No means NO

Today an incident inspired me to finally put this post together. A little spur of the moment I’ll admit, and I did have some dreamy, travel posts lined up, but this just seemed so important and pressing I had to write.

I want to talk about how “no, means no”. I want to talk about how often that two-letter word falls on deaf ears. Today I allowed myself to be intimidated and pushed into a situation I did not feel comfortable with. Now I wish I had been brave enough to stand up and make myself heard.

~Lets rewind a little to around 12.00pm today~

I was at my gym, mid-way through a new workout that I was pretty stoked on. I’d nailed a 5km HIIT run and was now trying out a Pop Pilates workout that was a killer. Every now and then, as I changed position- frog hop to single leg squat, pike hop to plank – I noticed a young guy continually walking back to the water machine, catching my eye as he did.

No big deal though, he can watch me if he wants to, looking doesn’t bother me, nor can it be blamed when I’m throwing shapes around like these.

As I finished up, he approached me. He asked me what the workout was, was it Pilates? Do I come here often? At the same time or different times?

A fairly good-looking guy: brown eyes, a gap between his front teeth when he smiles, sandy, swoop-cut hair.

The questions got more invasive.

What is my background? Where do I live?

I’m vague with my answers; say I’m moving soon anyway.

When are you moving? Where to? Do you like walks on the beach? At sunset? I live near the beach here.”

I try to back away.

I have to leave. My workout is finished. I have plans with friends.

What plans? And where? Had I ever been to his neighbourhood? Did I want to go?

The awkwardness is rising in my chest, and I know I have to get away. But I don’t want to cause a scene. Like most women, I’ve been brought up to be polite. Plus, I can read body language easily, and his trembling hands showed me his nervousness as he stalked his prey. What he may have seen as innocent flirting made me feel like a rabbit being followed by a fox, paws padding rapidly, backing me into a corner.

I really have to go. “Could I get your number?

He hasn’t even asked my name. I try to say I’m not comfortable giving out my phone number. I try to suggest social media- Instagram perhaps? My account is private; maybe once his request comes in I can just delete it. No feelings hurt. No awkward tension when I go to enjoy my daily workout. He doesn’t have Instagram and I don’t want him knowing my name for Facebook. He tries to grab my phone.

Okay, okay, I’ll take his number. That way the ball is in my court, I don’t have to contact him, and I can get away. “Let me text your number to me”.

This part I hate myself for. I always hate using the ‘I have a boyfriend line’, because I don’t see why that’s more valid than me just saying no- that I have to use the threat of an imaginary partner as my method of escape when my voice isn’t loud enough. I try not to use it, and so instead I said: “I can’t, I’m sort of involved with someone.”

Boyfriend?

Not really, but…

Well I’m not proposing marriage.

He takes my phone. “Whats your name again? So I can send it to myself.

He hadn’t even asked my name a first time.

I was just an object.

The more time that has passed since this incident the angrier that I feel. Yes, this was a lucky situation. I was safe and giving him the benefit of the doubt, I’m hoping he was a genuine guy, but the narrative was all wrong.

Who is this guy to think he can approach me during my daily workout? To cut my workout short because I feel so uncomfortable I have to run away from my gym, a place I usually feel at peace. Who is this guy to not accept my obvious attempts at rejection?

And this isn’t the first time. I’m not stupid; I know that there are men that find me attractive. And I’m small and blonde and I look like an easy catch. Sometimes I wear short skirts, and makeup, and I will chat to you if you chat to me, I’ll smile, I am pretty outgoing. Easy prey.

It happens in the LCBO, while I’m trying to check out. A man who could be my grandfather approaches me. On my way to work in the winter at 6:00am, on the subway, a drunken homeless man reaches for my face. In a club, a guy brushes his hand across the small of my back. I pretend I’m married to my friend. It happens to my friend Grace, a persistent guy tells her to “come for a drink.” No. “Just one”. NO! Or sharing a bed, a guy puts his hands on a girl while he thinks she is asleep. Sleeping bodies can’t say no. Imagine his face when her eyes flick open. She wasn’t asleep.

