My Mental Health First Aid Kit

If you break a bone, you see a cast, if you cut your finger you wear a plaster, but what happens to our mental health? How do we first aid our mental health and wellbeing?

I’m not saying that all mental health issues can be cured or helped with a bath and a face mask but how we treat ourselves can help us navigate that thin line between feeling a little frazzled or completely overwhelmed. There is a big difference in being mentally unwell and mentally well, obviously serious mental health conditions are not going to go away using the techniques I have put together, they are more aimed at people who have busy lives, who never stop and who sometimes just need a little me time (or is it you time?)

As a modern society we strive to do more, to be more, to do it all. We have to be everything to everyone. We work, we run homes, raise children, we blog, Instagram, we run around life doing it all but have you ever just stopped and thought what is all of this doing to your mental well being?

A while ago I felt a little overwhelmed with everything in my life. I was dealing with infertility, working 50+ hours a week, running a home, trying to spend time with family, making time for everyone and it all got a little much for me. I was lucky that I was able to say enough is enough and, I made some changes. I cut back to working 36 hours a week for 3 months, I took time for myself and there really is no shame in saying I was at a breaking point and needed to slow down. The experience taught me so much and as a mental health nurse I know the importance of looking after both physical and mental well being. I’m writing this blog not as a nurse but as a person who has used these tools to help her feel calm, in control and more positive about life.

Everyone talks about self care and self care Sunday, but really I feel self care is something we should do as an ongoing practice in our daily life. As I have thought more about it we should all take time each day to feel, allow ourselves to have emotion and allow ourselves to say it’s ok to feel how I feel, recognise what caused it, work out how you can deal with it and most importantly learn from it.

 

 

My mental health first aid kit consists of 7 things

Meditation

I use the headspace app on my phone and I am genuinely a big fan of meditating, it’s not all umming and ahhing as I first thought! Meditation for me is so much more, it is time for me to sit back from my thoughts and see them with a clearer mind. I sometimes meditate for 5 minutes and sometimes 30 minutes it just depends on what time I have, what I need to clear from my head and what I want to achieve. I work in a Dementia care unit and some days I come home and I have not had a split second of silence for my 12.5hr work day. I will at times come in from work and just tell Neil I need a few minutes and I will just go and lay down on our bed, in complete silence and just focus on my breathing, I will think about how my body feels, the sore feet, sore back, the hard callus I have developed on my thumb from constant writing, I will breath in and out counting each breath and being completely focused on my body and what it needs. Sometimes I lay there and feel completely calm and need nothing but to breath, sometimes I need to think over a problem and how I feel about it, and most of the time I just think about how good it is to be home to the quiet. I know not everyone has the opportunity to have this quiet time but even a few minutes of time to just breath can be such a positive step for your mental health.

The 5 minute mantra

This is my favourite thing to do, my five minute mantra basically is five minutes of time with intent. It’s the five minutes in a  day I ‘allow’ myself to be annoyed, sad, angry or simply to just be. I use it mostly when I am upset or anxious and I give myself five minutes just to wallow in the feeling, to cry or huff or be sad. Those five minutes have really helped me deal with the stress of life and I have found them a real comfort to know I can for just five minutes feel all the feelings. It helps me deal with emotions, helps me understand why I feel the way I do and it helps me to cope with it, understand my emotion and move on from it. Even if you don’t feel sad or need to deal with a feeling these five minutes can be just as wonderful used to reflect and be appreciative of life, work, a certain person or just to be still and watch the world going by. Five minutes a day can make all the difference.

Hands and feet

This one is simple, When I feel anxious I take a few minutes to put on hand cream or a foot moisturiser. Sometimes this take a matter of minutes and other times I take a little longer at it, Sometimes I do a hand or foot mask (I once did both at the same time and I wouldn’t maybe be advocating this as you can neither walk properly or use your hands all that well!) The simple act of putting on a moisturiser can be so calming, particularly on your hands. Taking the time to slowly put the cream around your skin, noticing the feeling on your skin, getting in between all your fingers and around the nails, doing each cuticle one by one pausing just for a few seconds to give them all a little extra moisturiser. It really is a very calming thing to do and I find that doing this when i’m feeling very overwhelmed and busy helps refocus my mind and gives me a minute or three to stop when things get too much, to pause for thought and reset my focus for the day.

Time out for you

This may seem like a simple one and you don’t have to do this every single day but I try at least three times a week to take time for me, go for a walk, do a face mask, read my book, go to the hairdresser or get a pedicure amongst other things. As much as I feel self care is not all about the masks, baths, lotions and potions I do feel it is a part of helping us feel normal and human and calm. It’s not for me completely about the face mask itself, its more the ritual of the process, using a body scrub and focusing on your skin, smelling the soap and oils, using creams and lotions lovingly on your skin and creating a sensory experience which is time consuming, loving and focused on you. It for me is all about finding meaning in the ritual, it’s not about having a bath to show it on the ‘Gram’ it’s about taking a specific time to focus on you, your body, your mindset and your wellbeing.

Breathing

Have you ever noticed how blowing out one big long breath can make you feel better, Try it next time you feel that little tightness of stress or anxiety bubbling up in your chest. Does anyone else ever get that? When you just feel a big bubble of tightness in your upper chest and you feel anxiety or stress creeping in? I get it sometimes when things are all go in life and I deal with it by breathing. You take a big breath in for 7 seconds and blow out for 14 seconds (or as much as you can) doing this three or four times can really help in the search for calmness and help center you back to the tasks ahead. I use it a lot in work when there are fifteen things going on at once, I breathe think and re prioritise my day and go at it full steam with a clear head and a less anxious feeling.

Saying No

Neil and I had this conversation a while ago, imagine the scenario. You have bought tickets for a show, gig, night out and the week of the event comes and you don’t want to go, you can’t be bothered, you no longer are interested in it or you are simply so busy you just wish you had an free evening to rest and have an early night… what do you do?Everyone I have posed this question to has said they would go regardless, most saying how can they not go? They bought tickets after all! I myself wouldn’t go, why? Because if you don’t want to go to something, you do not have to! The cast of Jersey boys won’t be calling round to your house to ask where you were, Ed Sheeran won’t be ringing your mum to see why you didn’t go, the bank manager isn’t gonna give off that you spent money and didn’t use the ticket… I often feel that we impose social conventions upon ourselves, we think what will other people think and end up at times doing stuff we don’t wanna do, stuff we don’t have time to do and stuff that makes us unhappy learning the power of the word no can be so empowering. I’m not saying that you should be overtly negative and say no to life’s opportunities, i’m just saying that in the grand scheme of life if you are working a long week and you don’t feel like going out to see Mama Mia 2 no one’s gonna judge you (although Meryl Streep is life so maybe go see that one!) Don’t ever put yourself in situations you don’t really want to be in, learn the power of NO.

