Sunday, 29 November 2015

Nina Eats - The Early Bird

The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff
The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff
The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff

As a German I weep at the sorry state of bread and pastry affairs in the UK.  Being somewhat European bread and pastry has always played a huge part in my life, I have fond memories of many a 'Kaffee und Kuchen' with various German relatives and catching up.  It's a vital part of our culture.  I always find it strange that in the UK where life revolves around tea that there aren't more bakeries and pastry shops around.

I miss good bread when I'm in the UK (the pre-sliced stuff you get in plastic bags breaks my heart), so it's with great delight that I heard a bakery was opening up a stones throw from my house.

The Early Bird was the brain child of Ceri Johnston and following on from an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, the bakery opened it's doors to feed the hungry and bread deprived mouths of Cardiff.

The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff
The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff

Situated at the heart of student life on Woodville road, we braved a typically wet and windy Welsh day and settled down to business.  We had the 'chefs table' and could see right into the kitchen to watch the bread and cakes being made.

The newly introduced brunch menu is short and sweet.  I was glad to see that brunch is served until 4pm.  Most weekends I struggle to get myself out of bed early so being able to have a late brunch is a welcome sight.

Whenever there's avocado on the menu I can't resist.  I've had many an avocado on toast but this one was special, the addition of the finely sliced radish and the chipotle sauce was a good twist.  It goes without saying that the bread was delicious.  For the extra hungry (which is always me) you can help yourself to more freshly baked sourdough and condiments.

The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff
The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff
The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff

After having tested it throughly, I can also confirm that the coffee is just as good as the bread.  The two go hand in hand really and I can highly recommend the cappuccino.  The filter coffee is on tap so you can refill as often as you like, no doubt this will be a popular option with the students once exam times come around again.

Ceri treated us to the French toast which was a slight twist on the usual as it was served with homemade brioche.  It tasted just as heavenly as it sounds.  Topped liberally with cinnamon and powdered sugar it was the perfect winter treat to round off our lazy Saturday morning.

It goes without saying that you don't have to eat in, you can pick up your cakes, coffee and bread to go.  Saying that, I'd recommend that you take the time and eat in and get cosy with the lovely jazz music and warm decor.

The Early Bird is a welcome addition to Cardiff's rapidly expanding food scene, especially right on my own doorstep.  No doubt I'll be back sooner rather than later.

The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff
The Early Bird Bakery Cardiff

The Early Bird, 38 Woodvile Road, CF24 4EB
Telephone: 02921 320520

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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Throwback Thursday #1

Welcome to a new little series on my little blog.  I love seeing everyone's #throwbackthursday posts on Instagram, it's a small window into people's lives, especially in an age where social media has changed so much.  I want to use this series to explore some photos and memories form my lifein more detail, with the gift of hindsight and some more wisdom.

When: 7th March 2013
Where: Île de Paris, Paris France
Why: A city break
With whom: He Who Shall Not Be Named #1 (HWSNBN #1)

These photos were taken on a trip to Paris to celebrate an anniversary with a person I'm no longer with.  They're a little bittersweet to look at now, but thankfully most of the photos are of me or beautiful buildings, there aren't many of He Who Shall Not Be Named #1.  Paris was an easy trip to make from the UK and I'd only been to Paris once before so it seemed like a nice trip to take.  I'd spent the year before that living in France for 9 months so it was also a good excuse to refresh my French.

These photos are from the first real day of our trip weekend trip.  I wore the biggest hat I owned, trying to channel my best inner Parisian but I clearly stood out like a sore thumb because two minutes into the Metro I almost got pick-pocketed.  It was quite an upsetting experience to have your personal space so violated and I was on edge for the rest of the trip.  The rest of the day was just exploring Paris on foot including the Louvre, a pit stop at Ladurée and the Arc de Triomph.  There is something so special about Paris which just captures your heart instantly.

Posting these photos after the horrible attacks feels poignant.  Paris is always a good idea, there is an energy to Paris and despite my bittersweet memories of this place (both pickpocketing and HWSNBN #1) it's dear to my heart.  Looking at all the photos from my trip makes me want jump onto the next available Eurostar.

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Friday, 13 November 2015

Straight Outta Cardiff

Jacket: Vintage
Shoes, scarf and jeans: Topshop
Bag: GAP
T-Shirt: Ebay
My pinterest board is filled with tall blonde Scandinavian women wearing COS, Acne Studios and the like.  I keep trying to feed some of that 'Scandi coolness' into my life but then I see t-shirts like this and I get sucked into the whole novelty dressing idea.  Do I need to wear faux fur and a hat? Probably not.  Does it make me feel like a famous movie star? Absolutely.  

My friend Fiona snapped these of me last weekend.  People who aren't interested in blogging don't understand the need to photograph outfits.  I have an old friend visiting me this coming weekend and I don't think he'll be as understanding. Taking photos of my outfits is more than the #ootd tag on Instagram, for me it's about being confident and feeling good in my skin and clothes.  Am I so wrong for wanting to document that?

