Saturday, 28 February 2015

Things Nina Did - A Solo Weekend Break

Antico Restaurant

I had to go to our offices in London for work and decided to make a weekend out of it. It was a bit of a spur of the moment thing but I wanted some time to myself out of Cardiff and to explore a new city. It was quite exciting knowing I had a weekend to myself to go exploring and treat myself. I booked myself into the Tower Hill Motel 1 which is a German hotel chain that I've stayed in before in Germany. It's a stones throw from Tower Bridge making it a perfect location to explore and shop.

It was so freeing to have some alone time, it felt pretty decadent having dinner by myself with only a chilled glass of white wine and book for company. It was a great way to unwind and just take a step back from everything.

On Saturday it actually turned out that an old school friend of mine was in London visiting her boyfriend so we all met up and went to see the Tudor exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (we're such geeks). I can really recommend it, there isn't an entry fee and it's fascinating to see pictures you've only ever seen in history books in real life. That morning I also caught up with another friend from school, it was so great to catch up and see what she's up to after school. 

London is pretty hectic and fast paced but it was great (and sad for my credit card) to be able to go into shops that we don't have here in Cardiff. I could have spent hours in & Others Stories, COS and the Charlotte Tilbury counter in Fenwick. I still haven't looked at my bank balance to double check the damage.

In the evening I treated myself to some German food at Fisher's, I wanted to go here ever since I read Gourmet Gorro's review of the place. The dining room alone is a thing of beauty and you feel like you're in a Wes Anderson movie. I haven't been to Germany for over a year now so it was literally a taste of home.

Sunday was a little less manic, I explored Brick Lane which was just a ten minute walk from my hotel. It's certainly an interesting area with some vintage gems to be found although I generally found that the 'vintage' prices were quite steep. Also there's certainly a 'Brick Lane look' which I don't fulfil but that's fine. Kensington on the other hand is more my neck of the woods. I went here with the specific purpose of picking up some Russell and Bromley loafers in the children's size (saving myself over £100 so can't complain). Kensington Gardens were stunning and a lovely place to get away from the masses. I of course also popped into Harrods but that was beyond overwhelming, there's something insane about seeing bags that cost more than your rent.

All in all it was a great weekend. I've had to be pretty independent from the age of 14. I've lived by myself and had to travel by myself for almost 10 years now but that doesn't mean I've always felt good in my own skin or enjoyed my own company. My weekend break by myself pushed me a little outside of my comfort zone and showed me that it's okay to spend time by yourself. I'm learning to feel comfortable in my own skin, it can be hard and scary sometimes but everyone should travel by themselves at least once in their life. It's very freeing and satisfying setting off by yourself.

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Romance & Love For Beginners: The Tinder Date

As you know, I have been flirting with Tinder for a while now. It's had it's ups and downs, I've deleted the app a few times but have always gone back to it during the advert breaks on Take Me out on Saturday nights. I had combed thoroughly through my age range (23-27) and came up empty. So I decided to go bold and include the gentlemen above 30 as well.

Maybe I'm naive but I was hoping that being over 30 meant that the man in question would have some sort of stable living situation, a good job and some kind of direction. I mean I'm 23 years old and all of those things apply to me. How hard can it really be?

As it turns out: very. Enter Tinder Thomas.

Tinder Thomas had a funny profile without being cheesy, nice pictures and was 33 years old. So far so good. We talked back and forth for a bit and in the end moved the conversation to WhatsApp. We had funny chats, he obviously had a similar sense of humour to me. Suspiciously however, he never mentioned work or what he was doing during the day. Red flag. In the end he asked me if I fancied going out for drinks. I said yes, already mentally planning a whole outfit around my BooHoo shoes naturally. And as per the usual Nina way I was getting far too ahead of myself and wondering how on earth I was going to explain to my mother that I found my boyfriend on an app where you swipe right if you like someone. As Jane Austen says: "A lady's imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment."

We agreed to meet in a new bar near my house. A tactical move on my part so I wouldn't have to share an awkward taxi with him. As it turns out the bar was horrendous. When I asked the waitress for a Hendricks and soda water with cucumber she looked at me like I was insane. That set the tone for the whole night.

Some succinct highlights of the evening:

Tinder Thomas: "So if your parents are Germans living in Brazil, does that make them Nazis in hiding?"

Tinder Thomas: "I've had to dress for 2 occasions tonight, I may be going out with some friends later." takes off reasonably nice brown roll neck jumper to reveal a Jurassic Park T Rex t-shirt.

