Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Scenes From My Weekend

I was originally planning on doing some sort of photo-an-hour type post for Saturday, but I'm pretty forgetful when it comes to things like that so instead, you get a nice mishmash of pictures from across both weekend days. Don't you go saying I'm not good to you. 

This was the first weekend in goodness only knows how long that I've been in Cardiff, without J, with no plans at all. I woke up on Saturday morning slightly at a loss as to what I was supposed to do with myself- I'm used to having things to do, places to be, people to see. This weekend? Not so.

It began slowly, with blogging in bed (I do love my bed, despite being a morning person) followed by tea, juice, and hot cross buns for breakfast. But I soon decided that I needed to be out and about, and shortly after 10am, I was strolling around Roath Park, where I promptly got caught in a torrential downpour without any appropriate rain gear. Seriously, you'd have thought that living in Wales throughout uni would have taught me to take an umbrella everywhere, but this seems not to be the case.

At least the flowers brightened things up. After pottering at home, blitzing my bedroom, changing my sheets, and generally making the place look awesome, I decided it was time for lunch- quinoa salad with poached eggs. I mean, just look at it. YUM. 

And then my bed fell apart. Fortunately, it does this on a fairly regular basis, so I've got pretty good at just jamming it back together. We're buying brackets for it at the weekend to stop it- otherwise, it's going to give me a complex about my weight (ha!)

It suddenly dawned on me around 2pm on Saturday that I had never visited the National Museum of Wales, and I decided this had to be rectified immediately. Despite the dinosaur section being full of screaming children, the rest of the museum was wonderful- they have some gorgeous Impressionist pieces, and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibit was just incredible. Seriously- check if it's coming to a museum near you, it's completely worth a trip.

This one was my favourite. Full credit to Per-Gunnar Ostby
A free hot chocolate and a copy of The Times kept me occupied in Coffee #1 for a good hour or so, before I made my way home for an indoor BBQ and wine with M and F. We chowed down on delicious sausages, chicken marinated in coriander, lemon, and lime, and sipped wine kindly donated to me by J because he doesn't drink wine- a situation I am trying to rectify.

I was particularly terrible at taking pictures on Sunday- but the morning was taken up by re-painting our kitchen. Previously, it was bright yellow, which suprisingly made the room very dim. The beautiful creamy white we now have makes the room so much brighter, and we are very, very happy with it.

The rest of the day passed in a blur of bikini buying, TK Maxx browsing, John Lewis visiting, tea drinking, lasagne eating, and Cluedo playing. It was blissful. 

How was your weekend? Do you have any exciting plans for the bank holiday?

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

On Being A Morning Person

I love being a morning person.

I love the fact that I never snooze my alarm. Never struggle to wake up. Occasionally I stumble to the bathroom to shower with my eyes still predominantly closed, and yes, once or twice I have forgotten to take my towel with me, but on the whole, I am great in the mornings.

Found here
I love dancing it out in the kitchen, while waiting for the kettle to boil. I love breakfast. I love the ritual of standing over the hob, absent mindedly stirring a saucepan full of porridge while my tea brews, and singing to whatever Chris Evans happens to be playing that morning.

Yesterday, M and I were having breakfast together and I'd forgotten a spoon- so I ran from the table to the kitchen to grab one. She looked at me in shock, and mumbled "You're so quick in the mornings", before returning to her bowl of cereal. Safe to say, M isn't a morning person, and we've both had to learn to deal with this.

From Deliciously Ella
I love the idea of breakfast in bed, but I am never in bed long enough to be treated to this. One day, I'll stay put long enough and it will be amazing.

I am always one of the first into the office, choosing to arrive at, or just before, 8am- and I love that first hour more than any other hour in the day (even lunchtime). I love the quiet, and that I am productive and can get things done. I love the first cup of tea at my desk, sipped while I read emails and refine my list of things to do that day.

I'm a real creature of routine, and I follow the same morning ritual every day. I'm currently trying to get out of the habit of washing my hair every day, and it is completely throwing off my mornings. It's the most difficult things about it, I'm telling you now. If my morning routine is broken, I will most likely be a nightmare for a good few hours after.

