Saturday, 31 December 2016

See Ya Later, 2016

Hello hello to the probably very few who get round to reading this! I hope you had a lovely Christmas wherever you are in the world. It's New Year's Eve today, and I am currently sitting on my bed at home in Oxfordshire, with Johnny English on in the background. For the first time since I was probably about 15 or 16, my NYE plans are to stay at home with my family and my boyfriend, make plenty of cocktails, eat lots of food (my mum goes all out every year) and ring in 2017.

I've read a couple of these types of posts today and it's inspired me to get back off my bum and my blog-related break and write again so here goes. I'll admit I've been a bit off over Christmas - I didn't do as many Blogmas posts as I'd have liked, which was partly due to stress over a new job and the run up to Christmas, and partly mental health related. I've even spent most of today feeling rubbish and pretty low. However, a talk with mother hen has perked me up and feeling much more positive about the year ahead! 2016 had plenty of ups and downs and I'm determined to make 2017 my year.

Life: I've been fortunate this year to have had some really amazing experiences. I've travelled to a new continent, seen in fireworks overlooking all of London, been part of the opening ceremony at the Paralympic Games in Rio, been to festivals, drank plenty of cocktails with my best friends, renewed friendships and made some new ones. However it's not been without the lows - family have been in and out of hospital, I've been unemployed for around half of the year, and I've struggled a lot with my mental illness. It's a been a year where I've almost kind of 'woken up' if you will - since finishing my course of CBT at the start of the year, I've felt like a different person yet like my old self who I've not seen for years - it makes NO sense I know, but basically I feel like the person I've wanted to be for a long time: calmer, happier and healthier. I've still got a long way to go, but I'm feeling quite positive and focused to kick my mental illness up the arse next year and not let it control me.

Friendships: It's been an interesting year for friendships too. This time last year I was celebrating with a fair few people who had actually really hurt and upset me, and some of which then hurt and upset me as a result of the New Year celebrations! Now, I feel stronger in myself to let go of those who really just make me feel miserable, guilty or bad about myself in favour of those who genuinely make me laugh til I cry, who will always understand a good vent, and who will always be there for me. I'm so happy to have renewed some friendships I was worried I was losing, and have even made a closer friend out of one I once thought relied on a mutual connection to keep going. It's made me realise how important friendships are, particularly when things are hard and life is being a bit of a knob.

Love: One thing that's been constant in my life is my boyfriend, Paddy. Next year we'll be celebrating our 5 year anniversary and have already booked a trip for it. I'm so bloomin' proud of us and our ability to get through whatever life throws at us - given it seems to like throwing pretty much everything at us. He's my best friend in the entire world and tonight is our third NYE together. We travelled the world this year and next year will be no different I'm sure. He makes me one very happy gal :)

Work: I started 2016 unemployed and struggling to find motivation to keep looking for jobs, as I felt like I'd tried so hard and nothing was happening. I was lucky enough to get a job that I stayed at for a few months that got me some money, but in the end, balancing it with my Masters was not doing any favours for my mental health; I am now happy to say I have a new job, one I'm happy with and interested to see how the next year will go. I think it's going to open up some new opportunities that could be exciting and give me some new skills to develop, but my challenge will be managing my mental health at work!

Travel: It's been a good one for travel. Paddy and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary in Milan, Italy - somewhere neither of us had been to - and were able to sneak in a trip to the BEAUTIFUL Lake Como, a place I'd always wanted to go to. I've been able to explore more of the UK too, with a long awaited trip to Brighton (I fell in love), another to Windsor Castle - one of the most famous landmarks in the country, and yes, I'd never been - walks around the gorgeous Epping Forest in Essex, and a magical Christmas trip to Edinburgh. Perhaps the biggest trip of all was our holiday to Brazil in the summer, which still hasn't sunk in. Strolling around São Paulo, visiting the mesmerising Iguassu Falls, and taking in everything Rio de Janeiro has to offer - I cannot understand how I managed to end up there, but I'm so bloomin' happy and thankful I got to go!

2017: The next year is going to be challenging, but also very exciting. We already have a trip lined up for next year, and I'm currently planning more trips for a big holiday with Paddy, a girls' holiday with my best friends, and possibly even a little Valentine's break away. I love travel, and I'll be making sure I fit it in next year. I'm fortunate to have a job set for all of next year, and I'll finish my Master's degree in September which I am so excited about! I'm going to make it a year of really looking after myself and what's important to me; so a focus on my health (both mental and physical) and happiness are coming first for a change.

