Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Was Giving Up Chocolate Worth It?

So I made it through a Lent without chocolate alive! And celebrated with a chocolate twist for breakfast on Easter Sunday. Which probably already tells you a lot about whether I think it was worth it...

From Food and Cook
Giving up chocolate for Lent wasn't ever really a health thing- it was more about breaking my bad habit of getting in from work and eating chocolate without even thinking about it. From this point of view, it's probably been a success- I don't necessarily come in and reach for the fruit (mostly because I eat a lot of fruit during the day at work and by the time I get in I need something different), but I don't feel the need for chocolate at 4pm any more. 

To be honest though, I genuinely only stuck to it because I'm stubborn. There was no way I was going to go over a month without chocolate and give in before Easter Sunday, regardless of how many people tried to tell me that Lent finished on Good Friday. I set myself a challenge, and I completed it.


From Raspberri Cupcakes
The whole way through Lent, I ate more sweets and biscuits than I ever normally do. I never buy packets of sweets, but throughout Lent, I found myself doing this because I needed a sugar hit that was more than grapes could offer. So that was pretty counterintuitive. I suppose I could have just given up all chocolate, biscuits, sweets, cakes, and everything else fun, but I'd have been so bloody miserable that no one would have wanted to play with me.

I haven't had any physical effects either- I mean, that was never the aim, but I can report no weight loss, change in skin, or change in energy levels. I just continued as normal, to be completely honest.

From Sweetapolita
I will concede that I no longer crave chocolate like I used to- however, I do still think on a fairly regular basis "Ooh some chocolate would be really good right now". I have got far better at recognising when I am hungry, and when I just want to nibble on something naughty too- so I suppose that is a point.

Most importantly, I think, is the fact that I never reached the point of "not being fussed" about chocolate. While I'm sure some people do reach this point, I certainly wasn't one of them, and I genuinely would now be sceptical of anyone who says "they just don't miss it" after a month and a half without something. I think it takes an awful lot longer to really not be bothered by a type of food you used to eat on a nearly daily basis.

All credit to Cider with Rosie
So yeah. I'm sure a lot of you will probably disagree with me, but for me? Giving up chocolate wasn't really worth it. I liked proving to myself that I could do it, but other than that? Nope, not enough benefits to make me want to do it again.

Now. Where did I put that bag of Mini Eggs?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Sunny Fridays

I love weekends at this time of year. The sun shines (occasionally), birds sing, people start to remember that it isn't winter all the time, the circulation comes back to my hands...

And this year, Easter weekend (in Devon) was one of those weekends. It's a remarkable difference from last Easter, when I was dragged out for a walk wearing an oversized cashmere jumper, ski jacket, snood, hat, and gloves.

On Good Friday, Mama CupandSaucer, J and I decided to spend the afternoon at Mount Edgecumbe. It's one of my favourite places on the whole entire planet (seriously), and given that I was in a bit of a (read- rather large) strop in the morning, a trip anywhere that was going to cheer me up was strongly felt to be a good idea.

We hopped on the Cremyll Ferry and made our way across the water from Devon to Cornwall, and aimed straight for the small pebble beach at the edge of the grounds. I decided that the only way to get better at skimming stones is to keep practicing, so J and I gathered handfuls of flat pebbles, and ran to the water's edge, while Mama sat and watched. This exercise served to prove that I still cannot skim stones, no matter how much someone tries to teach me. Sigh. I suppose there has to be something I can't do, right!? (Aside from ice skating backwards, sight reading, talking in a funny accent, anything involving co-ordination...)

Given that I quickly tire of things I can't do (I'm such a brat, honestly), we decided to take a stroll around the grounds and show them off to J, who had never visited before. I think he quickly realised that I'll be bringing him back here a fair amount- I'm already planning to go for a picnic the next time we're in the Plymouth area. And given that it is a well known fact that the best views are always from the highest ground, we made our winding way to see the folly.

It's a bit of a climb, but on a day like Friday, it was absolutely, one hundred percent worth it. Don't you think?

I could have stayed there for hours watching the people and the boats and the clouds. But we soon decided that we needed a cup of tea, so we made our merry way back to the Stables for drinks, stopping only to admire the bluebells and smell the wild garlic.

Too soon, however, we decided it was time to head for home, so we made our way to the house and it's wonderfully long, sloping lawn, and Mama and J walked down it sedately, while I stopped to take pictures primarily so I could run down the hill like a child in order to catch up. 

If you need to find me on a sunny day, and you know me to be in the West Devon area, chances are you'll now find me here. It's a hard life...

Monday, 21 April 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 63)

Hasn't it been just blissful having four full days off in a row without having to take annual leave?! I drove straight to Mama CupandSaucer's house from work on Thursday evening, picking up J on my way, and spent three lovely days relaxing, being looked after, and catching up. Today, I'm spending the day with the lovely Jenny, which promises to be rather lovely indeed.

