Why ”Friends Are Your Most Important Romance”

Lifestyle

Norman teaI played with the idea of picking up Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton’s book, Everything I know about love, for months. I don’t typically enjoy reading a run of the mill, soppy, romance novel. They are almost always set in New York. The heroine always has the perfect apartment and wardrobe to boot and falls head over heels for the sexy, always a stockbroker, man of her dreams. This book may have love in the title but it is certainly not that.

I eventually picked up this book in a red wine-fuelled haze on Amazon. It sat on my living room shelf for a few weeks after. Then last month I had a work trip to Barcelona and grabbed it in a rush so that I wasn’t bored to tears whilst shoved into my tiny dayglow orange Easyjet seat with my tiny g&t. I read the entire book back to front in 4 hours. The second I landed in the UK and arrived back to my office I pressed it into the hands of my colleague and best friend. Why? Because I read this book and I instantly wanted to tell her all about it, I wanted to buy copies for all of my female friends. I wanted to tell them all that they were the great loves of my lifetime.

Through each chapter, Alderton takes you through her teens, twenties, and thirties retold with anecdotes, letters, and recipes (The Got kicked out of a Club Sandwich is an end of night saver). Each chapter dotted with hilarious and often ugly but beautifully honest recounts of her drug-fuelled, drunken, boy crazy years. There is one consistent theme though, her friends. Boyfriends, good and bad (mostly bad), come and go and occasionally so do her friends but the message through it all is that we need to put “more friendship in our romances and more romance in our friendships”. We ask ourselves over and over again if we only get one soulmate or one great love, well to that I say absolutely fucking not. Look at your friendship circle and tell me that some of you weren’t absolutely made for each other…

I thought not.

 

My 4 reasons why we should all start appreciating our ‘Great Loves’ a little more:

1. Do you know what I have spoken to my female friends about in the last month? Water retention, Mood swings, Shaving your thighs (or not), Hairy bums, That time I got sick in my hair and ‘Unfortunate Sam’ (It’s a story for another time). How many of those things would you speak to your partner about? In the same totally shameless manner that you would with your friends? My boyfriend is arguably the best person on this planet but he has no need or intention to start discussing the ins and outs of a water infection with me.

2. In the wise, wise words of Carrie Bradshaw – “And why is it that we can see our friends perfectly but when it comes to ourselves, no matter how hard we look, do we ever see ourselves clearly?”. How many times have you told one of your friends that she looks absolute fire in that new midi dress? Or that she is wayyy too good for that guy that hasn’t text back? Your friends are your cheerleaders, They know your insecurities inside and out and they know when you need a pick me up. We may look at our friends and wish we had their tiny waist or their sense of style, but I can assure you, they are doing that right back.

3. Your friends may know the best of you but they also know the worst of you and they aren’t afraid to tell you straight. Partners have that whole ‘She’s hormonal and may actually fatally injure me if I say that” thing to deal with but friends know that we could never stab them! After all, we’ve already made murder pacts of ex-boyfriends/office bitches/rude uber drivers together and sworn each other to secrecy. They can tell you when you are being an over-controlling freak or when you really shouldn’t order that chicken burger because it will 100% set your gluten allergy off. I can’t say I always listen to them but hey, they try…

4. Girl time is sacred. Now by that I mean friend time is sacred. My perfect Sunday involves brunch, gossip, a few glasses of prosecco and an animated discussion about some kind of Man-splaining incident one of us has had to suffer at work. Joe’s perfect Sunday most likely involves a gym session, some form of meat-heavy lunch followed by a beer-fuelled afternoon ridiculing his friends back and forth in the harshest way possible. It’s our ‘secret friendship behaviour’ and we all need it! It’s not a competition of whether you enjoy the time more with your partner or your friends. They should each be as enjoyable because they are each totally different!!!

You can buy a copy of Dolly Alderton’s Everything I Know About Love here.

Dedicated to my great loves.

Is this the real ‘Gin Craze’?

