Wednesday, 29 January 2014

What I Want To Wear

I am currently going through one of those times with my wardrobe where I don't like or want to wear anything contained within it. 

And I'm using the word wardrobe loosely here- I mentioned I'm living out of a suitcase at the moment, right? Yeah, I had to try to fit enough clothes to last me several weeks, including all of my workwear, into one suitcase that is currently languishing at the foot of the single bed I'm currently calling mine. It's been a struggle, and I'm trying to think of it as a "capsule wardrobe" because it includes breton stripes, a grey cashmere jumper, and my favourite jeans but really- all I can think about is the fact that I don't always want to wear those things and sometimes, it really sucks.

From here
Workwear is really pretty dull, but also incredibly easy. I tend to wear dresses to work- I realised today that I am not a "smart trousers and pretty top" kind of person. I don't like wearing those things because I don't feel like me in them. I feel like me in a long sleeved grey dress (yes, I found one!), or a pencil skirt and flimsy sleeveless blouse, or a black dress I once wore to dress up as Audrey Hepburn. It makes it a bit tricky- a pair of trousers can be worn three days running, I guess, but I will not wear the same work dress twice in two weeks, which is ridiculous as I don't notice what other people wear to work, so why should they notice me? 

Found here
I wish I could do the cool androgyny thing but let's be honest- I'm just not cool enough for that. I try, but I'm  just not. No, I can do collars, and chunky cardigans, and enough stripes to make me in charge of every armed force in the country. 

From here
I wish I was braver when it comes to the clothes I buy but I'm actually really wary about wasting my money. I don't like the idea of buying something only for it to stay in my wardrobe, waiting for the perfect time to wear it, so instead, I buy the same things over and over, things which look good but which don't make my heart sing. Maybe one day I'll be braver- maybe, I'll put on something ridiculous and I'll think "this looks good!" and I'll wear it and feel amazing.

From here

But until then, I'll keep wistfully looking at the girls on Pinterest, who look nothing like me and who have crazily long legs and the stamina to stroll around in heels, and think "maybe one day".

From here

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Apple Cake

Hasn't it gone ridiculously cold recently? 

I mean seriously- I know it's January, but I left work last night and headed straight into town to try to get myself a pair of gloves and something that will stop my ears falling off on my cold walk to work. I managed to find said things, and also managed to find not one, but four dresses I wanted, so into my shopping bag they went and I skipped home feeling mildly guilty but also pretty pleased with myself.

Our house is also a fairly chilly house, so I spend a lot of time padding around in slippers and an extra warm cardigan, clutching a cup of tea and wondering if I look anything like the picture below (with a mug)

From here
Of course, I really look nothing like her and that's okay. Because if I imagine the girl in the picture probably thinks twice before eating a chunk of apple cake with her cup of tea, and I am not that sort of girl. No, I am the sort of girl who sees a bag of apples and thinks not "Oh apples, there's a good healthy treat!" but "Oh apples, that means I can make apple cake, or apple crumble, or apple flapjack, or..." 

Seriously. I'm the girl who sees fruit and thinks "what sort of cake can I make with this".

On my hunt for the perfect apple cake recipe, I looked no further than Smitten Kitchen. Deb Perelman is kind of my go-to when it comes to recipes I think I want to make but am not certain of how to go about, or where else to look. And yes, she measures in cups and I have a slight aversion to cups for baking, but you know- I measured everything for this recipe using my new Emma Bridgewater breakfast cup and it worked perfectly. As long as you measure everything using the same cup, even if that is a mug not a standard measuring cup, chances are you'll be okay. And this cake is worth the measuring in a cup.

As an aside, the batter for this cake before you add the eggs is crazily thick. Like really thick. Go with it, and remember that the apples will add moisture to your mixture, so don't fret. And yes, I know mine is burnt on the bottom. The oven in the house is atrocious and upsets me greatly because it heats from the bottom, is temperamental, and doesn't make baking easy. But I promise- even if this cake gets a bit burnt on the bottom, it is still delicious. And I'm sure even Mary Berry has burnt a cake in her time (actually, I bet she hasn't but that's okay, I guess)

Apple Cake
This is predominantly/ almost completely the same as Smitten Kitchen's Mom's Apple Cake, and therefore all credit goes to Deb Perelman. Reference your recipes people- if you don't, that's plagiarism and we all learnt at uni that that's a bad thing.

5 or 6 apples
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
7 dessert spoons of demerara sugar

2 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
A pinch of salt 
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup vegetable or sunflower oil
2 cups sugar (I used one each of soft brown and caster)
1/4 cup orange juice 
4 eggs

Preheat your oven to 180C. Line a 8 or 9inch tin, preferably loose bottomed and deep (if shallow, use two- it rises), with baking paper.

