Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cardiff Food and Drink Festival 2014

I blogged about the Cardiff Food and Drink Festival last year, and this year's event was just as enjoyable. We visited on the Sunday this year and Cardiff Bay was flooded with glorious sunshine (and hoards of people) all afternoon.






We were ravenous by the time we arrived so decided to find some lunch straight away. I went for the healthiest lunch option I could find... a savoury crépe! I have got a wedding dress to fit into, after all. I went for the Popeye option which was filled with spinach, red onion and ricotta. 






I did think the crépe should have been a bit fuller as I paid £5.50 for it. It did taste lovely though so I won't complain too much. I've also never tried a savoury crépe before so it's something to tick off my list. 

After finishing our lunch, we wandered around the various stalls to try a few free samples and comment extensively on all the tantalising smells. We suffered from a great deal of food and drink envy in the process as we couldn't physically try/buy EVERYTHING. 

One of our favourite stalls was the Chocolate Brownie Company... we just had to sample some of these beauties! Neil bought a selection of strawberry, orange and caramel brownies and they were amazing. 








A visit to a food festival wouldn't be complete without an ice cream... actually, for me, a visit to pretty much anywhere isn't complete without an ice cream. After hearing lots of positive stories about the legendary Sub Zero ice cream at last year's food festival, we decided to try it for ourselves this year. I went for the Caramel Crunch and the Strawberry and can confirm that it lived up to the hype! Definitely the best ice cream I've had for a long time. 




I enjoyed trying lots of free samples of the various jams and chutneys on offer, even though I had no intention of buying any of them at those prices. So much garlicky goodness! I was fascinated by the copious garlic displays... I'm not entirely sure why. I must really love garlic. 








Last but not least, I mustn't forget to mention the many many cheese stands. I used to think I didn't like any type of cheese apart from a very mild Cheddar but I've now (thankfully) been convinced otherwise. There's a whole world of cheese out there! This new-found enthusiasm for cheese resulted in me trying a few wacky flavours at the food festival. I'm a changed woman, clearly. Actually, I refused to pay these prices too so I probably haven't changed that much. 




I'm already researching other food festivals to visit and am looking forward to next year's Cardiff instalment! Did you go to the food festival this year? What was your favourite stall?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Fairytale Tag

Danielle tagged me in her Fairy Tale blog post weeks ago and I'm finally getting around to filling it out after a hectic month (or two). I love filling in these types of quizzes and this one has a Disney theme so I was doubly excited.

Do these quizzes remind anyone else of the angst-ridden days of MySpace? Does anyone else even remember MySpace?

Anyway, here goes... 

Snow White - Do you consider yourself beautiful?
No. That was an easy first question!

Sleeping Beauty - How many hours do you sleep at night?
Definitely not enough as I generally don't sleep very well... I probably average 6 or 7 hours per night. That'll be why I'm always tired!

Cinderella - Do you have a curfew?
I don't have a curfew that's imposed on me by anyone else as I live on my own, but I seem to set myself a curfew of getting in by midnight these days. Perhaps I am Cinderella...

Rapunzel - Do you love being outside?
Yes, much more so than I used to. I love going for walks in the sun (with sun cream on), taking photos of beautiful views and just generally being out in the fresh air.

Red Riding Hood - Do you trust strangers easily?
No. I don't trust anyone easily... I'm far too sceptical for my own good. A healthy balance would be nice!

Beauty and the Beast - What makes someone beautiful in your eyes?
Someone who's kind, respectful of others, a clean freak and hard working. Lazy and messy people drive me mad.

The Little Mermaid - What would you sacrifice for love?
It would depend on the situation and the person in question... I can't think of any specific examples! I probably wouldn't sacrifice my beloved books or my Disney teddies though, let's be honest here.

The Frog Prince - What do you find disgusting?
Fish, sweetcorn, tomatoes, misused apostrophes, grubby restaurants/hotels, rain, feet, spiders, guinea pigs, the amount of money professional footballers get paid... is that enough?