Everything is still crazily busy- I'm booked up all through May and well into June, and I'm already making plans for the autumn. I just kind of want to put the brakes on a little, and really enjoy right now- and I think this long weekend has been perfect for that.

Anyway. This week, happiness is...

... all the bluebells! Aren't they just the most beautiful flowers? I much prefer them when they're in their natural habitat- as in, outside, in the wild, rather than having them in a jar in the house. They are one of my favourite things about this time of year.

... catching up with old friends. I'm not always the best at keeping in touch, particularly not with my two best friends from school. Fortunately, we were all at our parents' houses for Easter, and on Saturday descended on a local cafe for tea and a catch up. There's been so much going on in all of our lives recently it was just crazy, but as always it was so good to see them.

From here
... al fresco dining. As I mentioned yesterday, we managed to eat outside at Honest on Monday night and it was just blissful. I can't wait for the evenings to get just a little bit warmer to be able to eat outside more often. Picnics, BBQs, dinner parties outside, breakfast in the park- it's my favourite!

... hearing birdsong. I hadn't really realised how little birdsong there is near my Cardiff home until Saturday morning, when I was overheating in bed at Mama CupandSaucer's house, and threw open the window. I was greeted by a cacophony of birdsong, and I just lay in bed listening for ages- it's such a lovely sound!

From here
... being able to eat chocolate again! Goodness me, it wasn't easy giving up chocolate for Lent, and I'll be doing a full post on my thoughts on whether it was worth it, but for now, suffice to say I'm very very happy to be able to eat it again.

What's making you happy this week? 

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A Return To London

It would seem I can't stay away from London for long at the moment. As much as I adore Cardiff, and my native Devon, there's something about London that pulls me in, catches my breath, and leaves me buzzing, and I love my little visits. So last week, I took a couple of days off work and hopped on a train to London to see several lovely London based girlies.

And my time in London was mostly spent...

From here
... arriving into Paddington at lunchtime
... hopping straight onto the Hammersmith and City line out to meet the gorgeous Meg and the lovely little M for lunch. 
... wandering across Hamsptead Heath in the direction of Kenwood House for a little picnic.

...parking ourselves on a blanket on the front lawn
... listening to M squeal excitedly every time she spotted a plane
... luxuriating in the sunshine while gossiping about life, the universe, and everything.
... forgetting that that was the first time I'd met Meg in person!

... leaving Meg to complete her ginormous balloon order
... zooming to  King's Cross to meet my beloved Bess for a drink in the sunshine and a brisk walk towards Covent Garden
... catching up and venting about the things that annoy us most.

...  planning to meet our lovely Ellie for food at Burger and Lobster
... dealing with less than polite staff andbeing told we couldn't even be put on the waiting list until E had joined us
... deciding to up sticks and head to Honest Burger, just a hop, skip, and a jump around the corner. 

... being quickly settled me and Bess into a heated outside table where we 
.... sneakily munching a portion of onion rings while we waited for Ellie to finish work and join us. 
.... greeting her with squeals, hugs, and enough laughter to draw attention from other waiting customers.
... plumping for the special Ribman burger- perfectly cooked burgers topped with topped with rib meat, cheese, BBQ sauce, and pickles.

... being escorted to the pub
... being plied us with Diet Coke (Bess) and cider (me)
... stealing Ellie's bed.

... entertaining myself by people watching in Hyde Park
... deciding that I will never be the sort of yummy mummy who does an exercise class with a buggy in a park. No sir.
... torturing myself in the chocolate section of Harrods. 
... browsing womenswear for dress inspiration (if I'm not allowed to buy a crazily expensive dress for my brother's wedding, when am I?!). 
... heading for King's Cross
... peeking at Platform 9 3/4 (distinctly underwhelming, coming from a big Harry Potter fan) 

... presenting Bess with salted caramel truffles as a post-meeting treat.
... helping her fill her suitcase with Lindt chocolate Easter eggs (and feeling jealous)
... walking to Bill's for lunch
... chowing down on a brilliant fishfinger sandwich
... making my way back to Paddington
... marvelling at the yellow fields of rapeseed
... getting home happy, tired, and determined to spend more time in London.

Format inspired by Love Audrey's My Weekend Was Mainly Spent... posts

Friday, 18 April 2014

Hub Box, Exeter

I am a big fan of a good burger. Seriously- they may be tricky to eat in a dignified way, but for the most part I can get over that quickly enough to enjoy stuffing my face with a chunk of meat and carby goodness. Bonus points if cheese is involved.

New (predominantly independent- hooray!) burger places are popping up left, right, and centre at the moment. So when I was in town on Friday night, J and I decided to give Hub Box, Exeter's latest offering a go. His housemate strongly recommended it to us, so we had pretty high expectations- and we were not disappointed.

