31 December 2016


There's a theory that time goes by faster as you get older. It's not just a feeling. When you're four a year is a quarter of your life. When you're ten it's a tenth. Time gets smaller as you get bigger.

In 2016 I was 23 then 24, and in a few months I'll be 25. These numbers pass me by like I'm blinking but not really thinking about it, like one of those unconscious habits we are born with. Do we learn to forget about time or is it in our nature?

Every year we wait for the new year with a strange excitement. What are we celebrating? I wonder what the next 365 days will be like, what they will be and... what was last year? Will I be a different person in 2017? I felt the same last year. It fades fast; the sense of excitement marred with melancholy. Probably something to do with the Christmas comedown.

I first identified with depression when I was 20, but there had been sadness before then. There are clues that are so blindingly obvious to me now that I wonder why it never hit me sooner. But there is always a reason for my sadness, and none for my depression. Having said that, depression is now an underlying reason for all my sadness and I know this is not right.

This Christmas has been my first break without plans – something I've longed for all year. There are always drinks with school friends and family gatherings that have become tradition, I suppose, but there has been more time spent alone doing not very much. I packed to come home for ten days, and each one has stretched out so far that I begin to wonder if I'm four again.

I remember details from last year, like ornaments on windowsills and conversations the other person probably forgot. My list of resolutions; to travel more, to start saving, to read more, to write more – the same every year – only two I can say I ticked off, but I'll make them again anyway. And soon I'll forget this period altogether, until next year – or do I mean next week? – when it begins again.


13 December 2016

I Survived the Whole 30

Could you give up sugar, dairy, grains, legumes and alcohol for 30 days? It took two years for me to come round to the idea. It sounds easy. It's only a month.
I was sick of doctors appointments, of being told the same thing, of being told I was just suffering from a very normal symptom of IBS. I don't have IBS.

My skin was breaking out. Last year I finished a 5-month course of Roaccutane. I'm not sure I'd recommend it. Smooth, flawless skin was mine for all of 9 months, and then the spots were back, along with Crohns complications. They had warned me.

Sugar was the problem. And dairy, and gluten. That awful thing, gluten. Maybe I will get better if I cut it all out. Maybe my skin will renew itself completely. Maybe my life will change.

I read the book, I read their website, I read the transformation stories. I pored over Instagram before and after photos. True happiness.

The Whole30 had been done by people like me – their symptoms had disappeared, inflammation gone – Crohn's cured. I could see a miracle just 30 days within my reach.

"Cut out all the psychologically unhealthy, hormone-unbalancing, gut-disrupting, inflammatory food groups for a full 30 days."

I was prepared. I planned and prepped and shopped and cooked and documented every detail. From the day I began it consumed me.

Day one was easy. I could do this. What was all the fuss about? Then day two hit me like the hardest hangover, the fuggiest jet lag. Anxiety in my stomach, my head heavy and thick with a tension I couldn't shake. I was assured all of this was normal. I dragged myself into work.

After a week I was feeling okay again, but I didn't feel good. Here is a list of the things I suffered from as the month went on – all things I had never had a problem with previously:

  • Tendonitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Jaw muscle stress
  • Irritability
  • Social isolation

Along with feeling exhausted – which I was promised would disappear with the elimination of all the foods I had given up – I was miserable.

But I wanted to complete the 30 days. I had seen firsthand how it had helped my sister and my dad. Why wasn't it working for me?

"We cannot possibly put enough emphasis on this simple fact—the next 30 days will change your life. It will change the way you think about food, it will change your tastes, it will change your habits and your cravings. This will change your life."

Day 30 arrived, finally, like Christmas eve. I woke up at 6am, so excited to start my final day. I had completed 30 days without slipping up, but what had I achieved? All I could think about was the Nutella I was going to eat in the morning.

Weight loss was never a goal of mine, but I lost half a stone. Of course this made me happy, but not as much as being able to eat and drink whatever I want does. Two weeks post-Whole 30 and I eat chocolate, cheese, bread, milk – the lot. I eat it all and I know that none of it has a negative effect on my body. The key is moderation.

If I learnt anything from the Whole 30 it's that my relationship with food is a selfish one. First and foremost we eat what we want. What we need comes second. It's ingrained in our culture. Our generation has decided we will do whatever we want. Who dares to tell us anything? But the Whole 30 got me thinking. While I was clutching my hot water bottle, crippled with stomach cramps, catching the bus to and from work because it hurt too much to walk, my mind went back to what I've always believed: my body is a temple, and I will treat it like one.

