire and I hugging it out!; Striking a pose with Michaela; GP dinner!

Shenanigans! Not sure what exactly is going on here!; Posing at a summer BBQ at mine a few years ago

Then and now!

Baci e abbracci, 
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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Beauty | Hask Keratin Protein Smoothing Deep Conditioner*

Of course, as soon as I said I might scale back on beauty product reviews I've suddenly got the beauty bug again and have a stack of products from the past few months that I'm itching to write about! First up is Hask Hair's new Keratin Protein Smoothing Deep Conditioner*, part of their new Keratin Protein collection. The guys at Hask very kindly sent me a bumper goody pack of products and I couldn't wait to try this out, especially as my hair has been suffering from a serious case of dry ends recently. I'm too broke to afford a hair cut just yet so a nourishing treatment is the next best thing!

In my quest to get wedding worthy locks by January (eek, so soon!) I'm determined to use a mask at least once a week. Hask's Keratin mask comes in a very generous sachet and there's more than enough product in there to last three or four sessions. The first thing I noticed upon opening the packet is the delicious sweet scent! It smells so scrummy, as do the matching shampoo, conditioner and hair oil, and the smell alone makes it a pleasure to use. 

Perfect for a spot of pampering, I decided to make an evening of it and apply a face mask along with Hask's hair mask for some ultimate me-time. Nothing beats a long soak in the tub to alleviate wedding planning stress! The texture of the Keratin Protein mask is thick and creamy yet rinses out easily after the recommended ten minutes. I applied a generous blob to the ends of my hair in particular and then soaked in the tub with a stack of glossy magazines and a cup of tea. Ah, the life of a beauty blogger! Having rinsed it out I noticed my hair immediately felt softer and was easier to comb through while damp. I tend to let my hair dry naturally and the ends of my hair felt and looked a lot less frizzy and parched once dry. Exactly what I was hoping for! 

For only a couple of quid in Primark you can't go wrong with Hask's Keratin Protein Smoothing Deep Conditioner, and the matching shampoo, conditioner and hair oil are also really worth picking up. While no product is going to eliminate split ends and restore moisture permanently, Hask's products do a great job of tiding me over until my next hair appointment, making my hair look fab in the process. Woohoo! 

Baci e abbracci, 
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*Product kindly sent for review, all views are my own 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Sunday Gratitude | November 3rd 2013

After having such a wonderful weekend I thought it would be nice to begin a new series on the Bluebird & the Robin, focusing on all the good things in life that I've been grateful for over the past seven days. They say that gratitude leads to contentment and happiness, so welcome to my new Sunday Gratitude feature!

While I haven't felt totally on top of the world this week there have been many moments for which I've been grateful, and choosing to focus on the good things has really helped me feel a whole lot better. Here's my roundup of this week's highlights!

I'm grateful for my Mum who has contributed so much to the wedding planning

My Mum has been brilliant this past week when it came to rearranging the wedding flower plans and stepping in to help us afford the necessary changes. She attended a flower meeting with me and helped clarify some flower related jargon that I wasn't too sure of! Without her help and generosity I'm not sure our wedding would be anywhere near as special as it's shaping up to be. 

I'm grateful for Chris's amazing bed making skills (!)

Chris's bed making technique brings a whole new meaning to tucked in! It's been so cold these past few nights that he's started making a duvet/multiple blankets nest so that our feet are never in danger of getting cold during the night! He's so good that we joked he should go and work in a hotel as he has such a knack for making beds! I just know that when we have kids they'll be asking for their Dad to tuck them in at night as my efforts don't even come close. 

I'm grateful for having the opportunity to study a subject I'm interested in

While uni can be very stressful it helps to remind myself how fortunate I am in being able to spend so much time studying a subject I love. This week I fell behind (again!) but tomorrow is a fresh start and I'm going to try to enjoy my work even when it gets hectic! Bring on Willy Shakespeare's Richard II!

I'm grateful for the free Elemis skin care set I received in the post!

There's nothing like a surprise gift to make you smile! The kind people over at Elemis sent me a little Christmas gift set that arrived at the perfect time as my skin has gone a little crazy this weekend. I can't wait to have a play with my new products!

I'm grateful for the beautiful fireworks display I attended 

It's something of a tradition to attend the annual fireworks display at Ally Pally, and after a few year's break (boo!)  the fireworks were back! It felt so nice to make our way there surrounded by so many other people all looking forward to the display. That sense of community is so uplifting! The fireworks were beautiful and it felt like a lovely way to mark winter's fast approach. Plus I got to take my new coat on it's first outing!

I'm grateful for my amazing friends and the delicious afternoon tea we shared today

Spending time with friends is a guaranteed mood lifter and Michaela, Marie-Claire, Victoria and I had so much fun this afternoon at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair, in celebration of Michaela's engagement! We well and truly stuffed our faces with sandwiches, scones and cakes, and of course lots of cups of tea and hot chocolate. It was so nice to catch up and have a good gossip in such a beautiful setting! Plenty of photos were taken, obviously, including ones in the ladies toilets because the toilets were kinda awesome, haha. Look out for a blog post soon!