I read an interesting article by Sian Norris on The-Pool.com about so-called “romantic gestures by spurned lovers”. About men seeking out women who had said no, and making a public display of them- about how society and the media have taught us this is romantic. As Norris rightly states: “…there’s nothing romantic about refusing to accept that a woman has a right to leave you. It’s not a love story when a woman tells a man “no” and he demands she change it to a “yes”.

Furthermore: “Men who try and coerce women into staying with them, who try to emotionally manipulate or violently threaten women into staying with them, are not romantic heroes in a love story – they are men who refuse to recognise that women are subjects. They refuse to respect that we have our own autonomous wants, desires and lives.; that we have our own voices with which we should be free to use to say no. Instead, these men see women as objects, demanding we subordinate our own wishes and instead fall in accord with their wants.”

And while today’s situation was a fairly light one in the grand scheme of things, they can turn much darker, as this poignant video by broadly displays.

Now, I know not all guys are like this; in fact I like to believe the vast majority of you aren’t. One of my best friends is a guy, and he has more respect for me than many people. When he heard this story he wasn’t impressed. Or my mum’s partner is another great example, a man who has been enraged by unwillingness to accept that I have been mentally abused and manipulated by boys in the past.

 

 

And now my cell phone keeps buzzing, as the guy from the gym repeatedly calls me and leaves voicemails. And while I wanted my no to be enough, I couldnt escape his abusive messages until I said I was involved with an invisible man. And then I was told “I need to get it together instead of blaming other people for my choices.” This behaviour is wrong

If you are a guy reading this, I’m not blaming you, or pinpointing you. But if you see an ounce of recognition in this scenario, I hope this can switch the viewpoint for you.

It is all of our jobs: women, men, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, teachers, co-workers, friends- it is all our job to change this narrative.

No means no.

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More than just a cup of coffee….

Dedicating an entire, unsponsored post to a coffee shop might seem a little bizarre. Especially to anyone who has known me for longer than six months, and who is aware of my previous aversion to the mahogany roast.

Well boys and girls, things changed this summer, and I pulled up my big girl pants and fought against my 23-year-strong aversion to the stuff…. LIFE.CHANGED.

On a recent trip to Vancouver (something I’m sure I will cover more and more in upcoming posts) I discovered The Federal Store. Actually, my cousin who lives in the city discovered it, and passed on her treasured find to me.

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Nestled in the quaint neighbourhood of Mount Pleasant sits the hipster-dream that is The Federal Store. A refurbished coffee shop born in the front of an old general store, The Federal Store offers everything from your typical hot and iced brews, pastries and avocado toast to die for (so I hear, unfortunately my wheat intolerance always ruins these delicacies for me) to the locally made peanut butter and jams, plants and some of the hippest magazines currently in print.

Everything about the place screamed ‘Aimee’, with an Instagram aesthetic you can’t help but want to double tap, and some super welcoming staff.

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More than that though, the place has become a snapshot of a memory. A moment in time held in photographs and most likely my future nostalgic thoughts of a wonderful trip to the West Coast. Sitting on an August morning on the white picnic bench out front, sipping an Iced Americano and planning adventures with my beautiful cousins who, lets face it, are more like sisters to me.

If you’re in Vancouver I highly recommend The Federal Store. I hope it can serve as an idyllic part of your day too, or at the very least serve you up an idyllic cup of joe.

 

Aiméexo

Six Months

July 23rd marked my six months in Canada.

Six months.

That’s about that’s about 25 weeks, 181 days, 4,344 hours since I left my family and friends and chased a dream I’ve had since I was a kid. Six months isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things. It isn’t a serious relationship, or a baby growing into a toddler, or a successful marriage, or long-term job, but for me this is my first big milestone in my new life and I’ve never been happier.

In the past six months I’ve met some amazing new friends, I’ve seen some beautiful places, tried things I have always wanted to and learned a lot about self-acceptance along the way.

So, in saying that, I thought I’d compile a list of some of the biggest things to note about the first half of my year away from home:

 

1) It never gets easier to leave people behind, even if what you’re doing is something you really want. Having family close to you is always going to be a comfort, and while I am super close and very blessed to have my family in Canada who are a constant source of love and support, it is one of the hardest things in the world for me to be so far from my Mum and Dad. Not being able to call round and see them for a coffee whenever I feel like a chat is difficult to overcome, and lacking that is probably one of the things that makes my decision about staying here a little wobbly.