The peace is my favourite thing about mornings. I find mornings where I'm the last up rather stressful. I hate the idea of being thought to be lazy. I am not a lazy person, so if everyone in the house beats me to the ground floor in the morning, it's sufficient to wrong-foot me for the rest of the day.

Mornings are my happy place.

Found here

Monday, 28 April 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 64)

For a "quiet weekend" at home in Cardiff, without J visiting and without any set plans, I ended up cramming an awful lot in. It was so much fun though- it seems I don't do "quiet" very well any more, I get bored and fidgety and feel blue if I don't do lots of fun things- I have decided that goo things happen to busy people. 

Of course, it does mean I always start the working week tired, but I've decided fun weekends are worth that.

My head has been a bit of a middle lately, however, and this weekend may have made that worse but I'm still feeling bright and shiny and that's the important thing.

Anyways. This week, happiness is...

Found here

...grown up conversations. You know how sometimes you feel like you get stuck in a rut of just talking about what you've been up to lately, who is sleeping with who, what's been on TV, and so on? On Saturday night, F came to stay and M, F and I had conversations ranging from the youth of today (cocky shits) to whether Scotland should leave Great Britain (no) and what's going on in the eurozone. Admittedly, we also watched Toy Story 3 and Gogglebox, but still- having proper, grown up conversations was just lovely. Oh, I'm so boring. 

... free drinks. This weekend I wangled free drinks in both in Coffee #1 and John Lewis- and there I got cake too- due to full loyalty cards and My John Lewis vouchers. So of course I went for the biggest hot chocolate I could find in Coffee #1, and the greatest piece of Bakewell tart in John Lewis. Because if it's free, the calories don't count, do they?! 

From Molly Yeh
... hummus. I think I've eaten my body weight in the stuff this weekend and it has been GREAT.

... board games. On Sunday evening, after an amazing lasagne for supper, M, M, F and I settled down to a game of Cluedo. Of all the board games, it's the one I get least competitive over because I am just so bad at it. M won when I still wasn't anywhere near to knowing who the murderer was- so I'm just going to have to practice. Which isn't exactly tricky, considering how fun it is!

... painting/ general DIY. M and I spent Sunday morning painting the kitchen. Previously, it was bright yellow and now it's a lovely cream. It was SO satisfying, and I managed not to fall off a chair while painting. And the kitchen now looks awesome- wins all round! 

What's made you happy this week? 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Exploring Wales

Considering I went to university in Wales, have family in Wales, and currently live in Wales, I've done a remarkably small amount of exploring.

As a child, we took a couple of family holidays to St Davids (smallest city in the UK), and another to Betws-y-Coed, when I was dragged up a mountain, but since I've been living in Wales as an adult? Nope. Barely ventured outside of Cardiff. Seriously- I haven't made it to St Fagans, Tredegar House, or the Brecon Beacons yet. So when Jenny suggested an Easter Monday trip to the part of Wales she grew up in, I could hardly say no. Even when that involved getting up at 6:20am on a Bank Holiday to get a train at 08:06am to do so. What can I say? I'm a) a great friend and b) a big fan of day trips.

First stop on Jenny's magical mystery tour of South West Wales was Laugharne. Now had Jenny not pronounced it first, I definitely would have said it something like "lock-arne". Turns out, you pronounce it Larne, so we've all learnt something there. 

Laugharne is famous for being home to Dylan Thomas, and is supposedly the town Llareggub in Under the Milkwood is based on. (As an aside- Llareggub. Looks convincingly Welsh, right? Read it backwards) It should also be famous for being one of the prettiest towns I've ever seen in the sunshine and for having a castle with a brilliantly thin ruin...

We started the day with tea and teacakes in the brilliantly named The Owl and the Pussycat, but I was too busy gossiping to take pictures. Fortunately for you, the beauty of the coastline shut me up for long enough for me to take a few pictures, as we made our way around to the Dylan Thomas Boathouse...

You first pass Dylan Thomas' writing shed- which is literally a shed, looking over the water. I could certainly be rather inspired there. I mean just look at that light! And the view was unbearably beautiful.

Before you know it, you stumble across the Boathouse itself. Honestly- I currently can't think of anywhere I'd rather live. Who cares about the risk of your house falling into the sea when your whole house overlooks that view?!