Lifestyle

We all have a story about a particularly bad moment fuelled by gin, don’t we? I legit lose my mind after a few too many. I swear it’s like I’m possessed. I’ll also gladly spend £20+ on a double if it means it comes in a crystal goblet with edible flowers and pretty garnishes. That’s the true craze…

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We have Prince William of Orange to thank for our seemingly new found addiction to this spirit. He brought genever to Britain in 1688 which at the time was the Netherlands liquor of choice, quasi-medicinal and fondly known as “Dutch courage”. Long story short the new Dutch King was a tad lax in the rules surrounding distilling genever and soon absolutely anyone could distill their own and sell it! Unlike beers and ales, the sale of gin wasn’t regulated and soon gin-shops were serving the public around the clock. The drink quickly fell from a drink of the Upper classes to the cheapest drink in town, synonymous with poverty, thievery, prostitution, and violence. The lack of any distilling regulation led to cheaper substitutes for juniper being added, turpentine, sulphuric acid, gin became an elixir for the poor and desperate. Thus the Gin Craze was born. It was only in the 18th century when the gin craze was finally wrestled under control and soon London dry gin began to be developed and with it, the g&t was born.

From mother’s ruin to modern tipple, the UK is now awash with gin bars, gin-vent calenders, gin hotels and even gin inspired perfumes. Gin has seen a huge revival and you can’t even walk into your local Wetherspoons nowadays without being confronted with around 30 different variations of the quintessentially British tipple. The resurgence of this spirit is accredited to Bombay Sapphire. Vodka was the spirit of choice for most bartenders until Bombay Sapphire’s floral gin showed up and in a striking blue bottle to boot. Sipsmith and Hendricks distillery shortly followed and each one of them are today household names.

Today you will find gins containing anything from lavender, cucumber, rhubarb or rose to the more unusual tobacco, tea or kelp! In an Instagram obsessed world, gin is the perfect drink. The addition of botanicals, edible flowers, and even glitter all stacked into a beautiful goblet shaped glass – its no wonder that gin sales soured in 2018 to a whopping £1.5 billion.

Drinks trends tend to come and go but long may this gin trend continue! To help you all along with your modern day ‘Gin Craze’ here are a few of my fave picks!

Little Bird

In case you hadn’t noticed I am a huge fan of a good old-fashioned London dry. The folks at Little Bird have knocked it out of the park with this one. A recipe of pink-grapefruit, orange peel and ginger & seven more unnamed botanicals. This spirit is a true London gin too! It’s distilled in Peckham. If that isn’t enough to twist your arm then just take one look at the bottle, the gorgeous pinup ‘Miss Ginger’ is inspired by the work of Alberto Vargas who began painting pin-ups for Esquire Magazine. Definitely a bottle for the front of the shelf.

Serve with: Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and a slice of pink grapefruit.

Purchase here

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Jawbox

Another classic dry but this time from our friends in Belfast. Jawbox is a small batch distillery just outside Belfast in a vast 16th-century country estate. They use time-honoured methods and triple distill their gin in traditional copper stills with various botanicals as well as local Black Mountain heather. The end product? Light notes of juniper and citrus that are clean on the nose and the palette. The freshness of this gin finished off with the slight hint of pepperiness thanks to the addition of the hillside heather.

Serve with: Ginger ale and a wedge of lime! The original Belfast serve.

Purchase here

Also worth a try is their pineapple & ginger gin liqueur! Which you can find here

Dyfi Pollination Gin

I had to include a Welsh gin, didn’t I? This family-owned distillery began production in 2016 and has already been awarded the ‘BEST UK GIN’ title at the Great Britain Food Awards.  Dyfi Pollination Gin is everything you would imagine a Welsh inspired gin would be – a grassy and fresh taste with hints of wildflowers, fruits, and conifer tips. This gin not only tastes wonderful but is wonderfully eco-friendly, its distilled using botanicals foraged from the Dyfi Biosphere (A UNESCO site), the Snowdon foothills and some of the other surrounding areas.

Serve with: Fever Tree light tonic, torn mint leaves, juniper berries, and lemon peel.

Purchase here

For the Cardiff/South Wales based amongst you, try some of these incredible venues for a fantastic range of our favourite modern-day tipple. Just don’t go starting your own gin craze…

Gin & Juice – Castle Arcade, Cardiff

Chapel 1877 – Churchill Way, Cardiff

Gin 64 – Penarth

Pennyroyal – High Street, Cardiff

Hogarth’s – Newport & Swansea

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12 things you must eat when you visit Barcelona

Adventures, Food, Travel

Every time I set foot in a European city I am so thankful for living on this incredible continent. Even if it is on a small island just to the left. As a self-confessed foodie, Europe is an absolute haven for culinary delights.