2) People always say it, for so many situations: you learn who your true friends are. When I was sick, I learned who my true friends were, when I moved away for university and had a shitty time, I learned who my true friends were. When my Grandma died, I learned who my true friends were. When my boyfriend hurt me, I learned who my true friends were. When I was lost and just needed someone to drink a bottle of wine with and vent, I learned who my true friends were. Moving to a new country is no different. We’re so lucky these days to have such fast and efficient communication routes, so that no matter where in the world we are, we can talk to our friends at the touch of a button. But even that ease isn’t enough for some people, and many instances where I felt I was keeping friendships afloat, have become more apparent than ever. That isn’t necessarily a negative thing though, all it has done is solidified those friendships that mean the most. Good friendships are sacred; look after ‘em.

 

3) While we’re on the subject of friendships, I’ve also realised that just because I haven’t known someone since my teen years, doesn’t mean that they aren’t or won’t become best friends. In my time here I’ve met lots of very cool people, and a good handful of very special people. Within that handful, I knew the minute I met some of them, that we were going to be good friends. This lot, they haven’t known me for that long, and there is still a lot about each other that we have to learn. But I can feel it, the universe; it’s pulled us together for a reason. They’ve been there for me already, and I will be there for them. The universe works in a mysterious, magical way like that. Sometimes you meet people and you just know, you know that there was always a plan for you guys to be best buds. It feels refreshing and wonderful to welcome new, positive energy into my circle.

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4) Trying new things is super cool. This year I finally got round to throwing away concerns about what everyone else thinks and picking up a skateboard. I haven’t looked back since. Man, not only is skating fun, but it’s improved my confidence and given me so many opportunities. It’s helped me meet some amazing people, some really great friends, travel to some wicked places and even gave me the chance to get some of my writing published in two super cool magazines. You can check the articles out at UK zine Hangup Online and at Canadian magazine KingShit.

 

5) I love peanut butter, ginger ale, iced coffee, ranch dressing and Triscuits.

 

6) Self-love it super important and super cool. I spent years surrounded by a toxic cloud of self-hatred. Being stuck in the same old place, doing the same thing every day gave me zero motivation to change my mind-set. I didn’t look after my mental health and didn’t even think it was possible to like myself. Instead I was sucked into the disgusting cycle of self-comparison: Instagram posts, before and after pics, diet tips, the social media lives we all paint for ourselves (me included) dulling my own perception of reality. Since I’ve been in a new place, I have gained a new sense of strength and recalibrated self-identity. I think it shows. I’m happier all of the time, and even on down days it’s not a struggle to pull myself out of it, and that rubs off on other people. I’ve never found it so easy to get on with people or to relate. Positivity comes from within; sometimes you just have to get a change of perspective to really see it.

 

7) If you’re English everyone’s going to ask if you’re from London, or about London, or something to do with London. Or they’ll ask you to talk like a roadman, or rap like Skepta, or about tea. I’m from the North East, which automatically lands me in the Scottish, Irish or Australian box. Occasionally Liverpool… Well, I guess that’s the right country at least (lol).

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7) Nature is magical. Even more than I ever realised. I always thought it was cool, but so far I’ve seen so much here. I’ve seen the land change from icing sugar white, piles of snow up to my knees and temperatures lower than I’ve ever imagined; to gorgeous sun kissed skin, dragonflies buzzing above the lake I stood on in winter and throwing myself from the pontoon boat into the gorgeous water below. I’ve seen the moon and sun collide at sunset, sending streaks of burning amber and cerise pink across the sky. I’ve seen the stars dancing on a black, velvet backdrop above the pine trees. I’ve smelled burning wood and cinnamon buns and rain in the forest and the smell of lakeshore.

 

8)Change is scary, but change is good.

 

Aimeexo

The Brick Wall of Fear (a First World problem)

Today I had my first bad day skateboarding.

What a first world problem.

Today was the first time I’ve ever had a fully bad day skating. By that I mean that from beginning to end I found it a real push just to enjoy myself because I just felt so bothered by the whole thing. And now it’s put me in a real funk.

Like anything though, when I need to let off some steam, I write about it… only this, I figured would make a great post.

