Sunday, 30 November 2014

Romance & Love For Beginners: The List

The List. The source of unrealistic expectations and our deepest wishes. The topic of countless badly made romantic comedies.

We all have a mental (or even physical, I won't judge) list of the qualities we want in our partners. I know I do. I had a general disregard of this List when I was a teenager, that might have had to do with just my general sheer (embarrassing) desperation to have a boyfriend, any boy would have done (that's a whole other topic for later).  But as I have gotten older it seemed like a good idea to have a general standard to which I should adhere.

My list circa 2009 (my first year of university) went something like this:
  • Must wear skinny jeans
  • Must be slightly alternative
  • Must like cuddles
  • Must have nice hair
  • Must like pop punk music
  • Must have a job

My current list has gotten a little more extensive (dare I say picky?) as I have made my experiences and as my priorities have changed. I've even learnt the value of having 'non-negotiables'. Currently my list looks a little like this:
  • Must have a good job he enjoys (non-negotiable)
  • Must either speak German or be willing to learn German (non-negotiable)
  • Must have interests outside of Match of the Day and Playstation/X-Box/computer games (non-negotiable)
  • Must be emotionally available (non-negotiable)
  • Must like cats or corgis (non-negotiable)
  • Must have a good relationship with his family (non-negotiable)
  • Must not own a pair of TOMS or think it's a good idea to own a pair of TOMS
  • Must drive (German car preferable, but negotiable)
  • Must have nice shoes
  • Must own at least one suit which gets worn regularly (and not just for work or funerals/weddings etc.)
  • Must be willing to take my blog photos for me
  • Must enjoy food
  • Must like to travel
  • Shouldn't be a big drinker
  • Smoking not great, but is comprisable

As you can see my list has gotten longer and more specific. And unrealistic.  Finding someone who speaks German in South Wales (and who is dateable) is like finding a sober person in Cardiff on a Saturday night. Impossible. Whilst writing this I also realised how many of those points were non-negotiables. The man I want to date doesn't exist it seems. Also my points regarding smoking and drinking make me sound like the fun police. Well excuse me that I don't want my house to smell of smoke and my boyfriend to be as risk of lung cancer. Who's the fun police now?

John Gray in his book Men are From Mars, Woman Are From Venus - Starting Over (don't laugh this book really is enlightening!) says that these lists are dangerous. The list acts as our list of conditions and requirements. Gray sees the list as a way for people to protect themselves from rejection, and the more overprotective we are the longer the list is. We become picky because apparently no one will ever be good enough. We'll only have our checklist to keep ourselves warm with Netflix at night.

However, I am tempted to disagree slightly with John Gray. The list is important because the list keeps my standards high. Every boy I have ever dated has been a massive step up from the previous boy. So if I keep my standards high then who knows who can walk into my life next? I do completely understand that my list is obviously ridiculous in parts. I doubt very much that some poor guy is able to tick all of those boxes. I'm know not a perfect person and never will I be able to tick all of someone else's boxes.

It's worth mentioning that, the list really isn't a 'set in stone guide' to love and relationships. The Man from Flat 3 (see that saga HERE) ticks a lot of my boxes on the list. However in person he doesn't live up to his paper self. Frankly I've had the dubious 'pleasure' of getting to know him more recently and it's just resulted in me sprinting past Flat 3 when I get home.

The most important thing to remember is that your list is not a checklist but more of a guideline. I am not expecting someone to fulfil all of those qualities, that would be impossible. But the list is there to remind me to not settle. I have settled in the past before and it just put me in an unhappy place. I believe that in relationships there will come a time when you need to compromise. But that's about things like 'do we get a fancy dishwasher or a fancy TV?'. I am not so willing to compromise on the person I want to spend time with. Maybe that will get me into trouble and I will just live alone with 50 cats and when I'm dead nobody will notice until the council come knocking. Who knows? But at least my list is a little more attainable than this guy's.

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

Things Nina Did - Cardiff Street Food at The Depot

Cardiff's worst kept food secret has to be Cardiff Street Food at The Depot

First of all there are no directions to the place. "It's in a warehouse somewhere on Dumballs Road" people kept telling me. For all you non Cardiffians, Dumballs Road is a rather sketchy road behind the train station. Not somewhere you want to walk down alone in the darkness but for the promise of amazing street food a couple of my friends and I headed down on Saturday evening to eat all the food and watch the rugby. 

Cardiff Street Food takes place in a warehouse that looks like it should belong in a horror film. You walk through the entrance and the smell hits your straight away. The place looks absolutely fantastic.  There are palettes and tables everywhere for people to sit on and despite the warehouse it feels very cosy and atmospherical. 