Madrid may be the Spanish capital but Barcelona is certainly the food capital. It’s the city of utter gluttony. A wealth of beautiful architecture, designer stores, and high-end restaurants lining the streets, tiny lit up bars serving glass after glass of cava and plate after plate of tapas. It’s difficult to know where to start. If you are planning on visiting the City of Counts soon then this is your go-to culinary list. Enjoy!

1.Iberico Ham

You can barely walk a few steps in Barcelona without stumbling upon a shop or stall selling all the versions of Jamon Iberico you could possibly imagine. Each different adaptation of the cured meat offers different flavours and characteristics but the distinct oily, slightly nutty taste synonymous with Iberico will always be there. For a small taste try one of the meat stalls in Mercat de la Boqueria. Tick off 2 items on this list by buying one of the small punnets that contain both Iberico and a bit of our next treat…

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2. Manchego

Made in the La Mancha region of Spain this sheep’s milk cheese is, in my opinion, the perfect companion for your Iberico. Nutty, sweet and caramel in both flavour and colour. It makes the perfect addition to the fatty, rich Iberico.

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3. Pa amb Tomaquet

Arguably one of the best Catalan inventions of all time, Bread rubbed with tomato. Sounds basic, tastes incredible. The bread should be ideally sourdough and toasted, maybe even slightly charred, a sprinkle of salt on the bread, the tomatoes should be on the vine or of the hanging variety, the tomato is sliced in half and rubbed over the course bread releasing all of the natural flavours. The finishing touch? A drizzle of high-quality olive oil. Bon profit!

4. La Bomba

Potato and meat bombs. Sound amazing, taste amazing. These are large balls of mashed potato surrounding usually a pork or beef centre. The best are served piping hot and with a spicy sauce and a traditional alioli. Go to Paco Meralgo for their “Bomba Paco Meralgo” which is my personal favourite!

5. Paella (Catalan style)

Paella is easy to get wrong and there are countless restaurants in Barcelona that will serve up frozen versions to the tourists roaming the city. For a real Catalan version, you should expect at least an hours wait. Catalan paella is slightly different, once the rice is added to the pan the pan is not stirred, this allows the ingredients to relax and gives you that incredible “soccarat” that you look for in a good paella. I recommend going to Pez Vela Chiringuito, directly on the beachfront in the shadow of the glamorous W hotel, this is the perfect place for a bottle of wine and a few paellas to share. Pez Vela do around 5 different versions and charge per person so try a few different flavours. My favourites are the Baby squid, black rice & artichoke and the Squid, prawns & clams rice.

6. Padron peppers

Don’t mistake these for a boring dish. Hot, blistered peppers sprinkled in sea salt are the perfect pal to an ice cold glass of Albariño.

 

 

7. Cava

Often heralded as a lesser Champagne but don’t dismiss this sparkling wine. 70% of this refreshing beverage is produced in Catalonia and so there is no better place than to enjoy a glass/bottle than in one of Barcelona’s many wine bars or bodegas. Can Paixano aka La Xampanyeria is a great old fashioned tapas bar, popular with tourists and locals alike, that serves up very reasonably priced glasses of Cava if you order a small portion of food. Not that you need convincing…

8. Patatas Bravas

We all know and love this fried dish don’t we but it can go so horribly wrong. Chunks of roughly cut potato cooked in high quality oil accompanied with a sales (occasionally spicy) and alioli. For the best in Barcelona try Bar Tomás whose secret sauce recipe is closely guarded. If you aren’t a huge fan of spice and heat then try Elsa and Fred’s version – this is a milder take on the classic but doesn’t fail to pack a punch with its flavour profile.

9. Croquetas

Croquetas don’t strictly have an all Spanish origin but the first thing I look at ordering when I’m in Spain are these little babies. Originally they were made from leftovers, bound with a bechamel sauce and then deep fried. Nowadays you can find them served up with a whole range of fillings. If this is your first time trying them then opt for the Jamon variety. You just can’t beat a classic.

 

 

10. Crema Catalana

Quintessentially Catalan. The recipe is very similar to that of a Creme Brulee but don’t you dare let the locals hear you compare it. This dessert is the perfect finish to your evening meal, light citrus infused custard with hints of vanilla and cinnamon topped off with the iconic crunchy layer of scorched caramel. There is a very sweet story behind the origin of this dessert here.

11. Artichokes

Vague, I know. Artichokes are native to the region and there a plethora of tapas bars that serve up different takes on this versatile ingredient. Try them stuffed, roasted or most commonly, fried into chips. Ciutat Comtal does a fantastic version, as do many of the tapas bars within Mercat de la Boqueria.

