Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

Lifestyle

You know the film. Katherine Heigl shamelessly piling bridesmaid dresses back into her wardrobe after the cynical Wedding column journalist stumbles upon them. Each dress is more of a monstrosity than the last but it’s ok! Don’t panic! She finally gets to be a Bride in the end. Praise the Lord. Hallelujah.

I have been a bridesmaid seven times. Five of those have occurred as a woman in my twenties. It’s not quite twenty-seven times but it certainly feels that way sometimes. I have heard “Always the bridesmaid…” precisely one billion times, in a close second is “When do you think it’s your turn?”. Well, I have taken some time to consider these statements and I would like to address them once and for all:

I just really love pretty dresses and free food.

Vince.gif

Glad I’ve addressed this. No, all joking aside, what is wrong with being a bridesmaid!? It is one of the best life experiences ever. You get to spend 6-18 months (depending on how crazy/organised your friends are) to help them plan one of the most important days of their life, you usually get to look really bloody fancy for the day AND you get to unashamedly use a willy straw or wear something super tacky on a hen do. Most importantly, you get to do all of that, without the insane stress of being the bride. I am not ready to have an anxiety attack over whether my foundation contains SPF or not, or whether the ribbon on my place cards is one shade darker than the ribbon on my chairs. I am not ready for that level of stress. I am the girl that agonises over the organisation of a works Christmas party, imagine adding in a wedding-sized budget, 150 of your nearest and dearest and a huge, legally binding commitment into that.

*laughs nervously*

“When will it be my turn?” –  When I want it to be. I’m not sure I am a big believer in needing to be engaged to be married. I’m really fortunate to be surrounded by so many happy, healthy couples, both married and not. I remember as a little girl I used to think it was so odd that my Aunt & Uncle in Guernsey had been together all their lives but never married. They owned a house, even bought a ring but never actually ‘tied the knot’. the older I’ve got the more I’ve respected that decision. Committing a life to each other with no actual commitment at all. A conscientious choice to spend that life together. As a twenty-something woman, there is this constant flashing sign above my head that says ‘Not yet engaged’ in big neon letters, it shines brighter with each year that passes. Eventually, I imagine it getting so large that I turn into some kind of female version of Atlas, carrying my neon sign above my back, numerous cats perched on top of course, my back hunched and my hair grey from many years as a spinster.

Oh and by the way, I’ll just leave this here:

Spinster –

  • spin. ster.
    • An unmarried woman regarded as beyond the age of marriage.

Bachelor

  • bach.e.lor
    • A man who is not married

How did we get spinster!? Bachelor conjures up images of gorgeous, greying Clooney. Spinster conjures up images of that witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Warts and all.

giphy-1

I digress. Engagements are lovely, please don’t get me wrong, I fawn and I swoon each time I see one of those picture-perfect engagements, the loved up selfie, hand to the camera, showing off the rock with that huge love drunk grin. It really is gorgeous and I will inevitably be counting the days until I can stalk your wedding photos. An engagement always seems to feel eternally impending. It’s the flashing light hanging above our heads until it finally happens of course and the light fades to grey but instead reads ‘Have you set a date yet?’

It’s no surprise that women proposing to men is on the up, Vogue reported last year that there had been a 336% increase, I’d say at least half of those are probably done by women sick of being asked ‘When is it going to happen?’. Ok, no that is cynical of me but it does get old doesn’t it? Being a bridesmaid, on the other hand, never gets old. I get to drink copious amounts of free champagne, organise insanely fun hen parties and get to wear a really pretty dress for the day. Oh, and what do we all know about bridesmaid dresses? You can just shorten them and wear them again.

No wait, that’s a total fucking lie because who has the energy to take a dress to the tailors/can still sow. It is 2019. Lets just Depop it and move on.

giphy

The Coconut Tree – Cardiff

Cardiff, Cardiff Eats, Food

d76a7c96-4f54-4dbb-824d-ea64f3010125

Mill Lane is the hub of Cardiff for me. When the sun shines each bar and restaurant is awash with crowds. Cold glasses of white wine and lager lining the tables, Hoards of people gathered into Peppermints outdoor seating area until it’s standing room only, couples and friends sat on the patio tables lining Wyndham Arcade enjoying colourful dishes from Bills or Ask. In the Winter you won’t find much difference. We are Welsh, after all, there is nothing that a jumper and an outdoor heater won’t solve. It doesn’t matter what time of year you walk this avenue, Mill Lane is always awash with Cardiff life.