The downstairs of the house has been turned into a little tearoom, with a beautiful outside terrace. We aren't the sort of people to pass up an opportunity to sit in the sunshine with a cup of tea, and a Welsh Tea split between three.

Once we had had our fill, we piled back into the car and made our way around the coast to Tenby- which is one of the most perfectly picturesque seaside towns I think I have ever seen, full of ice cream parlours, fish and chip shops, and two huge beautiful sandy beaches. And just look at the colour of that sky!! It seems that there might be a season other than winter after all...

We meandered through the pretty town centre and made our way to the seafront, where I could have spent hours watching the families on the beach from afar, and wishing I owned a pretty pastel coloured house that overlooked the sea. It's now become my "One Day" dream.

We wandered along the path to take a peek at the lifeboat station (those things are huge) towards the second of Tenby's two beaches, and to have a look at the former prison-turned-zoo-turned-tourist-attraction on the rocks. We decided to give scrambling over the rocks a miss for the day, but happily watched holidaymakers picking their way across the sand to the steps, hoping they wouldn't get cut off when the tide turned. 

All the adventuring had given us quite the appetite, so Jenny's mum treated us to chips on the sea front. I can't turn down cheesey chips (awful, I know, but some days just have to be like that), while my companions plumped  for gravy and mushy peas, and curry sauce.

All too soon, it was time to head back to Jenny's mum's to admire Ben's handiwork (he'd been left a list of DIY to do) and to have a quick snuggle with Pip, Jenny's adorable dog (she does the cutest "play dead!" I've ever seen) before hopping on the train back to Cardiff, suntired and happy.

Thank you so much Jenny (and Jenny's mum!) for such a lovely day exploring. I'll definitely be back soon...

Friday, 25 April 2014

What's Normal When You're 24?

When I was at home over Easter, I went for coffee (read: tea) with my two closest friends from school. We swapped stories about what we're up to at the moment, what our other friends are doing, how we're spending our summers now we don't get several months off to do whatever we choose.

When I got home, I filled Mama CupandSaucer in on all the gossip from my morning with the girls, and I spent a while over lunch chatting to her about the fact that we are all doing completely different things at the moment. And I'm not going to lie, panicking about it.

Not because I think we'll drift apart- perhaps we will, but I have a stronger suspicion that we won't- but because it makes me panic that maybe I'm falling behind. And I have a strong suspicion that I'm not the only one who feels like this.

I have these sorts of panics on a pretty regular basis, and Mama CupandSaucer has become very good at them. She kind of points out that life doesn't run the same way for everyone- some steam ahead then completely stall, some take a bit longer to get started but then shoot straight ahead, and for others it's a bit of a gradual steady incline. 

For the first time in our lives, at twenty-something, we are all completely free to do whatever the hell we choose. Some are living completely grown up lives. Some aren't. Some feel lost. Some find themselves. Some look like they know what they're doing, but really feel just as lost as the person who is quite obviously falling apart at the seams.

At the moment, I am surrounded by people of my age (or close to it) who are all at completely different stages in their lives. My younger brother, for example, is fully engaged in a career he studied for at university, owns a home and is engaged. My older brother, for example, lives in a house with a few friends, works two jobs that are entirely unrelated to what he studied at university, and is (to the best of my knowledge) single.

A very small number of my best friends are home owners- which makes me feel as though I should be, until I remember that none of the rest of my friends are anywhere close to owning a home. Some are living with friends, some are living with boyfriends, some are living at home with their parents. Some still live like students, while others dream of homes with an Aga and a KitchenAid (that would be me).

 We're all at such different places with our careers too- I have friends who are doing exactly what they always dreamed of doing and loving it- and others who are finding that their dream careers aren't exactly what they expected. I have friends who are still at university, and friends who graduated three years ago but are thinking of going back to retrain. 

To sum up- we are all completely all over the place at the moment. And it's very, very unsettling.

But I think what I'm trying to say is that it's okay not to be doing the same thing as everything else. What is it they say- comparison is the thief of joy? Life isn't so much a box of chocolates, as a snowstorm- every flake (life) is completely unique and develops differently. And that's fine. We'll all settle eventually. We'll all find our own way to where we need to be- and it's completely fine if that isn't the same place as everyone else.

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...