12. Churros

Churros (Xurros) may not originate from Barcelona but you can find some phenomenal examples of them, particularly if you stray away from the hoards of tourists and into some of the quieter back streets. There are plenty of small Xurrerias (Small, snug shops that specialise in the deep-fried treat) that offer up not only the traditional version with a pot of dipping chocolate but also stuffed and empanada style versions. For the best in Barcelona try Xurreria San Roman, Xurreria Trebol or La Xocolateria (by Oriol Balaguer).

If you are a foodie in Barcelona it doesn’t matter if your preference is more Market stall than Michelin you can truly get a taste of Catalonia no matter where you go!

 

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Heaney’s – Pontcanna

Cardiff
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Image: Olive Magazine, Heaney’s-cardiff-restaurant-review

Before we start, let me make one thing very clear. I am no food blogger. I would not deign to think that I have any type of right to start speaking like John Torode and tell you all about a culinary experience that I had at Heaney’s. I do however know a bloody good chip.

All joking aside, Heaney’s was just THAT good that I want to wax lyrical about it. After you’re done here please go check out someone like Gourmet Gorro or Octopus Diaries who I can assure you probably know the bloody difference between a granita and a spoon of shaved ice.

Heaney’s is situated on the former site of much loved Arbennig, gone are the cosy oak and leather details and in their place are concrete effect walls, industrial style shelving, a mezzanine bar and floor to ceiling glass windows. The entire space feels totally unpretentious and wonderfully light and airy. We were very fortunate to be sitting in the window and with the light shining through on a warm day, I would have gladly sat there all afternoon, with a glass of prosecco or two of course.

The Food

First up I should explain. As a responsible adult woman in my late twenties, I still thought it was a good idea to go out the night before my reservation. BIG MISTAKE. Feeling rather fragile arriving for my 1:45pm reservation I opted immediately for Bloody Marys and a glass of prosecco. I found the drinks extremely reasonably priced. I had paid £7 the evening before for a sorry excuse for a cocktail in Sticky Fingers Street Food Market so when this Bloody Mary arrived at our table with the same price tag I was overjoyed. You can almost always tell the quality of a Bloody by the colour. You only need one swift look at my photograph to see this breakfast cocktail was top notch. Fresh, chilled tomato juice, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a good punch of spice from Tabasco. Always thankful for the absence of a totally unnecessary celery stalk for which the only role seems to be to stop me from being able to sip my drink and thus splashing it down my front.

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The menu consists of smaller plates designed to share so that you can try multiple dishes. I personally love this concept, the dishes come to the table at a leisurely pace and whilst they are sporadic, they arrive in a complimentary fashion (Light fish dishes to start and finishing with the heavier, darker meats/richer flavours).

A good option if you are unsure what to pick, or find the menu a little daunting, is to opt for the tasting menu (£40pp), you get ten of the dishes of the day, which I actually think is very good value for a restaurant of this quality. As a group of three, we chose instead to “wing it” and order dishes as we went.

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We started with the already infamous sourdough and marmite butter (£3.5). Large, crusty farmhouse slices of sourdough perfectly charred with the most beautiful butter I have ever tried. Silky, salty, smoky – All the good characteristics of marmite without the distinct, overpowering flavour that some of us associate with the ‘love it or hate it’ spread.

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Toasted sourdough bread with marmite butter

The duck croquettes (£4.5) and oyster (£4) arrived together. First of all, I’m not sure whether the croquettes were actually croquetas. Spelling mistake or my serious lack of palette? You decide. Three croquetas sat atop a bed of pomegranate seeds. Crunchy, golden breadcrumbs nestling a silky, creamy filling of shredded duck.

I was slightly dubious of the oyster (mainly due to the hangover, not ideal) but I was more than pleasantly surprised. A light and refreshing pairing of yogurt granita, dill oil and tiny cubes of apple.

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Duck croquetas on a bed of pomegranate (top) and a fresh oyster with yogurt granita, apple, and dill.

First up on the mains, the monkfish (£11). Paper thin slices of monkfish topped with horseradish sorbet, blood orange, and tarragon. This was beautifully light and expertly balanced. The slightly acidic blood orange cut through the aniseed flavour of the tarragon perfectly and made it a beautiful accompaniment for the mild flavour of the monkfish.