In comes, The Coconut Tree, a Sri Lankan bar and restaurant started up by a group of friends that met just outside Colombo. They specialise in serving up Sri Lankan Street Food, but not only that, they also specialise in bringing the Sri Lankan ethos and zest for life to their restaurants.

7617634051037593950_IMG_0558

The Coconut Tree sits between the infamous 10 Mill Lane bar and the equally infamous and mysteriously named, Private Shop. I guess you could say they are in good company. Inside you would be mistaken to think you were in a cool bar in Colombo or Seminyak. Dim lighting, bright exposed street art, those low wooden tables with the tiny chairs that make you feel like you are at a children’s party, patterned cushions that remind me of *those* trousers that your friend comes back with from their “Gap Yarr” in Thailand and Bali, along with their new found love for yoga and a nasty case of VD. The ceiling is papered with assorted pages from Sri Lankan newspapers, great if you are a cricket fan, it doesn’t take long to find a few stories featuring their national team. My favourite part? The bar. Two pence pieces lined up perfectly and set in place with a glittery resin. If I could pull this off in my kitchen, I would. The barware is an assortment of copper cocktail accessories and brightly coloured ceramic glasses, including the beautiful elephant, Ruby.

9b59244d-d2ca-4bed-acd3-20fa3c829e68

The venue isn’t designed to be your quiet, romantic, secluded spot for date night. It’s loud, the music is masterpiece after masterpiece, the dishes are made to be shared and you are meant to get your hands dirty. They haven’t put rolls of kitchen paper on the tables for you to get precious about cutting your chicken wings with knives and forks.

We started with a few cocktails, sorry, I should say Cocotails, much like everything else on the menu they are extremely reasonably priced. When you consider that you are paying around the £13/£14 mark at the likes of The Alchemist these are an absolute delight at between £6-£8! There may be no sight of smoke or bubbles but these handcrafted cocktails are just as impressive and pack a punch.  We tried the Drunken Sri Lankan and the Sri-presso Martini to start us off. The first is a showstopper in appearance, taste, and concept. Ceylon Arrack – a traditional Sri Lankan spirit, Ginger Beer, Cointreau, Turmeric and Fresh Lime all served up in the cutest jade green ceramic glass in the shape of Ruby the Elephant. It’s very reminiscent of a Dark and Stormy but with a tiny hint of fire at the end from that added turmeric. If you’ve seen my Instagram post already about this cocktail then you already know why this drink is a winner in my eyes. Every drink that The Coconut Tree serves with Ceylon Arrack contributes to the care of real-life Ruby the Elephant and her band of buddies all being cared for by The Elephant Transit Home. The second, the Sri-presso Martini, which by the way is near impossible to say sober let alone after 2 or 3, is perhaps the best take on an Espresso Martini that I have ever had. Coffee-infused Arrack, Cardamom Syrup, and Coffee Liqueur. Creamy, fragrant, far too easy to drink, these are totally lethal because there is no way you will only have one. In fact, of all the Cocotails we tried, that statement is probably true of all of them, even ‘Ruby’s Mum’ which serves five. No judgment here. So let me just summarise:

Reasons why you should relocate your next cocktail hour to The Coconut Tree:

  1. They won’t break the bank. Cocktails start at £6 and even the sharing cocktails start at just £15. Your bank manager will thank you.
  2. They are going to look super cute on your Instagram feed. After all, if it’s not on Instagram, Did it even happen?
  3. Most of the cocktails contain some sort of spice or fresh fruit which we all know is good for you. Turmeric is a super food, coconut is good for your heart, Ceylon is packed of antioxidants, Mint even helps with stress. This isn’t a cocktail bar, it’s essentially a health retreat.
  4. Elephants are adorable, they also need a lot of looking after, Order a few ‘Ruby’s’ and sit back and daydream of her frolicking with all of her little elephant mates thanks to your kind contribution.

34c17924-a6a9-485e-9f47-3b820ee26268744af013-8c92-48eb-81ba-3804b87f06d3b2928a71-2781-4d67-b13f-0261c90eb1d5nAnAUMPBS6OLa78GwRHV6Q

Everything you order in The Coconut Tree follows a trend. It would be an insult to say it is ‘cheap and cheerful’ because whilst it is both those things, it is so much more. The food is designed to be luxury Sri Lankan street food. Reading the menu, it promises an explosion of colour and flavour and Boy… does it deliver just that.