Hope you have a wonderful night tonight (or if you've already celebrated, congratulations!) whatever you're doing! Happy New Year :)

M x
Monday, 12 December 2016

Christmas in London - Blogmas Day 12

If you've never experienced London at Christmas, you are missing out. It is one of the most magical places you can be in the festive period, for 3 reasons:

1. There are lights EVERYWHERE
2. There's a lot of Christmassy events going on, i.e. Winter Wonderland
3. You can't go down a single street without seeing a Christmas tree

It's one of my favourite places to visit, and luckily I'm the position that I can go quite regularly. Over the past few weeks, I've been visiting on and off, and I've taken photos of all the lovely places I've seen and visited - hopefully it'll get you into the spirit and maybe even inspire a Christmas trip? You never know ;) here are my favourite places to visit in London during the Christmassy season:

Soho - Oxford Street, Regent Street, Carnaby Street
The turning on of the Oxford & Regent St Christmas lights is one of the big events that mark the festive period. Both streets are flooded with the most beautiful lights, and it's one of the most photographed areas in the capital at Christmas. Make sure you go see!

Knightsbridge/Sloane Square
I make the effort to go to Harrods and Sloane Square every Christmas, because it is just beautiful there. Harrods itself is completely covered in lights, has the most gorgeous Christmas trees inside and the food hall has the cuuuutest treats! Sloane Square has amazing decorations flooding the square, and if you can make it to Chelsea Market on the Saturday morning, you're in luck, because they have the yummiest food.

Spitalfields Market
This is a really great place to get Christmas presents! Located around Old Street and Liverpool Street, Spitalfields is a cool area filled with tons of stores, from designer and chain to individual boutiques and stalls in the market itself. You'll be able to find gifts you can't get anywhere else, and at Christmas, it's all decorated out!

Covent Garden
It's a must-do to go to Covent Garden because of the beauuutiful decorations in the market, as well as the unmissable huuuuuge Christmas tree in the middle of the square. You can often find live music and carollers around here too which will help you feel all Christmassy, as well as the amazing range of places to eat and shop.

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park
A favourite for tourists and locals alike, Winter Wonderland is probably London's biggest attraction come November/December. I've been a few times before and really enjoyed it - there's a ton of stalls selling all sorts of gifts, as well as a German market with loads to eat and drink, and of course the huge, bright rides that you can see for miles. It's free to enter but some attractions inside can be quite pricey for what they are!

Southbank Christmas Market
Situated on the South Bank of the Thames, right next to the London Eye, Southbank market is full of stalls with books, food, name it. It's a lot smaller than some of the other markets, but given the view across the water towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, it's worth a visit.

Where are your favourite places to visit in London?

M x

The 12 Backgrounds of Christmas - Blogmas Day 11

One thing I like to do at this time of year is put a festive background on my phone, and I've recently found quite a few that I LOVE. I always have a look on Pinterest for these, so all the images below are taken from there - I really really like these, and they always make me smile! It's just a simple way to help get you in the festive mood, and completely free! I like to switch it up between colourful and bright images, song quotes and sparkles; you'll definitely be able to find something you like! These are the ones I've been loving:

Do you have any favourites?

M x

Christmas in Brighton - Blogmas Day 10

Last weekend, Paddy took me for a surprise day away to Brighton as part of my Christmas present from him. He'd bought me tickets to see one of our favourite singers, Joshua Radin (who I recommend to anyone) in one of my favourite places!

We got the train down from London and I got myself a bagel from the infamous Bagelman store at Brighton Station. I really do understand the hype about this place as it's well priced, tastes good, and there's loads of different flavours and fillings on offer. I went for a standard salmon and cream cheese and it was gooood.

We wandered down North Laine first; everything was so Christmassy and they had all the lights up! It was so lovely and festive, and it felt so cosy! We had a look in a couple of the vintage stores and if I'd had more time and money, I genuinely would've bought quite a few things in them. Then we ventured down into town a bit more, where there were even more beautiful lights, some really similar to those in Carnaby Street in London. It was so magical, and made the place even cosier than I think it already is! We couldn't not stop at the Lanes, especially as we'd heard they're even nicer at Christmas time, and we heard right! There were twinkly lights everywhere, and all the window displays were looking so festive and bright - it's definitely one way to get in the mood!

We then headed over to the concert which was in Kemptown, only down the road from my beloved Pizza Face (who do some of the best pizza I've ever had). It was held in St George's Church, and was quite a small but intimate gig. We've seen Joshua Radin before, and he was amazing, and this time was no different; it says a lot about you as a performer if you can still sing just as well and loud with and without a microphone! I really enjoyed the concert - Paddy did good.

Before we got the train back to London, we made sure to get a garlic pizza bread and pizza from Pizza Face - if it's that close, then why not? - which was increddddiblllleeee. It was such a lovely day and one I'll remember; lots of boyfriend points given!