Thursday, 31 July 2014

What Will I Miss About Living In Wales?

So, the bags have been packed and squashed into my car (there was a point at which I was very concerned they wouldn't fit), I've handed back my keys, and I'm spending a few days in Devon with Mama CupandSaucer before the big move to London at the weekend!

It has been oddly sad, actually. M nearly cried over supper last night, and I nearly cried as I wrote her a little note and left my keys on the kitchen table before I left earlier. In a funny sort of way, I didn't think about the fact that to go and live in London, I'd have to leave Cardiff.
Cardiff will always hold a very, very soft spot in my heart. It's where I went to university, where I fell in love and out of love (a couple of times), where I made some of my closest friendships. Of course, I'll be back visiting a fair amount, and who knows, could end up living there again in the future- but somehow, I doubt it. 

And there are a lot of things I'll miss about living in Cardiff- but there are also an awful lot of things I won't miss. So let's start with those, shall we?!
1. Those times you remember your bag but buy too much and have to pay a whole FIVE PENCE for a new one. (You have to pay for carrier bags in Wales) OK, so five pence isn't a lot. But when you've been good enough to remember your bag and then just got a bit carried away shopping, it's annoying to have to pay it!


2. The Severn bridge toll. SIX POUNDS FORTY!! Somehow, it always takes me by surprise. At least you can pay by card now.



3. The M4, M49, and M5 on a Friday night. It's painful trying to leave Wales on a Friday- though at least not as expensive as the way back in (see above)

4. Having to translate everything I did at work. It cost me a small bomb in translation costs, as I don't speak Welsh and therefore had to have everything professionally translated. My poor budget.


Source

But there's a lot of stuff I will miss about Cardiff. As I said- it's a wonderful city with an awful lot of great memories attached. And I will miss...


1. M and M. Oh don't, it makes me too sad! And J and K and everyone else I know and love there. It's going to be weird not being near them.



2. Having a garden. I know I'll be close to plenty of green space in the part of London I'm living in, but it is not the same as having your own garden. And certainly not when Greenfingered M has been growing courgettes, tomatoes, chillies, and enough herbs to make a bloody enormous bowl of tabbouleh and salsa verde.


3. Welsh cakes. The welsh cake shop in Cardiff Bay is beyond amazing, and I just can't make them as well myself.

Source
4. Ridiculous phrases like "whose jacket is that coat?" "Whose shoes are those boots?" and "now in a minute" To me, they all make perfect sense- but I know if I say them in London people will think I'm weird. (and I'll admit that the only one of those I say regularly is "now in a minute")


5. Words like "tamping"- which means "so angry". Again, not one I actually say myself, but it makes me laugh every time someone I know says it.

Oh Wales. You're a special place, aren't you? What funny things does London have in store for me then?

Monday, 28 July 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 77)

Can you believe that this time next week I'll be living and working in London!? I certainly can't. Or rather, I can, which led to a meltdown of slightly spectacular proportions on Sunday morning- to the point that it involved three hours on the phone to Mama CupandSaucer. It took most of that time for me to stop crying. That woman is a saint for putting up with me, helping me out, and general just sorting my life out for me. Honestly, I would be utterly and completely lost without her.

But hey! This isn't about the meltdowns, or the sadness, or anything else. This is about the happy things in life, and of those there are plenty. It's chin up, best foot forwards, and understanding that sometimes the scariest things are the best things that ever could happen to us. I am unbelievably excited for this next chapter, and a few tears are only to be understood.

(As an aside I think I talk more about being sad and stressed on a Monday than on any other day of the week. Perhaps it's a Sunday-night-itis type thing?! Who knows)

So! This week, happiness is...


... donut peaches. Good lord, aren't they incredible? I managed to get five of them, and 300g of fresh English raspberries (in Cardiff. In Wales) for £2. I love the fruit man on Queen Street! But mostly, I love those peaches. Absolutely summer all over- they're perfect.

... Gossip Girl. I may have been slightly (very) naughty and signed up for Netflix this weekend, and I'm steadily ploughing my way through season one of Gossip Girl. I may have watched it the whole way through when it first came out (in the pre-Netflix age when we couldn't gobble up entire series in one go), but I can't resist Chuck Bass again.