There you have it, six things I'm grateful for this past week. I chose to write up six as it's a nice even number, ha, but I'm sure I could ramble on for longer! It's amazing how addictive it becomes hunting out moments of gratitude. Have a go yourself and feel free to share, the more positivity the better! 

Wishing everyone a great week ahead, 

Baci e abbracci, 

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The coat condundrum

There's no doubt that we tend to use the things we buy to create a sense of who we are. Everyone has their own sense of style, whether distinctive and stand out or something more subtle. Upon turning 25 in October I came to the somewhat troubled conclusion that I'm not sure what 'I' look like. Does what I wear say something about me, and should I be giving off a different vibe now that I'm 25 and feeling kinda old? How can I be a 'proper' 25 year old while living at home and being currently without a job? Do my clothes scream 'forever teen'?!

Quarter life crisis alert! Everything came to a head during my recent quest for a winter coat.  While looking for coats online and in various shops I began to panic. I'd be wearing this coat every day, pretty much. What would it say about me? Would it say something about me? Should it say something about me? I found myself slap bang in the middle of a new coat conundrum! 

I suddenly felt acutely aware of being 25, five years away from 30, unemployed, still working towards my degree and still living at home. I'm getting married but my husband and I won't be able to move out straight away, and suddenly this worried me. Was I going to be stuck like this forever? At 25 surely I should be conquering the world, or at least holding down a job and earning money to move out, take driving lessons, have nice holidays, think about starting a family within the next few years. I felt all of a sudden nowhere near doing any of these things, and it was as if each one of my anxieties and fears manifested itself in every coat I came across. Coat after coat rejected one after the other, until I'd made my way through all sorts of styles: classic pea coats, trendy long line biker jackets, cropped faux leather coats, soft belted puffer jackets, blazers, casual khaki coats. Nothing seemed to fit. Nothing looked right. Nothing felt right. 

The thought of my limited budget wasn't helping. It's silly but a part of me associated my still living at home and not having much (read: any) money with being immature, which is ridiculous because I don't think that about other people. Throughout school I imagined I'd be in an amazing career by now, living in a beautiful house with my husband and four children (erm, reality check for 12 year old me, please!) Leaving sixth form with straight A's and a strong work ethic I didn't think I'd ever be 25 and unemployed, living at home in my same old childhood bedroom. This coat needed to represent me in an 'adult' sense, in a secure, successful light. I wanted to look professional, together, older. I wanted this coat to eradicate my fears!

The thing is, a coat can't really do that, can it? My thoughts, however, can. I was obsessing over how I felt I should be and not paying any attention to what I'd actually like to wear, right now at this moment in time. Who says I have to choose something my friends might pick, or something distinctly 'professional' looking? Surely it's better to wear something you think suits you, something you find comfortable and something you enjoy rocking every day? And surely it's better to get a handle on those negative thoughts and practice some CBT magic to boost your self esteem and remind yourself of all the things you have achieved, whatever age you are? Just because I'm unemployed at the moment and living at home at the moment doesn't mean I'm still a child. It doesn't mean this is my life for the rest of my life.  I'm a woman, and I don't need to keep doubting myself and questioning everything. I'm on the right path and things will pick up. Only I can make that happen! I am empowered and I am strong. 

With this in mind, I stumbled upon the perfect coat for me. It isn't expensive, it isn't particularly 'trendy', or 'smart' or 'casual' or 'old' or 'young'. It has a detachable hood which I immediately took off because it felt a little too young... But hey, it could come in handy when it's raining/snowing! It's just a coat that I happen to really like. My clothing choices might make suggestions about who I am, but I'd rather not spend too much time fixating on it, as who I am comes from the inside. I'm letting go of worrying about fashion and having fun with it instead, rather than wearing it as a mask and hoping for it to 'create' me. Maybe I'll go for something completely different next winter; that's OK. It sounds silly, but it's worth saying: my coat doesn't define me!

My coat! £25, Primark
Baci e abbracci, 
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Friday, 1 November 2013

Turn that frown upside down!

Today I've decided to shake off the beginnings of a pity party and get my ass into gear. It's time to blog something positive and fun! I've had a think about the things that help me get out of a bad mood funk, and luckily for you dear reader (assuming I still have any left?!) I'm willing to share my 'turn that frown upside down' know how. Some tips are ridiculous but that's exactly what makes them funny and uplifting... hopefully! So, having a bad time of it lately? Read on!