Begin by mixing your flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together your oil, sugar, and juice- actually do this in a separate bowl, it will work way better. Work your wet ingredients into your dry ones. It will look a bit like a biscuit dough but that's okay. Whisk your eggs together in a separate bowl, and add them to the mixture bit by bit, beating well after each addition. Set to one side.

Peel, core, and chop your apples into 1cm dice (approximately. Obviously don't get your ruler out!)- work quickly or they will go brown. Put them all into a bowl, and pour your sugar and spices over the top. Mix well to combine.

Pour a good load of your batter into your tin, then remember you were meant to put the apples in halfway up. Add about half- two-thirds of your apples, then pour the remaining batter on top, and top with the remaining apples. Bake for around an hour- hour and a half (it's worth it) or until a skewer comes out clean. If it's browning too quickly on the top, tent some foil over it to give it a bit of protection.

Mine is served ready chopped because it's the only way I could get it out of the tin. Sigh.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Happiness Is.... (vol. 52)

I think I might have messed my numbering up somewhere along the line- because I haven't quite been blogging for a year yet, so to be at week 52 is confusing me somewhat. But hey- I'll go with it.

I'm writing this sat at the kitchen table (I spend an awful lot of time in the kitchen) while an apple cake bakes. As soon as that's done, I'll be moving on to chocolate chip shortbread- and before you ask, of course I'll be sharing the recipes (if they taste good. I'll keep you posted though). The sun has come out a little, which is a real improvement on the torrential rain we had this morning, and I'm feeling tired (two nights of drinking in a row is a little too much for this 24-year-old) but peaceful, and comfortable in my own skin. This is likely due to the fact that I'm wearing my favourite, most comfortable jeans, and my favourite striped jumper. 

Things feel easy at the moment. OK, there are things which aren't easy- people I'm missing, stressful situations, the massive adjustment to being a responsible adult again- but I feel like I'm taking it in my stride. And I'm sorry about all the gushing about this- I'm sure some of you are sitting at home rolling your eyes at this and thinking "whatever, she's just showing us the good bits", and maybe I am. But I'm allowed.

Anyways. This week, happiness is...

From here
... solo kitchen dance parties. Yesterday, while I was baking, I put Happy on at full blast, and danced it out. Seriously- I was busting some great moves, and had I videoed it I probably would have been the next YouTube sensation. Sadly, the world will never see, but next time you're over, come dance in the kitchen with me and you can see for yourself.

... being able to walk everywhere. Back in Devon, I was utterly, utterly reliant on my car. Here, I forget where I've parked my car as I drive it only once or twice a week. It's brilliant.

Lovely housemate and me- pre-kitchen floor picnic...
... 2:30am kitchen floor picnics. We had a 1920s themed party on Friday night, and once everyone who wasn't staying had headed home to their beds, those of us who remained sent our designated driver off in search of cheesy chips. We all set up camp on the kitchen floor, in a combination of party dresses, suits, and PJs, and tucked in, giggling over the antics of some of the party goers. Being 24 is fun.

... the traffic lights changing just as you get to them. On my walk to work, I have to traverse a junction affectionately known in the area as Death Junction- and a name like that means you do not just run across the road. So it makes my morning when I get to the junction just as the lights change and the green man appears to tell me it's (theoretically) safe to continue on.

... drinking games. OK, so maybe not my most mature "happy thing" ever, but come on- there are few things more hilarious than games of Fuzzy Duck, 21, Arrogance, and Drink While You Think in the pub with new friends. Even when you're the one who keeps messing up the hand slap game...

What's making you happy this week?

Saturday, 25 January 2014


Every now and then, I need a little bit of time where I'm not around other people. It makes me sound really rather antisocial, and I guess in some ways it is antisocial- but needs must and to be honest, if I don't get a little bit of alone time every now and then I can become downright unpleasant to be around. Sometimes, I need to step back, move away from people, and just breathe.

Yesterday was one of those days. We hosted a 1920s themed birthday party for my housemate L on Friday night, and Saturday begun with ten hungover twenty-somethings crammed around our kitchen table for a big breakfast pulled together by me and the birthday boy. Once we'd all been suitably fed and watered, we all melted away to our own doings, and I drifted off for episodes of Grey's Anatomy, a mug of tea, and a nap.

