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?

Saturday, 12 April 2014


I'm really not meant to be spending any money at the moment. Seriously- I buy clothes for no good reason in particular, and I'm terrible for popping to Tesco and buying something "interesting" for supper rather than just using up what's in the cupboard. From now, I'm on a bit of a spending ban- I don't need any more new clothes, or books, or baking paraphernalia. I have a freezer full of delicious things to eat. I must stop shopping.

Fortunately, before I got this ridiculous notion into my head, I did go shopping. And I was actually quite restrained, when you look at it....

I am running out of my favourite Origins cleanser, and was looking for a (much) cheaper alternative to try out. Enter Avene Extremely Gentle Cleanser, which so far, I'm really liking- I don't think my skin is any worse than normal (I have very, very sensitive, very reactive skin that freaks out when I drink red wine or get stressed, let alone when I try a new product), so it's a thumbs up from me. I also replenished my stock of Botanics Facial Oil, which I love to use before bed, as well as picking up some shampoo and conditioner. Am I the only one who a) always has to have matching shampoo and conditioner and b) changes which brand they use every time they buy a set?

Next stop was Lakeland for baking supplies. It was my grandad's 80th birthday on Friday, and today we're all off out for a family lunch, followed by cake and champagne at my great aunt and uncles- and I was asked to provide the cake. If all has gone to plan (I'm writing this on Thursday), it will be a lemon maderia sponge covered with white fondant icing, dotted with coloured fondant 80s with a ribbon around it. I'm sure I'll share the results regardless.

I needed to pop to Waterstones to get The Silent Wife for the next Blogger Book Club, and as I could get another book half price, it seemed rude not to- so I bought The Luminaries, mostly because I like to read books that make me look intelligent. And you know, it sounds pretty interesting too.

I also may have bought Mini Eggs as I'm stockpiling my favourite Easter chocolate for when I can finally eat  it next Sunday.

Since then, I also might have bought Frozen. finally saw it for the first time on Wednesday (I know!) and I was so excited by it I bought it on my way home on Thursday. It was certainly a sensible purchase, as after getting some sad news later that evening, I know I'll be watching it again this weekend  to cheer myself up.

So there we have it! My last splurge for a good long while. If you see me in town, or see me tweeting about shopping, yell at me?

Have you bought anything fun recently?

Friday, 11 April 2014

Sushi Making

It would be a bit of an understatement if I were to describe my group of friends as “foodies”.

We love food. Most gatherings involve food of some description, primarily made by our own fair hands. One recent Sunday, for example, involved a breakfast of pastries and fruit; afternoon tea of blueberry cake, scones with jam and cream, and cupcakes; and a Chinese-inspired roast chicken (think five-spice potatoes, tons of garlic and ginger, and stir fried veg). And it was amazing.

There are members of our group who will think nothing of going out for supper and spending £100. Many-coursed taster menus are de rigeur. There are a lot of really great restaurants in Cardiff, and boy do we make the most of them.

So when M, N and I had a girly night last Saturday, we knew we had to make something amazing for supper. The problem was- we’re all quite indecisive. Until N suggested we made sushi, that is.

Now N and her boyfriend make sushi on a fairly regular basis, and M had been on a sushi making course, so I felt way out of my depth, and left them to instruct me. Turns out- making sushi is seriously straightforward business. Rolling mat, nori, sushi rice, fillings, roll. A monkey could do it.

We filled our rolls with smoked salmon, spring onion and cucumber; avocado and bacon; tuna and avocado; and smoked salmon and avocado. Some with rice, some (when we ran out) without. Seriously delicious stuff, and perfect fare for a girly evening when accompanied by two and a half bottles of wine, and followed by (shop bought, gasp!) tiramisu.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

52 Lists: Childhood and Current Dream Jobs

Despite being a full time, paid, member of the adults-who-go-to-work club, I still have no real idea what I want to do. I like the idea of being something that people understand when you tell them your job title- “I’m a doctor”, “I’m an accountant”, “I’m an engineer” are all far easier than trying to explain what I do on a day to day basis. Quite honestly, 50% of the time I’m not even sure what I do, so when someone puts me on the spot a work conference, or over lunch, I’m generally found babbling vaguely about the things I remember doing the previous week, rather than what I actually do.