What are your thoughts on the Whole 30 diet? If you're considering giving it a go I recommend getting involved in the community on Instagram. The support I received was incredible and it was so much fun documenting all my favourite Whole 30 meals and snacks. Click here if you want to find out more.


23 November 2016

The Rest

It was over two months ago that I flew to LA on my own. I was meeting a group of people – some I knew, some I didn't. I wasn't nervous. I guess I should be thankful that my anxiety is irrational. The scary things don't scare me. It might be easier if they did.

I welcomed the heat to my skin like an old friend. I had left a long summer behind, over 5,000 miles away, and was happy to see this one. This place I had known from a distance my whole life. 

Happiness hit me, like it does, but with the fog that the drugs promise. I'm figuring it out, I tell myself daily. There aren't enough resources for mental health, you know. Just drugs. The sun's rays fought through, resting on my eyes, lighting me up. What a place to absorb, a scene picked right out of The OC. I forced myself to believe it. A sky with its fresh coat of paint and that pool, a haven, whirring beneath us. How far I had come.

Rest takes many forms. For years I would tell people 'I'm an introvert.' I needed time on my own to recharge. Maybe I grew up, or changed, or trained myself to enjoy talking to people, because now I don't know what I am. Now I like time alone with others. Lying, sitting, standing, in comfortable silence with almost strangers. I am fine on my own, but then it scares me more than anything else. At what point do you tip over? By day five I was ready for the 11-hour, solo flight home.

Home to my new home. Home to my not home. I cried for a week, like I was 18 again, except I had no one to latch onto. I had responsibilities. My mum, instead, took the phone calls, and my God took the night calls. 

When does it start to feel okay again? When does something painful turn into something positive? Four months of misery in my mind, a weight on my head, somehow lifting without me even noticing. My rest – I saw friends more, made new ones, said yes, spoke up, answered, asked – adjusting to a fresh new way of life, richer than I could have ever imagined.  

Now perspective is sinking in. Hindsight – they say it's a wonderful thing. 

I realised I didn't need a home away from home. I didn't need a replacement mum and dad. I didn't need what they were dangling in front of me, but not quite offering. I didn't need church 24/7. I needed to be on my own, to be afraid, to push the boundaries of my faith and what it truly means to be a Christian – to step outside of my comfort zone. Why would I let anyone, or anything, else do that for me?

You have to thank God for the way He is so right about everything. Something shifted. I began to thank Him for it all. For all the stress, the tears, the time. Where would I have gone had I stayed where I was? Nowhere. He gave me the push I needed to go. And I came up for air.

14 October 2016

The Art Shop & Chapel – Abergavenny

There is something very special about The Art Shop & Chapel. I lived in Abergavenny on and off for 11 years and during that time there was never one cafe that struck gold. Until, finally, when I left, of course.
The Art Shop & Chapel is a favourite of every single member of my family and I make a conscious effort to pop in whenever I'm home. As you can see the decor is just gorgeous, it's so warm and homely but not at all old fashioned or twee.
There is always plenty on the menu here, and this time I ordered the smoked salmon and avocado sandwich – probably the best combination I've ever tried. The quality of the ingredients helps, and I know they serve only the best here.

Sarah had the cod which came with a mixed bean salad kind of side dish. I love this place because it offers something for all appetites, from small bites to full main meals, and it's all super fresh and delicious.

Another great thing about The Art Shop & Chapel is that they do an incredible selection of gluten-free cakes. I'm not gluten intolerant but I love trying these options anyway.
Sarah and I got a slice of the chocolate, courgette and hazelnut cake to share, and the waiter gave us a pot of cream to go with it which was soooo good. With cake must come tea, so I chose Jasmine which came with a medjool date – such a sweet touch – and Sarah had opted for the Breakfast. 
We loved the cake! The fact that it wasn't too sweet ensured the taste of the hazelnuts and cocoa really shone through. I couldn't taste the courgette, but perhaps that's a good thing. Regardless, I have to try making this myself soon, it was one of my favourites to date!