But by mid afternoon, I was feeling the need for some fresh air. I pulled on my new favourite boots and my favourite burgundy coat, and headed out into the late afternoon sunshine. I found myself a few minutes later standing by Roath Park lake, watching the seagulls fight over a piece of bread, and standing my ground against the wind, which was strong enough to blow tears from my eyes.

And I stood there in the last of the afternoon sunshine, thinking about how I seem to have made some pretty good decisions recently. Being an adult is all about making decisions, it seems- from what to have for supper and whether to go out on Friday night, to where to go on holiday, whether to take that job, where to live, and who you want to have around you. I'm not in the business any more of being around people who don't make me happy- or those who like having me around because it makes them feel better. No, I like being around the people who make me feel good about myself, who want me to be happy, and who I want to make happy too. And I feel like right now, I'm around those sorts of people, and there's nothing nicer than that.

As I strolled back from the lake, I decided that I wasn't quite ready to go home- so I took myself off for a pot of tea and a daydream, and ended up people watching in Coffee #1, where the table next to me was occupied by the sweetest little girl and her parents.

And it was all I needed. Just a little bit of time out has meant that I don't mind that I'm spending my Saturday night with a group of people I really don't know all that well, or have plans for every night this week. I'm feeling centered, and happy, and ready to put my game face back on.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Someday, I'll Be Living In A Big Ol' City

And if you know the rest of that line, you're my new favourite person.

As a result of moving to a city that probably doesn't classify as being "big", though is pretty "old", I have been a terrible, terrible blog reader recently, and for that I can only apologise. To be honest- it probably isn't going to improve masses over the next few weeks either, as I have something on every weekend between now and the middle of March, and I already have weekends booked out in May and July. 2014, you may be brilliant so far but I have a feeling you're going to be exhausting.

However, I have been trying to read posts from you lovely lot as often as I can- I can't always comment, as usually it's on my phone on my lunchbreak, or while I'm eating breakfast, or walking to work (this resulted in me nearly falling down the steps of the railway bridge I cross on my commute. Smooth), but I'm there reading, chuckling, sympathising, or feeling hungry, depending on what you've been jabbering about.

So to sort of make up for missing out on what are probably some real gems of posts, here are a few of the gems I have spotted- hopefully, you'll think so too.

Too much ginger beauty for one picture. From here, all rights belong to these girls!
The Good Ginger- Red Hot Men - this brilliant tumblr-blog is written by a brilliant childhood friend (the girl in the picture above) and her sister, both of whom have the most incredibly red hair. I thought this post was particularly great, because it's true- there kind of is a double standard about red hair. Though I suppose that does depend on who you ask- a friend of mine's three top traits in a man are ginger, glasses, beard....

From Diary of a Diva
Diary of a Diva- The City Through My iPhone- I'm so happy that Becca is blogging again! She's one hilarious lady, so if you don't already follow her, go check her out now. I love these pictures too- one of my favourite things about London is the juxtaposition of the shiny new and the really old. Amazing!

From The Tea Drinking English Rose
The Tea Drinking English Rose- Mother's Christmas Hamper- OK, as much as I adore Mama CupandSaucer, I quite want to steal Mama TTDER just so I can have one of these hampers. I just generally love Charlotte's blog, to be honest- her pictures and writing are dreamy, and I think I might be getting to meet her in a few weeks which, if true, will be very exciting indeed.

From Thoroughly English
Thoroughly English- Sausage Rolls- I am a big fan of Bess' new Winter Warmers series. She is a genius in the kitchen and I am excited to see her in two weeks and for her to feed me all sorts of yummy things. In the meantime, I am very tempted to give these a go myself- because come on, who doesn't love a good sausage roll!?

From Love Food Eat
Love Food Eat- Coffee & Roasted Almond Chocolate Bark- do I really need to say any more!? This sounds unbelievably good. I am a massive chocolate fiend, and while I still haven't had any coffee this year, I think I could make an exception for eating it. Either in this, or in a coffee cake...

Image belongs to Sarah Tucker
Meg Fee- Paris Explained- I unashamedly, unreservedly adore Meg's blog. She is amazing, and this post breaks my heart a little bit but also is unbearably brilliant. She deserves far more than a man who doesn't tell her how beautiful she surely looked, and who, well... read the post and find out what he did.

Happy Friday lovely people! Hope you have a cracking weekend. Mine starts tonight with a  1920s themed birthday party- god help us all...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Creamy Salmony Pasta

I'm starting to settle into a routine now. This is a great thing- I like routine. I'm a  real creature of habit, getting up at the same time each morning, following the exact same routine in the shower, flicking the kettle on while I potter around the kitchen making breakfast and preparing my lunch. 