Me: "So what do you do?"
Tinder Thomas: "Technically nothing, I took voluntary redundancy."
Me: "Oh I see, so do you live alone?" (me thinking "Please god say yes")
Tinder Thomas: "No I live with my parents, I spend quite a lot of my time in my room." 

Me: Speaking about S Club 7 (this was two gins and two glasses of wine into the evening, don't ask). I used to love S Club 7!
Tinder Thomas: "Oh yeah they were really big when I was in university."
Me: "I was about 10 then... "

The crowning jewel of the whole evening was when we were saying goodbye. We hugged it out but as we were breaking apart from the hug he rested his hands on my hips and looked at my face very intently. He was going in for the kill. I jumped back and waved him away from a safe distance shouting "I'll see you again soon" as I power walked away. We haven't spoken since.

Following on from this incident my male college has given me some very useful advice when it comes to not wanting to kiss men: "If a guy looks at you like he's going to kiss you and you don't want to, just cough in his face." I wish I'd known that then.

So Tinder and I have ended our affair. It's been deleted and I think that's how it will stay. The stable fantastic man who doesn't live with his parents and has a good job is not going to be trawling through Tinder. Or maybe he is and I'm missing out on him.

Thank you Tinder, it's been enlightening.

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Monday, 16 February 2015

Galentine's Weekend

Valentine's Day can be a bit rough if you're like me and still licking old relationship wounds that haven't quite healed just yet. I know that Valentine's Day is just some commercial shtick designed to line the pockets of florists and be an excuse for Pandora to put their prices up. In the past when I've had a SO (significant other) to share V Day with, we've always kept it low-key with dinners in and more thoughtful gifts and I put an embargo on red roses. However, even if you're fairly level-headed and not at all into Valentine's Day the hysteria from everyone else around you can make you feel quite lonely. From the #blessed underneath an Instragram picture of a rose gold Michael Kors watch to Pandora rings and #boydidgood it seems like everyone has someone, and when you're single and still slightly broken hearted it's the worst.

I may not have a boyfriend, but I have something even better: fabulous friends. So in true ovaries before brovaries fashion, I spent a great Galentine's Weekend with my two great loves: food and my best friends.

In relationships I have previously been so head over heels for someone that I wanted to spend every second with that person. My weekends were reserved for my boyfriend and if we didn't spend it together I felt like I was cheated out of time with him. In hindsight this probably wasn't great for either of us. He could have used more space and I could have used a little more confidence to do my own thing and spend time with women who encourage me and are always ready to fight my corner.

I am a girls girl, maybe it's because I went to an all girls school but I'm a firm believer in female friendships. I gain so much strength from hanging around strong independent females who aren't afraid to do things there way and say no to following the crowd of 'cool' people. I always have a sore stomach from laughing after I've spent time with them, and always have a smile on my face.

Boys come and go, sometimes when they leave you they also leave behind a big mess - for me it's normally in the form of my shattered self esteem and self doubt. But the people who are there to pick you up and support you are worth more than any SO as far as I'm concerned. Nurture your friendships and use Valentine's Day and every opportunity you get to say thank you and show your love for the unsung heroes: your friends, who even if you drive them mad will still love you and will always tell you when you're being a little unreasonable and will always be honest with you.

Thank you for Galentine's Weekend girls, it's been more special than any Valentine's Day I've had.

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Friday, 13 February 2015

Two Finger Drinks ✌️

So it's not every day that a bar and bartender pop up in your living room. However, with 2 Finger Drinks all of this is a possibility. On Saturday in post Six Nations Welsh rugby mourning WGP, Jade, Sophie and me were treated to some fabulous gin cocktails. The concept of 2 Finger Drinks is pretty simple. You get to choose the three cocktails that you want to have made and you either pay £10 a head and buy the ingredients for the cocktails, or it's £20 a head and Tim brings all the booze and extras to your house. Simples.

As we are all big gin lovers the decision was an easy one: ALL THE GIN. WGP brought the good, Sophie the salted caramel brownies (don't tell my personal trainer), Jade brought the snacks and animal facts (did you know that snakes can climb trees and don't have nipples? Neither did we...) and I provided the house. My father was sceptical that a bar would fit in my flat but tada! It did!

La Boheme - gin, elderflower, pomegranate 

Right off the bat we al loved La Boheme, gin with elderflower is always a winner in my books but when you add pomegranate to the mix it's even better. Served in very elegant martini glasses these went down a treat (a little too easily if you're Jade).