... lovely last days. Oh, I had the nicest last couple of days at work last week! Such sweet, thoughtful gifts, a lovely leaving lunch, and being made to feel like a really valued member of the team by the director, who insisted I kept in touch. It was great. (As an aside- can you believe that I have had three last days since I started this blog!? I really need to pipe down and settle down)

... absolute bargains. One way or another (the sale and an exchange were involved), I managed to get the Cath Kidston dress I have been coveting for weeks for £17 instead of £65. I was bloody delirious.


... lazing on a sunny afternoon in the summer time. Even if it was actually spent indoors with laptops, M and I had the most relaxing pre-evening chilling in the lounge while we waited for other M to get home from work so we could BBQ. It was amazing, and I'm going to miss her more than I can say when I leave in two days.

What's making you happy this week?

Sunday, 27 July 2014

News from the Ranch

I don't live on a ranch. I kind of wish I did, as it would give me an excuse to learn how to ride a horse. I always wanted to learn to ride when I was little, but Mama CupandSaucer is afraid of horses- so instead, I learnt to swim, trampoline, and play the piano.


I know I did an update post not so long ago, but this isn't really that sort of post- this is more "funny stories from this week". Annoyingly, as I drifted off last night I thought of another funny story involving me- but now I can't remember what it was, so that will have to wait for another day.

On Friday, MH went missing. Seriously. We had plans for supper at 7pm, and as 6:30pm rolled around and she still wasn't home from work, so I started to worry. I sent her a text- no answer. I called the restaurant as was told that as long as we were there by 8:30, there was no problem. 7pm, and I'm frantically whatsapping Jenny and trying to text MK casually to find out if he knew where she was. Turns out, this just ended up worrying him too, though he did tell me that she didn't have her phone on her. OK. By 8pm I was in a blind panic, on the phone to my mum and looking up whether there had been any traffic incidents she could have been involved in- when she came through the door, having been at the hairdresser for four hours because they nearly ruined her hair. Honestly, I've never been so relieved.

Friday morning didn't start well in our household either. MK has a Very Important Job. Like, the sort of important that means he really really has to be on time for work. As a result, he's got his morning routine down pat and is normally very self sufficient. But on Friday morning, he didn't get up at his normal time- so I just carried on through my morning as usual, getting ready to leave for work, and just thought that he probably had a late start or something. Turns out, he'd actually overslept and woke up ten minutes before he needed to be at work. Oops.

And me? Well, my last day went off without a hitch- other than telling my boss, who was off to the dentist (and who hates the dentist), "well, last week a boy in India had 232 teeth removed from his mouth in one sitting- so whatever happens, it can't be as bad as that!". I don't think it went down quite as well as I had intended...

So, how are you?

Friday, 25 July 2014

Four Layer Chocolate Ombre Cake

Yes, you read that properly. Four layer. Chocolate. Ombre. Cake. It's like a blogger dream cake, I swear to god- even more so because it goes perfectly with both tea and coffee.


Today is my last day at work. It's a very, very strange feeling- the last six months (and in particular, the four weeks since I handed in my notice) have flown by. I've learned a lot. I've met some wonderful people- colleagues, students, and Kate Granger included- and I genuinely am sad to be leaving.

It's a funny sort of sad though- I'm so excited for the next stage, and as this job was always maternity cover I never really had the full sense of ownership as I did in my last job. It also took so long for my colleagues to get to know me, and me them- I've previously been a real chatterbox and practical joker at work, and in this job have been forced to be a little quieter. No turning my boss' entire desk upside down in this job (which I previously did).


I've had my ups and downs- high points included pulling off an incredible student session at a big national event, and lows included being made fun of at work in a reverse snobbery kind of way (apparently, not knowing what a Toast Topper was equated to me being the sort of person who only shops in Waitrose. I'm not that person).

Over the past six months I have baked numerous cakes, taken a trip to Llandudno, attended multiple events, charmed the director, listened to colleagues rant, written six e-newsletters, scheduled more tweets that I care to think about, and learnt an awful lot about myself.