I am a huge fan of spicy food. When Joe first met my parents the poor lad had never really eaten anything spicier than a tikka dish, then my mum serves up the infamous Jerk Pork that she makes with fresh scotch bonnet chilies. I didn’t know whether he was crying, sweating or a mixture of the two. Meanwhile, I’m sat there scrapping the marinade off the bottom of the pan with a piece of leftover bread. When I come across a restaurant in the UK like The Coconut Tree that promises to serve up cuisine notorious for spice and heat, on most occasions I’m left feeling a little disappointed. We were lucky enough to try quite a range of dishes, small dishes designed so that you can share them and try a bigger range. Once the first few dishes arrived my spice seeking cynicism took all of 2 seconds to dissipate. Each dish was punchier than the last. A side of chickpeas would normally sound like a bit of a take it or leave it dish, these were more like try it or regret it. Chickpeas stir-fried in coconut oil, onions, garlic, mustard seeds & chilies and topped with shredded coconut they were full of flavour and carried a good whack of heat, even for me.

5054381214579045454_IMG_0618

Cheesy Columbo – Fried cheese cubes in a sticky, sweet sauce – £5

An assortment of dishes quickly followed. Devilled chicken wings, Black Pork, Jaffna Goat Curry. All served up in white enamel bowls, all steaming hot, packed full of flavour and creating the most wonderful aroma in the air. The Kotthu, a fusion street food, is by no means a looker, it looks really like a pack of stir-fried veg you’ve just picked up from Tesco Express. Nope, this deserves more than a Tesco label, this deserves a sexy M&S Ad with that weirdly erotic voiceover. Shredded roti, mixed vegetables and eggs running through it, you can opt to add in chicken or cheese but this dish is perfect just as it is, incredibly moreish and yet again, full of flavour.

5689863336679858140_IMG_0602

Devilled Chicken Wings – £5

Other standouts? Hot Battered Spicy Cuttlefish, covered in a stocky, spicy glaze, piping hot and wonderfully crisp and the tradiitional Hopper, a bowl-shaped coconut milk pancake served with a runny fried egg, coconut sambal, caramelised onions with a hint of cinnamon & Sri Lankan salsa. Mix up the filling and then roll this into a pancake to enjoy. This definitely had a taste reminiscent of Caribbean jerk seasoning, lots of herbs, spices, and a slightly smokey finish.

fullsizeoutput_2d2f

Hot Battered Spicy Cuttlefish – £7

This is going to sound so unbelievably corny but The Coconut Tree feels like so much more than a restaurant and bar. It feels authentic, the focus isn’t on creating Sri Lankan inspired dishes with a hefty price tag and suited to a more Western palette, the focus is on serving real Sri Lankan dishes and flavours just like you would find them on the island. The staff are warm and many of them themselves hail from Sri Lanka, they’ve even brought over some of their Grandma’s in order to get inspiration on the menu, it doesn’t get more authentic than that does it!?

e00da227-baf3-446c-9c9a-a4b941ce1c76

Egg Hopper – Coconut milk pancake, coconut sambal, seeni sambal & lunu miris – £3.50

83332f3c-7cb0-4e29-abda-d309336d348b

(L to R) Kotthu, Hot Battered Spicy Cuttlefish, Chickpeas

31f45aa3-aa21-41f5-b8d8-ce89e6c7a30b

Kotthu – Shredded roti stirfried with vegetables and egg – £5

72ecd78f-2964-4721-a9a5-fbd3bb8096b031038d31-0b6d-4d8c-b13a-8d8b8825a2409b59244d-d2ca-4bed-acd3-20fa3c829e68-2932699464559545012_IMG_0595

 

Where? 10 Mill Lane, Cardiff

Price? Cheap!! Dishes range between £2.50-£8.

*I was invited to the opening of The Coconut Tree and all dishes were complimentary, however, thoughts are all my own and there was no obligation to post.

Nike’s Latest Campaign, Body Positivity and Dreaming Crazier.

Lifestyle

A few days ago in my usual pre-bedtime Instagram browse, I saw a story that blogger Callie Thorpe had posted – It showed a ”plus-size” mannequin in the Nike store wearing a sports bra and some fitted leggings. Nike continuously amazes me with its latest ads and campaigns. Their ”Dream Crazier” ad last year brought me to tears. The press had twisted and turned Serena Williams outburst at an umpire and headlines everywhere were painted with the words ”unstable” ”hormonal” ”erratic”. I am a huge sports fan, almost every game I watch a male player shout at the ref or an opposition player, but that’s passion right? No headline here.

“If we show emotion, we’re called dramatic. If we want to play against men, we’re nuts. And if we dream of equal opportunity, we’re delusional. When we stand for something, we’re unhinged. When we’re too good, there’s something wrong with us. And if we get angry, we’re hysterical, irrational, or just being crazy…So if they want to call you crazy, fine. Show them what crazy can do.”