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Thinly sliced monkfish with blood orange, tarragon, spring onion, and a horseradish sorbet

The scallop with XO butter and lime was a hit and miss dish for our table. The scallops were perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth texture with a golden top. The XO butter, although hugely aromatic, was slightly underwhelming. XO sauce derives from Hong Kong and is made up of chopped dried seafood, chilli, onion, and garlic. This was a butter based adaptation but the spice could have been turned up just a notch for my personal taste.

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Scallops with XO butter, samphire and lime

The Oxtail and kohlrabi was a standout dish for me. The deep, rich flavours of the shredded oxtail were offset very well with the saltiness of the oyster emulsion, capers, and brown shrimp. Add into the mix a cold, crunchy, fresh element in the form of kohlrabi strands and you have a bloody good dish.

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Oxtail with kohlrabi, brown shrimp, capers & an oyster emulsion

Our final main was my showstopper. Barbecued lamb. What do I even say about this? Sweet, smoky, unbelievably tender and almost buttery soft. I loved every tiny morsel of this dish. I particularly love the use of the natural salt in this dish as a result of incorporating anchovies, samphire, and sea vegetables.

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BBQ Lamb with samphire, anchovies, sea vegetables, and an anchovy emulsion.

Somehow, after indulging ourselves on our savoury courses we still decided to order all of the desserts that the Heaney’s kitchen could possibly offer up to us. Tommy Heaney’s inspiration for his menu really sang through on the cheese dish. A small freshly baked loaf of Irish Veda bread traditional to Tommy’s home country of Northern Ireland, A generous portion of creamy welsh blue, Perl Las and spiced fig chutney. A drizzle of sticky honey all over this dish really made it for me. Again, in a total unpretentious manner, this dish is made to enjoy to the absolute max, sticky honeyed fingertips and all.

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Perl Las, Fig Chutney, Honeycomb & Irish Veda

Finally, three sweets. My absolute favourite was beyond shadow of a doubt, the salted caramel parfait. This little dessert was a small piece of perfection, truly living up to its adequate French name. The yogurt parfait was a surprisingly lovely addition and prevented the dish from becoming overly sweet.

The warm chocolate mousse was uber-rich and uber-decadent. The crunch of the pistachio and a thin chocolate biscuit kept the dish interesting by introducing an alternate texture to that of the soft mousse and pear.

Lemon meringue pie is usually my go-to dessert. I am not sure whether it was because I found the parfait and the chocolate mousse so mind-blowing that the lemon meringue underwhelmed me slightly. Truly a work of art on the plate but I wanted the flavours to be slightly more “amped”.

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(L to R) Salted caramel parfait with yogurt sorbet & honeycomb, Warm chocolate mousse with pear, pistachio, & a milk ice cream and a deconstructed Lemon meringue pie.

This meal was (sorry) properly lush. The food was impeccable, the staff are informative,  the surroundings feel cool and comfortable and the entire experience just feels very special. I’m no food blogger, but I know a very good thing when I see one…


 

Price – £120 for 11 dishes and three alcoholic drinks.

Location – Romilly Crescent, Pontcanna, Cardiff

Website – http://www.heaneyscardiff.co.uk/

30 before 30

Lifestyle

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Why is it that the jump from your 20s to your 30s is the most terrifying? It certainly is for me anyway. Am I where I should be? Have I really lived my 20s to the fullest? It’s all just a continuous question. August 8th, 2020 I will hit the big 3-0. It has terrified me since the day I hit 22 to be perfectly frank with you. Something my mum says to me suddenly resonates in my mind.

“It’s better than the alternative babe”

Right she is. It is better than the alternative, whatever that may be (I like to imagine some kind of paradise where Spurs actually win the league and I can eat all the calories I want, surrounded with all the Pomeranians I can dream of).

With that in mind, I am making a conscientious effort, in the year (and a bit) running up to my 30th to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do. Whether small or large, things that make me happy and make me appreciative for everything I have.

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1.Buy a piece of art

I’ve always loved art. I miss living in London and going to the TATE or The National Gallery on my lunch break. Nothing soothes me more than plugging my earphones in and wiling away an hour looking at some beautiful art. I want that kind of relaxation at home.

2.Visit the Little Mermaid Statue – Copenhagendone, November 2019

I think this has been my favourite film since the day I was born. My obsession soon spread to the fairytale and then to all of Hans Christian Anderson’s work. I want to see where it all began.

3. Go to a Michelin star restaurantdone, April 2019 – The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny

I’ve been to a few before but never really fully appreciated it (too young). I want to go and spend an offensive amount of money on food and wine and really indulge in the moment.