I used to time my commute by the Chris Evans Breakfast show- if I wasn't by a certain point by the time the kids came on to talk about what they were doing for the first time that day, I knew I was running late. Now, I put my iPod on shuffle as I walk the two miles from home to work and get frustrated by traffic lights changing and students getting in my way.

I've not quite got into a routine with walking home, though. At the moment, I generally can't follow the same path walking home as I do walking in- on my morning commute, I walk through a park, which is locked for the night at dusk. If I get in and leave early- I'm golden. If, like yesterday, I get caught in a meeting and leave late, I have to walk the longer way home, and I get home feeling frustrated and flustered, and annoyed at the fact I have to make supper for myself. And on top of this, last night I was dashing off to a pilates class with M so had to eat quickly when I got in. 

On nights that I have to eat quickly and run, the only thing I want to eat is pasta. It just reminds me of being a student, and chucking whatever I had in the fridge into a bowl with some pasta. And though I'm slightly more adult now, and my fridge contains slightly fancier ingredients, that's essentially all this is. Follow with these brownies and wine and you'll end up with a scene like this one:

Apologies for the lack of pictures- I didn't even think of blogging this until I'd actually finished eating it, and it's pure luck that I snapped a picture before tucking in. The recipe below serves one- though of course, if you're cooking for more than that, just multiply up. And as I don't measure things, you may need to use your judgement at times. Sorry...

Creamy Salmony Pasta

You will need:
A salmon fillet
1 tbsp creme fraiche
A chunk of lemon
Parmesan (the fresh stuff, obviously)
A fair few basil leaves
One spring onion
A small handful of cherry tomatoes
A handful of frozen peas
Salt and pepper

A pan, a couple of bowls, tin foil, a sharp knife

Begin by chopping your salmon into small-ish chunks- you don't have to do this, but it will work better if you do. Put as much spaghetti as you'd like to eat into a pan of boiling water, and find a bowl/ dish which fits over the top like a lid. Put your salmon into this bowl, put it on top of the saucepan you're using to cook your pasta, and cover with foil- your salmon will essentially steam in here, giving you one less thing to wash up. Success!

In a small bowl, mix together a tablespoon of creme fraiche, a sprinkle of lemon zest and squeeze of lemon juice, a good grating of parmesan, and some salt and pepper. Finely slice your spring onion and tear up your basil leaves, and add them to the bowl too. Chop your cherry tomatoes in half.

Keep a vague eye on your salmon, and when it's cooked, take it off the top of your pan, and use two forks to break it into smaller pieces. 

When your pasta is almost done, add a handful of frozen peas to the water to cook while the pasta finishes. Drain your pasta and peas, put them back in the pan, and add your salmon, creme fraiche mixture, and cherry tomatoes. Give it all a good stir before serving immediately, with more parmesan to taste.

It literally is as simple as that! Perfect midweek fodder, and light enough that even if you eat an enormous bowl of it, you'll still be able to complete a pilates class. I'll count that as a success.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

52 Lists: Things That Remind Me Of Home

A slightly bittersweet list to be honest, given I've just moved away. 

I've often wondered though- at what stage does your childhood home stop being "home"? Is it always "home" in your heart? Despite the fact that they haven't moved since she was a little girl, Mama CupandSaucer refers to my grandparents' house as "my mum and dad's"- not home. Yet my brother and his girlfriend each still refer to their parents' houses as "home". Perhaps it's when you buy your own home? Or have children? 

Either way, for the purposes of this list home will be my childhood home in deepest Devon. It's where the heart still remains, despite my love for Cardiff and my happy little existence here. 

1. The cat jumping onto my lap within seconds of me sitting down in the living room.

2. The smell of clean, clean air.

3. The feeling I get as I leave the dual carriageway and take the country roads across the moor- it's like going onto autopilot.

4. The view from my bedroom window (above)

5. My mum and brothers.

6. Sitting in the kitchen chattering over mugs of tea (this is the quickest way to make me feel at home anywhere)

7. Icy mornings, which make me think of how difficult it would be to leave the house if I were at home.

8. Feeling like I can unashamedly be both the best and worst versions of myself.

This post is part of the 52 Lists Project, as organised by Ema. Check out her blog for all the details!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Cardiff Life

As I've mentioned, life in Cardiff so far has been something of a whirlwind. A fairly active, brilliantly mentally busy whirlwind and I am absolutely loving every second of it. Life in general is a bit of a whirlwind at the moment- I have something on every weekend between now and March and it's all incredibly fun stuff with some of my very favourite people in the world. 