As I write this, it doesn't even really feel like I'm leaving. My handover document is unfinished, my desk is very clearly still mine, and I really don't believe that I won't be going back on Monday. It's baffling, really.


So it was only fitting really that I took my colleagues a fairly spectacular cake to say farewell. As a number of my colleagues were scheduled to be out of the office today, I took this in on Tuesday. In a team of seven, it lasted two days- which I think is quite impressive going, and tells just how good this cake really is.

I'm not going to post the recipe here, as I followed Kathryn's instructions to the letter- just with gluten-full flour rather than gluten-free, because none of us are gluten intolerant, and in 8 inch pans, so my layers were slimmer than Kathryn's 7 inch ones. And when you make it- maybe put slightly less than a full tablespoon of cocoa powder in the third layer- for me, there wasn't quite enough of a distinction between the third and fourth layers. Still bloody delicious though.


It's a wonderful cake, and I strongly suggest you make it. It might make your colleagues wish you weren't leaving- or it could just make a really great birthday cake for a friend.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

A Workwear Wishlist

Last night, as M, M and I chattered over supper, it suddenly dawned on us all that I'm moving out in a week. One week. Seven more sleeps. It's really sad.

Of course, I'm crazily excited for my new adventure in London, but I'm also so sad to be leaving this beautiful home behind. I've adored living with M- and now other M has moved in too (they're being real, proper grown ups!), it's even more fun. Last night, we discussed an incredible sounding fistula M had treated that day; M's colleague's duck, Bananas; and how we buy class, and the differences between different levels of "middle class", as I'm currently reading Consumed- it's so interesting. 

I love intelligent conversations. But that's by the by.

I'm so excited for the move, because I might use it as an excuse to buy myself some new workwear. I'm just not equipped for the prolonged sunny weather we've been having!! I'm having to hold off though because a) moving is expensive and b) I have no idea what the dress code in my new office will be like.

It's also quite difficult as I'm having a body-confidence crisis at the moment. I live with the most tall, beautiful, toned, active girl on the planet, and I'm carrying extra weight at the moment and boy sometimes does it hit you in the face when she's looking like a supermodel at breakfast and I'm there hiding in a floaty dress. So body demons, be gone! I'm lusting after...

Workwear Wishlist

Top row, L-R: ReissMangoMangoWarehouse
Bottom row, L-R: NextReissJoulesJoules

I'm not 100% sure where this sort-of colour scheme came from, but I like it! Of course, the Reiss dresses are just pipe dreams, but the sale Joules dresses might theoretically be an option... who knows!

What are you lusting after at the moment? Do you struggle to get dressed for work in the summer too!?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Updating

For a lifestyle blog, I think I do a pretty poor job of updating you guys on what's actually going on in my life. i think I feel like I'm sharing everything with you, but in practice- it's little snippets, carefully curated because a) I had a lot of pictures of that thing; b) I thought you might find something interesting; or c) I just felt like waffling.



So here we go! Interspersed with pictures up to four years old, a little life update, in bullet points because I, like everyone else, love a list:

- I've read TWO books since Friday! The first was Tampa, our book club book, and the second was We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which I'll review properly soon- it may take me a few days though, as I'm struggling to work out how to review it without giving the whole thing away.
- I currently have the worst blisters IN THE WORLD on my feet. Damn you, new brogues and wet weather.


- Walking strangely because of the forming blisters on Saturday has also resulted in two strained ankles. Which means I've had to drive to work every day this week, and feel awfully lazy as a result.
- I'm writing this after one pint of Black Dragon, a 6.5% welsh cider. All I can say about it is that the Devonshire lass in me approves, and that it is so strong I feel slightly fuzzy.
- I gracefully came second in a game of Scrabble on Sunday night. For a girl who is notorious for being overly competitive, this is progress.