It got me. Serena Williams, Simone Biles, Alex Morgan… iconic sports stars all saying a big fuck you to a slew of double standards and all through the medium of what was yet another fantastic Nike campaign. So, when I looked at that photograph of the mannequin my first thought was *clap, clap, clap* Nike does it again.

Now here I am, just over 48 hours later reading an article published by The Telegraph entitled “Obese mannequins are selling women a dangerous lie” by journalist Tanya Gold.

“An immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat. She is, in every measure, obese, and she is not readying herself for a run in her shiny Nike gear. She is, more likely, pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement.”

Read that. Read it again because I can guarantee if you were annoyed reading it the first time, you’ll be outraged after reading it the second time around.

Let me first make myself very clear. I am a UK size 10. Sometimes I love my figure and sometimes I hate it. I play sport, I love sport, I live for it in fact. Do you know what is the worst part of participating in sport or fitness for me? The clothes. The activewear that I only ever see on a minuscule model or mannequin. I pull that Lycra up over my sizeable arse and to put it frankly, I feel like utter crap every time. I see it squeezing me in all the areas I hate. I feel it pulling up or falling down when I’m running. I feel it tighten the hotter and sweatier I get. Each time, I dread that feeling. All that, and I’m a size 10. A so-called healthy weight.

I watch each Nike campaign and want nothing more than to get onto the netball court, to go for a run, to start a gym session. They empower me. The diversity of their campaigns. The focus on power, strength, and determination. Regardless of your race, creed, gender, AND weight. I look at that Nike mannequin and it is yet another stride toward our focus on who we are and not what we are. It is a big middle finger to sports clothing labels that don’t go above a size 12. It’s a big middle finger to everyone, who just like me, whether you are a size 4 or a 24, feels like absolute garbage anytime they put activewear on because we are only exposed to one image of what working out should look like.

Tanya Gold’s main argument seems to be that by being representative of a ”plus size” woman Nike are encouraging obesity and bad health. I imagine that Miss Gold has not expressed the same opinions when seeing mannequins in the brightly coloured windows of Topshop, Oxford Street – mannequin after mannequin adorned in beautiful, tiny clothes, no bigger than a size 4 at best. Did she express her concern with promoting unhealthy habits then? Did she spare a thought over the growing cases of eating disorders in young women in the UK? I doubt it.

Nike is a brand that is now synonymous for its indiscriminate campaigns and ads. This latest move to use ”plus-size” mannequins is not a promotion of bad health. I would be a fool if I were to say that there is no direct correlation between weight and health, that correlation, however, is not strictly reserved for those that are considered obese. Health is not something you see. You cannot simply look at a person and decide whether they are or are not healthy. A few years ago I embarked on an absolute absurd diet in order to look my best for my trip to Santorini. It didn’t verge on obsessive, it was obsessive. I lived for someone telling me how skinny I looked, it only motivated me to eat less and less. I’m not really sure now looking back what stopped that mentality but I wasn’t healthy. I was starving myself, I was struggling with my body image, I had a huge eczema flare up because I was starving my body of nutrition, but boy, did I look good in a bikini.

Nike’s use of this new size mannequin is a promotion of strength, determination, and power. It’s a nudge to all of us that have felt disgusting in gym gear because we don’t have abs. Its a little whisper in your ear that you shouldn’t give up on sport or exercise just because you don’t look like Miss Gym Bunny 2019. It’s a Welcome to Nike as you walk in their store entrance because you aren’t afraid of someone pointing and laughing at you being there.

Miss Gold’s article has taught me one thing, however. I don’t know what dress size she is, I don’t know what she looks like, I don’t actually know anything about her. I won’t judge her based on her dress size or her image. I will, however, judge her on her words and the discrimination, prejudice and discriminatory behavior she has today promoted. I can do that, that is my right, as a size 10, as a size 6, as a size 20. It doesn’t matter. Discrimination isn’t for just the attacked to defend, it’s for all of us to defend and I’m glad to see a global brand do just that.

In a world where we are all discussing mental health and self-care more and more each day, how can we deign to put body types into categories – Healthy or unhealthy? As if it is something that we can see just by checking our clothing labels. I know other people will look at me and say ”she’s a size 10, what has she got to worry about?” but yet I still get that sinking feeling when I go to pull on my sports bra for my run. I still dread going to the gym because of how self-conscious I feel. I still buy my activewear online because I can’t think of anything worse than going into a sports store and trying anything on. All of that has to change. Sport is for us all, so is health, so is fitness.