The Cardiff whirlwind has so far involved many a supper with friends, korfball training with a new team, workday "lie-ins" (getting up at 7am instead of 6:15am will never ever get old), bootcamp pilates, and walks to work featuring soundtracks by The Gaslight Anthem and Taylor Swift. There have been birthday breakfasts and dinners (and another will be taking place tonight); an chilly walk to work where I slipped on ice no less than three times; a rainy stroll around Roath Park followed by a late brunch in Juno Lounge; and long conversations over small buckets of tea.

A combination of my birthday, multiple visiting Js, and everyone just liking a reason to gather around our beautiful kitchen table with food and wine resulted in an excellent excuse for an enormous Sunday roast. And because I'm incapable of watching other people cook without helping interfering, I volunteered to cook. A whole roast. For nine people. By myself.

And by some near miracle, we all ended up with plates piled high with pretty damn tasty food, even if I do say so myself. And there was only one minor panic when everything started to come together all at the same time and I realised I'd forgotten to put the parsnips in the oven- which in my book, makes for a very successful experience. And any meal which involves conversations about which superpower you would pick (the ability to control time, always), near hysterical laughter, and moments when you look around the table only to think "I'm genuinely not sure I could be happier right now" can't be anything other than fantastic.

And yes, some parts of me miss the South West with its people and rolling hills, and no, it hasn't all been perfect so far and no, it will not continue to be perfect- but there's something great about this, and this whole being brave thing might, just might, be paying off.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 51)

Life in Cardiff really is very good. So far, it has been a whirlwind, and that means that blogging has somewhat suffered- though I'm sure you all either a) hadn't noticed or b) are completely understanding of this fact. 

As I write this, it's Sunday evening and I am curled up on my squeaky little bed in my lovely friends' spare room, wrapped in a blanket and clutching a mug of tea, having the first truly quiet evening I've had since arriving in Cardiff over a week ago. I'm hoping to catch up on some blog reading, but to be completely honest, I am far more likely to finish writing this and continue my Grey's Anatomy watching- because quite frankly, it's absolutely brilliant.

But before that, I have list writing to do. And this week, happiness is...

Birthday breakfasts are my new favourite thing
... the huge amount of birthday love I received. Thank you all so much for your kind comments, tweets, messages, und so weiter- I received so many "happy birthday" messages that my phone died at 4:30pm, which was mildly traumatic. I was thoroughly spoilt with incredibly thoughtful gifts, and to be honest, I just spent the whole day with a massive grin on my face. And so far, despite my misgivings, 24 has been really rather brilliant.

This picture does that cake NO JUSTICE
... Oreo cake. OH MY GOD. As some friends and I wandered back from my birthday supper on Friday night, I realised I hadn't had a birthday cake. Fortunately, J and N quickly stepped up to the mark and on Sunday, I was presented with an unbelievably brilliant Oreo cake. I have no idea where the recipe came from, but it is definitely one I'll be hunting out and trying for myself. And I'm sure you'll all see the results!

... drinking wine with lunch. There's something really very grown up about drinking wine at lunchtime, don't you think? Obviously this isn't one for the week days (unless you work in the sort of office which approves of that sort of behaviour, in which case- fill your boots), but really- is there anything more happy-making than a glass of really cold white wine over a long weekend lunch? I think not.

... new PJs. As soon as I finish writing this, I will be popping on my new Fat Face pyjamas (they make the best loungewear, and no, they didn't ask me to say that) and snuggling up. New Pjs are just absolute bliss.

... singing along to Taylor Swift in the car. I currently don't really have a CD collection- as in, the only CD I currently own is Taylor Swift's Speak Now, and it was given to me on Friday. Fortunately, it's an unbelievably brilliant album and it is now my driving soundtrack of choice- and singing along is mandatory. Top tune from the album in my opinion is Mean, though J disagrees with me and thinks the chorus of Better Than Revenge is like musical crack cocaine. Listen to both and let me know who's right! (Me, obviously)

To be honest, there are millions more things just from this weekend which I could have included here- but perhaps some of the happiest moments are best kept inside, for the days where it isn't so easy to think of the bright things. 

What's making you happy this week?

Friday, 17 January 2014

Birthday Girl

Today is my 24th birthday.

I've actually had a massive freak out about turning 24. I'm not sure why- many a person I know has panicked about turning 20 or 21, but after that most of my friends seem to be accepting their increasing age with far more dignity than I am. I am massively freaked out about the fact that I am now officially mid twenties, which sounds awfully grown up- and I am in no way, shape, or form grown up. I'm currently living in a friend's spare room, having just started a job which may or may not be a career for me. I just guess I always thought that by 24, I would be settled and acting like an actual grown up. In actual fact, I feel like a child with alcohol, to paraphrase my friend R.