If you're visiting Abergavenny you really must visit The Art Shop & Chapel. It's only now that I'm living in Bristol that this wonderful little place has popped up, but that just means I enjoy visits home that little bit more. Find out more about The Art Shop & Chapel here.

7 October 2016

Eatchu – St Nicks Market, Bristol

I don't think I'll ever get sick of Japanese food. Some people have Chinese or Indian as their takeaway of choice, but Japanese will always be my favourite. I could honestly eat ramen and dumplings at any time of day – even for breakfast.

Bristol is not short of Asian eateries, but I'm always going to welcome any new ones with open arms. And so, I was super excited to try the newest addition to St Nicks Market, Eatchu, on my lunch break last week. Gyoza are their thing – a Japanese-type dumpling that I love so much.

Eatchu's process is simple; you choose your filling, sauce and any toppings you want (and you can have as many as you like). I went for chicken (free-range, from Ruby and White butchers!), tonkatsu sauce and added rice and pickles. The gyoza were so delicately uniform and identical, and the filling was compact and flavoursome. The rice was sticky and fragrant, but the pickles were my favourite – I'm not sure what kind they were, though. (I seriously need more pickles in my life).

My colleagues were impressed, too, and we all agreed we could have eaten the same again, right there and then. But, alas, work was calling.

Have you been to Eatchu yet? Guy and Vic are at St Nicks Market at lunchtimes from Monday to Saturdays serving up their incredibly tasty gyoza. A box of six dumplings will set you back as little as £5 and I think that's a great price for what you get. 

Find out more about Eatchu here!

16 September 2016

Turtle Bay – Cheltenham Road, Bristol

Bristol is already home to one Turtle Bay – perched just off the harbourside near Park Street, a really good area for happy hour cocktails. I've only been a couple of times on busy Saturday nights out, so never had a chance to try their food menu. However, a second branch opened on Cheltenham Road recently, which is a lot closer to home and when I was asked to go and check it out I jumped at the chance. I personally feel like Turtle Bay suits the Gloucester Road area of Bristol much more than the harbourside. It's cool, relaxed and filled a huge gap in the market in this diverse area of the city.

So many people rave about Turtle Bay and it's easy to see why. Liam recommended the jumbled julep so Em and I got one each – it was fruity and delicious but far too easy to drink for a cocktail! We could have gone for more but as it was a school night we cracked on with the food.

We got two starters: the duck wraps and the chicken wings. I'd give the wraps a miss next time; they were a bit soggy and flavourless, but the chicken wings (which, sadly, didn't make it onto my camera) were amazing – thanks to my colleague Mike for recommending these!

For mains we wanted something a little milder to cool off our mouths. Our waiter was really friendly and helpful, pointing us towards the less spicy dishes. Em went for the Mo' Bay Chicken – it came in a super creamy jerk sauce with onions and a fried sweet plantain – it was so good and absolutely perfect if you're not a fan of spice.

My dish, the Trinidad Curry Chicken, was a little hotter, with scotch bonnet being the main culprit. Still, it was incredible and full of coconutty, fruity flavour and everything was cooked perfectly. The coconut garnish was a great addition, too.

Despite being stuffed we had to try a dessert. Covered in passionfruit sauce, the zesty lemon and lime tart had just the right amount of zing and sweetness - exactly what I needed after a super spicy meal. 

Overall, Turtle Bay won me over on all fronts. I can confirm the food is just as good as I had always suspected, if a little hotter than I imagined. However, spice is growing on me, and I love being open to trying new things. Even if you don't like spicy food, the staff will happily help you choose a milder dish with absolutely no judgement. So, definitely go – even if just for the 2 for 1 cocktails! Thanks to Turtle Bay for having Em and me round for tea :)


23 August 2016

Greens for Brunch at Poco – Stokes Croft, Bristol

Sometimes a change from all those pancakes and full English breakfasts is needed. On days when I wake up and my head just won't sit still I head down to Poco in Stokes Croft. They do some seriously good brunch; their website describes it as New York inspired. You'll still get your bacon and eggs but not quite perhaps like you know them.

I've had aching bones and Poco's been there for me, buttered greens and steaming coffee, waiting with open arms to envelope me in warmth and goodness. There is homemade food to be devoured in the kindest environment, even when your head hurts so much you have to wear your sunnies inside. Brunch at Poco will renew your soul, I swear.

