Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Truly Tried and Tested with M&S

Easter eggs provided by M&S

Each year we start January with the best intentions, it's all 'new year. new me, new body'. Well by the time easter rolls around those good intentions are best thrown out of the window. It's all about the hot crossed buns, racks of lamb and of course eating all the chocolate known to man.

There's something I absolutely love about easter, maybe it's all those fond childhood memories of egg hunting and getting carried away stuffing chocolate in my face, but that easter excitement has stayed with me well into my late twenties.

So when Marks and Spencer invited me to test some of their special easter eggs, how was I to say no?

First up to the taste test was 'Bendy Bob'.

Bendy Bob is clearly the egg aimed at the kids in your life but that didn't stop this 26 year old tearing into him. Bob is a hollowed out egg decorated with strawberry laces connecting his little limbs. The sugary bendy laces add a new element to the easter egg that I've not seen before. It makes it fun to eat and actually breaks up the eating process so he wasn't gone within the blink of an eye.

Next was the 'Dark Chocolate Quirky Bunny', who was almost too beautiful to eat. The key word being almost. This gorgeous little bunny is made from single origin chocolate and has a modern edge to it. I really enjoyed having this displayed in my house until it was socially acceptable to crack in to it. 

I feel like it's quite hard to find Easter chocolate that isn't tacky and which can look beautiful amongst other easter decoration. Well this little fella certainly has added some class to my easter decor. The other plus side is that because the bunny is made out of dark chocolate you take your time eating it as dark chocolate is that little bit richer. I quite like dark chocolate as the bitterness comes as a bit of relief when you're eating sweet all the time.

I've saved the best for last because trust me, this is the most amazing easter egg I've ever had. What came first, the chicken or the egg? Who cares when you can get your hands on this?

The egg is made up of half milk chocolate and half dark chocolate - perfect for sharing when you're either indecisive or when the person your sharing with prefers a different type of chocolate to you. The milk chocolate is from Ecuador and the dark chocolate is from the Dominican Republic. Then once you crack the egg open a special little golden chicken reveals it's self. Hidden centres are a pretty popular theme at the moment with easter eggs and when the finished product looks like this it's easy to see why.

I'm still coming down from a sugar high from testing all of these, but it was all worth it. Get yourself to Marks and Spencer before the easter weekend and get stocked up on your easter eggs, these will go down a storm with friends and family.

Hope you all have a wonderful easter!

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Sunday, 12 March 2017

Men My Mother Thinks I Should Date

My mum and I enjoy a good relationship. But that doesn’t mean that we agree on things. In fact, the truth is we don’t agree on many things at all. 

We don’t have the same political leanings anymore, at Christmas we managed to only have one heated discussions about refugees which in itself is a Christmas miracle. We don’t really have the same taste in clothes and we don’t tend to agree about what to eat. We occasionally do agree on what TV show to watch and recommend each other books.

One thing we most certainly don’t agree on, is the type of guy I should be dating.

Historically I love a dark soul. I’ve always been attracted to guys who I can sense on my radar are damaged, and who I think (think being the key word here) I can fix with my endless supply of love and affection. That’s also why I’m still single. But that’s beside the point.

My mother, in her infinite wisdom and experience seems to think she knows exactly what kind of guy I should be dating.

A bird watcher:

When I told her I was being ghosted by John Doe (see here), my mum texted me: “Just lead an active life where you meet new people. Maybe start bird watching, interesting men among them”. Her and my father (who have been married for 30 years and did not meet whilst bird watching just for your information) went on a wildlife trip and met some bird watchers from the BBC and that got her imagining her future son in law. A possible son in law who loves spending time in the outdoors, hiding in trees patiently waiting for that elusive bird to show up. There are far too many parallels here to my own waiting life so I’m just going to leave it at that.