So, Fuck you Tanya Gold. I’ll leave you with this.

Summer of Street Food

Cardiff Eats, Food

I’m pretty sure some of the best meals of my life have been from street food vendors. Those blue crab samosas from a vendor in Barbados, Jerk pork cooked on corrugated sheeting in Jamaica, Gyros from a small truck in Santorini. There is just something about street food that sets my world on fire (and usually my mouth because I’m too greedy to wait for it to cool down) but this summer there’s no need to jet off to an exotic location. You can get your street food fix right here in sunny South Wales.

Whether you are more halloumi fries or roti wraps there are so many options this summer for you to indulge in. Here are a few of my faves and a few tips to get you through the street food season.

Vendor recommendations:

5B50EABD-FBB6-4478-BAF4-E91720BE7971

The Bearded Taco

I just want to know how I haven’t tried these tacos up until a few weeks ago. Seriously, lust-worthy. With both Mexican and American influences The Bearded Taco team, Sian and Jake, seriously know what’s up when it comes to good quality street food.

Recommended: Their Let’s Avo Cwtch taco really is the talk of the town. Gin & tonic tempura avocado with lemon & agave slaw, vegan chipotle aioli, and fresh coriander.

ZD%pWmugRPqx%umEJ%3XtwBACBDC29-B8EB-4AD3-92EE-0A2C0404FF6B

Assembelly

In a sea of wraps, pizzas and burgers, Assembelly stands out of your usual street food crowd with its array of local, seasonal produce and beautifully fresh seafood. Toby Bradley-Watson is the brains behind the brand and he has more than a few strings on his cooking prowess bow – namely a stint at Rick Stein’s flagship restaurant in Padstow. This is a company who take their seasonal ethos seriously so don’t expect to see the same items popping up time after time. One thing I can assure you is no matter what the menu, the food is out of this world.

Recommended: If you are lucky enough to get your hands on this then go for the award-winning bacon & scallop roll.

67d9ebf5-7a3d-45c1-9dca-7b71d4de65cbBA4B3B07-B348-477F-A58E-45DE63B3DDBD

The Beefy Boys

I almost feel like a con artist listing this burger aficionado because there is no way that you don’t know about them already. Four amateur grillers turn grill masters. The Beefy Boys are firmly on the Worlds burger scene after coming second at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas and there is no sign of that changing anytime soon. Their burgers are 100% Hereford beef and served medium rare. No binding agent here, they are 100% beef.

Recommended: The Chipotle Boy. Served on their semi-brioche bun with a smokey and creamy chipotle sauce, bacon, Swiss cheese, American cheese, lettuce, onions and pickles.

IMG_7708

 

Events/Pop-ups:

Academy Espresso

The uber cool coffee bar situated in The Pumphouse, Barry serves up way more than lattes and a few cocktails, they also play host to the hottest street food vendors in South Wales. Most weekends you will find the likes of Puckin Poutine, Flour’d Up and Dirty Bird on their doorstep providing the perfect snacks to their ever-changing drinks menu. Keep a close eye on their Instagram page for their monthly street food line ups and any one-off special – My fave to date? Cereal cocktails!!

Cardiff International Food & Drink Festival

This one doesn’t really need much introduction. The hugely popular Cardiff International Food and Drink festival is scheduled this year for July 5th-7th. It’s an array of local, national and international produce that simply cannot fail to impress. This event gets insanely busy so try not to get there at peak times, i.e. lunchtime or early evening. If you are lucky, find a table in Roald Dahl Plass and sit and enjoy your street food with a cold beer and lots of free music & entertainment.

St Canna’s

I think probably my favourite place in Cardiff right now. James at St Cannas knows how to run a business, every month this little micropub has a fantastic line up of mini events. GoT screenings, Open mic nights, Theme evenings (Recently: Star Wars and a Eurovision night!!!!) and most importantly, Street food pop-ups from all of our regional favourites. Keep an eye on their Instagram page for confirmed dates.