Poco was the first place I visited when I moved here last year, actually, and it certainly set the bar high. They keep their menu small, doing only a few dishes – but doing them well.

Every time I go here I get the field mushroom, labneh, za'atar, poached eggs, grilled sourdough and greens and every time I am left feeling totally nourished and ready for the day. It's just good food made well in one of my favourite parts of the city. I guess the decor is right up my street, too. But who doesn't love stripped back wooden tables and chairs?

Tom is a top brunch pal. Before he moved into our house I asked God to give us someone who would be up for whimsical trips, and someone who would come with me on breakfast trips. It's so kind when He delivers on totally indulgent things like that, but He did, 100%, and I'm thankful for Tom's spontaneity; it's such a great trait to have.

The coffee was super rich and dark; my favourite kind, and the perfect partner for my field mushroom dish - which always hits the spot.

The eggs were poached to stunning white perfection, the greens cooked just so that they still had their bite, the labneh thick, creamy and zingy and the sourdough toast held everything together. But it was the mushrooms that were the star of the show – drenched in butter and just the most delectable things I have ever eaten – I could have had a plate of them alone. 

Here I can eat veggie dishes without really thinking of them as the veggie option. When a dish doesn't need meat to taste good, that's when you know you've found hit the jackpot. The combination of flavours, textures and freshness of the ingredients is what makes Poco stand out from everywhere else - you really must go and see for yourself.


16 August 2016

The Wait

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  
– Psalm 37:7
I’m so tired. I’m so tired that lifting myself up, out of this slumped-down-to-my-chin position in bed to open up my laptop to write this thing is the last straw. The very last straw. I'm serious. It's so heavy I can't think what to do. The longer I'm here the heavier it's...

I don't cry but I think if I did I would feel better.
I'm stuck in between losing it and getting on with it. How do I get to just one?

Everything fun has sucked out by this city that I still love more than anywhere else in the world. I'm not sure who or what I'm supposed to blame, so I hate nothing and I blame nothing. It's something – it could be a lot worse. Like that time when I woke up one day feeling sad for no reason. Here's a reason. 

I go for a drink with friends only to be pulled into this black hole when my phone rings with yet more rejection. No reason. Just rejection. You don't really think about the bad stuff in life until rejection is thrown at you, over and over. Then it feels like there's no point to anything. I’m fighting against a tide that just won't give. Determined to pull me under. Waves crash over me with some waiting in between, sometimes going harder, saltier, sometimes throwing me off guard with their awkward angles, stinging my eyes and ears and throat. It doesn’t ever get easier. It only gets more infuriating, but He is the constant and He is the one thing keeping me going. Something inside of me is holding onto that.

He has my back, even when those who claim to do His will are the ones who put me in this position. How does that work? God doesn’t take sides but He’s always on mine, you should know that.

Every limb is a dead weight, my head so heavy I don't know where to go first with its thoughts and as I write this I want to stop because nothing I write makes sense anyway. But what does giving up look like? 

I wouldn't know where to start with being homeless. The thought alone is making me panic. My stomach writhes; a mixture of pain from my period starting this morning and stress. I know what that feels like because my doctor diagnosed me with anxiety when I was 19. He told me I was tense and that to help myself I should lie down on my bed and relax every single piece of my body, even my eyelashes. I didn't understand anxiety back then. Maybe in five years' time I'll say the same about my idea of it now. I'm scared of my present self. Every year or so I look back on events past, thinking how stupid I was and how much smarter I am now. But it's always going to be like that, so I'm never smart, really.

There are boxes everywhere. Boxes piled up so high they're blocking the light straining through the window. Everything that doesn't fit into a box is lying around waiting for me, for something. So still, but what a mess. There are boxes in my head for every option – boxes for every possible avenue. Will I find a home today? 

So, this is what it feels like to be tugged and tugged until a part of you rips. This is what it’s like to be tested – truly – to have evil laugh in your face because you did what was right and not what was easy. 

I still see the things I love – the sun rising, the tree-lined streets, the warmth of August sinking in. The people I love are still the people I love. There are parts of the day when I forget. Breakfast is still my favourite, especially on weekends when it's pancakes and bacon and as much coffee as I want because I can still nap with all that caffeine inside of me. 