4. Take a cooking class

Maybe Asian or Pan-pacific? Something with stacks of flavour and spice!

5. Entirely finish one room in my house – Decor included!

I’ve managed to tick buy a house off my list but it’s still slightly in renovation nightmare stage. I want to fully finish one room, top to bottom, and just really love it!!

6. Read 50 books in one year

No explanation needed other than, PURE ESCAPISM. Oh, and it’s good for my brain.

7. Go to New Yorkdone, September 2019, The greatest trip of my life to date ♥

I have never been. How have I never been?! I want to go and revel in all the cliches of my NY minutes.

8. Take a spa day for no particular reason

Self-care. Self-love.

9. Create a home office space

Kind of the same as no.5 but I don’t care. I want a space where I can work from home! Instead of in front of the tv watching Sex and the City re-runs.

10. A road trip through Scotland

I fell in love with Edinburgh the second I stepped a foot into it. Ever since I have been yearning to see more of this beautiful country. Ideally, I’d like to travel through the highlands and maybe stay on the coast too.

11. See an operadone, September 2019, Carmen at the WMC

”Did you like the opera, dear?”- “It was so good, I almost peed my pants”

12. Go to the Harry Potter studio – done, Joe took me for my 29th birthday! August 2019

No need to explain.

13. Attempt to conquer my fear of fish – (Please note the word attempt)

The thought of going into the sea surrounded by fish repulses me. Which of course means I have been to some of the most beautiful coastlines and islands in the world only to sit on a dry, hot beach whilst my family and friends frolic in the crystal blue waters. So, sadly for me, it means me getting up close to Nemo and his gang…

14. See a Tottenham game at the new stadium

My childhood team. Devastated to see White Hart Lane (Our old stadium) knocked down but I can’t wait to see the new one! Football is all about time with my family for me and is a huge part of my childhood memories. I plan on creating many more in our new location.

15. Learn how to make a really good cocktail

I feel like everyone needs a good cocktail in their locker.

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16. Plan my own 30th birthday party – exactly how I want it!

Anyone that knows me knows that I l.o.v.e organising. It makes no sense for me to lumber one of my loved ones with planning a do for me if I can just plan it myself and really enjoy planning it!!

17. Start my own home veg/herb patch

I already grow rhubarb in my garden and it feels so amazing when I pick it and can make a lovely tart or crumble. I want to get my Charlie Dimmock hat on (or should that be a white vest) and start growing more!

18. Travel to a new country

I’ve been very fortunate to travel to some beautiful places, some of which I have fell head over heels for and so gone back time after time. It’s time I fell in love with somewhere new!

19. Go see a concert – and make it a good one.

I’m talking Tom Jones, Fleetwood Mac, Cher… A real superstar.

20. Build a real skincare regime

A real one, that doesn’t consist of cold water, Sephora make-up remover and a cotton pad.

21. Buy myself an expensive pair of shoes

If you hadn’t already guessed, I basically want to be Carrie Bradshaw. For my 18th birthday, I begged and begged my parents to buy me these. Totally impracticable, I’ve worn them only a handful of times. So my next pair is going to need to be wearable. I’m thinking maybe something like this. Or these. Oooohhh or these!!

22. Pay it forward

Do a kind deed for a random stranger and for no particular reason. Kindness matters!

23. Do something that I have never done before done, March 2019 – Duck herding and Sausage making at The Celtic Manor

Or should I say several things? I want to run toward the weird and the wonderful and push myself out of my routine. I want to see new places and do new activities that I would never normally do. That’s the way we find out what we like right?

24. Take a picnic

This may seem like such a basic one but I think going for a picnic is one of the loveliest things you can do. Away from technology, soaking up the sunshine, watching the world pass you by. All whilst drinking prosecco out of plastic flutes.

25. Learn how to make sushi

Please pardon my ignorance, I know sushi refers to the rice so really I mean learn how to make maki, temaki, sashimi etc. I eat enough of the stuff, I should at least learn how to make it.

26. Create a capsule wardrobe

I am awful about buying an outfit every time I go somewhere new. I wear it once and then it resides in my wardrobe (floordrobe, same thing) never to be seen again. It’s bad for my bank balance and bad for our lovely planet. So, I want to build a capsule wardrobe. Think lots of tailored, classic pieces that can be styled up for all seasons.