- I'm in my last week at work right now! It's terrifying and exciting all at the same time. My mood affects which one of those wins out.
- The caps lock on my keyboard is slightly broken, which means I can only change from uppercase to lowercase with a significant amount of effort- which will probably result in a completely broken keyboard at some point soon.
- I'm contemplating getting a Netflix subscription just so I can rewatch all of Gossip Girl, and The Hills if it's on there. Someone tell me it is!? 
- I nearly stood on a dead rat outside of my office yesterday. Twice.


- M&S Giant Chocolate Buttons are absolutely the one.
- I had a wobble one evening recently. I did a silly thing, thought about doing other silly things, and regretted it all in the morning. Nothing too serious, nothing involving anyone else- but it was daft, and I'm better now, but I think these things need to be acknowledged without overtly saying what they are sometimes.
- No one at work noticed my haircut!


- I also went to korfball training last night for the first time in a few weeks. I'd forgotten how much I like that sport (even if I couldn't really do much because I was playing barefoot because of the blisters/ ankles)
- I made a four layer chocolate ombre cake. I'm hoping to share pictures/ the recipe soon, promise!
- I'm currently more generally content than I have been in an awfully long time. And that is something to be celebrated in itself.

- It has been BOILING in Cardiff for ages now. And by "boiling" I mean "above 20C" which, if you're in Australia/ the southern USA is positively chilly. But for Cardiff, it's about as good as we get. And I'm loving every second of it.
- My "Alternative Things Women Need To Know" post got thirty four likes on Bloglovin! That's extraordinary. Thanks, everyone!


And some posts I've enjoyed this week:
this is just to say (on dressing up and first dates):  because Meg always manages to convey how I feel. She is incredible. And I too am so excited for first dates.
How I Feel Today: because Samantha is braver than I ever hope to be, and she deserves everything good.
Will You: because Charlotte is so creative, and I'm so excited for more wedding updates from her.

So tell me. How are you?

Monday, 21 July 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 76)

Wasn't Sunday just GLORIOUS!? I spent the entire day reading in the garden, smothered in SPF30 but hoping to increase the tan- I think it worked, actually!

This week has been marvellous. I am completely back to myself, looking forwards with an excitement I haven't felt in ages. For a while, thoughts of the future were scaring me- which kind of told me that something wasn't right. I've since sorted that out, and I'm back to feeling like ME again. 

As an aside, I fear this blog is becoming a list of happy things, occasionally peppered with an outing or recipe. I've become useless at regular posting- life is just getting in the way, in a way not seen since before I started blogging. Look back at the early days of my blog, and you'll note I posted every day- I just cannot commit to this any more. But I'm interested- what would you like to see more of in this space of mine? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

Anyway. This week, happiness is...


... graduation week! It's two years since I graduated, but last week was graduation week for the last few of my friends- those who studied medicine, did preliminary years, or completed Masters degrees last September. It was so much fun to have everyone around in high spirits, to drink champagne and cocktails with friends and their parents, and generally celebrate everyone's awesomeness.

... having somewhere to live!! Yep, I now have a new place to call my own. It's a lovely flat, with two lovely girls, and I'm finally properly excited about my move to London. It's all coming together!



... finishing a book in a day. I don't think I've done this since school, when I started training myself to take longer and more challenging books on holiday so I didn't have to take five away with me for a week (which was a regular occurrence, at one stage). It was Tampa, our next book club book- I demolished it, and think it's going to make for a very interesting chat. It certainly wasn't exactly what I expected- and apologies if you are of the delicate disposition, you may not like it- but it was a really interesting read!

... celebratory meals. When I got back from London on Saturday evening, M and M and I feasted on champagne, beef bourguignon, and blueberry and peach tarte tatin. It was blissful, and I have come to the firm conclusion that the French do the best celebratory food (and drink) in the world.

Source
... thunderstorms. OK, so it wasn't much fun walking to the train station in the middle of one at 6:15am on a Saturday, but as a general rule, I love thunderstorms. The recent weather has been perfect, as far as I'm concerned- sunny days and stormy nights are where it's at.

What's making you happy this week?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Alternative Things Women Need To Know

So. I've seen this post about things girls need to remember floating around the Internet for a while now. And while at first glance, it's faintly inoffensive, when I look at it I can't help but think- this predominantly reduces women to little more than emotional beings who want to be thin and pretty.