We arrived at around 8pm, and were told that while they couldn't seat us right that second, a table would be free in around 15 minutes- so we popped our names on the list, and quickly nipped to the cash point, having spotted that it was cash only. By the time we got back (probably only 5 minutes later), a table was ready for us, so we settled ourselves on the high benches and perused the pretty varied menu whilst admiring the industrial-esque decor- I mean, the kitchen is built inside an old storage container. This is pretty cool stuff for deepest, darkest Devon!!

 I'm a terrible, terrible decision maker, so I chopped and changed between three or four different things on the menu before plumping for the incredibly unladylike Big Chill burger, while J went for the Big Kahuna. I was pretty damn impressed with my choice- the burger itself was delicious, while the chilli had some great heat to it. I was also pleased to spot at the bottom of the menu that their meat comes from farmers in Devon and Cornwall. And I managed to eat it without spilling any down my top, so wins all around.
The Big Kahuna
The Big Chill
There was one tiny negative, however: where we were sitting, there were four tables laid out in a square- but in such a way that to get to one of tables, the poor waitress had to ask me to let her squeeze through- which happened at least four or five times, and was a little disruptive. However, she was so apologetic about this every time, and you could tell she genuinely felt awful about having to disturb us. She also gave us a couple of extra stamps on a loyalty card by way of an apology for it. It didn't affect my enjoyment of the food, or atmosphere, or anything though- this was more a minor niggle than a deal breaker, and fingers crossed they'll rearrange that area in the near future, so I wouldn't let that put you off. 

Have you got a good burger place near you? 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Beside The Seaside

On Sunday, J and I made our way out to the seaside. Exmouth, to be precise.

Exmouth is a small town on the South Devon coast. It's very sweet- a proper old school seaside town, with a long promenade, terraced houses turned into guest houses and hotels, and a long expanse of sand. Quite the place to spend a sunny Sunday, I'm sure you'll agree. Particularly a Sunday sunny enough to go tight-less for the first time this year- finally!

We wandered slowly along the seafront, before tiptoeing down onto the sand. J retained his shoes. I did not. There really are few greater pleasures than burying your toes in warm sand- particularly the first burying of toes into warm sand of the year.

We picked our way across the sand towards the sea, where I promptly dashed straight in for a paddle. J couldn't be convinced, but clearly, I was rather happy about it. It was flipping freezing, in case you were wondering, but I'm not very good at being near the sea and not dipping at least a toe in. It's resulted in soggy jeans on multiple occasions.

J stood on the shoreline searching for flat stones to skim. I stood in awe, watching as the stones he threw skipped once, twice, three times, metres away from us. I made a few attempts- I have never been able to skim stones- and managed to get one stone to skip four times. You could probably hear my gleeful squeal in Cockwood, the village on the other side of the estuary.

We decided to quit while we were ahead, and headed back to dry sand to sit and people watch. And while we sat, chattering about nothing and watching the families chasing each other, a troupe of donkeys made their way along the shoreline with small people on their backs.

It's days like this that remind me that the UK is one of the most unbelievably brilliant places to live. In the sunshine, we really do have it all.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 62)

I'm only in work for two days this week- Wednesday and Thursday, due to a little trip to the Big Smoke today and tomorrow, and Good Friday on, well, Friday. I am so excited for a little bit of time off- theoretically to recharge the batteries, but in practice, just to do all the things. Mama CupandSaucer text me last night saying "What a busy time you are having! Work just gets in the way, doesn't it?"- and realistically, she couldn't have been more right.

Last week was a complete emotional rollercoaster, with some seriously great highs, and some really sad news too. But I suppose that's all part of life, isn't it? We have to take the good with the bad and just hope that we make it through as unscathed as possible.

On the whole though, things are pretty good. I didn't struggle to think of things to write today, that's for sure- so without further ado, this week, happiness is...

... paddling in the sea. I went for my first paddle in the sea of the year yesterday, and I couldn't have been happier about it- as you can probably tell from my delirious grin- even if my feet did feel like they were going to fall off.

... playing pool. I'm dreadful- seriously, I managed to not pot a ball that was teetering at the edge of a pockets- but I absolutely love playing pool. There's just something about it, isn't there?!

... Frozen. I finally saw it for the first time last Wednesday, and I can't believe it took me that long. I've already watched it a second time to make up for my tardiness. I may have a fair few issues with it (which I won't go into unless you ask me), but I've been singing Let It Go ever since, and on Sunday morning when J told me to go back to sleep, I instantly responded with "The sky's awake, so I'm awake". Instant classic. (His reaction was much like Elsa's, too)

... cake and champagne. Because let's be honest, is there actually a better combination than that- particularly when you're surrounded by 11 of your absolute very favourite people?! No, no there is not.

... odd but brilliant flavours of ice-cream. I live very close to Joe's Ice Cream, where I tried Welsh Cake ice cream the other week. And yesterday, in Antonio's in Exmouth, I demolished scoops of Hot Cross Bun and Jam Doughnut flavour ice creams. Seriously, who needs boring old strawberry when you've got that!?

What's making you happy this week?