27. Have a Harry Potter marathon

The books were such a huge part of my childhood. The films shortly followed. The magic has stayed with me even now when I’m 28(.5). The plan is to watch all 8 movies in just one weekend. That’s 19 hours, 39 minutes of heaven.

28. Take a ride on a horse-drawn carriagedone, and in the ultimate location, Central Park September 2019

I’m a girl that has an unhealthy obsession with chick flicks. Sorry, can’t help it, let me live my fairytale.

29. Learn to dance

Joe insisted on this one as he doesn’t believe “The Robot” is appropriate to pull out at weddings. Whatever.

30. Have a piece of my work officially publisheddone!!!, August 2019, Thank you Visit Cardiff

That’s the dream, isn’t it? Its why I started this blog, it’s what I’ve always dreamt of. Let’s set the bar high.

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12 Hours in Amsterdam

Adventures

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Last weekend Mr. PL and I went on a five-day cruise for my lovely Dad’s 50th birthday. One of the day stops was Amsterdam. I have visited once before but I was only 17 at the time and so I was only interested in sleeping in, staying up all night and laughing at the risque souvenirs. So this time I was so excited to return and see the real Amsterdam.

We got off in the cruise terminal and decided to wander through the streets toward the Bloemenmarkt. Narrow, tall houses with ornate gabled facades line each street, everywhere you look there is a beautiful building to gaze at. If architecture isn’t your cup of tea I assure you that you will still be fascinated. One reason – Each house seems like it was built in the middle of an earthquake. They lean in every possible direction, the windows look positively tipsy in their frames. It truly is the Dutch answer to The leaning tower of Pisa – The leaning houses of Amsterdam.

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Bloemenmarkt is the worlds only floating flower market. Sounds like a dream and looks like a dream. Each market stall sits above the Singel canal, full to the brim with tulips of every colour you can imagine. I have a few pleasures in life, fresh flowers and cheese are two of them – Bloemenmarkt combines the both because directly opposite the flower market sit a plethora of cheese shops. As if I hadn’t already indulged enough.

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We strolled along the canals all the way to the old Heineken Brewery which today houses the Heineken Experience and museum. One of the many beauties of Amsterdam is that you can walk around most of it as it isn’t a huge city like say Rome or London. You get to see so many more hidden gems wandering around.

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We spent around 2.5 hours in the Heineken Experience, learning about the history of the brewery, the beer, and the brand. It really is such a fantastic and immersive set up that they have there. It’s well tailored to the Instagram crowd with numerous ‘selfie spots’ dotted around and my favourite – the karaoke bikes!

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To finish the tour, we drank wayyyy too much beer in the Heineken bar. Perfectly poured pints in a low-lit underground bar, trays of bitterballen and a pour your own pint immersive bar. I blame the staff at that bar for how much cash I went on to spend in the brand shop.

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After spending the afternoon learning about Heineken and drinking Heineken what did we decide to do? Go to Cafe de Pijp of course for a large Heineken. Retro-modern decor, large cold beers and more hot, crisp bitterballen. I really couldn’t have asked for more. With a slight beer haze and bellies full of deep fried Dutch delicacies, we spent the rest of our evening walking through the canal district and the old square. Amsterdam’s image can be sordid but it’s so much more – a beautiful, cosmopolitan city perfect for a city break.

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Disclosure: Opinions expressed are purely my own and I accept no responsibility for your sudden urge to book a trip to Amsterdam

 

 

Madhav – Riverside

Cardiff

My obsession with Indian cuisine is seriously getting out of hand. Only a mere two days after my trip to Kimi’s Indian Rajasthani food truck I found myself stood outside Madhav’s window, gazing in like Kevin Mcallister into the toy store window. Madhav is my idea of total heaven. A supermarket and a street food cafe combined, you can pick up your spices and ingredients in one side of the store and then stumble into the other for some freshly made, piping hot street food. I did just that.

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Madhav isn’t glitz and glam, the decor is basic and no frills, but the food speaks for itself. Firstly, if you are a fan of Indian cooking then look no further. Spices and ingredients here are a third of the price of the high street supermarkets. In my Christmas fuelled haze I paid an eye-watering £3.50 for a measly three cinnamon sticks in Tesco. After a short wander around Madhavs Supermarket, I picked up a large pack of cinnamon sticks (£0.79), fennel seeds (£0.79), Garam Masala (£0.99) and a large block of my absolute favourite, Paneer (£1.89). Now if you ask me, that is unbelievable value. Who says you can’t cook from scratch for cheap?