Take a breath – I'm reminded that this is the most difficult summer I’ve ever endured. And for the strangest, most inexplicable reason. But there’s a flickering inside of me; the smallest flame on a single-wick candle, burning, and refusing to be snuffed out by this wind. It's that small, strong reminder that with Him this season is ever so slightly sweeter than it is bitter.


28 July 2016

Recuperating in Puglia, Italy

I love being able to choose when I take my time off work. Working a 'regular' job means I get to go on holiday when flights and hotels are cheaper – New York in February, for example, is a fraction of the price as New York in August, not to mention more bearable weather-wise. I've also enjoyed long weekends in Paris, Barcelona, and, most recently, a week in Puglia, Italy. So I guess you could say there are some benefits of no longer being in education, as much as I miss those long summer holidays.

At the beginning of July I flew to Bari with my mum, dad and sister and we hired a car to drive to the small village of Coreggia, near Alberobello. It was quiet, and with virtually no other tourists in sight I was in my element. Fellow introverts will know where I'm coming from when I say I need time to just be. I needed to unwind after a busy six months of constant working and socialising and Italy offered just that.

We spent most days wondering around various towns and villages, visiting markets and the locals' favourite restaurants. I ate the sweetest peaches, devoured Nutella on bread for breakfast, discovered mozzarella's sister, burrata, and even learnt some Italian thanks to Duolingo. 

I ate more tomatoes that week than I have all year – but if you knew how flavoursome they were you'd understand. Everything tasted exactly as it should and it was all so ridiculously cheap.

I've forgotten the name of this restaurant, but it had recently opened in Ostuni and employed the kindest staff. My spaghetti 'Nicola' came drenched in olive oil with a roasting hot pan of tomato sauce on the side, which I was to add as I pleased. I tried the spaghetti without the sauce and it was the best I'd ever tasted; silky, al dente and the olive oil actually tasted like olives. The rich sauce made it even more exquisite.

My favourite gelato was this watermelon one I found in Ostuni, sitting on top of an even more delicious peach offering. How do the Italians get it so right with their food?

I mostly wore dresses on my holiday – it was too hot for anything else - and this Monki number served me so well: 
Dress: Monki (£20!!), Sandals: Primark. Sunglasses: Topshop Bag: Skinnydip (ASOS)

A week away was just right, and by Saturday morning I was ready to come home to Bristol and get back into the swing of regular life. As I re-familiarised myself with the comfort of my own bed, I realised that bit of variety in life is sometimes all we need.


10 July 2016

Brunch At The Well – Bristol

Ever since Paige tweeted about Wriggle I've been dying to see what's on offer near me. Special offers at independent restaurants? Yes, please. Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, so when I woke up one Saturday with no plans I got straight on the app.
At The Well was offering blueberry pancakes with bacon and maple syrup for a FIVER, so I text my housemate Tom and we headed straight down.

I walk past At The Well every day on my way to work and I've wanted to go in and try their pancakes for AGES, but you know, work calls. It's a cafe and a laundrette, which is so Stokes Croft, but cute nonetheless. Inside the decor is like a second-hand furniture shop, but it's very clean and quaint. We arrived at about 10am to find the cafe just opening. It was nice; we had the place to ourselves, so plenty of space and quiet. That's important at breakfast time.

I don't know if you're acquainted with Bristol, but if not, you're very welcome here. I've never lived anywhere else where I've felt more myself, more accepted and free to just be. In an area passionate about local, independent business, it's so easy to feel like you matter, and that's what I love the most about this city. At The Well is no exception and it really encapsulates what Bristol is all about. It's one of many friendly, warm cafes waiting to welcome you in with its homemade food, quirky decor and well-presented coffee.

Tom got a hot chocolate with marshmallows and I had the cold brew coffee. It came with a jug of milk and a teeny tiny jug of maple syrup, which I'd pass up on next time but it was an interesting combination to try.

Let's just take another moment to appreciate the size of the jugs again. Why so tiny? Why so cute? And these pancakes, well, they were some of the best I've had outside of my own kitchen. Served with butter, blueberries and the crispiest bacon, it ticked all the boxes and we were absolutely stuffed by the end. Safe to say I'll be back At The Well with or without a Wriggle deal. This cafe is just delightful.

You can find At The Well on Cheltenham Road. Its opening hours vary so check out their website to find out more, but most days they're open late so you can eat, drink and get your laundry done all in one trip.

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