Tuesday, 28 April 2015

That 70's Girl

Trench coat: Mango
Playsuit: Zara (via eBay)
Shoes: Topshop
Bag: Topshop

I originally found this playsuit in my local charity shop but it was an extra small, no amount of stretching it across my chest and sucking my stomach in helped it to fit right. I have never wanted an item of clothing so badly as this playsuit. Cute print? Check. Great neckline? Check. Sleeves? Check check check. Thankfully I found it on eBay and after a nail biting final countdown on my computer in work it was all mine.

Normally I try and avoid buying items that so obviously belong to a certain trend. Trends are short lived and whilst I love a novelty item as much as the next person, most of my wardrobe is simple classic pieces that I can wear all year round. However, this playsuit just had to be mine. It's got that touch of the 70's with the massive flared sleeves and the print, but with the help of my trench I think it all looks a little more classic.


The weather has been on its best behaviour recently. I am pleased because everything seems easier with a little bit of sunshine, including getting up in the mornings for work. But I do feel a little guilty on the weekends when I'm lying in bed marathoning Daredevil and Hart of Dixi on Netflix and not out and about enjoying the sun. Thankfully my neighbourhood boasts the beautiful Roath Park so on weekends my friends and I can eye up the yummy daddy's and fawn over all the cute dogs that are also enjoying the sunshine.  

I'm looking forward to the bank holiday, my mother is coming over from Brazil for five days which I'm looking forward to. She's only been to Cardiff a few times so it's always fun to show her around. It's inspired me to do a mini guide to Cardiff so keep your eyes peeled for that post!

Hope you've all had a great start to your week!


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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Penarth


There's a whole world ready to explore right outside my front door. I sometimes forget how fortunate we are in Cardiff to live by the sea even though it doesn't feel like that all the time.  I normally avoid Cardiff Bay, it's far out from my house and once you've been a few times you've done everything there is to do. Saying that, I'd never walked across the barrage to Penarth so knowing there would be beautiful weather my friend Simone and I decided to make a day out of it.

We did get a beautiful day of sunshine and the walk across the barrage was easy (just 1.1km to walk!), we arrived in Penarth starved and in need of a glass of wine so on the recommendation of a foodie friend we set up shop in Bar 44 for probably the best tapas I've ever had. Thank god they're coming to Cardiff this summer!


Penarth is the wealthiest seaside resort in the Cardiff Urban Area, it was very popular during the Victorian era with people coming from all over the country to visit. It feels very different to Cardiff even though it's so close by. Maybe it was the sunshine (and the large glass of wine I'd had) but it felt like a mini holiday. 

Having grown up in the Middle East I'm very spoilt when it comes to beaches and the kind of weather that precipitates going to the beach. Despite 10 years of living in the UK I'm still not used to this bizarre behaviour that happens with British people when the sun comes out, there were some very fearless people wearing shorts and paddling in the sea. As you can see by the photos I was battling with the wind and the abundance of rocks. I don't know if I'll be coming to Penarth for a beach picnic (I'll save that for an exotic visit to Barry Island instead) but it was so lovely to take a deep calming breath of fresh sea air.

This little adventure has got me excited for more sunshine and more trips away with friends.


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Sunday, 19 April 2015

How to be alone

The thought of being alone used to frighten the life out of me when I was younger. However, recently I've found a sense of satisfaction and peace in spending time by myself. It's a learning curve and you have to ease yourself into it. 

I have a fantastic group of friends who make me cry with laughter every time we're together, but realistically they can't hold my hand through everything. There are times when I am alone and whilst that used to be daunting to me, that's no longer the case. As I've said previously there's a big difference in being alone and feeling lonely. 


Do small things that make you happy

On Sundays get the freshly washed bedding onto your bed, put some relaxing music on, get the kettle on the go, find some of your favourite old books that you've forgotten about and curl up in your bed. I love going through my second hand poetry books and finding my favourite verses and writing them in my journal. It's a collection of my favourite quotes, verses and general personal ramblings. It's fun to read over them and find some solace in quotes.


Exercise

This seems like such a simple answer and people that know me will laugh because I am the least sporty person ever. I hate to sweat and I hate wearing lycra. However, I recently forced myself to sign up for the gym after being fed up of wallowing in self hatred. At first it was a struggle and not fun in the slightest but as I've persevered I've begun to enjoy it and all the things people say about sport making you happy are true. It's the sense of knowing you're in control and deciding to do something good for your body which is really satisfying.