The importance of the not so silent

I use Spotify each and every day. I have a subscription that I have had probably for the last four years. Never a day goes by when I don’t use it. Letting you in on my secrets here but I have lots of different playlists, happy ones, sad ones, Christmas ones, sing along ones, Disney ones, calming ones. I find songs I like and I add them to my playlist and they help me a lot, I put them on in the car and usually sing along at the top of my little lungs, I pretend I’m Beyonce and drive home from one of ‘those days’ feeling fancy AF windows down blasting the tunes singing and letting all the stress of the day fly off me, I find music to be one of the most powerful things in helping when you feel a little stressed, I find it actually second only to the affect our olfactory senses have on how we feel but that’s another story. Music can make us feel things we never felt possible, happy, sad, determined or excited to name but a few, it evokes memories, it sparks creativity and I use it as a tool every day to make myself feel positive and to help me work with my thoughts, feelings and emotions to hopefully ‘live my best life’

 

So there we have it, my list, my 7 things that help make me me, that keep me sane and make life much more fun. As I have said I know that this won’t be for everyone and I am in no way giving this advice as a nurse in any way but after 10 years of nursing both as a student and qualified Mental Health Nurse I feel I have gained a lot of insight into it all and I myself use these techniques daily to help ground me and prevents me getting overwhelmed by life. It is important to keep a little idea of how you can first aid your mental health. It’s not a plaster for when things break, to me these techniques are here to help me keep myself together and keep me calm, keep me sane and help me appreciate the good with the bad, learning to deal with the stress of modern life can be a very successful tool in learning to have a more positive mental health outlook. When writing this blog  I got talking to my friend Keava, she is literally like a little spirit guru, filled with Positivity, love, mindfulness and plastic free living, she and I have extensive conversations about mindfulness and how self care isn’t just for Sundays, we need to take care of ourselves each and every day, whether that be a day at the spa or three minutes found in the chaos to just take a breath. So from today try and give yourself time each day to pause for thought, take time for you, feel your feelings, allow yourself to feel, to understand and cope with it all, cry, laugh, breath and sing your lungs out every day of the week, because looking after you is important, it is not selfish, it isn’t pathetic and you aren’t a bad person for needing five minutes quiet time. Its normal, life is busy and chaotic at times, I know i’m not the only one feeling overwhelmed at times, so go out there and own it, be you and live life to the fullest of its amazingly awesome possibility

 

Love Laura

Always remember to smile, smiles are the gifts we give each other.

 

 

Mirror Mirror on the wall, who really gives a F**K at all?

Disclaimer, This blog contains words and opinions that some may find offensive,  it isn’t written about anyone specifically so anything you read and relate to yourself or take umbrage to was not in any way intentionally aimed at you  x

 

Social media has completely disillusioned me, It has become a habit, it has become repetitive, it has become the same shit on a different day. So what to do, I decided to test myself and see how long I could stay away from social media.

It has been three weeks now and I genuinely couldn’t feel better, I have read more, I have engaged more, I have learned and loved and seen life through my eyes and not through a phone screen.

 

We are the first real generation to have grown up in the world of social media, a world of pictures, comments, tweets and status updates. We know what everyone is doing at all times, we know what everyone is wearing, eating, drinking, smelling and seeing when we look at our phones, we compare ourselves to others and despair at how our life just doesn’t measure up in comparison.

When did we lose the ability to be different? To be unique? To dance to our own beat? When did we lose the ability to go against the grain and just be… ourselves

 

I myself, have found it all a bit much recently, clicking my instagram app  out of sheer habit and not out of the want to see what’s going on in the world, from the moment I wake to the moment I go to bed i’m checking what’s happening. If i’m honest about it the last few weeks I had been online I was typically rolling my eyes and thinking “ same old same old”  everyone is always showing the same old stuff, the same views, the same “positivity mantras” the same ethos about self care and mindfulness and being nice to one another… suddenly everyone is advertising the same old same old, coffee, chocolate bars, ice cream, portable steamers and razors. My feed became just one big advertisement and  I wondered where has the individualised creativity gone?, where is the instagram I loved so much?.

 

So I decided enough was enough and I deactivated my account on June 30th and decided I would not reactivate it until after my annual leave from work. Three weeks from that date, surprisingly to me the first few days were hard, I continually was clicking on the app time and time again and doing it completely without thought. When  did instagram become such a habit? Am I social media addict? When I think about It, I probably am… we have all sorts of addictions nowadays, smoking, alcohol, drugs, food, exercise… is social media the new addiction of our generation? We are the oversharing generation.

 

I very much believe this is a “thing” and it is also, I believe, having a completely negative affect on our mental health and wellbeing if you feel the need to post constantly, every day, maybe twice a day, is it through the want of doing it? The expectation of it? Or just habit?

 

I actually had to catch myself on a few weeks ago, I was on instagram every single day checking if a girl I knew from work years ago but didn’t really speak to anymore had had her baby… like what the actual fuck? Her popping out a little one literally had nothing to do with me, It had no bearing on my life and I had none on theirs but I just needed to know… nosey? Maybe i’m still grieving through my own infertility? … thats it laura just you try and rationalise your crazy online stalking of a woman and her unborn child, I need to stop getting so caught up in what everyone else is doing and think about what i’m doing, what I want from my life and focus on the here and now with me and my family, not living vicariously through others or sitting around at night wishing I was thinner or prettier or had longer hair or could pull off that dress like she does, the reality now, for me is who gives a fuck? Who cares if i’m looking pretty or thinner or taller or have that new handbag, or the peoney in my window? No one, no one accept me.

 

At the start of my social media detox I downloaded the quality time app, it tells you how many times you’ve checked your phone, the first day I have opened my phone 137 times and I had clicked on the instagram app 90 times! No one needs to be on instagram 90 times a day! It was a habit, routine, my normal. As time went on I was able to lessen my exposure to time online and the last day of my social media ban I only opened my phone 18 times and clicked my instagram app 0 times, the pride that gives me is amazing and I will from now on be so much more mindful of my time online I am going to limit my exposure to it all and get back to enjoying taking pictures and sharing my online scrap book for me.

 

Living in the moment is very much my new thing, Time spent with my husband, time together with friends, no phones and having the best adventures with not a single picture to remember it by and why ? because I have a memory, just because it isn’t on instagram doesn’t mean it didn’t happen! We don’t need to share every cup of coffee, every show we watch on netflix, every day out, every fresh baguette you buy, that trip to the seaside, your floral arrangements, your new earrings, your daily calorie intake, you don’t need to share it all to be happy, and if you do then that’s all good in your hood, but I have decided for me it is not where my happiness lies. ( am I becoming a bit gangsta?… apologies)

 

I was out the other week at a show and watched a lady in front of me basically film the whole thing on her phone, she watched it all through her phone screen, she didn’t engage as she was worried she would miss out on capturing the best video of the evening, like what is that even about. I have seen so many people watch life through their phone screen, missing the wanderlust moments because they are to busy documenting their “adventures” for social media. I just worry that I will look back in 20 years and think that was an amazing night my phone and I had, a wonderful time documenting it all for my “memories”… That can’t be what I become, I want to be that crazy auntie who passed on the most amazing stories telling them all what fun things I did, I want people to remember me and not my instagram handle, I want to pass out of this world leaving behind my laughter, my legacy and leave the world covered in big red lipstick kisses.

 

Obviously our social media generation will never go away, instagram has become a place for business, advertising and is so much more than the online scrapbook I wanted it to be, and you know thats ok, Its not my place to be that one grump who moans about it and dampens it for everyone, nor do I want people reading this and thinking who does this bitch think she is, does she thinks shes better than everyone else, smarter, more mindful and zen? Actually no, I just think I am doing what’s right and best for me, my family, my mental health and the legacy I hope to leave in my life, and that legacy does include my online persona in many ways. I have just had a reality check about how I myself perceive others, how I look at their little squares and judge myself based on their images. The realisation I have come to see is that it’s all one big lie. It’s staged, its planned and its not real life… no one runs through fields with perfect hair and makeup drinking from a teacup with a saucer… no one sits around looking sexy eating a galaxy caramel, no one rides about on their bike with a perfect baguette, sunflowers and a new bag of fresh ground espresso beans. It is all put together to look pretty, to sell thing things, to get followers, likes, comments and engagement, And if that’s what makes you happy then I salute you, and you should do what makes you happy, I just think its vital that we all understand its not real life, its an image put together with thought and consideration for how it will look, I am guilty of it to, staging pictures, buying cute napkin because they will look “so cute” on instagram, buying £30 worth of flowers for a snap, and in the moment it did make me happy, but I don’t want to be that girl… in writing this I had spoken to some people who have had social media issues. One girl who has run up debts to keep up with the instagrammers, to get followers and to get instafamous. Another girl who would buy £1000 of clothes, shoes, bags and accessories to wear and take pictures of for “content” she would spend a whole weekend taking pictures, styling outfits and getting her pictures ready for the coming weeks of her squares, only to return the items as she really couldn’t afford them, she felt a need to be accepted. Is it normal that we put ourselves into these positions to feel accepted? That we feel some of the “ big instagrammers” are so unattainable that we can bring ourselves to speak to them for fear of not being worthy, that we judge ourselves to this standard? Are we so in need of acceptance that we would put ourselves in debt and lie about the perfection of our life to be that new instagram “it” girl? It baffles me, social media will go on with or without us, do we really, in the depths of our souls, care that much about other people’s opinions?