Brambellini - gin, elderflower, lemon

Up next was the Brambellini, again with the elderflower we were all a happy bunch. To me this felt like the alcoholic version of a sherbet lemon. Drinks served in small glasses are always deceiving me into thinking I'm not drinking a lot. The nearly empty bottle of gin said otherwise. 

Peach Melba Collins - gin, schnapps, raspberry and peach

Quite frankly it gets a little hazy around about the Peach Melba Collins. This was my favourite followed by La Boheme. The raspberry and the peach with the gin and schnapps was just perfect and look how beautiful it looks! Honestly, I lost track of how many drinks Tim shook up for us. He said they were hangover free but judging by the pained faces at breakfast the next day he wasn't really telling the truth.

This was probably one of the most fun evenings I've had in a long time. My stomach was hurting from laughing so much and I think at one point we were all crying with laughter. These girls are so fab and bring so much fun and laughter into my life it's funny that we've only been friends for such a short time. I hope we didn't frighten Tim too much!

If you're looking for a party that's a bit different and let's you party from the comfort of your own home then 2 Finger Drinks are the guys for you. I can't speak highly enough about the whole evening. Tim also presented us with a cocktail making set and recipes for martinis. I haven't braved them yet but I'm thinking I need to have another house party soon.

Many thanks for 2 Finger Drinks for such a fun evening! We're all already planning an excuse for more cocktails soon.

You can find 2 Finger Drinks here:

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Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Double Tartan

Photos taken by Sophie Ball
Jacket: Vintage
Shirt: Monki
Cape: New Look (similar here)
Jeans: Topshop
Trainers: Nike Roshe Run

So I hate to show off (pahaha who am I kidding?) But I'm wearing kids shoes again. The only upside of having children sized feet and a discount code is that these trainers only cost me... £36 instead of £70. God works in mysterious ways. I never thought I would be a 'trainers for non gym things' person, and I never thought I was cool enough but these Roshe trainers are the most comfortable thing I own, it's like walking on clouds. I'm reaching for them a lot, they're so easy to wear as they're black and the fact that they're so comfortable makes them a staple in my wardrobe.

In other news, I'm having sessions with a personal trainer. It's hard, he made me do a detox week with no carbs. I was grouchy for pretty much the whole week. I see him once a week and feel like an uncoordinated seal, I try and flirt my way out of doing squats but Matt is too clever for that. I'm thinking of documenting a bit of my fitness journey on here, because honest to God I am not a sporty person or a gym person so at least it will amuse you right?

Hope you're all keeping warm and happy!

More soon

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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Baking with M&S

 Ingredients provided by Marks & Spencer | Measuring Cups: Tesco

Mary Berry I am not, but when Marks and Spencer gave me the opportunity to whip something up I couldn't resist. Baking is something that is very much traditional in my German family but I struggle to get inspired and living alone means baking for one just seems a little excessive. I was hosting a cocktail party on Saturday night (more on that soon) and thought this Buttermilk Plum Cake would be perfect to soak up some of that gin!

To make this fabulous cake you will need:

       125g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
       100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
       125g caster sugar
       1 large egg
       1 tsp baking powder
       50g ground almonds
       100ml buttermilk
       4 plums, halved, stoned and very thinly sliced
       Single cream, to serve


• Heat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 degrees Fahrenheit / gas 5 (170 degrees Celsius for fan ovens). Butter a 20cm cake tin and dust with a little flour, shaking out the excess. Reserve 1 tbsp sugar, and beat the rest with the butter in a large bowl, until pale and fluffy. Beat in the egg.

• Sift together the flour and baking powder, and fold into the mixture with the ground almonds. Gently stir in the buttermilk, then spoon the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface.

• Arrange the plums on top in a single layer and sprinkle over the remaining sugar. Bake for 50 – 55 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Serve with fresh cream.

My oven was a little temperamental so the edges of the cake ended up being a bit crispier (and blacker sadly) than I intended it to be. Despite being a little crispy it was actually very yummy and it was all gone after the third (or fourth) cocktail. The recipe was very easy to rustle up and I'm probably going to make this again soon and experiment a bit more with oven temperatures. I really enjoyed baking, it's very satisfying seeing all the ingredients come together into something tasty which can be enjoyed by everybody. It's got me inspired to try some more recipes. Any tips for this amateur? 

Thank you to M&S for supplying the ingredients!

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