Not going to lie- I'd like to think I'm more than that.



Okay, there are days when I sob for no reason, and days where I wish I had my housemate's body- but is that the only wisdom I have to impart? That other people feel like this too? I know guys that cry for no reason and who are more self conscious about their bodies than me!!

So. Here are my alternatives. Ten things every girl needs to know:


1. Being stupid isn't cute. Oh my god. Seriously- you will impress far more people (romantically and professionally) if you know your shit. Never dumb yourself down for anyone. Be a powerhouse. Impress directors and interview panellists and you will go much further than pretending you don't know how to switch your computer on. Men- yeah, you can do this too. 

2. Build bridges. Be polite and helpful. People (particularly in a workplace) respond better to people they like on a personal level. Be nice, and they're more likely to respond when you ask for something. Again- this applies to guys too...


3. Set goals. It's easier to get somewhere when you know where you want to be. There's a quote from Alice in Wonderland that is pretty applicable here:
'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ 
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat. 
‘I don’t much care where—’ said Alice. 
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat. 
‘—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation. 
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.'
Do you just want to end up SOMEWHERE? Because you will. If you want to buy a house, travel around Africa, or become the next prime minister, work out what you need to do to get there and START DOING IT. Don't come whinging to me when the thing you want to happen hasn't happened if you've done nothing about it. Oh look! That one could apply to men too...

4. Be selfish. Put yourself first sometimes. Don't stay in a relationship because you're worried how the other person will react. Don't let other people dictate your time. Do make time for the things that are important for you. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do (within reason- you DO often have to do what your boss tells you). Haters gonna hate (potatoes gonna potate), so you might as well just do whatever you want anyway. Hey guys- some of you could do with remembering that too.

5. You don't have to do what everyone else is doing. Your twenties and thirties are the shittiest time for comparing yourself to others. Think about number four. What do YOU want to do? It doesn't matter what you THINK you should be doing- do what you KNOW you WANT to do. You can be a doctor, or work in a supermarket, or be self employed. You don’t have to drink. You can buy a house, or you can rent, or you can live with your parents. You can buy your clothes from Primark or The White Company. As Fleetwood Mac once said, you can go your own way.   Are you sending a theme here? I know some guys who could remember this too...



6. Learn a language. Any language, actually. As many as you want. At least learn how to say "please" "thank you" "hello" and a few other key phrases in the language of whatever country you're visiting. It's respectful, and locals respond better to tourists who TRY. And if you have a whole language on your CV, employers think you're awesome. Men? You can do this too.


7. Learning about your car will save you an awful lot of time and money. If you know how to check your oil, water, tyre pressure, and if you're really on it, how to change a tyre, you can stop some things from going wrong before they do. Equally applicable to women and men...

8. Be nice to people. Wish them luck. Cheer their successes. Remember their birthdays. Don't put people down. Stop feeling like you're in competition with everyone you come across!!! It will make you happier, it will make them happier, it will make the world a nicer place to be. Be nice to your mum in particular- she made you from scratch. Don’t demean other people, don’t be stroppy with people for no reason, don’t put other people down. You’re entitled to be in a bad mood- but don’t take it out on the people who mean most to you. Men- my god, would you do well to remember this one too.


9. Learn how to cook. You will save yourself so much time and money if you can cook. Even just knowing how to make ten great dishes (and these could be as simple as roast chicken, bolognese sauce (and therefore lasagne), chilli, fish pie, sausage and mash, beef stew, risotto, leek and potato soup, salmon en papillot, and a pasta bake) will serve you SO well.  Making your own food is so much more satisfying than sticking a pizza in the oven (not cooking), making curry from a jar (not cooking) or ordering a takeaway (definitely not cooking). Knowing how to bake something will impress people too. This one is so applicable to both men and women. EVERYONE should know how to cook something.