An earth scientist:

She’s extremely biased when it comes to this, because as it just so happened she’s married to a geologist. For 30 years this year. Every now and then when we start talking about boys she’ll say things like: “Why don’t you go to the earth science department and see who’s around?”. The irony of her pushing an earth scientist my way is that my dad back in the day wasn’t her type at all. In fact her type was the dark broken soul so it’s no wonder where I got that taste from. In my mum’s mind earth scientists are smart, kind and educated with good job prospects. Everything my father is. Which is fine, but somehow I think that me just hanging around the corridors of the geology department at Cardiff university isn’t going to go down well. 

A German:

I think that if I were to bring a German boy home my mother would implode with pure happiness and book the chapel in my German hometown which has a two year waiting list. I’ve never had a German boyfriend, I haven’t even ever been on a date with a German boy. I think the thought process behind me dating a German is that it’s meant to connect me with my German roots. But German boys are hard to come by in Wales, for some strange reason. 

A Chilean:

This one caught me by surprise too. Mum and Dad had taken a trip to Chile and before I knew it text after text was coming my way about how handsome the Chilean men were. One of her texts read: “Nina, seriously Chilean man are really attractive! They are small and funny!!! You need to come here!” This was then followed up by her sending me photos of various Chilean men that she’d seen out and about. My personal favourite was of a man selling a cannabis energy drink.

No doubt with my luck I will end up living my happily ever after with one of the above and then my mum will be able to say ‘I told you so’ for the rest of her life. Because sometimes mum’s are right but I’m also willing to prove her wrong. 

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Sunday, 19 February 2017

Dear Future Partner In Crime II - Things You Should Know About Me

Dear future partner in crime,

There’s probably a few things you should know about me. You’ll learn some of these as we go along but knowing a few of these things right off the bat should be reasonably helpful.

I get overly emotionally invested in almost everything I do - the TV shows I watch, my work, dogs I follow on Instagram and people in general. On a date a guy once said I was hard to read, but once you get to know me it’s clear that that’s a lie. I’m a open book but I’m also learning how to invest my emotions in to something without draining myself. 

I watch too much TV. Not even highbrow TV programs, I watch the awful stuff. I sobbed my way through three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy in two weeks. My favourite TV show growing up was that show with Fran Drescher as The Nanny. I know too much about The Bachelor franchise and don’t even count it as a guilty pleasure any more. As problematic as that is for a feminist. 

I spent time in therapy. It changed my life.

I own more shoes than a woman with size UK 2.5 feet living in a one bedroom open plan apartment should own. 90% of them are black and look identical. If we’re shopping I might need you to step in and make me put down the boots that I’m eyeing up.

I’m super needy but at the same time you need to give me space. Over the last few years I’ve learnt to live alone and that’s something I’m really proud of.

I don’t think I want kids. The thought of having children, especially a girl, scares the shit out of me.

My biggest relationship fear is living in fear that I’m the one who cares the most, and therefore the more vulnerable party. 

As a result of that, I’m mad good at being passive aggressive and can be mean, I don’t mean to do it on purpose, it’s more of a defensive mechanism so I’m happy for you to call me out on it.

I need someone in my life who is happy to take beautiful candid photos of me for my Instagram.

I hate seafood.

Sometimes I want to be the centre of attention at the party and entertain everyone, somedays I don’t want to be around people at all.

I own a life-size cardboard cut out of Queen Elizabeth the II. And a life-size cardboard cut out of a corgi. They used to live in my hallway right by my door, but I had to fold them up and hide them in my wardrobe when a guy stayed over. If you come into my house and see them, it probably means I’m sure about you.

I buy books that look good on my book shelf with a short lived plan to read them. War & Peace is definitely more useful as a door stopper.

I think I have massive partly unresolved self confidence, identity and feelings of not belonging anywhere issues. I don’t need you to fix me or save me, just bear with me whilst I work it out. Or even better, be there to support me through it because that’s what I’m looking for: a partner in life that won’t jump ship when the going gets tough.

All my quirks aside, I’m looking forward to getting to know yours inside and out. If you’re willing to overlook my love of the Bachelor franchise and shoe obsession that is.

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Tuesday, 7 February 2017

A letter to my future partner in crime

Photo by Gold Cut

Dear future partner in crime,

We might have already met and I just don’t know it yet. 