23 was a good year. It was a happy year, and a properly grown up year. I'm starting 24 feeling unsettled, and a bit confused, but happy in all sorts of ways. I have my fingers very tightly crossed that this year will be as good as 23, and that I'll end it knowing even more about who I am as an adult. I'm terrified about turning 24 (mostly because I have an irrational fear of not being the youngest in my office- and I think at 24, there is every likelihood that a young 22 year old will sneak in and steal my Office Baby crown), but also really quite excited. 24 should be good.

And if not, there's always wine and cake.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Grey Dress Conundrum

Whilst packing for the move, I realised I have a massive gap in my workwear wardrobe. And that gap is shaped like a grey dress.

TopshopH&MJoules (no longer available), H&M

I own an awful lot of grey- it's a colour I feel like I suit, which is weird as apparently it's a colour which makes a lot of people looked quite washed out. But I have bluey-grey eyes, and when I wear grey (or blue, actually) they do seem to stand out and that's a good thing, right?! I appear to have accumulated no less than seven grey items of knitwear, but I have no grey dresses. And I'm now very sad about this.

I absolutely fell in love with the Joules Alexi dress in grey- after I bought it in navy (which I also adore). In all honesty, this is the perfect grey dress for me- seriously comfortable, an appropriate length, not too low cut, smart enough for work but also something I could wear outside of work. Did I buy it when I had the chance? No, no I did not.

So I'm now looking elsewhere. The two H&M dresses (here and here) are good- very good- but are perhaps just a little smarter than I would like. And as much as I love the simplicity of this Topshop dress, it's definitely not what I'm after as far as workwear goes. This ASOS dress is okay- but I can't be doing with the hassle of buying and returning a dress I only think is okay. My favourites of MangoOasis, and Warehouse don't have anything I like. What is this?! 

So I think I shall be remaining grey dress-less for a little while longer, unless any of you can find me the perfect one- under £50, and just generally perfect. OK? Brilliant, ta muchly.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

The Blogger Book Club: Date For Your Diary

Apologies for the slight radio silence as far as the Blogger Book Club has been concerned- as I'm sure you can imagine, it's been a whirlwind month or so and the poor little book club may have slipped my mind slightly.

But not any more! As you might remember, Jenny and I announced back in November that the book would be A Tale For The Time Being. And of course, being the absolute muppet that I am, I promptly forgot to actually read said book.

Well, now I have a deadline. We have decided that the book club chat will be held on this here blog on Thursday 13th February- so even if you haven't started reading the book yet, you still have time to get involved! A Tale For The Time Being was nominated for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, and sounds fantastic- 

'Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is? Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.'
Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.
In a small cafe in Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place - and voice - through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.
Weaving across continents and decades, and exploring the relationship between reader and writer, fact and fiction, A Tale for the Time Being is an extraordinary novel about our shared humanity and the search for home.

So don't forget! The chat will work in much the same way as our last one did- which you can check out here. Basically, I'll pop up a post including a few questions on the book which you can then answer in the comments. If you subscribe to the comments/ click "notify me", then any comments which are posted on the post will be pinged to your email, and you'll know to check back and respond. Which basically means that even if you aren't able to get involved on 13th, you can still get involved in the chat! Cool, eh?!

Have you read A Tale For The Time Being

Monday, 13 January 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 50)

So I'm here! I'm back in Cardiff, settled in nicely in my darling friends' spare room, and have spent the weekend catching up with as many people as possible. I also managed to scout out my new route to work, and proving it stays dry and I don't snap my ankle on an uneven curb (it nearly happened at least three times on Sunday), everything should be going to plan as you're reading this. Happy days!

In the end, I was more nervous about the move than I thought I would be. I cried leaving home, got myself all worked up on Saturday morning (and was nearly talked in to waiting an extra day), and was looked after by my big sister for a good few hours on my way through. As it was though, I've felt so welcomed and really settled very quickly, and as I'm writing this on Sunday evening, I'm feeling like this was definitely a sensible move. Hopefully, by Monday evening I'll still be feeling the same way...!

So yeah. Currently thinking that this move was a great way to start the new year, and I'm hoping being a bit brave will really pay off. And this week, happiness is...

Found here
... new, fresh starts. Aren't you shocked I've started with this one? I know, so predictable, but there really is something so great about a new start, where no one knows you, or has preconceptions about you, and you get to start all over again and (hopefully) prove your awesomeness.