10. There is no problem so great or so grave that cannot be greatly diminished by a nice cup of tea. I’m serious. If you’re sad, if you’re stressed, if you’re having a cry in your car, if you’re cold, if you’re hungry- make a cup of tea, and you everything will feel better. It is also the perfect celebratory drink when it’s just that little bit too early to crack out the champagne. It’s the perfect thing to hug while you’re breaking up with someone (as in, clutch the mug like a crux, not hug the actual liquid). It’s the best thing to drink while catching up with friends. Also applies to coffee- but I like tea better. And of course- this obviously is universally applicable.


And overall: Love many, trust few, always paddle your own canoe.

Being a girl is fantastic. We get to create life, impress people, smash through glass ceilings. We are so much more than emotional beings who like make up and want to be thin. We are different from men, but certainly should be equal to them. And don’t let anyone- male OR female- tell you otherwise.

Friday, 18 July 2014

In Barcelona

If you're the sort of person who likes a soundtrack to their reading, might I suggest George Ezra's Barcelona while you skim through this?


SO. Barcelona!! It was amazing. Honestly, it's such a wonderful city- if you're looking for somewhere not too terribly far from the UK to explore for a few days, I'd certainly recommend it (though first, go to Guernsey. And then Paris. And perhaps a few other places. But still- Barcelona is well up there).


First- logistics!

Mama and I stayed at the NH Calderon- and I would certainly recommend it. Friendly, just luxurious enough, and just a tiny walk from the top of La Rambla, the only time we got the metro was to go to Park Guell and then back down to the beach. The metro is so easy, too- though we decided it was easier to get a taxi in from the airport to the hotel (which cost around 25 euros each way). We did, however, feel that breakfast was wildly overpriced, so didn't pay for it- instead, we bought water and fruit from Carrefour, and popped into one of the many patisseries on Rambla de Catalunya each morning.


We drank a lot of sangria. We ate tapas and paella and montaditos. We walked, and explored, and visited, and shopped, and got a little Gaudi-ed out- but it was so, so worth it.

So- my top tips for Barcelona:


- On a Sunday, make your way to Placa del Pi, and explore around the farmers' market and artists' market- then make sure you're in front of the Cathedral (Placa Nova) to watch the locals dancing in the square. It sounds twee- it isn't. It's wonderful.


- If you don't have time to visit all the Gaudi sites, give La Pedrera a miss. The chimneys (pictured) really are wonderful, it's true- but inside the building is a disappointment, compared to Casa Batllo. 

- Always get the audio tour. They really do add so much to your trip, I swear to god.

- Whatever you do, book to go to Sagrada Familia. Don't be a mug stuck in the queue. Book online, skip around to the Nativity facade, show them your ticket on your phone, and feel like the smuggest person on the planet.

- Get the furnicular railway up to Montjuic, and get the cable car to the top- then walk back down to the furnicular. Real haven in the city- beautiful, and relatively few tourists. Another great picnic spot.


- Gabriel in Placeta del Pi does some of the best calamari I've ever tried- and great cheap red wine too.

- Keep an eye on your bag. We didn't have any trouble at all, actually- other than the moron street performer who tried to look up my skirt and made me cry- but everyone says it, and it's better to be safe than sorry.

- Park Guell is well worth the trip- take a picnic, and spend some time. Despite what Lonely Planet says, you will now have to pay to get into the monument section- so go early, get your ticket, and do that first before exploring and chilling in the rest of the park.


I may go into a bit more detail about some of what we did at a later date, but for now? Think that's the bare bones. It was a wonderful, wonderful trip. 

Tell me. Have you been to Barcelona? Where should I visit next? I'm thinking Copenhagen. Or maybe a spot of Greek island hopping...

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Blogger Book Club: Our Next Book Is...

So, the votes are in, the lines have closed, and votes have been counted and verified...

... or something like that.


Source

Regardless, you guys have voted, and I am very excited by the fact that the next book we will be reading for the Blogger Book Club is Tampa by Alissa Nutting.