 

I have decided I no longer care what others think, If you don’t like it, don’t double tap it, unfollow it, fuck your beauty standards, to hell with your ideas of fashion, who cares who has the best nails or eyelashes?  Who gives fuck how tidy your kitchen is? Is that the newest boden dress? Literally couldn’t care less, omg you went to Peggy Porschen’s cake shop? How instagram of you! I don’t care who has the best “staring off into the distance” photo, “this isn’t a posed photo” photo, oh “they caught me unawares” photo, “its natural i swear” photo… Half the time i’m looking online and I just think omg shut up, I flick past stories of people preaching their ethos of being mindful, showing love, care, compassion and how perfect their life is and  these little #instareality stories… PEOPLE ONLY SHOW YOU WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO SEE… instagram reality is just people trying to show you how “normal” and “relatable” they are, and i’m sitting thinking omg get off instagram and do your ironing, i don’t need to see your instareality pile of wrinkled clothes!

 

Im sure some of you have read this and thinking i’m talking rubbish, or  it’s her with the issue and she’s making a big thing out of nothing. Maybe that is true, maybe It was just me? But that’s fine because writing this has really gotten my thought out, helped me think with clarity and it’s been a positive step for my own online mental health.

 

From now on I will only follow people and pages that give me positive feelings, that don’t make me judge myself, that give off a feeling of happiness and love to me, I feel I get comfort from some of the connections I have made on instagram and the community spirit that exists. It’s not about us all being the same but about how our differences bind us, we can’t choose who we feel drawn to, but we shouldn’t follow people who make us feel bad about ourselves because it’s socially unaccepted to click unfollow

 

Wither you wear Primark, Ted Baker, Boden or Parda… I don’t care

If your kitchen is filled with Ikea, Dunnes, Biba or Emma Bridgewater… I don’t care

If you walk around in Converse, flip flops, crocs, or Christian Louboutin … i don’t care

If it’s TK Maxx, Marks and Spencers, Gucci or Mulberry …  I don’t care

 

No more feeling inadequate, no more comparisons, just accept it, move on and enjoy the fuck out of your life, each day is new, exciting and special in its own way but only when you look at it through your eyes and not a phone screen!

 

Love Laura x

Life is worthwhile, with a smile

” The secret to happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more,

but in developing the capacity to enjoy having less”

– Socrates

 

Did you know that smiling is good for you?

 

Wither the whole world is smiling with you or wither you are smiling to confuse people, a smile can bring about wonderful things, not just for you, but for those around you as well.

 

Having read into smiling ( as you do) it actually amazed me the benefits a smile can have. Scientific studies have shown that smiling when under pressure can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. It can help you remain calm and thus deal with a situation better, not just big situations even little ones. road rage, breaking your favourite cup, the rain comes on when you’ve just got your wash out on the line…. taking a deep breath and smiling through stress can have a massive impact on our overall well being. A smile will also release endorphins, the happy hormone, and when I think about it you get endorphins from exercise so…. smile and you won’t need to go to the gym!!… IF ONLY

According to scientific research smiling makes you more attractive to other  people and not in just a sexually attractive way, it makes you seem kinder, more approachable and friendly, it gives  you an air of easy goingness (not a word) and makes you seem empathetic to others, on top of that smiling is totally contagious and if you smile people are more likely to smile back at you.

I would be a very positive person and live my life mindfully and feeling at peace with the person I am, when I feel a little sad I usually put on some music and sing along or dance like no one is watching, even when they are! I love to smile and just take a big deep breath, think about what is upsetting or stressing me and just breath through it, look at my problem from an outside perspective, I always try to explain it like this… my problem is me standing in the middle of the traffic and I can’t see a way out of it, however if I take a minute and step back, imagine i’m standing on the grassy bank watching them from the outside and try to make sense of everything in my head, my thoughts, ideas and emotions and it always without fail helps me come to a decision or to see a solution to whats going on in my head.

But back to smiling! I also read an article about how smiling in work environment makes you seem more trustworthy and more approachable as a leader, plus they do say you should be nice to people on the way up, because you don’t know who you’ll meet on the way down

I always think its important to do thing that make you smile, buy that new bag or perfume, go for dinner, eat a chocolate bar, binge watch your fave show, live you life to the fullest! But just make sure you do it with a smile.

As a mental health nurse I also feel the need to say a smile can sometimes hide the true feelings underneath, a smile, despite its wondrous powers, won’t fix everything. Make sure you talk to people, don’t keep your feelings inside, share, talk and don’t let it all get on top of you, don’t use your smile as a plaster. remember to have one another’s backs and let your nearest and dearest know you’ve got them!

 

So remember to smile, visit your dentist every 6 months, look out for one another, make sure you tell people if they have lipstick or food in their teeth (in a nice way) and share your positivity and love with the world.

 

A smile can say so much more than words ever will

Love Laura x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Am I a Kindrovert?

 

 

I always have considered myself to be an extrovert, I am talkative, I am outgoing and will talk to literally anyone, I have done public speaking competitions and spoken In front of over 1000 people, surely that makes me an extrovert?

As life has gone on I have thought about myself more, I am outgoing but as I am reaching my 30th birthday this coming September I think to myself how sick of so many people I get, how their views, their mannerisms and the way they behave just bothers me, people’s lack of compassion for others and those people whose socially portrayed outer being in no way matches the reality.

I read an article recently in issue 13 of breath magazine.

“Are you a kindrovert? If you wouldn’t describe yourself as an extrovert – but not strictly an introvert either – you might be part of a tribe you’ve never even heard of…”

A kindrovert is someone who will happily listen as much as they will share, they will come alive in a real conversation and would rather stay silent that sit around and talk about nothing.

I feel that the act of being a kindrovert is about being both mindful and showing kindness. It’s about meeting kindred spirits and sparking one another’s creativity with love, positivity and genuine enthusiasm. It’s knowing when not to criticise people, when to show support and when to walk away from people, places and things you aren’t interested in.

Sounding a little selfish there I know, but I feel that it’s true for us all, if we spend so much time as part of a big group, being part of the “in” crowd and playing up to the social ideals we have set for us then are we really being true to ourselves? Do we have time to be mindful and look for deeper meanings in our life, deeper emotional connections with the people we do what in our lives? How can you be you when you are just another face in the crowd. I very much believe that it’s all about the quality of relationships and not the quantity.

Being yourself is so crucial to making real connections in life but also you need to get to know yourself. Know who you what to be, your ideals, your hopes, dreams, aspirations. Know the kind of people you what in your life and just as importantly know the kind of people you don’t want in your life, look at life around you think, what aren’t you willing to put up with any longer? What aren’t you willing to compromise on? Who do you not want to put up with any longer?

Having had some time to think it over I defiantly am a kindrovert, I’m outgoing and confident but I have limits to the kind of relationships I have in my life. I love meeting ladies who can talk about the issues of the world and also make me laugh, I take time to feel comfortable but when I do I open up and join in the debate.

you don’t need validation

You don’t need to be liked by everyone

You don’t need all the attention

You can be wonderful and marvelous and make a difference to those around you by simply being you, show kindness, respect others and love the life you have… Because when it comes down to it, we only get one chance at this thing we call life.