... new slippers. I was given a pair of these Joules slippers for Christmas and have saved them for the move. They are so cosy, my feet feel like they're being given a little cuddle every time I slip them on.

I'm aware this is a double bed. From here
... double duvets on single beds. In my friends' little spare room, there is only space for a little single bed. Knowing this full well, I still decided that it would be a stonking idea to bring a double duvet- and my goodness, it's one of the best ideas I've had in ages. It is SO cosy, and means if I ever have to share this bed, there won't be such a risk of me stealing all the covers.

... catching up with people unexpectedly. I've managed to see two J's this weekend, and when I wasn't expecting to see either just yet, it's made me exceptionally happy that I've managed to squish them in, even if one was rather hungover and the other spent far too much time teasing me.

Found here
... the Despicable Me films. How have I got this far without seeing either of the films in this franchise? On Saturday night, we settled down with wine and brownies and watched both the first and second films on the trot, and they have quickly made their way onto my life of favourite animated films. And Happy sounds even better when you've seen it in the film!

What's making you happy this week?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Skills I Wish I Could Put On My CV

I start a new job tomorrow and I am flipping terrified. It's a massive change from what I was doing before Christmas, and I'm still not entirely convinced they don't think I'm a complete moron. 

This girl looks far too polished to be seen as a moron. I'm not her. From here
They may, or may not think this due to the fact that when asked "What are the five skills you feel the role needs, which you could bring to this position?" (or words to that effect), I started by saying two fairly sensible things, then had a complete panic where my mind went completely blank. I sat there, panic stricken and managed to choke out "I'm so sorry, I'm really nervous and my mind has gone completely blank". The panel were very sweet about it, told me to take my time, have a sip of water, and carry on when I was ready- which I did. By saying "Well, I know I'm really not demonstrating this right now, but I actually deal with pressure incredibly well".

Seriously. I don't think I could have chosen a more moronic thing to say in that situation. Fortunately, they seemed to see the funny side of it, and since I was offered the job anyway, I can't have been that bad, can I?!

To be honest, there were many other things running through my head at that point, I'm just pleased something vaguely work appropriate came out of my mouth. But how much fun would it have been had I been able to say whatever I wanted?! The other day, Kristin posted on skills she wished she could put on her resume and I thought it sounded like a brilliant idea. So- here are five things I wish I could have said in answer to that question.

Found here
1. I bake a lot, and I am apparently quite good at it- this genuinely nearly came out of my mouth, because I just had no idea what else to say. However, I think I could swing this one- baking shows patience, precision, and attention to detail. And anyway, who doesn't love someone who brings in cake every now and then? Even better- someone who makes an excellent cup of tea to go with said cake.

2. I'm a fount of useless knowledge. The QI Elves have nothing on me. I may not know who is currently top of the Premiership, and I certainly couldn't point to Leeds on a map, but I do know that the collective noun for a group of cats is a pounce, and how to pick up an ice cube only using string and salt. And you never know when that might come in handy.

3. I am a complete and utter morning person. Honestly- if you aren't a morning person, you really don't want to be around me first thing. Once I'm awake, I am awake, and I think everyone in the vicinity should be too. I bounce around, I have solo dance parties in the kitchen while I'm making breakfast, I sing. Yes, it could be seen as annoying, but it also means I'm brilliant in a 9am meeting.

4. I'm impatient, and I expect others to be too. Seriously. Sounds like a bad thing, but it isn't. In all of my previous workplaces, I have baffled people by how quickly I do things. If I'm given a task, I don't sit around and wait to do it- I do it there and then, hand it back with a smile, and ask "what's next?". Obviously this goes somewhat out of the window when I'm horrendously busy, but that's when the "time management and prioritisation skills" come in. And that's a skill I do mention

5. I am really, really stubborn, and really, really competitive. Can't do it? Can't do it? Go away, just because I'm small doesn't mean I can't polish off that entire pizza, or lift my six foot brother up. If you tell me I can't do something, chances are I will then go ahead to do it just to prove you wrong. And competition? I turn absolutely everything into a competition, whether that's out-swimming someone I don't know, or getting to the car before you, or finishing all of my work before you've finished task number one on your to-do list. They go hand in hand, and mean that I really don'y give up easily at all.

Fortunately for everyone, I don't put these things on my CV, because I don't think I would have ever been hired. I tend to leave these to be discovered by employers, friends, potential love interests, and distant family members all by themselves, and for the most part, no one seems to mind any of them. Either that, or the cake making makes up for absolutely everything else.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Goodbye England (Covered In Snow)

OK, so it's not snowing. But Laura Marling's version sounds far more poetic.