Have lazy days

As humans we love to overthink everything. Some days I find myself thinking about something I said in passing to someone else and worrying how it came across and whether I was annoying or not. I've found since working full time my head is buzzing and full with thoughts. The best thing to do in these situations is to put some candles on and open up Netflix. Lazy days prepare you for the week ahead and there should be no shame in taking a few hours out to marathon your favourite series or re-watch cheesy movies (The Beautician and The Beast, I'm looking at you).


Treat yourself

Life is too short and you work too hard to not buy yourself those ridiculous shoes or to treat yourself to beautiful fresh flowers for your home. Reward yourself for all the hard work you put into the working week. Sometimes getting up in the morning can feel like a battle and it's much better if you can get up and put your fanciest shoes on. Not only will everyone in the office be jealous but you will feel like a million dollars. Being confident in yourself makes such a difference in how you act and how others treat you and if a pair of shoes make you feel like that: get them.


Read

Look at your bookshelf and pick out a book. It can be a trashy romance novel or a book covering your favourite historical era, it doesn't matter just pick up a book and read. Reading allows you to escape into a different world and let you forget your worries. I personally like to pour myself a gin and tonic (slightly heavy on the gin of course) with some elderflower and lemon and settle down reading about strong females who changed the history of the world. If Boadicea can drive around in a chariot and lead a revolt against the occupying Romans I can get up in the morning, put a bra on and get through another day at work.



Take your friends on adventures

This isn't strictly doing things by yourself, but going on little adventures with friends can make you feel more confident and ready to take on the world. This weekend my uni friend Simone and I walked from Cardiff Bay to Penarth. It wasn't a big adventure, it really was just exploring what was on our doorstep but it's amazing the kinds of adventures you can have just by stepping outside of your door. We had a great day and it's going to be a memory that's going to stay with me. The next step from here is being brave enough to go on a holiday by myself.


Go for food by yourself

Going out and doing things by yourself can seem very intimidating especially things such as eating out which is seen as a social thing you do as a couple or in a group. It wasn't something I was keen to do as I was worried about what others would think. I was worried people would look at me and feel sorry that I was by myself. But saying that, since a solo trip to London I love eating out by myself. I always take a book with me but people watching is almost more satisfying, and rather than people feeling sorry for me they talk to me and strike up conversation. 

What are some of your favourite things to do alone?

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Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Cake Cake Cake


In the last week of March I turned 24. Another year older, another year wiser supposedly. I'm inclined to disagree because my google search history still shows things like 'what temperature to wash bedsheets?' and 'how to get US Netflix on TV' so being wiser is debatable.

What is not debatable is the delicious cake that Patisserie Valerie arrange for me to pick up as part of my birthday celebrations. 

The latest addition to St David's in Cardiff is a branch of Patisserie Valerie. I've always been a huge fan of pastry, a guilty pleasure that got a little out of hand when I was in France for my year abroad. So of course I jumped at the chance to design my own cake.

You heard that right, it's a cake lover's dream. 


Creating your own Patisserie Valerie cake is beyond simple, you get to have creative control over every aspect of the cake. You start off deciding the sponge type (vanilla or chocolate), the type of cream layers as well as the fruit filling. My choices were vanilla sponge, Chantilly cream filling and mixed fruits. I love the contrast of sour berries with the sweet vanilla.

Then you get to choose the side decoration, these choices are overwhelming as you get to choose between three different types of chocolate (dark, milk and white). In my case I went with the dark chocolate cigarettes. Dark chocolate always feels decadent and expensive (plus it's better for you than milk chocolate so at least there's there right?). 

One of the last steps is deciding on the topping, again this choice is hard to make because there are so many options: strawberries, exotic fruit, dusted mixed berries, chocolate profiteroles and various chocolate decorations. I went with mixed berries, my German grandmother loves to use berries when she bakes cakes so it felt like a nice touch.  You can also add a ribbon to bring everything in together (in different colours no less!) and include a written message on top.

I can honestly say this was a delicious cake, it was gone and eaten in the blink of an eye. The cakes do keep for a few days in the fridge but it never even came to that!

Being able to design your own cake is such a treat and really fun. It's great to be able to control all the elements and design a completely unique cake. This would make a wonderful present or gift for a loved one because it will be one of a kind. I'm already mentally planning the next one...


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Sunday, 12 April 2015

#MyGermanDiscovery + Giveaway


It's easy to forget sometimes that I come from a long and slightly eccentric line of Germans. My dad's job has meant that I've never actually lived in Germany but my mum made sure I learnt German and that I had at least some sense of my German background. It's not always been easy learning about a country which seems so far away from you. I learnt English when I was five and since 2004 I've been living in the UK so my home country has sometimes felt more like a distant cousin at times.