 

Love Laura x

Just do you

Walking shoes

A few months go I had the brightest idea whilst walking around Belfast. Why don’t I organise a bloggers photo walk to meet some new people! Spurred on by Neil I put some feelers out on Instagram to see who would like to come along. I got a good response and I started looking at where we could head on our walk. The walk soon turned from a picture walk and coffee to a history tour, coffee and photograph walk.

 

Aboard the HMS Caroline in Belfast

I have always been fascinated in Belfast but when I thought about it I know a lot about the political aspects of the town, the troubles, the arguments but I haven’t really looked at the town before the “troubles”  During my education in history the focus was really on the troubled past of Northern Ireland and I hadn’t really learned much about the the town prior to that. From my research I have discovered a new found love of the city of Belfast, how it became a town, the people who played key roles in making it the place we live in and love today. ( If you have never been to Belfast you need to pay us a visit! I might even be free to take you on a little history walk)

 

The Albert memorial clock

Belfast became a city in 1888. (100 years before I was born.. That’s bound to be relevant right?) The original settlement of Belfast was small and was in the beginning a village. It was a small settlement of people and the original town was around the modern day junction where Victoria street meets high street. This is where you would find the Albert memorial clock now a days.

As time went on the town begun to flourish and got bigger and bigger by the 1800’s it had become a town of merchants and industry. We were ( and still are ) famous for ship building, linen and tobacco production. The site of the town on the River Lagan and leading to the Belfast lough was perfect for export and imports via boat and it really was an ideal location for a thriving town. It then became the perfect location for ship building and Harland and wolff was set up in 1886. I love the history of Harland and Wolff and was told a few years ago that it was “amazing the cranes that built Titanic were still standing”…. Despite the fact that they were built in 1969 and 1974. Time travelling cranes?

 

My little cranes and Titanic brooch

Getting city status from queen Victoria in 1888 was a big deal for the city and and by 1901 Belfast was the largest city in Ireland. Our city hall then was constructed and competed in 1906, the architect for the City hall was Sir Alfred Brumwell Thomas The design and structure of the city hall was an inspiration to another architect Stanley G Hudson who went on to Build an almost identical replica of our city hall as the city hall in Durban in South Africa, the town had wanted a progressive and bold design and the design submitted by Hudson won. The only two differences between the city halls is the furnishings and the surrounding gardens as Belfast is a more opulent interior and a larger green space around it with memorials.

The inside of the city halls beautiful dome

So I need to talk about the newest man in my life… Charles Lanyon. This man is becoming my idol (he’s sort of neck and neck with the character of Ron swanson from parks and recreations … watch it it’s so good!) Lanyon was Forward thinking, artistic and he practically designed Belfast.  I had always wondered about the lanyon building in queens and kind of knew it was named after the man who designed it. We had a walk a few weeks ago around the queens and Botanic area, I had read a little plaque about Lanyon… then Naturally I googled him. He literally fascinates me. Born in Eastbourne in 1813 he moved to northern Ireland and contributed some of the finest pieces of architecture to our city, some would argue within the whole of the uk ( to be fair it’s probably me arguing that fact)

His works include the Lanyon building of Queens university, The Crumlin Road Jail, the Crumlin Road Courthouse, The Belfast customs house, Belfast Castle, the Theological college and one of my favourites, The Palm house in Botanic gardens. So he is pretty much a big deal.

 

Belfast city hall Courtyard

The palm house in Botanic gardens in Belfast was built in 1840 and it takes my breath away every time I see it. I love walking into the gardens on a sunny day, walking along the path towards the palm house and as you get closer it and all its glory comes into view, it really is a site to behold and also It is a very rare piece of architecture. It is a curvilinear iron and glass structure and is one of the best kept and oldest examples of this in the whole world. When I think of how much it has withstood through the years it is awe inspiring , a simple glass house, designed to perfection, withstanding change, industrialisation and terror in a city that has had its ups and downs and it is still around today in all its glory, it is our heritage, our history and it is beautiful. Neil and I even chose this spot for our wedding photographs. Next time you pass the palm house, stop and have a look at how amazing it really is, both inside and out.

 

Coming around the corner to see this beautiful creation always makes me smile

So back to my walking tour. The tour took us from the spirit of Belfast to the Jaffe fountain, around to the beacon of hope, the big fish, the Albert clock, transport house and the cathedral quarter. I had an amazing time with all the lovely ladies who came along on the tour and I was so happy to have imparted some of my belfast related wisdom to them. The tour tells you all about the places we visit, how and why they came to be. I talk about the royal connection to our city, Finn Mc cool, time capsules, Belfast red light district and farting. All very exciting and fun things to discuss.

The Jaffe fountain

I really enjoyed the tour and I will be holding another one in the summer looking at the same spots and I have also begun to put together a Titanic bloggers tour and a tour of the murals of Belfast ( they are under constructions!)

 

The official tour group photo

I am not a tour guide but I do love meeting new people and taking them out to take some photos, to learn and engage with our beautiful city. So if anyone fancies joining in on the next tour let me know and I will get organising some more dates. I have had lots of people asking about how much it is to come along and they are free. I am not doing the tours for any financial gain. I am doing them to meet new bloggers and instagrammers, to learn more about the city I love and to generally just have some fun.  

 

Love Laura

 

 

 

Is it ok to Grieve?

Our fertility journey has come to an end.

At the end of 2017 we had the news that we were no longer suitable for fertility treatment as my eggs were unsuitable for treatment. Not really the news we had been hoping for and really the heartbreaking decision we had to make was to no longer pursue the baby we had been so hopeful for.

So many people have said to us that we should adopt or get a donor egg but honestly we are still processing things so couldn’t even begin to be able to think about it all. I think we will just take time to come to terms with what we have been told.

When I met Neil I knew he was the one for me, we fell in love, we got engaged, we got married and then of course the expectation came along of “when are you having a baby?” ….. “Oh it will be you next Laura!” ….. I’m sure you can’t wait to have a wee one of your own!”

I think if i’m honest the social expectation is enough to drive anyone mad. The pressure people put on couples and the pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect, to have a perfect little home and family. For some of us it just isn’t the reality of life.

When we first got the news, I found the whole thing horrible to deal with. I cried and felt genuinely like I had lost someone. Was it appropriate for me to grieve the loss of something I never had? To be sad that I had lost the possibility to be a mum? In hindsight, yes it was. I felt silly being upset, no one had died, why was I so sad. I had to take time to grieve and process the emotions of the news. I had to think it all over

I cried over the list of baby names I had made of the names we loved, That i would never be able to say them out loud to an actual child, I cried over the little baby suit I had bought in TK Maxx because I thought it was the cutest thing I had ever seen, I cried because I will never get to be a mum, I will never be able to make Neil a dad. I had so many plans for our spare room, I had been eyeing up cots every time we passed a baby shop and every time we went to Ikea. All of this and so much more I had to process. I didn’t lose anyone. I have just lost the possibility of it all. The consultant did say to us miracles happen but even if that is true I can’t spend all my life waiting for a miracle that might never happen. I have to face the reality, take a breath and appreciate what I actually do have in my life.

So where do we go from here?…

 

I have after some thought and time to absorb everything decided that not having a baby, doesn’t make me a bad person, It won’t make me a bad wife, a bad sister, a bad niece or a bad best friend. It doesn’t make me less of a person or a woman, it just means I have a different path to follow, one in which Neil and I can live a wonderful life putting one another first and spending our time enjoying the life we have created for each other, even if that doesn’t include creating a new little life. We can spend time focused on each other, we can travel, we can make our cottage our dream home.