I'm moving today. Back to Wales, back to my university city of Cardiff, back to the fatherland (mon pere est gallois). And I feel OK about it.

I took these photos on New Year's Eve. My head and my heart felt full, and when this happens, I tend to head out onto the moor for fresh air and thinking space. And as I surveyed my little kingdom, and though about how soon I'd be leaving it, and all the people nearby, behind, I felt... brave. OK, so it isn't the biggest leap I've ever made- I've still got university friends in Cardiff, I have family 30 miles down the road, but it's something I am doing for me.

There are things I'm going to miss massively- some are tangible like my bed, the cat, many a person- particularly those who have talked me into going despite them not-so-secretly not wanting me to go. Some, however, are less tangible. The feeling I get when I stand on the moor and can't see a car or another person. The quiet. The view from my bedroom window, or the way mum comes and wakes me with a cup of tea when she's working and I'm not. 

I'm hopeful that this is a good move. It's certainly a sensible move. It's a much better job, it's far more sensible for me to be in a city, it really isn't that far away, I love the people I have there. And I am so excited. And terrified, but only in that really really good way.

So let's do this. Let's go and be brave, and do the things that are good for us, even if we have to be talked into them. Let's move on, drive across bridges and into countries which both are and aren't different, towards the future Alice who is waiting for me there. 

Friday, 10 January 2014

What's In My (New) Bag?

I know I've done a "what's in my bag" post before (it's here, if you're interested), but I was given an exceptionally beautiful new handbag for Christmas, so I thought I'd do another one.

My dad gave me the bag for Christmas- bless him, he's the sort of man who if you tell him precisely what you would like, he will go out and buy it. He's not so good at the thinking up of surprises, but that's okay- it means once a year (and once a year only), my brothers and I are treated to exactly the thing we would like, providing it's in budget. I'm aware that makes us sound incredibly spoilt- please believe me when I say we really really aren't. We're adults- for the most part, we buy ourselves the things we want. 

But anyways. When I first saw this bag on the Zara website, I fell instantly in love. I am not the sort of girl who goes out and buys a new handbag every other week. I have no idea why- I just would rather spend my money on a new dress than on a new handbag. Conversely, LR has lots of lovely bags and shoes and whenever I find myself in her bedroom, I always wonder to myself why I don't choose to spend my money that way. So when I find myself falling in love with a bag, I must must have it, because it really doesn't happen that often. 

(The exceptions to this are any "designer" handbags. Obviously I am not going to fork out a month's wages on a bag, because in my personal opinion, that's just stupid)

So far, I've managed to avoid completely cramming things into this bag. I managed to completely destroy the strap of my old handbag by carrying around FAR too much with me, and managed to scare myself when I totted up how much it was worth, so we aren't playing that game this time. My new year's resolution is to travel LIGHT. 

So really, this bag contains the basics. In actuality, within about three days there will also be a bar of chocolate, an apple, a book, probably some hand cream, possibly a hairbrush, and a miscellaneous collection of hair ties and kirby grips, but for now, let's revel in the fact that I was once able to get by without all the extra rubbish.

The purse is one I picked up in Thailand- it's my favourite purchase I made there, and I do get a lot of compliments on it because it's pretty unusual. It contains all the standard paraphernalia, including my RAC membership card which is essential considering the fact that my car seems to dislike being whole, and I'm scared of breaking down and not being able to be rescued.

The umbrella is, quite frankly, a necessity- it's a blue and white striped Accessorize beauty, and has seen me through many a rainy day. Unfortunately, far too often I forget that I keep an umbrella with me at all times, and get soaked- only realising when I get inside. And I always carry a bottle of water- I get really thirsty, and I don't like not knowing where/ when I'll be able to get a drink. Yes, I know it's weird. And the pens are because you never know when you're going to need to scribble something on someone's hand, do you?

I always always have my phone and headphones with me, because a) I'm addicted to my phone and b) sometimes it's nice to drown the world out. Unfortunately, a pen exploded in my last handbag and now my headphones are rather fetchingly monochrome (one is black, one is white) but they still kind of work so we'll go with it. The creme brulee Vaseline has lasted for AGES purely because I "lost" it in a handbag I very rarely use, but I'm pleased about this- it's amazing. Car keys are, of course, a necessity- though poor little Henri won't be being used as much once I move, because I will be able to walk to work- which feels like such a novelty at the moment, after 10 months of a 100-mile-a-day commute.

What do you keep in your handbag? Is there anything essential I've completely forgotten to put in mine?