Anyway, November is rolling onwards so quickly and before you know it I'm back in Brazil for Christmas again.  My summer trip to Rio feels as if it was yesterday and not back in August.

So far this November I'm:

Listening: to Chet Faker's cover of No Diggity. This version sounds positively romantic. 
Reading: The Sunday Times. I now have a subscription for the weekend, I'm obviously an adult now. Blog wise: I adore Jane's blog and seeing her life in Australia.
Watching: Netflix's documentary Winter on Fire, about the uprising in the Ukraine in 2014. I cried, got angry and was left speechless. 
Discovering: That I can run. More on that later.
Goal setting: Not letting negativity into my life, accepting it and moving on

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015


Something strange happened this weekend.  I had a slight out of body experience.

Since January I've been teaching myself how to run. I'm not lying to you when I say that 11 months ago I couldn't even run for a minute. It's not a gross understatement, just pure truth. I always used to dread summer in school because it meant athletics was always around the corner and the thought of having to run in front of my peers made me sick. I didn't understand how people could run for long distances without stopping, much less that they enjoyed it.

But in an attempt to get to like the only body that I have, I set myself the task of learning to run.  How hard could it be? The answer: very.

But 11 months later, some tears, some weeks of no exercising and countless re-tries of C25K I got up on Saturday morning with a mild gin hangover, laced my Nikes up and ran.  In fact, I ran my first 10km in 1 hour 16 minutes.

The out of body experience happened around the 9th kilometre.  I'd been caught in a downpour of cold rain, my brain was screaming 'you're dying just stop running' but my legs just carried on taking me forward.  Then suddenly it didn't feel like I was in my body. For a few minutes the beat in my headphones was all I could hear and it didn't even feel like my feet were touching the ground.  The song ended and I wanted to pass out.  In the end I made it to the 10th kilometre and collapsed on the second set of stairs back up to my flat.

Whilst I was running I realised something: my body is strong and capable.  I've spent years hating how I looked and hating my body, now I see how incredibly harsh that was.  It's amazing that the body I've hated probably since I was 15 is capable of doing things I never thought it could. I may not have a flat stomach, or abs, or be able to barbell squat with heavy weights but my body is still capable of doing amazing things.

I don't know whether it's down to the fact that I've really pushed myself during running or whether it's down to me also going to acupuncture, but I've never felt so physically and mentally strong in my whole life. It's probably the best feeling in the world because I worked hard to get myself to this place, and to reap the rewards is beyond rewarding.

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.” - Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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Sunday, 8 November 2015

Cooking with Nina - Butternut Squash and Pumpkin Sage Risotto

Halloween is over now and the temperatures are dropping so it's the perfect excuse to use your left over pumpkin and rustle up a tasty risotto. People are scared of cooking risottos because they do require constant attention but once you've mastered the tricks the basic recipe will become a staple in your life.

To make this risotto you will need:

- Risotto rice (1 cup per person)
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Olive oil
- 1 glass of dry white wine
- 1 small butternut squash
- 1 small pumpkin
- 1 handful of freshly grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper to season
- Some sage leaves
- Butter (optional)

1) First preheat your oven to 200.  Peel, deseed and chop up your butternut squash and pumpkin.  Put them into roasting dishes, add a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper and sage.  Mix it all together and put into the oven to roast for 20-25 minutes, or until the cubes have softened but not become mushy

2) Whilst your butternut squash and pumpkin roast, finely chop the garlic and onion.  

3) Heat up your stock in a separate pot.

4) Add your finely chopped onion and garlic to a large pan with olive oil and on medium heat fry until the onions become clear but make sure they don't burn.

5) Add your risotto rice and turn up the heat.  Fry the rice for a couple of minutes making sure it's liberally coated with the onions and garlic.  Then add the wine and stir until the liquid has cooked away, the cooking will evaporate the harsh alcohol taste.  Now add your roasted butternut squash and pumpkin and mix everything together.

6) Now add a ladle of hot stock.  Turn down the heat to a simmer.  Stir your risotto until all the liquid has been absorbed before adding another ladle.  Keep repeating this for about 15-20 minutes depending on how you like your rice cooked, so make yourself a cup of tea because this part takes the longest. The key is to not let the rice stick to the bottom of the pan and burn so don't leave your rice unattended.  I like my rice with a little bite but that's just a personal preference.  If you run out of stock just add a little bit of water.  For those of you who aren't up to constantly attending the rice, paella might be the recipe for you.

7) Once the rice is cooked to your preference take the risotto off the hob.  Add your parmesan and stir,  If you're feeling naughty add some butter (or even better some garlic butter!).  Serve with sage leaves, salt and pepper for garnish.  It's best enjoyed as soon as possible but risotto also keeps well for the next day.

Garlic bread is optional but a hefty glass of white wine comes highly recommended.  This risotto recipe can be adjusted to suit your personal tastes. I like to swap root vegetables for leek and bacon, or tomatoes.  This is a great basic recipe to have as part of your cooking repertoire, it always impresses friends and you can cook it in bulk to last you for a couple of days.

If you give this a go let me know, would love to hear what you think!

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