Of course it took us ages to decide what to eat. My little brother (who was with me for the weekend) made a beeline for the burritos. After much deliberation I ended up having the best hot dog of my life from Haut Dogs: sausage, sweet onions, mustard and spicy Sriracha sauce plus popping candy. HEAVEN. My mouth is watering just typing this. In the end we all ended up eating this and the verdict was: delicious. Quite hard to eat but that's all part of the fun as far as I'm concerned.  Washed down with a hearty mojito I was a happy bunny but far from finished.

So what I really came for was the Brûlée Bar. Honestly these ladies have stumbled onto something amazing. They had prepared all the crème brûlées and torched them ready to order for you adding any toppings that you wanted. I of course couldn't just decide on one so I settled for the Moon Pie (crème brûlée with toasted marshmallows, crumble and berry compote) and an original crème brûlée. All were well received by the girls. I want more.

There were so many stalls that I hadn't even touched such as Meat & Greek, Dough Boys and Dirty Bird. What a shame I'll have to go again. Which I'm planning to. Next Saturday. This was such a great evening and it's fantastic to see Cardiff but something like this on, we have such amazing people and food here and it's amazing to see independents be represented so well. There are also several bars offering cocktails and beers to suit every taste.

I was worried that this would be a very hipster Urban Outfitters affair with lots of facial hair about the place. But actually there were all sorts of different people, kids are allowed before 7:30 so there were lots of families with young kids and even older couples who'd come down to Cardiff for the rugby. This is a great place to people watch and soak up the great atmosphere, it's super relaxed and friendly. No better place to be on a weekend as far as I'm concerned. 

Cardiff Street Food is on every Friday and Saturday until 31st December 6pm-11pm, entry is free before 7:30 and it's £2 after. Get here early to grab a seat and avoid having to queue, but when you do bare in mind that's the nature of street food. Everything is frehsly made and it will be worth the wait!

I'm praying and hoping this is something that continues in the new year as well, it really brings something exciting to Cardiff.

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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Romance & Love For Beginners: Plenty More Fish In The Sea

“There's lots of good fish in the sea...maybe...but the vast masses seem to be mackerel or herring, and if you're not mackerel or herring yourself, you are likely to find very few good fish in the sea.” ― D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley's Lover
There's a famous saying which goes something along the lines of "there's plenty more fish in the sea".

I absolutely hate this saying. First of all, I hate fish. I hate the small and the taste of it (linked to childhood trauma of being taken to an Omani fish market as a small child and being traumatised by my uncle who has holding my favourite cuddly toy over the dead fish). Second of all as the brilliant D.H. Lawrence explains, the only fish that appear to be swimming around in this endless sea are herring or mackerel. They used to serve mackerel at my boarding school for breakfast. Nobody would eat that morning. Says it all really for the popularity of mackerel.

What I gather D.H. Lawrence is trying to say is that there are plenty more fish in the sea (if you haven't gathered by now: 'fish' = men) but the see is teaming with ordinary (and gross smelling) fish.

I take offence to being called a herring or mackerel. Something more special or exotic would be better. I'd much rather be a fabulous Scottish salmon. According to the Chemical Brothers salmon can swim to Japan and back. Impressive. But if we're really going to be going for it something like a bluefin tuna would be even better (even if you're in danger of turning into sushi). In 2012 they sold a 269kg bluefin tuna for $736,000 million in Japan. That's more my style.

What I'm getting at is that there may be plenty more fish in the sea but I don't just want a simple herring or mackerel. I want the bluefin tuna. The elusive one, the one worth keeping your line out for to see if he bites. I don't want someone ordinary, I like to think that I'm not your usual kind of girl (correct me if I am please) so I deserve someone who's going to bring a bit more to the table.

I went out in Cardiff on Saturday night and the place was teaming with substandard mackerel and herring. It's becoming increasingly obvious that my salmon or bluefin tuna is out there but I'm just going to have to wait a little while for him. It's worth to just throw my line out there (not an innuendo) and hope he bites. If a mackerel bites I'll just throw him straight back out, my time is precious and not to be wasted on ordinary fish. I'll keep you updated with my progress.

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Sunday, 9 November 2014

Things Nina Did - Riverside Market

There are few things worth getting up early for on a Sunday morning as far as I'm concerned. Mostly my Sundays are designated for my bed and Netflix but Sophie and I wanted food and cronuts. So I'll make an exception for Riverside Market. Riverside Market is a Cardiff institution and has been going for a long time. The success of the market has meant that a one of these pops up in my neighbourhood on Saturdays. I used to go to the farmers market when I was in Montpellier and it's something I've missed doing. I haven't made it to Riverside as much as I've wanted, it's a bit of a trek from my house and it's always a battle to get dressed and out the door.  But today I'd made plans with Sophie to hunt for cronuts so I couldn't disappoint. 

I was early (German ways you see), but there was a lovely tea lady so I was safe. The irony was that she only had this Canada mug (I was born in Canada so have a Canadian passport). Sitting down with a warm cup of tea looking at the Millennium Stadium was an amazing way to start the morning.