Maybe I stood behind you in the queue in the supermarket. If that’s the case I was probably in my gym gear buying a tub of ice cream. Or I was in my work clothes holding a cheap bottle of Malbec in my hands because it was a rough day. Or I was in the queue with a few cans of ready mixed gin and tonic. Either way, maybe it’s good we didn’t strike up a conversation because none of those scenarios show me at my best.

Or maybe we’ve been at the same event before and stood in the same room without realising. Maybe I walked past you on my way to get another drink, or maybe you were stood just a few feet away from me laughing with you friends. Maybe we even made eye contact and smiled at each other. I doubt that’s the case because I’m a big believer in ‘knowing’, when I’ve met someone important. 

Or maybe it’s the simple matter of the fact that we don’t even live in the same city, or even the same country so there’s no way that our paths will have crossed yet. But there’s still time for that to happen.

I don’t know if I believe in soulmates, but I know that there is a person out there who is going to come into my life and change it completely. That thought used to fill me with loneliness, but now not so much. It’s comforting to know that you’re out there and that your arrival will take me by complete surprise. 

I’m at a stage in my dating life where I am both exhausted by the process but continue to be fascinated and in search for It and you. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve downloaded, deleted and re-downloaded various dating apps. But I’m a sucker for romance and love.

That’s probably the first thing you should know about me. I’m a sucker for all those stupid dating shows, including The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (the US version, the Canadian version, the Australian version you name it). I know those shows are edited to death and filmed over something like 6 months, orchestrated from every angle and the engaged couple tends to break up after 2 months of the ‘real world’. Also they are hugely problematic from a feminist standpoint, but I can’t help but get sucked into these concocted fairytales. I’m a massive hopeless romantic. 

So maybe the love that I think I believe in is the love that artificial TV shows and bad rom coms try and tell us really exists. Sometimes it seems that the love and romance that’s shown on those shows and films isn’t real, that that kind of love doesn’t exist.  But I’m not so sure about that. I see my parents, who are approaching their 30th wedding anniversary and I see true love and dedication. 

So wherever you are, know that I’m living my life trying to be the best person I can be. I used to think that I had to wait for a good person to walk into my life, well maybe I’m going to be the best person to walk into your life.

Either way I’m excited because I know you’re out there and we’re going to have so much fun when our paths eventually do cross.

See you soon. Hopefully, but if not that’s fine; take your time. 



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Sunday, 22 January 2017

Like a girl

"I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives". - Jane Austen

When my mum was pregnant with me she knew she was having a girl even before the scan. They'd had a boy name picked out for me but my mum knew she was having a girl. She'd wanted her first child to be a girl and here I am.

Growing up I never really felt that being girl was something negative. I grew up in a bubble in the Middle East in a world that hadn't yet really discovered the internet let alone wifi. We didn't have a television with a satellite dish until 9/11 so my exposure to the outside world was rather limited. 

As a white girl from a pretty middle class family I know that my experiences as a female are just a tiny part of the bigger picture and that I live within a privileged world.  I try and make up for this as much as possible and educate myself out of the realms of what affects just me. Just because something doesn't affect me directly, doesn't mean that it's not important. In fact quite the opposite, it's vital that I understand the even greater picture, anything else would just be me resting on my privilege. 

But as I've gone through my life as a growing woman my eyes have been opened, I've realised that girls have to constantly put up with being part of an endless and contradictory balancing act.  

We're either too fat or too skinny. Too loud, too self-conscious. Too independent, too needy. Too self-obsessed, too shy. Too slutty, too prude. Too outgoing, too boring. Too high maintenance, too sloppy. Too confident, too uninspiring. Too beautiful, too ugly. Too educated, too stupid. Too intimidating, too bland. Too guarded, too easy. Too fierce, too meek. Too vocal, too silent.

It doesn't seem as if we are allowed to just be.