Jack and the Beanstalk - What plants do you have?
I currently have a pretty peace lily from Phillipa in my flat. I can't wait to start work properly on the little garden in our new house!

Puss in Boots - Do you have pets? If not, do you want them?
No, and no (not at the moment anyway). Too much responsibility, it's pretty much the same as having a child! Sort of...

Pinocchio - What is your biggest wish?
I want to become a calm person who doesn't catastrophise about every single little thing.

Peter Pan - What is your mental age?
I always feel as if I'm about 21. I think I probably act older than 28 in some ways (especially when stressed and/or tired!), but generally I think my mental age is probably 23 or 24.

The Snow Queen - Who is your best friend and what would you do for him/her?
I have several best friends rather than just having one... obviously Neil is my ultimate best friend though! I would probably do most things apart from get rid of my aforementioned books and Disney teddies. Oh, and I wouldn't eat fish for him either. Yuck.

The Princess and the Pea - Are you sensitive?
Yes. Too sensitive, some might say...

The Brave Little Tailor - Do you consider yourself brave?
I think so... I get very nervous about various things but I usually pull myself together enough to 'face my fear and do it anyway'. Also, some people think I'm laid back so I must do a really good job of hiding my frazzled mind and putting on a brave face most of the time.


Please send me your links if you decide to partake in the fairytale tag!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

My second guest blog post

Hot on the heels of my first guest blog post for Danielle a few weeks ago, Cheryl recently asked me to write a guest post for her while she was on holiday. Cheryl's blog, Peppermint and Pearls, is one of my favourite lifestyle blogs so I was delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute.

I decided to blog about five places I want to visit before I'm 40 as I'm a bit obsessed with daydreaming about various unattainable holidays at the moment. I also thought it would be a nice touch as Cheryl was away on holiday herself while my guest post was published. You can read my post here.

Here's a sneak preview of one place I want to visit... can you guess where this is?


Source

Let me know what you think of the post!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Latest cooking adventure... Moroccan Rice!

I haven't cooked a proper meal for weeks as I've been so busy so I decided to set aside an evening last week to actually cook something substantial. I was getting very bored of beans on toast and pasta and pesto!

I dug out my 'Mince 100 Everyday Recipes' cookbook and decided to try the Moroccan Rice dish as it had lots of varied flavours in it and was different to anything I'd ever cooked before.

Here's how it turned out...




I'm well aware that it doesn't look very appetitising in this photo but I was really pleased with the finished product. I would never have thought of combining some of these ingredients but everything worked together perfectly. It tasted even better on the second and third day! I haven't had a freezer for the last two years so I often eat the same thing for four successive meals... let's just say I'm very excited about having a freezer soon. 

Here's how how I made the Moroccan Rice:


Ingredients

500g fresh beef mince
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground turmeric
100g dried apricots, roughly chopped
50g raisins
225g basmati rice
600ml beef stock
2 tbsp pine kernels, to garnish 


Method

1. Dry fry the mince in a frying pan/wok for 4-5 minutes until it starts to brown.
2. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. I always add much more garlic than the recipe recommends... garlic is good!
3. Add the cumin seeds, cinnamon and turmeric and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Add the apricots, raisins, rice and stock. Cover and cook for 15-18 minutes until the rice is tender. I had a slight problem with this step as my wok doesn't have a lid... I put foil over the top to try to stop the water evaporating but it didn't really work so my rice wasn't cooked as well as it could have been. Just something to bear in mind! Don't panic, I'm still here to tell the tale so I didn't get poisoned by my partially cooked rice. 

5. Scatter the pine kernels over the top and serve immediately. 


I'll definitely be making this dish again soon. Has anyone got any other recipes for me to try? 

Monday, 14 July 2014

Café review: Pettigrew Tea Rooms

If you've read my latest blog post on my hen weekend, you'll already know that I have a new favourite place in Cardiff... Pettigrew Tea Rooms!