A) Because maybe it may garner me some advice or motivation from the rest of the community.

B) Maybe it will help someone else out there going through the same thing.

Today though, it just felt like I was going nowhere. Like everything I tried didn’t succeed and that I just looked like a total fool even attempting anything. I kind of had a feeling it wasn’t going to go well before I even went out… maybe I just psyched myself out.

The thing is, I want to get it more than anything, and I just get so conscious- do I look like a poser? Hell, the last thing I want is to look like a poser. I want this so much that it makes my blood practically boil when I can’t get the hang of something.

Looking back, I know I’ve came a long way. Back in January I couldn’t even stand on a board….

A cold, January evening with my friend Ben literally holding my hands and wheeling me through a piss-scented car park.

And now I have the confidence to do so much more. To cruise round and round a patch of land, switch direction, tic-tac back and forth, round a soccer net, avoid a wall, skim a puddle; to push myself two blocks West over Toronto’s bumpy roads; to get back on my board and go, even when my wheels collide with a pebble that throws me into the gravel.

No matter how many times someone tells me to “bend your knees more” or “look ahead, not at your feet”, no matter how much technique is shared with me, or how many times someone holds my hands in a bid to lull me into a sense of security as a slide down a mini ramp- I just feel like my brain gets it and my body does the complete opposite.

I know it’s ‘the fear’: that nasty brick wall that seems to build itself up in every situation in life. And I understand it’s a pretty rational fear- you can get super fucked up skateboarding…. But not doing the stuff I want to do.

I just feel like my progression has hit a plateau and like I’m never going to get the hang of it.

Like maybe I’m too old for this.

Or too scared.

Or I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end.

Maybe I’m just not meant to skateboard.

And then I get so damn frustrated because I really, really want this bad.

Like I said, first world problems huh?

Image credit: Jase Daniels

Finding my voice

Blogging seemed like a great idea initially. I love writing; it gives me a release and lets me practise my chosen career path, plus is bulks up a portfolio and shows future employers that I’m always active. A win, win situation, right?

I’m not so sure. The thing is, with today’s online society, we are saturated with bloggers. Beauty bloggers, fashion bloggers, travel bloggers, music bloggers, movie bloggers, mummy bloggers, vegan bloggers, gluten-free bloggers. Hell, just pick a subject and I’ll guarantee there is a blog for that- probably even a YouTube channel to boot.

Now, I’m not a mother, and I ain’t planning on that for a long time, if I ever do plan on it. I literally can’t be bothered to cook enough to warrant writing about it. I love fashion and beauty but I’m not exactly a pro, no one wants my tips or play-by-play of me getting dressed each morning.

I feel like I’m losing sight of what exactly I should blog about. All I know everything about is me.

I was chatting with a fellow blogger and friend of mine, Clarisse (who runs an anonymous blog, so sadly I can’t link out to her), about this itch that I can’t quite scratch. And she told me how much she enjoyed my stories and anecdotes. My dating mishaps, my general life conundrums, and that’s when it hit me. Why can’t my topic just be what I know?

And what I know is being a 23-year-old female, British living in Toronto. I like a lot of things, and I’ll write about all of these things.

I’m good at being trained in journalism- at sticking to linguistic rules and style guides and the voice of my publisher.

But this time, the publisher, I guess, is me….

Welcome to voice of the author, 2.0. I hope I can get out of my funk and enjoy writing this blog again. I hope I can write some words that make you laugh and cry and relate.

 

Aiméexo

10 things to do this summer in Toronto

Now that the heat has finally hit it’s time to get prepared for those long, sunny days. Granted, I still have a lot of the city and its outskirts to experience, but summer is where I am most knowledgeable when it comes to The 6ix, and so I thought I would share some of my personal favourite summer activities.

In no particular order:

  1. The Toronto Island

The fact that this appears fist on my list is kind of a bummer this year, the island is remaining closed until it is marked safe for visitors, due to flooding from record-breakingly high water levels- a result of abnormally heavy rainfall over the spring months. Word on the street is that it won’t reopen until the beginning of August, which sucks.