I really do love our life, we can go wherever want, we can do what we like, with no one to worry about except ourselves. ( as I write that it seems like i’m being incredibly selfish, but genuinely I feel we are just working with the cards we have here!) I think that I have come to the conclusion that life isn’t all about babies.

I don’t need to be a mother to be happy.

I think happiness is what you want it to be. Wither that be 10 children or none.

Happiness can be so many things Whether it be Spending all evening in a bath reading your favourite book until the water has gone cold, it could be eating pizza or travelling the world or just simply staying home. Happiness comes in so many different forms and it is as personal and individual as your fingerprint.

I can without reservation say I am happy in my life.  When I look at the bigger picture it’s pretty alright, I have a good job and a home I love, I have my own car and we can afford to live a comfortable life. However as much as all of that adds to my having a happy life, these things don’t dictate the smile on my face each day.

Happiness to me is coming home to a hug from Neil, with the kettle boiled for a cuppa. Its walking the dog and watching her excitement as she catches her ball. Happiness is dinner for two at our dining room table with the candles lit and time together to sit and just talk. Happiness is time taken to paint my toenails, to bake a banana bread, to do my ironing watching some cheesy 80’s film on Netflix. Happiness is knowing i’m loved, completely and without condition by those around me.

Happiness to me… is MY life,

After a few months of reflection and time to come to terms with the situation we are In I have concluded that LIfe is sometimes not what you thought it was going to be. When I was little I imagined my life so differently, The people in my life are not who I imagined them to be, the man I married was not the person I thought I would marry (he’s better) Life has a plan, I don’t necessarily have a plan anymore, but the adventure of it all is more than enough excitement for us at the minute. We are just taking every opportunity that comes our way and enjoying every second of our life as a duo ( or a trio if we count Riley)

 

my words to you all are:
Take life as it comes

Appreciate the life around you

Take time for others

Appreciate who and what you have
One day you will blink……

Love Laura x

 

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When 30 is on the horizon … skin care is on my mind

I am, by no stretch of the imagination claiming to be a beauty expert or beauty blogger, In Fact I am currently questioning this blog and why I am writing it

The answer I think is simple…2018 is the year I turn 30! Not that being 30 is a bad thing, i’m not at all old, and I am actually looking forward to the final year in my 20’s and seeing what the big 30 holds for me. One thing I do know is that I would like my time in my thirties to be fun and spent with the people I love most, I also know that the second thing I would like would be to keep is my skin looking good. I am fortunate that I have good genetics. My beautiful nanny passed away in her 90s and she hardly had a wrinkle and all the ladies in my family seem to be on that trend so I am thankful for good genes! however, I know I cannot live on good genes alone.

I have started using a new skin care regimen and have been working hard to keep it up. I am in no way perfect with it and still have the odd night I forget to do my hot cloth cleanser! But what would life be without a little rebellion every now and then?

 

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The Ultimelt hot cloth cleanser from Soap and Glory £10 from Boots

I have put together a little list of the things I use for my face, why I use them and why I love them! I feel like a terrible person writing this next line but… This post is neither a gifted, an ad or a sponsored post… ( what a time to be alive…) I do genuinely love all these products and the reality is I am just a millennial, standing in front of a mirror, in a face mask hoping I don’t get old before my time.
The first thing I had to learn in regards to my skin was what type it was. For a very long time I believed myself to have normal skin, it wasnt dry or greasy it was pretty average, very  normal and I treated it as such. I would get breakouts every now and then and some sore spots on my cheeks which were more like cysts than the usual pimple, I will say I was always lucky and never suffered with acne or skin that was really troublesome. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago, I was in Boots and got talking to the girl at the number 7 counter about foundations the store was quiet and I ended up chatting to her for a while about foundations, she sat me down to give me a mini makeover and when she was taking my makeup off she mentioned that I have combination skin…. Combination skin? She went on to explain that I had dryness in my cheeks and was oily around my forehead and under my eyes at the tops of my cheeks, After a little research Into my skin I was able to start using products that have really been helping it … Not without some trial and error I will say, I once tried a charcoal mask for combination skin and ended up with a bright red face with lots of spots, never again!

 

My morning routine

Each morning I start with a hot cloth cleanse. I have been using the Ultimelt by Soap and Glory, I do love the Soap and Glory products and do use another few in my daily routine. I have found the cleanse really refreshing for my skin. It is a little odd thought as it doesn’t lather up, it is a cream and you just rub your face for a few minutes and massage it in before washing it off with a hot muslin cloth. Since using it I have found my skin cleaner, my makeup is sitting better and I do feel my skin to be softer and less breakouts!

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My morning routine ranging from £6 to £16 from Boots ( I always shop in Boots!)

Next on my morning list is my moisturising, I have always likes moisturising as I like the way it makes my skin feel, since adding some new cleansing into my routine. I also decided a few weeks ago to add a serum into the mix. I have been using the make yourself youthful rejuvenating serum from Soap and Glory, Again I am a big fan of the brand and this serum seemed to be very well rated so I decided to give it a go. It really has been a great addition to my skin care and I really do love it. I usually use 2-3 pumps of it after my hot cloth cleanse and let it sink into my skin, it is so silky and does soak really well into my skin. I feel a serum of any sort can only be a positive addition to your routine!

On Top of that I use my Garnier skinactive ultra lift day cream. I have used Garnier creams for a while now and I really do like the way they work on my skin, they absorb well and the scent is one I just adore, it is not heavily perfumed but it just smells fresh and I have found for my skin it helps keep it hydrated all day long. I also use their eye cream, This is mainly because last year I found a wrinkle between my eyebrows and in a panic I decided I needed to use eye cream! It’s the ultralift eye contour cream and again It has been doing the trick and Neil actually said my wrinkle is hardly noticeable…  Laura 1 – Wrinkle 0

I have also a times been using the Bright and pearly radiance boosting cocktail by Soap and Glory. I generally use it if I am going somewhere but not putting any makeup on ( obviously I put on some eyebrows and mascara as I just look odd otherwise!) I have found it gives me just that little extra glow and makes me feel a little less pale when going makeup free.

 

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My night time routine ranges from £6 to £19.99 from Boots and Clarins (in Boots)

My night time routine is very similar to the morning however with a few tweaks. I use the hot cloth cleanser, serum and eye cream as I do each morning, I then have the Garnier night cream which is much thicker than the day cream but still as fabulous. I have also added in a new lip balm at night. I was recommended to try the Clarins Moisture replenishing lip balm and I got it a while ago. I found it to be very thick and not something I would use through the day so I have been using it on going to bed, I find the winter especially treacherous on the lips and this has been helping me keep them moisturised soft and supple. I also use the lush lip scrubs at night before bed, I am currently using my sugar plum fairy but I also love the bubble gum. I find they remove any dry skin from your lips and help the lip balm do its work overnight

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Amazing from lush comes in at £5.95 but lasts forever and well worth it!

I have a few other little things that I use throughout the week to help my skin

The first is the Body shop’s vitamin C glow revealing liquid peel. The peel was an instagram sensation in late summer and I had to try it to see what all the fuss was about, I do like it and I have found it has really been helpful for my skin however I do not find it is a product I can use every day as It was a little harsh on my skin leaving it a little tender. I now use it once or twice a week and It always leaves my skin with a beautiful glow

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From the body shop coming in at £18 ( not available in Boots)

Next is the St Ives apricot scrub. I have been using this scrub for about 10 year now. I use the blemish control scrub and it has a high exfoliation factor, thus why I don’t use it every day, I do tend to use it and the vitamin C peel together as I found the peel needs to be scrubbed off really well otherwise it clumps a little on my skin, I haven’t heard anyone else say that about it so maybe it’s just me, but it works well in my routine.

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My oldest skin friend £4.20 in Boots ( What? They have points!)