I'd never heard of Pettigrew Tea Rooms until a few months ago when I started researching the best places to go for afternoon tea in Cardiff. It had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and was rated the 9th overall place to eat in Cardiff (out of 873!) so I thought it was definitely worth a try for my hen weekend.

Liz booked a table for afternoon tea last Saturday at 3pm and we were seated upstairs. As I mentioned in my last post, I walked in to find a beautifully decorated table with lots of Disney Princess goodies, confetti and bubbles!








The lady who served us was very friendly and accommodating right from the start and explained what came with the afternoon tea package when we were all settled in - a drink of your choice, a selection of finger sandwiches, a scone with cream and jam, and a slice of cake of your choice. So much food!

It's well documented on my blog that I don't like tea or coffee so I went for a gourmet hot chocolate. I was not prepared for the sheer volume of cream on this beauty...




I'd like to think the others were jealous of my spectacular drink but they all seemed to be enjoying their vast array of exotic teas. I've never seen such a big selection of tea in my entire life.

Back to my hot chocolate... I was starting to wonder if there was any actual hot chocolate in the mug when I hit the copious layer of marshmallows underneath the cream!




The hot chocolate was so beautifully indulgent, rich and delicious... I'll probably never have one quite like that ever again (until I go back to Pettigrew Tea Rooms, of course). In the meantime, I should probably go back to ordering my regular skinny hot chocolate with no cream or marshmallows for the sake of my waistline. I do have a wedding dress to fit into, after all!

Around ten minutes after our drinks were served, the finger sandwiches were brought out on little tiered stands. We had three different stands between us, along with one stand of gluten free sandwiches. I sampled a beef sandwich and a ham sandwich... I didn't want to eat too many as I knew I needed to leave room for my scone and slice of cake! The sandwiches were very elegant with a generous filling and tasty dressings. We couldn't finish all the sandwiches so the waitress boxed them up for us so that we could finish them later in the day. A nice touch!




Our scones were on the top tiers of the stands, so I eagerly tucked into mine as soon as someone else started theirs. The scone was lovely and light with a generous helping of currants (just the way I like them), and the jam and cream were just perfect. There actually seemed to be two types of cream on the table... one was more runny than the other. They both tasted great so the consistency didn't bother me in the slightest. Are you a 'cream then jam' person, or a 'jam then cream' person? I'd genuinely like to know.




I didn't think I'd have room for cake, then I remembered that my stomach always has room for cake. The waitress showed us the wide range of cakes they had available and again I was really impressed with the variety of choice on offer. I eventually went for the lemon drizzle cake after being extremely tempted by the carrot cake and changing my mind at the last minute. Who isn't tempted by carrot cake whenever they see it on a menu? Anyway, when my cake arrived I was very pleased with my choice. The lemon curd and buttercream filling was absolutely out of this world, and the sponge itself wasn't bad either. I also loved the 'bride to be' icing detail on my plate... so thoughtful! Again, a few people couldn't finish their cakes so they were boxed up so that they could take them away.




The afternoon tea was £14.95 each which was well worth the price. Just look at the sheer volume of food we ate! The experience was so lovely and we were made to feel very welcome throughout. We stayed there for three hours and weren't made to feel rushed at all. It's worth noting that I also love the cosy atmosphere and decor at Pettigrew Tea Rooms. It won't surprise you to find out that I'm a big fan of pink floral bunting!




I'm already trying to figure out when I can justify my next visit to Pettigrew Tea Rooms... I can't recommend it highly enough!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

My hen weekend!

It was my hen weekend last weekend... I don't think I've ever eaten that much food outside of America. I had a really lovely weekend and I was very touched that everyone put in so much effort so I thought I'd try to summarise it in a blog post!

On a side note, as well as being my hen weekend, it's the weekend I finally mastered the art of applying eyeliner (subtly). It only took me 28 years!




I decided to stay in Cardiff for my hen weekend as it's somewhere we all know and, very importantly, we know all the good places to eat. Amy, Kirsty, Laura and Liz arrived on Friday evening so we went to the Gatekeeper for some food and a few cocktail pitchers. Can't go wrong with a good old Wetherspoons panini! The cocktail pitchers were also of a surprisingly high quality and much better than I remember, particularly the Mojito.