We're indoctrinated to believe in gender norms, that women can only inhabit certain spheres whilst others are reserved for the boys. We're brainwashed to believe the Beauty Myth - the obsession with physical beauty which traps us modern women in an endless spiral of self-consciousness and self hatred as we're told we have to look a certain way in order to be happy and fulfilled, as if beauty is our only priority over motherhood. We're told that there are certain tick boxes we have to accomplish in order to live a worthwhile life: get a certain level of education, find a partner, get married, have children, and whilst you're at it have more children that then continue to live out the prescribed gender lifecycle. If you don't live your life according to these standards you're questioned continually and deemed to have failed as a woman.

But the fight back is on.

"Like a girl" used to be that insult that boys used to throw around in primary school. But 'like a girl' is being reclaimed. Women have always had to fight that little bit harder to get where we need to get, and if we do that 'like a girl', well then you damn well know we're giving it all we have.

I revel in being a girl. I revel in being a girl that makes her own career choices, that makes her own reproductive choices and her own life choices. I revel in being in a position where I can make those choices all the while bearing in mind that I'm very privileged in being able to do so. Because for so many women out there, being able to have the opportunity to make those same choices as me, is a lot harder.

I've been incredibly inspired by the news yesterday. Seeing all genders, all ages and all races come together for the Women's March not only in Washington but all over the world, has brought a lump to my throat and tears to my eyes. It makes me realise that I've been sat back too long, that I need to do something with what I have and who I am. I'm more motivated than ever to do something worthwhile.

When women work together to support each other amazing things can happen.

So; be confident like a girl. Be strong like a girl, kick ass like a girl. Fight back like a girl and always remember to stay nasty.

"A girl should be two things: who and what she wants."

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Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Starting Over - New Year, Better(ish) Me

Photo by Gold Cut

New Year New Me right?

Well not necessarily.  

I’m still very much the same Nina that left 2016 feeling slightly disgruntled about this stagnant period of my life. I’m still the same Nina who watches bad reality shows and can eat a ‘To Share’ bag of crisps in one sitting whilst wearing a cat onesie. 

2016 turning into 2017 doesn’t magically throw up a totally new me over the course of an evening. As much as I sometimes wish it did. There’s that scientific myth that we replace all the cells in our bodies so that after 7 years we are a completely new ‘person’. Whilst that’s a beautiful thought it seems that biology just doesn’t work in that way, so I can’t rely on my magical and amazing cells to help me become who I want to be.

So instead of relying on a biological myth, I’m trying to employ the ‘New Year, Better(ish) Me’ mantra.

I’ve always wanted to be that girl with the clear skin, who goes to the gym in the morning, sleeps like a baby and does constructive things with her time (maybe like not writing a blog on the internet but there you have it).

So this January is all about taking those baby steps into the journey of becoming the person that I’ve always wanted to be.

I finally signed up to a fancy gym again. The result is that I’m paying an eye watering amount of money per month, but at least that guilt trips me into going more than twice a week. This week I made it to the gym at 6:30 and swam 36 lengths in the pool for the first time since I was a teenager. I was asleep at my desk in work by 9:10 and ate three digestive biscuits. Like I said, baby steps. Kayla Itsines I am not nor will I most likely ever be.

Every evening before I go to sleep, I write down five things that I’m grateful for from my day, because even on the worst of days there’s always something to be happy about. 

I’ve stacked the books that I’ve bought to look good on my bookshelf by my bed instead. This year I’m determined to feed my mind with words rather than Instagram photos.

From Monday to Friday I’ve planned to step away from the crisps and try to curb my love of pasta. But the weekend is a free for all because life is also for the living and eating all you can eat at brunch.

I like the person I am fundamentally. I know I make people laugh, that I’m caring and fun to be around. But I also know I can be clingy, annoying and sometimes crippled with self loathing which is masked by being a bit full on in social situations.

So like I said, ‘New Year, Better(ish) Me’ because I care enough about myself to acknowledge that there’s parts of me that don’t need any work at all. But some parts of me need a little extra care, love and focus. It all sounds so simple but it’s never a thought process that I’ve paid attention to or had the determination to follow through.  

Let’s see how I get on shall we? 

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