Pembrokeshire/Aberystwyth Food Festival

Swansea Street Food Festival may now be in the past but there are still two more local festivals to look forward to. Pembrokeshire, 14th-16th June, and Aberystwyth, 19th-21st July. Both events are run by the fantastic team at Street Food Warehouse so it’s safe to say they will be events not to be missed! These festivals are a great opportunity to sample lots of regional food trucks in one day. Don’t show up with a full stomach!

a238d78f-68a7-472f-a86c-fb1306021e39D822EE6C-93A9-4339-9132-4E97849260DDB1C55F04-E357-49D9-8146-CEEACB8F47D8BCF08EC2-2E46-4605-9FC7-358CAB3792A0B8D4BDCD-2610-4651-86AA-7640F26BAC3C

Tips:

  1. Don’t be a fool, Don’t eat a huge meal before you arrive. Grab a banana en route so that you can try out a few different street food dishes without vomming in your car on the way back home. If not, you will arrive stuffed after your greasy fry up and have total food envy once you see the incredible, colourful tacos your mate has just ordered that you now can’t enjoy because you’re too full from your foolish breakfast choice and a single soggy churro.
  2. Share. Convince your best mate/partner/dog to go halfsies with you on everything and try double the dishes! Note: Please don’t actually share with your dog, they don’t appreciate gourmet cheesecakes the same way humans do.
  3. Dress appropriately. I don’t mean cover up. If you want your cleavage on display whilst scoffing down a burger you do you, hun. Just don’t wear the tightest item of clothing you have and then feel uncomfortable all afternoon when you have a food pot pressing into your jeans button. Wear something loose and let your belly do its thang.

 

Happy Eating Loves ♥

Disclaimer: I hold no responsibility for weight gained or money spent on delicious snacks.

source

Happily Ever Afters, Red Opera Gowns & Soundtracks

Lifestyle

I currently have a ‘must watch’ list of around five or six romantic films on my Netflix account. It doesn’t really matter what they are all about, boy meets girl, boy does something to hurt girl, boy makes a grand romantic gesture and gets the girl in the end. There are good, bad and ugly renditions of this age-old genre but I’ve seen them all. Mainly the ugly.

There is nothing that makes my little heart soar more than seeing Edward Lewis, at the end of Pretty Woman pulling up to Vivian’s home in his Lincoln Stretch Limousine, conquering his fear of heights to climb up the fire escape, all with a bunch of roses in hand, to kiss her and utter the immortal line:

Edward: So what happened after he climbed up the tower and rescued her?
Vivian:
giphy

 

Roy Orbison’s Pretty Woman plays out. The tears run down my face. I spend the next thirty minutes yearning for a real life romantic moment with diamond necklaces and red opera gowns.

What happens after the credits roll though? What happens after those immortal words? What happens after they go back down that fire escape?

Everyone knows by now that Disney and rom-coms are behind our misguided expectations of romance and flowers in our relationships but what if actually we’ve been reading it wrong all along. What if we start understanding that after those credits roll the romance still continues but its more pyjamas and takeaway than operas and polo?

We constantly associate the word romance to images of grandeur, extravagance and overt displays of affection. Whether we like it or not these moments just don’t have longevity kids. Unless of course you are married to Kanye West for whom filling a mansion full of roses is just another day. We are creatures of habit, after all, we get comfortable with our loved ones, we slip into that beautiful haze of monogamy. We forget about wearing matching lingerie every day or greeting them at the door wearing nothing but a tie (Sorry I’m back to Pretty Woman again). Everything has a life span, nothing is forever and so why do we treat stages of relationships like they are?

Last month I was stricken with the worst kind of period pain. The kind that makes you want to curl up and cry watching The Notebook. In a hormonal struggle, I ended up highly upset that I couldn’t find my hot water bottle, as we all know, our uteruses best friend in moments like this. Joe disappeared to our corner shop and a few moments later returned with some rubber gloves and a pillowcase which he proceeded to shape into a makeshift hot water bottle for me. Tell me that is not romance. Admittedly my yellow marigolds probably don’t scream Richard Curtis movie but at that moment I truly thought this was one of the most romantic things anyone had ever done for me.

 

giphy-3

 

We have been together for five years now and yes, I cannot lie, some days I  watch one of my beloved romantic films and yearn for those moments of romantic bliss and there is nothing wrong with that. In those moments though, I’m missing the real romance. I’m missing him ordering us pizza even though he keeps telling me “pizza is just a snack” because he knows I love it. I’m missing him leaving me a cup of tea on my bedside table in the morning even though I’ve grumpily kicked him out of bed in my post wake rage.

We are all missing what’s going on after the credits. It isn’t all opera, red gowns, and soundtracks but it is romance, and in possibly it’s sweetest, most wonderful form. We hear so many cases today of relationships breaking down because the spark has gone, and perhaps it is, or perhaps we are so accustomed to thinking that the absolute fireworks, passion, and romance of a new relationship should be forever that we tell ourselves it isn’t working. Yes, a spark and chemistry are important but let’s not forget that sparks do not live forever. They are not limitless beings. They need to be tended constantly and ultimately they do die out. Edward Lewis doesn’t climb up the fire escape each week with red roses and a swoon-worthy line. I certainly am not casting one of the greatest Hollywood movie romances to the ashes though. I am convinced that the credits roll and many years later Vivian is sat on her custom chaise lounge in her old Rolling Stones tee eating cold noodles vying for those days of diamonds and raunchy evenings on a grand piano but also counting down the seconds until Edward gets home from his latest billion dollar business trip.