Treat yourself to a movie date

 I'm talking me on my sofa, wrapped in blankets, chocolate to hand and a cup of tea within easy reach, a stack of DVDs piled high and ready to go. If I'm really pushing the boat out I don one of those uber attractive blanket-with-sleeves thingys. Ultimate snuggle-age! For me, it has to be a juicy horror film, the bloodier and messier the better. I'm particularly fond of old school horrors like the original Friday the Thirteenth and Candy Man. Scary enough to make me jump a little but with seriously outdated graphics and special effects to prevent total terror, these are the ultimate relaxation tool for me. Which might sound a little strange, but I find it all very cathartic! I don't have time to stress about life's worries when I'm knee deep in blood and guts, shouting at Kevin Bacon to look under the bed and pleading with Virginia Madsen NOT to climb through the hidden opening in her bathroom wall. 

I also enjoy a good marathon of TLC's finest shows, including Beverly Hills Bridal, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Long Island Medium. I can lust after expensive wedding gowns and then cry watching Theresa Caputo's psychic readings all in one afternoon; I purposefully record every episode so I can binge now and again! Total relaxation. 

Shake it

When all else fails, turn up the volume and let loose. Dance like nobody's watching and have an absolute ball! My current favourite anxiety busting albums include Daft Punk's latest offering, particularly 'Lose Yourself to Dance' which features the dreamy vocals of Pharrell Williams. When I say let loose, I really mean let loose. I hate dancing in public but oh how I love dancing in the comfort of my own home! I sort of end up combining dance with a little gymnastics and aerobics (not something I'd ever want recorded!) and there's a lot of jumping, hair swishing and arm waving involved. Embarrassing, yes. Liberating? Absolutely! Shake it off, literally shake off your anxiety and worries, and get your heart pumping. Your mind and your body will thank you for it!

Pamper, pamper, pamper

Even on my meager budget I'm able to devise a little pampering routine for when times get rough. Face mask, toning spritz, deep conditioning hair mask and a nice body butter and I'm all set for some serious me-time. Grab a stack of magazines, run a hot bubble bath and you're good to go. There's something to be said for taking the time to care for yourself physically in order for your heart and soul to heal. Even if you're feeling super lazy and reluctant to do anything, I promise a spot of gentle pampering will help lift your spirits. 

'Me and the rest of my heathens'

The Nelly fans among you may recognise this lyric from 'Hot in Herre', the greatest Nelly song of all time. My fiance and I have discovered the perfect way to brush away wedding planning woes, and it involves one of us whispering any number of ridiculous lines from Hot In Herre, our current favourites being 'I was like, good gracious, ass is bodacious' and 'I'm leaving, please believe in, me and the rest of my heathens' before launching into singing. Why this particular song? For some reason it makes us collapse with laughter every time, and before we know it we've launched into a full blown rendition of the whole song, backing vocals and all. Pick a song, preferably one with ridiculous lyrics, and make it your 'happy song'. Don't be afraid to throw in some crazy dancing too!

Mix it up

 A change is as good as a rest, so the saying goes! Today I decided to have a rummage through my jewellery box with the intention of changing up my look, small a change as it is. Wearing a different pair of earrings to my usual pearl studs gave me a little boost, and made me realise I don't have to spend heaps of money on new clothes and what not to feel 'revived'. Mixing it up doesn't just apply to material things, though. Try taking a different route to work, or go for an autumnal walk over the weekend. See new things, bump in to new people and generally switch things up a little. It's amazing what a small change of scenery can do for a stagnant mood. 

Pictures, please 

While I haven't felt like blogging all that much lately I have been finding it easy to snap photos here and there. Instagram is my best friend at the moment! Quick, easy, satisfying and a nice way to take a peek at what friends and bloggers have been up to, I love having a browse and I enjoy finding reasons to snap a picture, even if it is just of my latest favourite lippie or a cheeky selfie. Why not?! You could even set yourself little Instagram challenges, such as recording 'a day in the life' or taking part in the #supergorgeousnov challenge. Having little tasks like this is really keeping me going at the moment and it's nice to stay connected when blogging has seemed like too much to handle. Plus, who doesn't enjoy looking through photographs? Making memories, baby! Here's a selection of my latest snaps!

Yup, there's the obligatory life affirming quote, engagement ring snap and selfie ;)

The history test

Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory got it right in last night's episode when trying to reassure Penny that Leonard was most definitely missing her while away/wasn't going to cheat on her with a randomer: 'In 100 years you'll both be dead and it won't matter anymore'. A little nudge of humour always helps lift the mood! Is what you're worrying about going to matter in a year? In five years? In a decade? In half a century? Is it an episode worthy of a chapter in your future biography, penned and published a hundred years after your death? No? Then try your best to shake it off and coax a smile, as living a life filled with joy is far more fun (and healthier) then one plagued with permanent worry. 

There you have it guys. My rather eclectic range of things I like to do to lift my mood and give me a boost when I'm feeling blue. I'd love to hear your tips and tricks for coaxing a smile, so please do share! Before I end I'd like to say a huge thank you to Mrs. ShuGar over at ShuGar Love blog whose kind words brought me immense comfort and relief yesterday. It's OK to admit that you're going through a tough time and perhaps the best tip I can give for turning that frown upside down is to share how you're feeling and reach out for support. 

Baci e abbracci, 
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