Finally I like to use a face mask once or twice a week. My main choices are the Himalayan charcoal purifying mask from the Body shop. It again was a massive instagram hit in late 2017 so naturally I jumped on the bandwagon, I find it is very highly scented but Its pleasant to use and really does make my skin feel deep cleansed so definitely worth the hype. The other masks I like to use are the Garnier moisture bomb tissue masks, I really find these amazing for my skin and I always feel like it has been well moisturised after I take it off, Like a big drink for your face!

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Again from Boots, usually £2.99 but they often have them on offer for £1 and I stock up!

I definitely feel since looking at the products I use and adding some new ones into my routine my skin really has improved. None of the products I use are super expensive, I do feel it is important to buy products within your price range and use things you can afford if needed regularly. I had toyed with the idea of treating myself to an expensive serum at £70, in reality can I afford to treat myself to it every 8 weeks or so… the answer is probably no. It’s important to spend what you can afford and do your best with that you have, drink water, don’t get too caught up with the online glamour and the expensive products everyone else uses. If you don’t know your skin type find out, try until you find what you love and remember to love your skin, after all you wear it every day.

 

Love Laura

A very Dibney Christmas

Christmas comes but once each year, or so they say. I feel that over the past several years Christmas has been a word thrown around from late September. I don’t often hear people discussing their Easter excitement in January so the concept of Christmas being an event with 4 months of a build up, it makes me think is it more of a commercial wonder than the actual magical experience we all hope it can be?

edfSmall cottage = Small tree

I have spent so much time thinking about christmas these last few years, how to make it special and how to make it a day to remember, filled with love, family and a delightfully decked tree, that sometimes the true meaning of the season goes under the radar a little. This year I have tried so much to be more mindful of why the season is special all on its own without the excessive need for gifting things that were not particularly necessary or life altering. I worked hard this year to make all of our gifts individualised and useful to the people we love. Neil and I also made the decision to forgo gifts for our families in place of something close to our hearts. Giving to us is so much more satisfying than receiving.

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Gift wrappng this year was plain and simple… unless it was neils in which it was difficult to wrap considering all his gifts were awkward in shape and size!

I have really come to notice over these last few years how fortunate my life is, to have happiness and contentment is better than any gift we could ever receive. Neil and I have more than we could ever need or want in life so we decided to ask our families to make a donation on our behalf rather than buy us a gift, an act in which we do not need praise for nor am I telling you all this to make us sound so wonderful and selfless in our acts. We grew up wanting for nothing and when you have everything you ever wanted, what is the harm in giving a little something back to those who have so little? Is that not The true meaning of the season.

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My very first attempt at making christmas cake with my own icing and marzipan! I think this may be a new tradition of mine as it turned out rather well.

I was working over christmas this year, christmas eve 7.30am to 8pm and on christmas day I was meant to work the same however I caught a 24hr bug from my darling niece and ended up having to go home sick at 1.30pm and spending the rest of christmas in bed whilst the world celebrated. I slept as they ate their christmas dinner I had dry toast and some flat coke trying not to feel too sorry for myself… What a lovely day it was and despite the sickness to be honest I was glad of the break to rest

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Riley came into work on christmas day dressed up as mrs claws (see what I did there) and gave all the residents their gifts… she wasnt best pleased with the outfit but she brought a lot of smiles to a lot of faces on christmas morning.

As a nurse working over the christmas and new year season is not somthing you can avoid, I once had it described to me as being maulled by a bear, if you just put your head down and get through it you will come out the other side… I wouldnt say my own experience was quite that bad but working over the holidays is a privlidge. In all honesty some weeks I spend more time with my residents and collegues than I do my own family.  Being a nurse very much means that you put others first, you care, you do, you worry, you cry and stress but the rewards far outweigh all of it and working over christmas with the people I love is really a true gift.

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Some serious christmas feels at the beginning of december with the snow.

As boxing day came I had begun to feel a little better, our family came round for dinner. I was trying to live in a little christmas day bubble and make the day a special second chance at christmas day, while Everyone was out enjoying the sales and trying to cure the post christmas overeating blues, for us the fun will just be beginning. We had a wonderful day eating dinner, dessert and playing games, Sadly my stomach was still not up to scratch for the usual christmas indulgence but I had a lovely day regardless with our family.

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Our christmas market night out

It has become a sort of tradition that we play games when the family are round for dinner so this year we played what do you meme? which was hilarious and then a few rounds of 221B baker street a Sherlock Holmes mystery game which my darling best friend got me for christmas.

Christmas at Dibney Cottage is always a lot of fun ( if I do say so myself) Neil always tells me I go overboard but if you can’t at christmas when can you? This will be our third christmas in the cottage, which to be honest I cannot believe. Life is just going by so fast and 2018 has now arrived. It will hopefully be the biggest and best yet, we are planning a trip around italy, i’m turning 30 and we have lots of little projects on the go.. Such a lot to look forward to this coming year.

 

But back to christmas! I just love this time of year winter, christmas, new year… I have embraced a love of all things Hygge and I just love spending time with the people I love most making memories I will hold onto forever. It’s strange but over the summer months I could take or leave things but in winter I just have to get out as much as possible, to every market, food event and christmas movie showing my work schedule will allow.

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Our Christmas dinner table ( well boxing day dinner table)

Christmas to me is so much more than gifts and food, it’s that feeling you get, the anticipation, the magic, the longing for something wonderful. I often find that christmas day (or boxing day as it was this year for us) itself is a little bit of a let down, for me it’s all about cooking, tidying up and making sure everyone else is well fed, watered for and catered to. My day is christmas eve, it truly is the most wonderful day of the whole year, the magic in the air, that feeling of anticipation for the coming day, presents all wrapped under the tree, the fridge filled with goodies and us on the sofa with new jammies, freshly bathed and sitting by the fire with a hot chocolate watching scrooged.

As I have gotten older I have realised that christmas feeling I had as a child, the excitement and inability to close my eyes with anticipation… had santa arrived with my gifts? would I get what I wished for?. That feeling can continue albeit in a slightly different way. Now that I am older and santa no longer visits me I still keep that feeling in my heart, the joy of giving, the happiness on everyone’s face, I love feeding everyone and being the host at the party, baking and cooking to see the smiles on everyone’s’ faces.

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Winter walks before the new year

I cannot believe 2017 has gone and the year really did go so fast. We did so many wonderful things and seen so many beautiful places, we made new friends and reconnected with some old ones. Life for us could not be in a better place right now. Going forward in 2018 we wish everyone all the love and happiness in the world.

To good health, happiness and a 2018 to remember

 

Love Laura x

The wonders of the Whirlwind

Sitting here tonight with a cup of coffee, a slice of banana bread and watching the interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I cannot help but notice the amount of times the phrase “whirlwind romance” was thrown around. The criticism they have come under from some, for rushing into getting engaged, is something which is oh so Familiar to myself and Neil

 

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This picture feels like forever ago!

Neil and I met on September 25th 2014, although we had technically met online several weeks before that, when we were online dating. We met in person on a quiet Thursday evening for coffee at an open mic night in Clements Coffee in Belfast. I, as usual was fashionably late and when I arrived and saw him I think I instantly fell in love with him. His smile, his eyes, the way he spoke. Everything about Neil just made my heart skip a beat.

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How could you not fall in love with him?

Our romance took a turn from there and we got into a serious relationship rather quickly. We had become boyfriend and girlfriend almost instantly, he met my family and I met his, all in the space of a few weeks.

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Couples that hat together … stay together

I always measure things by my gut instinct and I know if I don’t have a good feeling about something I shouldn’t do it. Throughout my relationship with Neil I have never once thought this isn’t right, or we need to slow down or don’t do this. With him it has always been 100% this is right and to this day I have never wavered on this feeling.