After finishing our food and drinks and chatting for a few hours, we walked back to our hotel. We stayed in the Nos Da budget hotel/hostel near the Millennium Stadium and I'd highly recommend it if you're planning a group trip to Cardiff. It was very reasonable, immaculate, spacious and in a fantastic central location. It was certainly much cleaner than any Travelodge I've ever stayed in, and even nicer than some higher end chain hotels I've been to. We had two rooms next to each other between the seven of us. How's this for a hotel room view...?




Nos Da serves a free breakfast every morning until 10am so we made the most of that before walking in to town. Again, the breakfast was much better than I expected with toast, a vast choice of spreads, lots of different cereals, tea, coffee and orange juice. We were all already extremely impressed, and the weekend had hardly started by this point!

We walked into town and went to a few shops to finish off our fancy dress costumes for the evening before meeting Fee, Jenna, Nicola, Sian and Sarah for the next leg of the weekend. Liz had booked afternoon tea at Pettigrew Tea Rooms for 3pm and I was VERY excited about this, to put it mildly. Believe it or not, I've never been for a proper afternoon tea! Very civilized for a hen weekend, but it's something I really wanted to do. 

We all got a bit dressed up before walking over the tea rooms, and I was given a personalised pink hen weekend sash with 'Beth's Disney Hen Do' emblazoned on it. Perfect! 

I'll be writing a separate blog post on Pettigrew Tea Rooms so I won't go into too much detail in this post, but let it be known that it was AMAZING. Liz had bought lots of Disney princess goodies such as tiaras, wands and confetti which meant the experience was extra personal and special, and the staff made us all feel very welcome. Does anyone else feel like a real Disney princess when they're wearing a pretty dress and a tiara? No? Just me?





Here are a few photos to whet your appetite before the more detailed blog post on our experience at Pettigrew Tea Rooms... my hot chocolate felt like a meal in itself! 






We stayed in the tea rooms for three hours and had such a lovely time. I really thought I'd have to be rolled out because I'd eaten so much, but I somehow managed to get myself down the stairs and out of the building. Even in my (small) heels!

We had a quick drink at the Nos Da bar before going upstairs to get ready for the evening celebrations. Their bar has an outdoor seating area which was perfect for such a sunny day. 






The theme for the evening was... you guessed it, Disney fancy dress! I decided to go as Minnie Mouse as I thought she was a very appropriate character for the bride-to-be. We also had a few princesses in the group (Belle, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White), Russell from Up (best costume ever), Esmerelda, Neytiri from Avatar and a character from the Incredibles. Again, everyone put in lots of effort and I genuinely loved being Minnie Mouse for a few hours. My only regret is that I didn't take enough photos!










We'd booked a table in Bella Italia for 8pm... in hindsight, we should either have booked the table for much later or just had something light. Although I never thought I'd be too full for an evening meal, I was still pretty full from the colossal afternoon tea so I didn't manage to finish my spaghetti meatballs. It was still a very tasty meal and my two glasses of Prosecco also went down very nicely! 

Before we left Bella Italia, we played a game of 'Mr and Mrs' which Fee had prepared by secretly asking Neil to answer a few questions in the lead-up to the weekend. I loved this idea! I also did quite well with the questions and didn't get too many wrong, so I think this definitely proves that Neil and I are a good match. Obviously I'd have had to re-think everything if the game had gone badly. To ensure continuation of the Disney theme, I was given a Disney tattoo for every question I got wrong... 






Bella Italia is always a great place to eat and this time was no exception. The staff were accommodating as always and the food was up to its usual high standard. A great meal (and drinks) was had by all! 