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She is attractive. She drives a red Corvette. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed and devoted to her. But Celeste has a secret. She has a singular sexual obsession - fourteen-year-old boys. It is a craving she pursues with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought.
Within weeks of her first term at a new school, Celeste has lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web - car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack's house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming encounters in Celeste's empty classroom between periods. It is bliss.
Celeste must constantly confront the forces threatening their affair - the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack's father's own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind. But the insatiable Celeste is remorseless. She deceives everyone, is close to no one and cares little for anything but her pleasure.


Source
Personally, I think this sounds great, and I think it will make for a really interesting chat. We will be conducting the next chat in much the same way as the last one- so namely via Skype, using the instant messenger. Last time it was SO much fun, so please come and join us! I'll be buying the book after work tomorrow or Friday to keep myself entertained on the way to and from London on Saturday.

We will be discussing the book on Tuesday 9th September, probably around 8pm- so get the date in your diary now!!

And if you haven't already, you can sign up to our Blogger Book Club mailing list here! We won't spam you, promise.

What do you think of our book choice this time?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cotehele

I know I promised Barcelona posts, and I will get to them- but first, I thought I'd share a few pictures from last Friday, when Mama CupandSaucer and I went for a potter around Cotehele as part of her birthday celebrations. Mama is happiest when she's outside in the sunshine- she wouldn't care if it was 28 degrees or minus 2- if it's sunny, she wants to be out there. And given that it was closer to the former than the latter, I wasn't going to refuse.


I demanded that we had to start our potter with lunch, so treated Mama to delicious homemade quiche and salad. Not the cheapest, but certainly delicious and perfect warm weather fare. We sat in the sunshine, chattering about our plans for the evening and reminiscing about our time in Barcelona.


Suitably fed and watered, we decided it was time for a stroll. I kind of forgot to take many pictures, as we ran into a childhood friend and stopped for a catch up for a while- but when we peeked through the trees at the edge of the path and saw that view, I couldn't not take a picture. Calstock, the village in the picture, is genuinely one of the prettiest places I know. There's a lovely walk from there to Cotehele, actually, but we decided that was one for another day.


We pottered around the gardens a little, putting the world to rights, before deciding to head back to the river. Turns out, you can do kayak tours, boozy jazz cruises, and all sorts of other boat-related things from the quay here, so I'll certainly be back for one of those soon.


But before long we were feeling restless again. We took a lovely stroll through more trees towards the mill. Unfortunately, as we'd left it pretty late in the day, we didn't have time to pop into the mill, but we did have time to pop into the little shop. I'm telling you, it took all my willpower not to buy a bag of the flour they stone grind there on site- can you imagine how delicious bread made with that would be!?


We stopped on the bridge to play Pooh Sticks (I won) before wandering back to the car to get ready for our evening out. But more on that another day.

Tell me. Are there any lovely National Trust properties near you? They're one of my favourite ways to spend a sunny day. Perhaps I'll have to treat myself to a membership, one day... 

PS- can I just say thank you to you ALL for being so bloody kind when I've been wobbling lately? You have no idea how much it helps. 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Happiness Is... (vol. 75)

My apologies for posting this slightly later than usual. I had a week off last week, and it sort of turned into one of the most ridiculous weeks I’ve ever had, involving four days in Barcelona, a spontaneous haircut (nothing too drastic), a break up, my mum’s 50th birthday, time spent playing with  a puppy, driving to London, spending the evening with Bess and Emily, to a day of househunting where I thought I’d found the place I wanted to live only for them to pick someone else, and then driving back to Cardiff crying so hard I had to stop at the first service station on the M4 because Logical Alice kicked in enough to know that driving in that state was not a sensible idea.

So I’m entering this week feeling a little fragile, a little lost, with a lot of worries and a slight inability to focus on anything for very long. Fortunately, this week is also graduation week in Cardiff, and so a number of my friends are up this week graduating from Masters degrees, medical degrees, and optometry degrees. I couldn’t be prouder of them all, and I am so glad they’re here to give me a bit of a boost so I can dust myself off and head back to London on Saturday for another go at house hunting. On that, if anyone knows anyone who is looking for a housemate- I'm nice, promise!