There was so much food, we didn't even know where to start. All of the produce was local and everything looked delicious. The market has gotten bigger over the weeks and it's amazing to see people responding so positively to organic and locally sourced produce. There were lots of people there and it was such a wide variety of people: young families with babies, Australians (from the rugby the night before), tourists, students and old couples. There's something for everyone. My favourite stall was the fresh pasta stall and of course the cheese stall. What's not to love about pasta and cheese?

So the main event: CRONUTS. If you don't know what a cronut is then I don't know if we can be friends. A cronut is a donut made from croissant pastry. Basically my two favourite pastries rolled in to one. Sophie and I have been dreaming about these cronuts for weeks and it was amazing getting our hands on them. Thanks to Cup & Cake Bakery our dreams became reality. I was of course greedy and had to get two. The one I'm stuffing my face with is the salted caramel cronut, the spare is a rose and white chocolate ganache cronut. HEAVEN. Just pure heaven. They do these ready to order so if you want to impress at the office then please head here.

If you're in Cardiff visiting then I really recommend popping by, but also if you're a Cardiff resident and you haven't discovered this gem yet get here as soon as possible. It's a great way to while away the morning with a cup of tea. Even if you don't buy anything there's always a chance to squeeze in some tasters. Everyone on the stalls is so friendly and love chatting about their produce, it's a great opportunity to engage with sellers. It's so important to support your local community, plus everything seems to taste better!

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Thursday, 6 November 2014

Romance & Love For Beginners: Lessons From Beyoncé

As a child of the 90s Beyoncé has been formative to my appreciation of music. Back when I was a kid Beyoncé was most famous for Destiny's Child and since their split, she's evolved into the formidable and amazing performer who I've always loved and appreciated. My motto: WWBD? What Would Beyoncé Do? 

What I didn't know as a kid was how many lessons you could learn from Beyoncé, her ability to get it so right in life and look amazing all at the same time is genuinely inspiring. We all want to be Beyoncé, but there's only one of her and there's only one of me. When I've had a bad break up she's there for me, when I need a kick up the arse to get on with my life and be an independent woman she's there for me. My own personal fountain of wisdom.

So here are some of Beyoncé's most important life lessons:

If he liked it, he would have put a ring on it

'Ring' in this case is interchangeable for this like the 'girlfriend' label or in a wider sense - commitment.  If he doesn't put a ring on your finger, or shies away from wanting to call you his girlfriend or commitment in general he probably doesn't like you as much as you like him. Just put your hands up, hit the dance floor, move on and be your fabulous self. You're clearly too good for him anyway. It's pointless spending your time trying to analyse why someone doesn't feel the same way. It can be devastating but you just have to focus on you and getting yourself out there. He had his turn and missed out on being with you, go out there and be fabulous.

Don't be taken for granted

Relationships can be all encompassing and it's hard to see clearly sometimes, I'm guilty of this. We desperately want something to work out that we ignore the warning signs - secretive behaviour and standoffishness are just two of them. Beyoncé doesn't put up with that shit! Everything you own in the box to the left and out you go. Being taken for granted and being unappreciated is dangerous because in the end you think something is wrong with you and it makes you questions yourself. Don't put up with being someone's option when they're your priority. I had this song on repeat when I had the dubious pleasure of kicking out an ex whom I lived with. Throwing his stuff in boxes with this blaring was pretty empowering.

KARMA WILL GET YOU/Break ups can be positive

Mostly when relationships end it's sad, but Beyoncé teaches us that there's a 'good' in goodbye. There are some relationships where the only thing you can really do is get the hell out and thank your lucky stars that it's over. I was in a relationship where the end actually came as a relief because it meant the end of all the lies and being made to feel like a crazy person (you can read about that here). There's also a satisfying feeling in knowing that your ex is never going to meet someone as amazing as you again whilst he is living his sorry little life and being miserable. This is the ultimate 'SCREW YOU' anthem. I take my hat off to you Beyoncé (I'm also so jealous of how you look in this video I almost can't watch it).

You can go at it alone

THIS SONG IS EVERYTHING. We put so much emphasis on relationships and some people think they're the be all and end all of your existence. Not true. Going at life alone and being confident in yourself is in my eyes, more rewarding. The shoes on my feet? I bought them. My bills? I pay them. The clothes I wear? I bought them. The diamonds? I've not bought them yet but I plan on getting myself a diamond ring for my 24th birthday. I'm adamant that my first diamond is going to be one I bought myself with my own money I don't want to rely on a guy for it.

Relationships are amazing and wonderful and lovely but it should always be 50/50. If you're not being given the emotional support you need and not being treated fairly get out and be your own woman. It's an amazing feeling.

And now to sing you out:

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