If only the movie industry were only permitted to release Richard Curtis romantic comedies. The ones that make us ugly cry because the moments are true and painfully relatable. Bridget Jones with her dodgy makeup because she didn’t apply it in the right lighting, Emma Thompson heartbroken when she finds THAT necklace, Rachel McAdams trying on dress after dress in About Time in an emotional flurry. Now that isn’t to say these movies are realistic, they are movies after all and there is a reason we all flood to watch them in our gaggles of friends. They are truer though, they show the tough side of love, the side that comes after the whirlwind, the side that reminds us that there is more to relationships than opera gowns and soundtracks. There are marigold hot water balloons, pizza takeaways and surprise cups of tea. What more could you want?

giphy-2

 

 

 

Recipe – The Ultimate Hangover Cure Sandwich

Recipes

Picture the scene. Hair matted, the ends sticky and tangled with some sort of sugary cocktail, I’m wearing last nights skirt around my waist and a manky old Rolling stones top, there is an untouched glass of water on my bedside table and a crumpled pile of receipts. It’s the hangover from hell. It’s the type of hangover that only a grease fuelled takeaway will solve. Well, that, or my breakfast sandwich. I use the word ‘my’ loosely because I have definitely kind of stole the basis of this idea from Chrissy Teigen’s Cravings recipe book. We are essentially the same person though so it’s fine.

This is the kind of breakfast sandwich that when you bite into it you end up with egg yolk and sriracha sauce all down your My Little Pony pajamas but just don’t give a damn. I guarantee you it will 100% sort your hangover though and you’ll be back to your fine self before you know it.

19c019f4-421b-4480-9490-41a971b0e78d

Ingredients

For the patties:

  • 500g Pork mince
  • 2 tsp ground sage
  • 2 grated garlic cloves
  • 1½ tsp of sea salt
  • 1½ tsp of ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ grated white onion

For the hashbrowns:

  • 1 large white potato (Think big jacket potato size)
  • Small knob of melted butter (About 50g)
  • ½ tsp of sea salt
  • ½ tsp of ground black pepper
  • Drizzle of vegetable oil for cooking

To finish off the sandwiches:

  • English Muffins x 4
  • American cheese slices
  • A generous squirt of Sriracha (optional)
  • Eggs

Method:

  1. Grab a bowl large enough to make your pork patties in. Add all of the ingredients for your patties and mix until incorporated. Add a drizzle of vegetable oil to help this process along. Once you are happy the ingredients are incorporated form the mix into approx 6-8 patties (depending on how big you want them)
  2. Put your patties to one side and begin grating your potato into a separate bowl. Don’t bother peeling. This is a no-nonsense recipe. Add the melted butter and seasoning to your grated potato and mix.
  3. Heat two frying pans to medium-high and add a touch of oil to each. Once the oil is sizzling, add your patties to one pan and press down slightly. These will take approx 4 minutes on each side to cook. Flip them so that you get that nice golden brown finish. Add your grated potato to the other pan and spread it out slightly so that it covers the bottom of the pan evenly. This is going to take about the same time as the patties, 4 minutes each side.
  4. Whilst everything is cooking, lightly toast your muffins and yes, we want our muffins buttered. Drizzle a bit of sriracha over the bottom of the muffins and add a slice of the American cheese to each.
  5. Remove your patties from the heat and start stacking them on your muffins. Use that same pan to fry up a few eggs, 1 for each sandwich. Whilst your eggs are sizzling away cut a few pieces of your giant hashbrown and layer it on top of your pork patties. Finally, top off with the fried egg and another squirt of sriracha.

Best served with: A large glass of cold water and Sex and the City re-runs. Enjoy hot and swiftly followed by a power nap.

The ‘Just because…’ Gift Guide

Lifestyle

Is there any better feeling in the world than when you buy someone a gift that they absolutely adore? A gorgeous little trinket or something really personal. A little gift that you saw and thought of that person the second you saw it. The feeling is even better when it’s a ‘just because’ gift, not because we’ve been swept up in the mayhem of a commercial holiday but just because we wanted to.

Here are some of my favourite ‘Just because’ gifts, all from lovely independent/responsible sellers.