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But, I digress, for when August rolls around this is a great way to spend a hot, sunny day. Just a short ferry ride from the downtown core, the Toronto Island is a great escape from the city that doesn’t cost too much and offers something for everyone. As a child, my parents would take my cousins and I to the island to enjoy the Franklin Children’s Garden and mini fairground.

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As a young adult, my cousin and I loved taking the ferry over to wards island and enjoying the beautiful blue flag beaches. The water is even good enough to paddle in- or swim if you’re brave enough.

Alternatively, head to the opposite side of the island and check out Hanlan’s Point, but be warned: this beach is clothing optional!

Pack a picnic and some sunblock, climb aboard the ferry, take in the breath-taking views of Lake Ontario and the city skyline, before having a well deserved lazy day on the sand.

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  1. Beach days

Following swiftly onward from the Island are the other beaches that the city has to offer. Of course, Toronto is not near the ocean, but Lake Ontario’s blue waters disuses itself as a gorgeous sea year round.

Head East to Woodbine beach, which offers a fun atmosphere to relaxing to hang out with friends and family, as well as convenience stands and even a skate park at Woodbine. With blue-flag water and some of the best sand’s that the city has to offer, woodbine is your most genuine “beach day”.

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Just a short walk from the Port Lands, navigate your way to Cherry beach, which boasts a far more relaxed vibe. I’ve even been told that you can often find beach-goers setting up their own campfires on the shore as the night draws in.

If you’re in the downtown core, and just fancy a quick beach break, without the hassle of getting wet and covered in soggy sand, why not check out Sugar Beach Park? You’ll spot it on the dockside, an array of little pink deckchairs and parasols all set up on a man-made beach area- soft, golden sands included. Granted, you can’t swim in the water here, but Sugar Beach is great if you want to take a break from a busy day of walking, checking out tourist spots, or even on your lunch-break. Plus, it’s an awesome spot for a photo shoot (just think of the Instagram likes!)

  1. Exploring Scarborough Bluffs
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The Bluffs are a tranquil stretch of 11 parks across 15km and not too far from the main city, however if you’re going to commit to visiting the area, I’d fully recommend taking a car, or finding someone who is willing to drive.

The Bluffs are ideal for an early evening walk, picnic with stunning views of both the Bluffs and a great place to swim. Head to Bluffers Park for a full view of the Bluffs, or take a left and venture to the beach and marina. For a more in detail summary of the Bluffs check out my post from a couple of years ago here.

  1. Picnic in Trinity Bellwoods

Being close to my neighbourhood, and the perfect in-between for my friends and I, Trinty Bellwoods feels like my most frequent stomping ground as soon as the sun comes out. Pack up some snacks and a blanket and head to the park to meet friends, or take a book and have some “me time”.

The park is full of all kinds of interesting people, from super active workout bunnies and dog walkers, to people nerve-rackingly slack lining and even some interesting looking performance artists.

Not too far from the park you can find Bellwood’s Brewery, an LCBO and a Beer Store- all great for some refreshments. While drinking in parks is not legal in Toronto (as of right now) I won’t tell if you don’t. Plus, there are some lovely can collectors walking the length and breadth of the park who will take your cans for you- they make some money recycling them and your ass is saved from those pesky bike cops-win, win.

  1. Visiting Harbourfront
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Quite possibly one of the most “touristy” things on this list, but enjoyable none the less. Harbourfront is another one of those things that you can do when you’re hanging with your mum, your kids, your gran or your friends, because everyone can find something to enjoy. Head to the Amsterdam Brewery where you can sample some in-house brewed beers while enjoying some almost “guilt-free” aperitifs including Crispy Brussels Sprouts and Mexican Sweet Corn from the comfort of one of their traditional red Muskoka chairs facing the beautiful Lake Ontario.

Or take a stroll along the boardwalk, eye-up some yachts you probably can’t afford (or at least I can’t) and finally hit up the Steam Whistle Brewery, original railway turntable included, for a boozy history lesson.

  1. Visit a park

Okay, so I kinda covered this one already, but Toronto has so many other parks to offer- both city and national parks. And whether you have money to spare or want to have a great day on a budget, a park is your go to.

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For me, I like approximately a six-minute walk from the famous Christie Pits, which in summer offers free viewing of baseball, including the Toronto Maple Leafs, as well as a swimming pool and an outdoor cinema at night.