Found here
When I was younger, I thought I knew what I wanted to do. And now? I have no idea. Or rather, I do have ideas, but I’m always a little bit frightened to take the leap. Because let’s be honest- to retrain is expensive, both in terms of time and financially, and to make that commitment would require me to be very, very certain that it was the right thing to do- or to have enough money not to worry if I failed. It’s difficult, isn’t it? We have to make these enormous decisions about what we want to do for the rest of our lives when we’re sixteen, seventeen, eighteen- at the age when we tend not to have to decide what we’re having for supper, let alone what we might want to still be doing forty years later.

So I have two lists. One, of the things I wanted to do when I was a child (and by child, I mean Pre-University. So for some of those years, I suppose I was an adult...)

As a child, I wanted to be...
- a hairdresser. This was the one for years. I used to pretend to be a hairdresser called Miss Box and sit on the back of the sofa behind my dad and comb his hair. I was a strange child.
- a journalist- in fact, my father still wants me to do this. Me? Not so much.
- a lawyer. And then I realised I just didn't want it enough- you need to be seriously hardcore to make it in law, it seems.
- an actress. I even did Performance Studies to AS-Level- and then? Completely lost interest. Just not for me.

From here
And now?

- a baker. That's the one I am desperate for, I'll be honest. All I really want is my own bakery- and I am going to do my damnedest to make this work, at some point. I'll have a bakery/ tearoom and I'll be happy as a clam, baking up a storm, and making someone else deal with the accounts.
- a speech and language therapist. I am incredibly, incredibly tempted to go back to uni to do this. I'd need to get some experience to do it- which, when working full time, is easier said than done- but if I had the time and the money to return to full time study for four years, I'd be there.
- a florist. This was always my fall back until I fell in love with baking- I'd love to spend my days surrounded by flowers, making bouquets for people. I always quite wanted a bakery/ florist shop, actually. Maybe I'll still combine the two?

Sigh. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? Does anyone ever really know what they want to do? I’m not convinced. But it's like the Avett Brothers say, isn't it- decide what to be, and  go be it. (Great song). And I should certainly follow this advice:

From here
By the way- I think there are a few 52 Lists projects going around now. I got the idea for this one from Bella.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Castell Coch

As a complete and utter history nerd, I bloody love a good castle.

Normally, when Mama CupandSaucer visits Cardiff, we go shopping. Cardiff city centre is miles ahead of Plymouth city centre, so we make the most of it and enjoy a good bit of retail therapy whenever she's in Wales. But on Saturday, we decided to branch out a bit, and headed out to Castell Coch, near Pontypridd.

Castell Coch translates from the Welsh as "Red Castle"- so naturally, all I could think was "This is like the real Red Keep!". I managed to keep these thoughts to myself though, which was probably for the best- I'm not convinced Mama CupandSaucer would really have understood what I was on about, otherwise.

The castle is a mixture of the original 13th Century castle and the imagination of a very wealthy Victorian man, who decided to turn the ruin into his dream castle. The result? A pretty mismatch of old castle and intricate interiors (that were incredibly difficult to photograph well, it would seem). Lovely stuff that sent my history nerd brain spinning.

Honestly? Despite some of it being very pretty, I'm not convinced I would recommend Castell Coch if you were after a castle to visit in South Wales. It's nice- and I imagine on a sunny day when you could explore the grounds it would be really lovely- but I just didn't get a real wow from it. And the tearoom was closed. If you ask me- you'd be better off visiting Caerphilly, Chepstow, or Cardiff castles- now they have some wow to them!

Nonetheless- it was a lovely way to spend a couple of hours. And my bank balance was happier than it would have been if I'd gone shopping... (which is irrelevant, considering the fact that that's exactly what I did on Sunday morning. Oops)