After leaving Bella Italia, we got accosted by a few overly enthusiastic people who seemed extremely desperate to get us into their tiny and/or dodgy clubs... I started to get fed up of hearing 'free fish bowl for the hen!' I didn't want to go somewhere too loud and cramped where we couldn't sit down and have a chat (how old am I?), so we went to Charlie Browns for a few hours and played a lengthy game of 'I have never', among other things. A classic drinking game, I think you'll agree. I don't see my university friends very often and it was also the first time this particular group of people had all been together so I wanted to make sure we made the most of the opportunity to catch up (and embarrass each other during the drinking game). 

We were back at the hotel by 1:30am so it wasn't a wild night by any means, but I don't think it's important what time you stay out until on your hen night as long as you have a good time, make the most of the opportunity to catch up with people and laugh a lot. I did all these things so I was very happy!




We all had breakfast again on Sunday morning, checked out of our rooms, then sat outside the hotel bar until it was time for people to catch their various modes of transport. I had such a lovely weekend and just wish it hadn't flown by so quickly. Thank you to everyone for coming to Cardiff and for making it such a fantastic weekend (I hope you're all reading this)... see you all at the wedding!

I'm now mentally preparing for round two... my work hen night. Watch this space!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Monthly cinema round up: June

How did June fly by so quickly? Seriously? Although the month disappeared in a whirl of work excursions, birthday celebrations, wedding planning and house decorating, I somehow still managed to go to the cinema eight times. I'm amazed!

Here's what I saw in June...


Maleficent (twice)
Yes, I saw it twice because it was so good. It was visually stunning and Angelina Jolie was brilliant as Maleficent. I liked the twist on the original Disney tale and enjoyed hearing the story of Sleeping Beauty from a completely different angle. My only complaint? Princess Aurora was extremely irritating!

Blended
I haven't been impressed by a lot of Adam Sandler's more recent films but I really enjoyed this one. Drew Barrymore is great (as usual) and the plot is funny and interesting enough to keep you absorbed until the very end. Also visually impressive... it's mostly set in Africa!

22 Jump Street
Hilarious. I loved 21 Jump Street and I definitely wasn't disappointed by this sequel. Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are a brilliant comedy duo and some scenes had me doubled over with laughter. 'IT'S IN MY MOUTH!' I urge you to see this film.

Edge of Tomorrow
This was ok... just ok. It probably just wasn't my type of film, but I couldn't quite get my head around the plot as I could see numerous plot holes. You're probably supposed to be concentrating on the epic action scenes instead of trying to get too involved with the plot! Not one for the DVD collection (unless Neil buys it...).

Godzilla
I didn't think I'd like this film but I was pleasantly surprised. Good plot, lots of suspense, and plenty of scary monsters. Again, it's not really my type of film but I did genuinely enjoy it.

Three Days to Kill
I wasn't sure what to expect from this film as I hadn't seen any trailers, so I was a little apprehensive. Luckily I thought it was great and got sucked in to the plot from the outset. The characterisation was strong throughout and the concept was very clever. Again, one to add to your list!

Chef
Ahhh, this film could have been so much better. Although the constant shots of food were mouth watering and made the film worth watching, I felt as if it was a missed opportunity. The ending was rushed and too predictable, even for me. Some of the earlier scenes seemed very laboured... it's such a shame that more time wasn't devoted to building on the storyline in the second half of the film. The token appearances from Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr just seemed pointless and out of place. Not one I'll be watching again, especially not when I'm hungry!


And my favourite film in June was... 22 Jump Street!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

My social media objectives for 2014 - a mid year update!

You might remember that I wrote a blog post on my social media objectives for 2014 back in January. I thought I'd revisit these objectives six months on to see how I'm progressing and to make sure I'm on track. I love a bit of measuring and evaluating!


Blog objectives

  • To revamp and rename my blog by April 2014. Done!
  • To set up a Google Analytics account for my blog by April 2014. Done!
  • To reach 100 followers on Bloglovin by the end of the year. Still a lot of work to do on this... I'm only on 28. 
  • To ensure that I read other blogs and comment on them for at least half an hour every week throughout the year. I've managed to achieve this most weeks, but some weeks are too busy to fit in even half an hour!
  • To take part in at least two blogger chats per month throughout the year. I started well at the beginning of the year, but haven't had time to take part in any chats for the last few months. 
  • To attend at least one blogger meet-up before the end of the year. No progress on this one!