I never felt particularly German growing up but the longer I've lived in the UK the more I've wanted to connect with my history and I've always been very proud of where I have come from. My grandfather on my mother's side always had the most fascinating stories about our relatives, he could recall any dates and names instantly and listening to him always made me feel a little closer to my family. 

So when and InnTravel got in touch with me about seeing German in a new and different light I didn't want to say no.


The German cliqués are all about sausages and beer. But as stereotypes and cliqués go, naturally there is so much more about Germany than that. In fact it's probably worth saying that Germans have a great great love for wine. 

The village my dad was born and raised in is surrounded by steep hills upon which the grapes for the local wine grow and every summer there is a raucous three day 'Wine Fest' which of course involves lots of wine and lots of food.  Wine brings people together, so many of my memories from childhood are of watching the adults get together at the wine festivals, sharing bottles of local wine, laughing and sharing old stories. 

Being sent two bottles of excellent German white wine meant I could have nostalgic flashbacks to my summers in Germany whilst sat on my couch in Cardiff. The Dr. Loosen Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Auslese is a wine that my family would crack open in the summer without hesitation. My family are big Riesling lovers, but if you're worried about enjoying a sweeter wine then give the Grey Slate Dr L Riesling Private Reserve Riesling a chance, it's only £9.99 at Waitrose. Knowing I can find high quality German wines in the supermarket warms my heart. I do tend to get homesick so knowing that I can get a pit of home in the UK is comforting.


When thinking about European chocolate you're most likely to think of Belgium and Switzerland straight away but if you're German then Ritter Spot will instantly transport you back to your childhood. Ritter Sport come in seemingly endless flavour combinations. They're designed so you break off small squares, that's probably so you don't eat the entire bar in one sitting but that's never stopped me.

Growing up my grandfather used to send these out to us in the post. But by the time the chocolate would arrive in the Middle East it would just be one big melted square of chocolate, but it was always the thought that counted!

Now if this post has you intrigued you'll be very happy to hear that InnTravel and giving away to one lucky winner the same German care packaged that I received! All you have to do is enter the Raffelcopter giveaway below for a chance to win two bottles of Riesling and tasty German chocolates.  Can't wait to hear what you think!



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Monday, 6 April 2015

Reasons to be happy #1


1) Slow weekend starts with new bedding

I treated myself to some fancy new bedding from John Lewis recently. It was a hard fought battle between the homeware section and the Nars counter but as a wise friend said to me: 'You spend at least 8 hours a day in your bed' so it seemed like a safe investment. It's a beautiful white set and it makes waking up during the week feel less like a chore. On the weekends I like to wake up early, pull the blind up and snuggle down whilst the sun warms my bed. If only there was someone to bring me a cup of tea in bed, then it would be perfect.


2) New hair

I went to the salon to undergo a hair transformation again. In the wake of my break up in the summer I dyed my hair 'half blonde' as my mother would say. The hairdresser would call it ombré. It seems like a thing women do after break ups where they want to drastically change something about themselves to get some control back. Changing my hair seemed easier and less risky than a tattoo or a new piercing. The ombré was enough for my mother to handle. There's something decadent about someone washing your hair for you, I'm tempted to make my visit to the hair dressers a fortnightly thing. I feel like I can handle anything life throws at me with a blow dry.


3) Running/jogging/walking fast

My ventures into the gym are paying off. Not only are people who haven't seen me in months commenting on my skinnier face, but I can now run for a full five minutes without feeling like I'm about to projectile vomit. Serious achievement. At 4ft11 my stumpy legs feel pretty useless but they've been doing well so far. I'm using an app called C25K and it's changed my life. I have so far only run on the treadmill but this weekend I ventured out at 07:30 to try running outside. No one warned me how hard that would be but it felt like a great achievement once I was back on my couch processing what I had just done. Baby steps but steps forward regardless.



4) House proud

My home is my castle. I live by myself and having a safe haven where I can feel relaxed is so important to me. Every week I treat myself to beautiful flowers, I have a preferred florist I use and we've struck up a lovely friendship. Spring means that there is so much floral variety I almost don't know where to look first and what to choose. This weekend I rescued the pink lilies from the bin in work, they remind me of my mum and make me feel closer to her even though she's thousands of miles away.


5) Easter brunching with friends

Flowers, food and friends are the three F's my life largely revolves around. This bank holiday I had the pleasure of a house guest (in the form of Sophie) and of course we couldn't start into our long weekend without a good breakfast. After my attempt of an outdoor I run grabbed some bread from the farmers marker and stocked up on fresh fruit and eggs. My achievement of the weekend was making poached eggs for the first time. Brunches chez Nina have become something of a tradition which I'm more than happy to carry on.

What's made you happy this week?

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