Or head West on the subway to High Park where you can experience beautiful views of the water, the city, and even spend time in the park’s own mini-zoo.

The city is awash with parks, a perfect escape from metropolitan life, no matter which neighbourhood you live in. Take some snacks and a book and enjoy that warm summer breeze.

 

  1. A rooftop pool
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I only discovered rooftop pools that are open to the public were a thing back in the summer of 2015 but lemme tell ya, that nugget of summer joy changed my life. Yeah, you have to pay some money to have access to these pools- mostly situated in hotel complexes, but they are worth it if it’s a sweltering day and you have a few friends together looking to enjoy the heat.

The first pool I visited was with my cousins- after we concluded that Cabana Pool Bar (while I’m sure super cool, with great views and lots of hot people flocking to it) but kinda out of our price range- was the pool atop the roof of the Hyatt Residency on King. A gorgeous pool with a breath-taking view of the city and a staffed bar, this place is ideal to pretend you’re an extra on ‘The Real Housewives of –insert your favourite franchise here-“.

  1. Brunch, lunch or drinks on a patio

The great thing about summer is the ability to finally be able to sit on a patio. I feel like I spent the entire winter longing for that moment when I could sit, free of a jacket, on a patio and enjoy the hyped-up atmosphere that is the summer.

IMG_0986There are a billion amazing brunch and lunch places in the city, and it’s impossible to even begin to list them all. The same goes for bars. There is something for everyone in this diverse city, so no matter if you want a quiet beer with your pals, or to sit on a rooftop patio with some fancy cocktails while gazing at the city skyline, you have your pick.

In my own neighbourhood, I’d like to give a special mention to Pourboy, which offers tasty food and great drinks- including a mean sangria- for a great price.

 

Or hit up Bellwoods Brewery for some in-house brewed beers and ciders, all set on an idyllic patio, complete with white picnic benches. You can read more about the Brewery here on my review.

  1. Explore Kensington Market

Kensington can be a bit of a tourist trap, but it is also home to an array of amazing creatives, the streets filled with some of my favourite people in the city. A great place to scope out some delicious vegan and vegetarian food, some one-of-a-kind vintage fashion items, or some hand-made jewellery you won’t find anywhere else. Even if you’re on a budget, the market is just as cool to walk around, camera in hand, and take in the sights.

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  1. Watch a movie under the stars

It’s not often you can actually hang out in the great outdoors and watch a movie at the same time.

A number of parks in the city offer public evening screenings of some classic movies, including Christie Pits and Trinity Bellwoods, as well as viewings at Yonge-Dundas Square and the Harbourfront.

Take a blanket (and a date if you are so lucky) and enjoy summer right until bedtime.

I could go on and on, because when the weather is just right, I think Toronto excels in its nature of being the city that keeps on giving. If you’re new to the city, or just want to experience something you haven’t done before, I hope some of these points gave you that little sprinkling of inspiration you need to get out there and seize this summer day!

 

Aimee XO

 

 

Cherry Blossoms in High Park

This year has been my first ever experience of Toronto in spring. It is my first time seeing new life grow from the winter snow and feeling the excitement and anticipation of new beginnings spreading across the city.

One of the biggest markers of the season in ‘The 6ix’, is the blossoming of the beautiful cherry blossoms in the West End’s High Park. It wasn’t something that I was even aware of before I moved over here, but scrolling through social media one day, an article popped up about the infamous cherry blossoms, and I was hooked. There is something about the pastel petals swirling above my head on a sunny, blue-skied day, that begs for a camera to snap the moment into a memory. So, naturally, I grabbed my camera and set off on the subway towards High Park.

The trees reached their peak bloom in early May, and so I picked the ideal time to head down. It was fairly warm, and I had a good feeling about the way the day would pan out.

Swarms of families, tourists, couples and school field trips filled the park, but with my headphones blocking out the rest of the world, I happily meandered between the trees, camera in hand.

I’m not, by any means, a photographer, and I definitely don’t have photo editing down to a fine art, but I still think the pictures managed to capture some of the aesthetic of the day.

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It will be a shame to see the blossoms fall to the ground, but they will only make way for the bright green leaves of what will hopefully be a sunny and memorable summer.

 

Aimee xo