Twitter objectives

  • To reach 350 Twitter followers by the end of the year. I'm on 314... not bad!
  • To ensure that I engage with at least 5 new people on Twitter every week throughout the year. I'm doing pretty well with this one. 
  • To ensure that at least 40% of traffic to my blog is driven there from Twitter. I'll have more definite statistics when my Google Analytics account has been up and running for a longer period of time, but initial impressions suggest that around a third of my blog traffic comes from Twitter. 




Pinterest objectives

  • To reach 100 followers by the end of the year. I currently have 44... I must admit, I've neglected Pinterest this year! 
  • To follow at least 100 new people/boards by the end of the year. I'm following 47, so still some work to do here. 
  • To have at least one Pinterest 'binge' per week! I definitely haven't had time to do this very often. 
  • To comment on at least 5 pins per week as well as re-pin. No time to do this either!




Instagram objectives

  • To reach 150 followers by the end of the year. I currently have 132, so doing pretty well on this one. 
  • To follow 100 new people by the end of the year. I'm following 388, so I've smashed this objective!
  • To make better links between Instagram and my blog by promoting at least one photo from my blog on Instagram every week. I've been doing this for every blog post which contains photos. 
  • To have an Instagram 'binge' at least once per week where I like and comment on other people's photos. I'm a bit obsessed with Instagram so have been doing this much more often than once per week!




LinkedIn objectives

  • To reach 300 connections by the end of the year. At the time of writing, I'm on 299!
  • To follow 10 new company pages before the end of the year. I've followed 4 company pages so far this year.  
  • To join 5 new LinkedIn groups before the end of the year, and to engage with these groups as and when interesting topics arise. I haven't started on this one yet. 


Considering how busy this year has been so far, I'm pretty pleased with my progress. My Pinterest presence needs a lot of work, but I'm hoping I'll have more time to have guilt-free Pinterest binges after the wedding. Although planning a wedding should encourage a lot of Pinterest binges, I've got to the stage where looking at people's perfect weddings is stressing me out! I did enjoy looking on there for ideas right at the beginning of the planning process as I was still deciding on colours and so on, but it doesn't appeal to me at the moment. 

I'm very pleased with my progress on Instagram and it's quickly joining Twitter as my favourite social networking site. I love sharing my own photos as well as nosing at other people's. Don't we all?

Does anyone else set themselves objectives for their personal social media presence? Is it just me...?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Birthday haul

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and I was lucky enough to receive lots of money and gift cards as presents from generous family and friends. The money and gift cards were very welcome as I needed to buy lots of new clothes due to going down a clothes size in the last year. Half my wardrobe has been given to charity shops, so my birthday money gave me the perfect excuse to go shopping!

I had lots of New Look gift cards as it's a commonly known fact that it's one of my favourite shops, so here's what I treated myself to from there...



New shorts! You can find them here and here






Peplum top. So pretty!



Flat white shoes - now out of stock



Lots of dresses! I'm only giving a little preview of these
as I'm saving most of them to wear on my honeymoon


A few people also gave me money for my birthday so I went shopping in Cardiff a few weeks ago... I love a bit of guilt-free shopping. 



I love Superdry tshirts! Coincidentally, mint and pink are my favourite colours
at the moment.



Short Disney onesie from Tesco



I've been waiting for these two DVDs to be re-released for ages... 
they both happened to become available just after my birthday! Thanks, Disney. 



Disney Princess bag from the Disney Store. £2.50! 



New bags from Primark. I couldn't choose between black/white
and coral/stone so had to get both! £6 each



A few make up items


I made the most of various sales and online discounts to make sure I made the most out of my birthday money and got the best value for money I possibly could. I'm really pleased with my haul and think I did quite well!

Do you have any of these items? Have you written a haul post lately? Send me your links, pretty please!