In the past my relationships have always left me with worry, anxiety and a feeling that I just wasn’t good enough. I was second best to friends, football and even a cat at one point but with Neil I know with all my heart that I am his priority. If I asked him to give mountain biking a miss this week to have a sofa day with me watching Christmas films I know without a shadow of a doubt he would. In contrast to that I never would ask him because I couldn’t stop him doing things he loves…. Although maybe the odd time he has skipped biking but that usually is because I insist on an Ikea run or a coffee date with friends and he can’t say no ( wife perks?)

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I always think this picture looks like the opening credits of how I met your mother!?

We moved in with one another after about 4 months of being together and made our beautiful Dibney cottage our forever home, Prior to that a mortgage, settling down and house planning was not something I had imagined myself doing, but here we were, our first home together and rocking it together, building Ikea wardrobes and suffering a cold Christmas morning because someone ( not naming any names….) forgot to order oil! Needless to say the ups have been extraordinary and the downs very few, It’s amazing to know that no matter what, I have him by my side through it all.

Our relationship did come across some criticism, we were rushing into it, then I was manipulating Neil and pressuring him into a relationship he didn’t want to be in, then I was trying to back him into a situation he couldn’t get out of and was even accused of trying to trap him with a baby, although when you consider our current uterus vacancy situation you can see how wrong that was! People will always talk, I think the big thing is how much of it you actually listen to. Thankfully he could see and feel the love I had for him so other people’s opinions were immaterial to us

I always remember the saying that we should live by our deeds and not our words, and although I tell Neil every single day that I love him I always try my utmost to show him I love him, whether it be getting up early to make his lunch or making him waffles in bed, to watching youtube videos about trains and reruns of Frasier. The love we have for one another is just that, for one another. I would go to any length to protect him. (in a non threatening way of course)

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Neil’s Birthday in London

What has always struck me about Neil is his complete and utter love and passion for things he does. He loves his family, he is passionate about mountain biking and gaming and his mx5 restoration project, and although prior to meeting Neil I had never really been involved in any of his interests I have learned so much and discovered a whole new side to life. I always say Neil loves cars, bikes and nine inch nails where i’m more of a vintage lover, craft fair and bubblegum pop kinda girl. But we make it work, opposites attract.

We went on our first holiday to Barcelona in March of 2015 and had an amazing time, we have a very similar outlook on life which is good, we don’t stress, we are laid back and take life as it comes, Curve balls and all.

In the September of 2015 we went to Prague to celebrate our first year anniversary. We had such a lovely time and on the day of our anniversary we started the day in Petrin park, I was lead to believe there would be some sort of uplift to get me to the top however that wasn’t the case and I moaned the entire way to the top giving off to poor Neil as we hiked in the heat. We got to the top and enjoyed the scenes over the whole of Prague. I was taking a picture of the city and heard Neil rustle his camera bag. I turned around to tell him to come get a closer look and some pictures with me and there he was, down on one knee with a ring box in his hand. I could not believe it, Everyone who knows Neil will know he is very shy so this public display was so off character but so wonderfully amazing!

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My beautiful ring

Before he spoke I remember stamping my feet in joy saying over and over “you’re proposing to me!” A man of few words My Neil just simply said “ I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, will you do me the honor of becoming my wife” to which I needed even fewer words! The only answer was of course YES!

With a beautiful ring on my finger I now couldn’t quite believe I was engaged,  was going to be a wife? Me? Laura? Yes… you… Laura … a wife! We sat in the park for a while, looking out over the city being the only two people in the world to know we were getting married. Neil gave me his grandmother’s ring, It belonged to his grandmother on his mother’s side and is a beautiful vintage setting. It is a gold band with a white gold setting. 8 diamonds surrounding a beautiful blue sapphire which is my birthstone, Neil had the ring restored and the sapphire replaced as it was originally a black sapphire. I will say that the ring means so much more to me because it comes from his family, I never got to meet his grandmother but I have worn her ring every day since that day and I never plan to remove it, the fact that she is part of our love story is something that I will never forget and I can only but hope she approves of Neil’s choice of a wife and soulmate

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The necklace I wore on our wedding day after the ceremony by @tattydevine

The wedding… We married on the 13th of may 2016 exactly 596 days from the day we met. We married in Belfast city hall with 10 guests present and our photographers. The morning of the wedding as the first time anyone really found out about the wedding when I was tagged in a facebook post “ getting hair and makeup done with the bride to be” and I was asked when are you getting married. I guess my response of “2pm today” was a little shocking to people as the post went a little crazy!

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My Dress on our big day

To be honest we are a simple couple, our wedding day was about us, our love and the commitment we wanted to make to each other, I remember getting to city hall and all I kept thinking was I want to see Neil, I got emotional and upset because I wanted it to be 2pm already so I could walk up that aisle on the arm of my brother to become his wife, I do think he may have had a mini heart attack as just before we walked into the room my Brother told me how proud he was of me and the tears started so I had to compose myself for 30 seconds… I think Neil thought I wasn’t coming !

We had our closest family at the wedding and it was genuinely perfect. If I could go back and change anything about that day I literally couldn’t find anything I would have done differently. From city hall to Rayanne house in Holywood for the reception to the guest list, the food, photographs in Botanic gardens and the quick nip to Starbucks in our wedding attire. The day was perfect, for us

 

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My shoes came up across a lot of excitement on our wedding day with everyone wanting a snap of them! In city hall a man also stopped me to tell me my shoes were beezer…. only in Belfast! @irregularchoice

I think the important thing I have learned these past few years is that love comes along when you least expect it, love is not just a word, I have learned that being part of a team can be so fulfilling and having Neil by my side makes me a better person, he makes me go out of my comfort zone and makes me challenge myself, he supports, encourages and helps me smile every single day and I truly hope I do this for him to. ( he says I do!)

 

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This photo has to be my favourite of all the wedding pictures

People can think and say what they will about whirlwind romances but the truth is you should never judge a relationship by your own standards, everyone is free to love, to marry and get swept up in romance, it doesn’t always last and I was one of those fortunate enough to find a man who loves me, who cares for me and protects me every step of the way. We have come across our critics but if i’m honest looking back I wouldn’t change a single second of the story that made us who we are today, the road that lead me to him, to being Mr and Mrs, The Pattersons, Neil and Laura.

 

The rest is just an adventure waiting to happen

Love Laura x

For the love of Belfast

Belfast is the place I love most in the world, it is my home and without it I don’t think I would be the person I am today. I think people underestimate how a place can shape you, how it ignites passion, helps you grow and inspires creativity.

Belfast has changed so much over the past several years and is truly unrecognisable from the city I remember as a child, the food, coffee, tourism and new business and enterprise have made it one of the most amazing up and coming cities to visit. So I have put together a list of places, things and people I love in Belfast.

I will also say here and now (in my best Belfast accent ) That this post is not sponsored by anyone, it isn’t advertising or supported by any of the shops brands or people mentioned, it is just places, people and things we love in the City I call home.

 

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Food

I don’t think it will be a shock to anyone that I like to eat, I have always said I will try anything once and you can’t say you don’t like it if you haven’t eaten it. We eat out in Belfast quite a lot. We love Slims Healthy kitchen, it is guilt free (most of the time) and I love the amazing variety they have in both food and shakes. I always end up getting order a side of haloumi because it’s amazing and Neil says I love a bit of squeaky cheese!

We also go to Five guys for a not so guilty treat….  since it opened we have been a little obsessed. We went to one in Time Square when we were in NYC on honeymoon last year and to be honest the one in Victoria square is just a good! I usually order the single cheeseburger with all the toppings because it’s epic where as Neil is a little more reserved with his toppings… I will say if you are getting everything on it, grab about twenty napkins as I always end up having mustard on my face… I actually think I ended up with it on my ear once, but that’s a whole other blog about how much of a messy eater I am.