50687423_113581183087075_7642184474604100529_n

Instagram: The Little Market

The Little Market is a fair trade shop set up by friends Lauren Conrad, of The Hills fame, and Hannah Skvarla who through a shared love of design, travel and empowering women set up this nonprofit organisation as a way of alleviating poverty and bringing a brighter future to those in need. The Little Market works with artisans from all over the world offering them design and business advice and bringing their beautiful, lovingly made products to the world. You may not be living on the beautiful Californian coastline within walking distance of Conrad and Skvarla’s picture perfect store but you can still get your hands on their unique, one of a kind pieces. If you are on a slightly bigger budget then please go and take a look at their wonderful gift sets. You can choose from either preselected sets, there really is one for every occasion, or create your own by handpicking the items you like. My personal favourite is the Celebrating Women gift box inspired by Women’s equality day. For those of you who don’t want to spend a (very) pretty penny, check out the ceramic trinket trays and tableware. My absolute favourite, pictured above, is made by Chabi Chic in Morrocco and are hand sculpted. That blush and gold pattern is the absolute tableware of dreams.

Purchase here.

Don’t forget this is a US based store so take extra shipping and tax into consideration.

 

normal_bees-knees-silver-earrings (1)

Not on the High Street: Wue (Bees Knees silver earrings)

Now, these are the bee’s knees! Gorgeous sterling silver studs from the husband and wife team at WUE. All of their jewellery is made in the UK and each comes beautifully presented with small personal sayings and mottos. Perfect for a little pick me up or motivation for anyone that needs it. I picked the bumblebees above because they are just super sweet and always seem to remind me of the UK in springtime. My favourite season. I also have my eyes on these because the lightning bolt design is adorbs and I am obsessed with the message on them. What a lush present for a friend or loved one!

 

download.png

Website: Crown and Glory (Aurora and Luna Moon and Star barrette set)

Crown and Glory are without a doubt one of my favourite British brands. Founder Sophie King created the brand after an unsuccessfull hunt for the perfect, pretty hair accessories. Today, the Cornwall based brand boasts a star-studded following and their products have been seen on the pages of Vogue, Grazia and Rock n Roll Bride. If you are getting married, or are maybe just super extra, then you must check out their Bridal accessories. Their Nebula star veil is the thing of dreams, I have genuinely sat and contemplated if I can wear a veil anywhere other than my own wedding because it is just that gorgeous. For something a tad more low key then what better than the Aurora & Luna Moon hair set. This celestial bobby pin set is a must buy for the star in your life.

P.s. Please send tips on how I can wear this to every possible social occasion.

 

il_794xN.1077302788_1fly
Etsy: Minetta Jewellery (Personalised hammered disc necklace in gold)

Ok so my gift ideas are basically all jewellery or accessories but I just can’t help it when there are necklaces as pretty as these around!!! My best friend bought me a necklace very similar to this as a bridesmaid gift and it is honestly my most treasured piece of jewellery. I wear it almost every day and I swear I am just waiting for it to erode away on my neck into dust because I wear it so often. These necklaces are 14k gold fill and what I love the most is that you can pick the chain length depending on your preference. This necklace is by Minetta Jewellery, you can find them on Etsy, and they specialise in simplistic, minimal jewellery that you can wear every day. Their personalised gold bar necklace is going on my hit list sharpish.

 

60739278_643395546122756_6669067091180244890_n(1)

Instagram: Papergang

Last but not least, the perfect treat for any stationery lovers in your life (Hooray, It’s not jewellery again I hear you cry!). Papergang is a Monthly subscription service, BUT, you can buy a fixed period subscription or even a gift card, so no scary moment when you forget to cancel that direct debit and your mate is left swimming in free stationery at your expense. Papergang is another wonderfully responsible brand. For every four Papergang boxes that are sold, one tree is planted in association with Tree Aid. The trees benefit the environment and also provide food for villagers that they can grow, eat or even sell. So your lovely friend gets a beautifully designed box of stationery AND you get a healthy touch of the feels for doing your part for charity. You kind so and so.

So that’s my list, Happy spending, spoiling and just being the kindest little gem you can be ♥

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…

a3254607-9c51-42b6-b386-0490df02620f

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

f68d118d-43a9-4f06-99d9-b752004d4548-e1556302387328.jpg

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

DD4B26BC-59B0-40C2-B3CA-532FC59E6011

C3644B35-155B-4567-8375-BA3ADD34E616

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…

C0951994-B415-4425-A9AC-AD8004AE758F

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.

uhaopmuqtjmpstoq8cdwgw.jpg

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!

 

OVdKuESeT0GgyWftyL+EqQ