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As soon as I finished walking around the supermarket cursing Tesco as I looked at the price sticker on every single product I could lay my hands on, I decided to try a few Indian delicacies. I had every intention that evening of going home to make a crab and prawn stir fry so made the decision to get some Bhajees, Potato Balls and Samosa to-go so that we could enjoy them as a snack before dinner. Let’s just say I made a huge misjudgment and instead I’m enjoying my crab and prawn stir fry whilst I write this a day later.

The bhajees were crisp, sweet and delicious. Everything a bhajee should be. They seemed to have a mix of both red and white onions which gave them a lovely flavour. I loved the big pieces of green chilli too, it’s not often that you find bhajees with so many fresh ingredients but these hit the spot.

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The potato balls were a little bit cakey for my liking but I put that down to the fact that I transported them home in a carrier bag for 15 minutes so the crispness may have been the victim of some unwanted sweating. That being said, they were full of mustard and fennel seeds which provided a lovely crunch.

My favourite had to be the lamb samosas. It’s hard to believe these are deep fried because they taste unbelievably light. The crisp samosa casing was full to the brim with a warm-spiced lamb and pea filling. I often find with samosas that they taste of curry powder and not much else, but these had a real warmth. Hints of cinnamon and chilli made these a real winner for me.

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By the time Mr. PL and myself had consumed everything that we had bought there was no feasible way that we needed dinner. We sat in a deep fried Indian street food-induced daydream in front of the fire and barely moved all evening.

Places like Madhav are what make Cardiff for me, definitely worth a visit!

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Antique Shopping Is My Cardio

Cardiff

Jacob’s Market, Cardiff Central


 

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It’s January, it’s cold, I’m supposed to be in the gym and drinking kale smoothies but if there is one thing that makes January even glummer than it already is, it’s me trying to pour my post-Christmas arse into pre-Christmas gym leggings. So, I threw January traditions straight out the window and decided to get my steps in at Jacob’s Market instead.

Jacob’s Market is my happy place. Four floors of treasures and trinkets as far as the eye can see. I channel my inner Angel Adoree and scour for china or pretty glassware to add to my collection. I even showed a glimmer of restraint by not buying the stack of vintage Playboy magazines after a sudden bright idea to frame them and use them as edgy pieces of wall art. Angel may not be on a budget but I am.

I managed to leave without buying anything this time. Not even a Royal Family mug which is my usual hurdle! But I’ll be back… For the antiques and the cardio.

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Cardiff Farmer’s Market – Riverside

Cardiff

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Originally known as Riverside market, Cardiff Farmer’s Market was established way back in 1998 and is now run by the wonderful people at Riverside Real Food. Riverside Real Food now runs various events across the city but the farmers market has to be my absolute favourite. Located along the Fitzhamon Embankment overlooking the Principality Stadium (MUST NOT CALL IT THE MILLENIUM) you would struggle to find many other markets with the Produce it has plus this sort of view to boot!

The Market only runs on a Sunday, between 10am and 2pm, but trust me, it is so worth dragging yourself away from a Sunday lie in. There are around 35 producers that tend to rotate each week so it’s not a one time visit.

We made a beeline through the fruit & veg, bakery stands and unbelievable looking pizza’s from Ffwrnes straight to Kimi’s Catering truck. Kimi’s is certainly a regular at Cardiff Farmer’s Market, Mr. and Mrs. Singh decided to set up there in 2010 after they decided it would be the perfect location for an Indian Street Food truck using all the fresh produce that his fellow producers have to offer.

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We took all of three seconds to decide what to order and went for the Breakfast Special (£4.50). It includes Onion Bhajee, Bombay Alo, Paratha and a Samosa all topped off with a dollop of the creamiest mint sauce. If you try this prepare for a deep-fried induced daydream. The food is cooked fresh in front of your eyes and I can promise you that even if you need to wait it is an absolute pleasure standing there watching Mr. and Mrs. Singh rush around their little mobile kitchen ensuring that everything is cooked to the highest standard.

The Breakfast Special (available in both a meat or veggie option) was phenomenal, as it always is. Light and flavourful, despite most of it being deep fried. My favourite is Bombay Alo. A spiced ball of light and fluffy potato that seems to soak up all the beautiful juices and spices from the rest of the dish.

Kimi’s also offers various other Indian Rajasthanidishes, including Aloo Saag and fresh seasonal curries. There is only one problem, once you have sampled Kimi’s food it is truly impossible not to go back.

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