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Culture night in Belfast at Established Coffee

 

We also go out a lot for Brunch as it is our favourite meal of the day (who doesn’t love brunch?!) our Number one stop for brunch is Established which is on Hill street Belfast at the corner of Talbot Street (Behind St Anne’s Cathedral) . I think if Neil and I could live there we would, their coffee is outstanding, their food is phenomenal and their cakes are out of this world, a must visit for any coffee lover coming to Belfast. They also do a special weekend brunch one sweet and one savoury. Their Instagram is filled with food inspiration and serious coffee porn. I genuinely couldn’t recommend it highly enough and they sell lots of stuff to recreate your coffee experience at home.

Another food place we just adore is the national. Again we go here for brunch a lot and it is fantastic, they have an amazing variety of foods and I usually go for the pancakes with cream cheese and compote with a side of sausages To say it is sheer perfection would be an understatement.

 

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Food and artwork? what’s not to love?

We do genuinely love eating out in Belfast and there are so many new and exciting places to choose from, from the Cathedral quarter to Titanic quarter, Botanic to Dublin road Belfast has it all. We love the variety, the markets, the home-grown and sourced produce, it all makes it so much more special.

 

Coffee

Neil and I are coffee fanatics and we do enjoy the usual chain coffee shops. Costa, who do an amazing white hot chocolate (which isn’t coffee, but their coffee is beautiful too) we go to Nero a lot as Neil loves their mocha coffee and peach croissants. Our favourite however would have to be Starbucks

 

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Our Belfast coffee map has been well used!

As cliché as it sound Starbucks is the place we have always gone, at the early stages of our relationship, we would have gone to Starbucks for a coffee date and lots of long talks and laughter. There is a song by Taylor swift called blank space which has the line in it “got a long list of ex-lovers” which we misheard as “gotta love those Starbucks lovers” so it sort of became a little phrase we use, that we are starbucks lovers. On our wedding day Neil and I decided to after the ceremony in Belfast city hall and the photographs in Botanic Gardens that we would take a detour to Starbucks in Bangor before heading to our reception in Holywood county down.

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Wedding day Selfie on our way for a Starbucks

We walked into Starbuck’s in our wedding attire, dressed in my wedding dress and Neil in his suit we ordered two s’mores frappuccino. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realized how odd we must have looked there were people going to Tesco to do their weekly shop and here we are a bride and groom hitting up Starbucks for a cool drink on what was a hot May 13th. When Neil went to pay for them the barista said they were on the house and congratulated us on our wedding day, Again… another reason to love starbucks. I did joke about putting the dress on more often and going for coffee but I think I would have ended up having my picture around all the starbucks of Northern Ireland!

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Starbucks Lovers

Aside from the usual coffee haunts we recently bought a Belfast coffee Map which we have been using to travel around different and new coffee shops to explore what they have to offer. Two of note that we loved were kaffe O on Botanic avenue which had beautiful coffee and a great food selection to go along with it, The general merchants on the Newtownards road has gorgeous coffee and the staff are amazing… random story, but when we got there I lost a button off one of my vintage shirts, not having a spare one I just had to find it, I ended up having three members of staff and four un-suspecting diners searching for it until it was found! The relief!

 

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Coffee love

 

Our number one place to go of recent times is not just all about the coffee, it’s about the Doughnuts! Guilt trip, which is in East Belfast No4 Orangefield Lane, Is just indescribable, their coffee is so beautiful, the shop itself is so unique to them, and the Doughnuts are just the biggest guilty pleasure … Guilt trip for a guilt trip ? seriously they are worth every bite and I recommend trying them all! We tried a vanilla frosting and a maple syrup with bacon the last time we were there… I have no more words.

 

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The picture doesn’t even do them justice!

 

Shopping

I do love a good wander around Belfast looking at the shops, from the usual high street brands to the new and unusual. I don’t even really think I ever go shopping with something I need, I usually just tell Neil we are going for a Belfast dander and off we go.

If shops were children I would have to say TK Maxx is my favorite one! I can’t begin to describe how much I love it and how much happiness a wee Tk Maxx run will bring me in life. From home wear to clothes, shoes, bags and accessories they have it all. I particularly love their Halloween and Christmas ranges as you always find something a bit quirky and unusual to add to my collection of Decorations.

I have found so many unusual little treasures in it and have really enjoyed many an hour searching around the aisles of TK Maxx… true story, I once visited 4 stores in one day in order to find a golden gnome I had seen in the store in Belfast, I didn’t buy it because, at the time , I had my hands full and I left without him. Me being me I decided two days later I needed to have him, so back I went  and to my horror he was gone! … devastation came over my face, but I quickly recovered and off I went in search… To Boucher road then to Newtownabbey and finally Lisburn where I found him! As I say I am a TK maxx addict (I bought something in every store).  That afternoon my Bank called to check the suspicious TK maxx activity on my debit card… I feel my gnome story was lost on the guy in the bank but it explained my visiting 4 branches of Tk Maxx in one day and I know full well if I hadn’t of found it in Lisburn I would have gone to more!

 

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Mr Herbert … my TK Maxx treasure

 

I must say I am every so slightly obsessed with Abigail Aherns Collection for Debenhams, I think I have three figurines, two candle holders, a wall mounted giraffe and 5 cushions… the woman is amazing. I have also recently bought a new addition to our collection for our living room when it has completed its makeover so watch this space!

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Studio SOUK brings me so much happiness I always have to visit when I’m in Belfast

Another little gem of a store I just adore in Belfast is Studio SOUK, it is located in Anne street in Belfast and I have been obsessed since it first opened in castle lane. They have so many beautiful  products from Northern Ireland, from candles, handbags, art, cups, tea towels, chocolate and mini Harland and Wolff cranes.. Who wouldn’t love it?

 

 

Some amazing people

As time has gone on we have met some amazing people in and around Belfast. Some of them quirky and some just simply amazing human beings who sell the most fantastic products my life wouldn’t quite be a fun without!

 

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The beautiful Albert clock Belfast

First up is the beautiful Sam mercer. She is a creator of rockabilly and pinup inspired accessories and she is truly wonderful. She has her store online and can often be found at St George’s market in Belfast on a saturday morning. She makes the most beautiful accessories and I have a few things of hers including earrings, brooches, shoe clips and my head scarf collection! She is one of those people who will brighten your day with the sound of her fabulous voice or even a smile of her always on point red lip… serious girl crush! I have followed her on instagram for a while and am in love with her passion and creativity in her business. She is a complete inspiration.

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Next is a lady who is actually more a favourite of Neil’s but I just love her too. She is Neils hairdresser and her name is Norah Mcnally. Her salon is on the Newtownards road in Belfast at Ballyhackamore. Neil went their the first time purely for convenience as he really needed a haircut and by luck she had a free slot within the hour ( so we went and had coffee? … coffee? me?) and headed back for his haircut. Neil used to always get his hair done at the Barbour and it always looked the same and I didn’t like it (i’m a hair snob) Norah just has the most fabulous way about her, she is quietly spoken but very chatty, she is so friendly, always remembers everyone’s name and you never feel unwelcome in the salon. The other staff there are amazing too but Neil always sees her. She is becoming so popular that Neil has to make his appointments every 6 weeks and he makes them about 6 weeks in advance… sometimes more! She has really helped Neil on the personal grooming front, helping him to find a hairstyle that suits him, she helped him to neaten up his beard and showed him how to cut it to keep it neat and tidy, along with the eyebrow trim, moisturiser and hot towel it’s no wonder he keeps going back. But seriously she is one of those genuinely lovely people in life that you would talk about for hours and never have a bad word to say.

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Victoria square Belfast

I could spend all day talking about the place I love most in the world and as my adventures continue I will keep you all informed of the little loves I come across during this adventure I call life.

Love Laura x