As always though, there’s a lot to be happy about. I’m healthy, I’m whole, and I have people who love me, I have a kettle and tea. I could be an awful lot worse off. So this week, happiness is...

source
.... watching a film first thing in the morning. Isn’t there something so luxurious about this? On Saturday morning, before heading out for some family time, I watched about three-quarters of You’ve Got Mail in my PJs on the sofa with a mug of tea. It was such a relaxing way to start the day- I think I need to spend more weekend days like this, rather than running around like a headless chicken all the time.

.... Lila. My brother’s puppy, Lila, is the cutest dog IN THE WORLD. I love popping over to see her (and of course, my brother and soon-to-be sister-in-law) for puppy cuddles, dog walks, and playtime. She might even be convincing me that having a dog might be a good thing after all...

Source 
... reading rubbish books. Every time I head home, I pick up one of the rubbish books I’ve left on my bookshelf there. This week, it was Jodi Picoult’s Salem Falls. It was so nice to be able to get three-quarters of the way through a book in a day- unlike the Game of Thrones series, which I’ve just finished- and not to have to think at ALL about what I was reading.

... texts from my mum which include emojis. Bless her, my mama isn’t particularly great with her iPhone- but not long ago, I taught her how to put emojis into texts, and every time she includes on in a message it makes me smile.

Source
... unexpected acts of kindness. Like when Bess gave up her Sunday to house hunt with me, and told potential housemates that she would live with me in a heartbeat if she was looking to move too. Or when I got back at gone 10pm last night and M had made me lunch for work today. Or the strangers who saw me crying hysterically in my car at the service station and sort of signalled to check if I was OK and if they could do anything to help. It kind of makes you realise that people are generally good.

What’s making you happy this week?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Things have changed around here.


I cut my hair. (Or rather, a lovely hairdresser did- yes, such people do exist)

There has been some conscious uncoupling. (Phrase of the year)

Soon, there will be a move, and a new job, and a new city.

I'll be back soon with a post or two about Barcelona, but for now please bear with me while I try to get my head around it all. It's all entirely my own doing- and all bar the last line are completely unrelated- but I still need a little bit of time.

Raspberry Ripple Cake

 

If you've picked up issue 4 of Blogosphere magazine, you might have noticed a little recipe in there from me! It was so fun to put together a little recipe collection with JennyBess, and Sally, and I've been dying to make this cake again ever since. My colleagues have been pretty keen for that too- of all the cakes I've made them in the short six months I've been there, this one was definitely the favourite.

Nothing screams “summer” to me like fresh English berries- probably because every year, we get a glut of them from my grandfather’s garden. I always try to get my hands on a few for some sort of bake, and given that raspberry ripple is my favourite flavour of ice cream, I just had to try to replicate it in a cake. According to one of my colleagues, this cake conjures up sunny days at summer fetes, and I  think it’s perfect with tea in the garden- or even better with Pimms. It would also work pretty well as part of a living room picnic.

When I've made this so far, I've always used fresh raspberries- but I'm sure frozen ones would work just as well too.


Raspberry Ripple Cake

For The Cake:
225g caster sugar
125g butter, softened
125g mascarpone
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
75g ground almonds
325g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
150g raspberries

Cream the sugar, mascarpone, vanilla and butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the almonds, flour, and baking powder, and when just combined, gently stir through the raspberries. To warn you- this batter will be very thick.


Split your batter between two 8inch tins, and bake at 170C for 30 mins, or until they're beautifully golden and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Obviously it won't do that if you hit a raspberry though, so use your common sense here.

Turn out onto a cooling rack, and leave until cold.



For The Buttercream:
125g mascarpone
100g softened butter
300g icing sugar
100g raspberries

Beat together your mascarpone and butter, then gradually work in the icing sugar. Beat until fluffy, then fold through the raspberries by hand.


To Assemble:

Put one cake onto a serving plate- flat side up, then top generously with the buttercream. Spread a tablespoon of raspberry jam over the other cake, then sandwich together. Dust icing sugar across the top off the cake to finish, and serve in generous wedges. This is best eaten the day it is made, though it will stretch to two days. Just be careful with it because of the mascarpone in the buttercream!