Monday, 27 January 2020

Best of 2019

Let's not beat around the bush... 2019 was a shocker of a year.

I'm not going to go into all the details because that's not the purpose of this post, but it started badly as we tried to come to terms with upsetting news we received just before Christmas. The second half of the year went from bad to worse with a string of horrible circumstances and events, some of which brought back vivid memories from the horrors of summer 2016.

Things kept coming at me like a tidal wave, and the next awful thing would hit me while I was still reeling from the last one. I felt thoroughly battered by the end of the year, and I was genuinely terrified about what on earth would happen next.

I was perpetually convinced that the next bad thing would break me completely, but somehow I kept going.

I haven't blogged since July thanks to the constant stress and anxiety of the last six months, but I wanted to make sure I posted my 'best of 2019' post to keep up the tradition of the last three years.

In spite of all the horrible things that happened last year, I did have lots of great times with my favourite people. These are far too easy to overlook when I look back over the year, but it's really important that I try to focus on those great times because they ultimately kept me afloat.

So, here are my highlights of 2019...




I went to see Matilda in the Millennium Centre with Sarah. 




I celebrated the 16th Fake Christmas with my university friends in Milton Keynes. 




We celebrated Neil's birthday with a visit to Got Beef, and I bought him these amazing canvasses. 




We spent a relaxing five days in Venice




I went to Bar 44 with Sophie to celebrate her 30th birthday. 




We celebrated Jessie's 2nd birthday




I had a lovely Easter weekend which included copious amounts of food, a cinema trip, and catching up with friends. 




We went to Hang Fire Southern Kitchen for the first time. 




I had a really lovely birthday which included more meals than I can count, a spa day with Nicola, a catch up with Sarah, a couple of days with my parents, and time with Neil and Jessie. 




We took Jessie on holiday to Llangennith




I went to Bristol for the weekend to catch up with my university friends and eat some excellent food. 




I had a catch up with Georgina and tried a hot chocolate from Hotel Chocolat for the first time. 




We celebrated my mother's 70th birthday with a family meal at our local Harvester. 




We celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary with a spectacular meal at Restaurant James Sommerin




We spent a blissful two weeks in Florida's Walt Disney World, my favourite place in the whole world. 




My colleagues and I won two silver awards and a gold award at the Chartered Institute of PR's PRide Cymru awards ceremony. 




I spent the weekend in Milton Keynes with Fee and Liz. I didn't take any photos for some reason, so here's a photo of Jessie being clingy when I got back. 




I visited Balti Cuisine, one of my absolute favourites, for a catch up with Catrin. 




I went to Bristol for the annual Christmas shopping tradition with my university friends. 




I bought a new car... horrible circumstances forced me into it but I do really love the car, so I've decided to include it in my highlights. 




After a long wait for results, I celebrated being all clear for three years with an amazing meal in Villa Napoli. 




I went on a three day digital marketing course and learnt loads (and ate loads) in this beautiful setting. 




I got dressed up in a sparkly dress and sparkly shoes for my work Christmas party.  




I celebrated Amy's 5 years all clear with her in Miller & Carter. 




I went to Pettigrew Tea Rooms for a festive afternoon tea with Jo. 




Christmas felt like the light at the end of a very long tunnel. We had some time off work and spent quality time with our families, and with each other and Jessie.  




We drove to see my family on New Year's Eve, then came back home and spent the last evening of 2019 with just the three of us (and cheese, chocolate and mulled wine).




There were lots of meals, hot chocolates, catch ups and visits I couldn't include because the post was getting too long, so it's fair to say that 2019 was peppered with lots of nice things amongst the bad. 

However... please be kinder, 2020!  

Monday, 8 July 2019

A long weekend in Llangennith

We went to the Gower last weekend with Jessie for a well-earned break. We had a lovely relaxing time and it was very difficult to go back to reality last week!

We arrived on the Friday afternoon and were greeted by blue skies and abundant sunshine. The Gower is a beautiful part of the world, and Llangennith is definitely a jewel in its crown.




We took Jessie for a quick walk after we'd checked in, then we stopped for a drink in the beer garden at the pub we were staying in. After we'd finished our drinks, we went inside to the pub's dog-friendly area to have our dinner. I'd been craving a burger all day, so that's exactly what I ordered and it didn't disappoint. 




On Saturday morning, we got up bright and early and went for breakfast. We ate in the dog-friendly area again so that Jessie could join us, and she very much enjoyed all the attention from our fellow diners and their dogs. 

After we'd finished our poached eggs on toast, we set off for the beach. The beach is a half hour walk from the pub so we had a nice warm-up before we got to the main attraction. Seeing Jessie bounding around in the soft sand at the entrance to the beach was one of my highlights of the whole weekend. 








The entrance and surrounding area were fairly busy, but as we walked along the beach it became more and more secluded. Jessie loved every second of it, and I loved seeing her so happy. We stopped for a few breaks to give her little legs a rest (and for me to take a hundred photos of her), then we turned around and walked back towards the entrance. 

After our long walk along the beach, we stopped for a drink and some cake at the diner nearby before walking back to the pub. It wouldn't have felt like a Saturday if we didn't partake in our traditional coffee and hot chocolate ritual! 




We spent a sunny afternoon in the beer garden when we got back to the pub. There were loads of dogs there with their humans, and they all looked as zonked as Jessie did after their long walks. 

After a couple of drinks, we headed back inside to our beloved dog-friendly area. I'd seen a few people eating pizza in the beer garden, so that's what I decided to order because I'm far too impressionable for my own good. 




Jessie was well and truly exhausted after our long walk, so she passed out into a deep slumber as soon as we got back to our room. She's the cutest dog in the world, particularly when she's sleepy. 




We went for our final breakfast on Sunday, then we took Jessie for another little walk before we packed up our things. Her little legs must still have been tired from the day before as she refused to walk very far! 




Once we'd checked out, we drove to my parents' house in Carmarthenshire. We spent a nice relaxing day with them which included eating my mother's Sunday dinner and watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and we stayed over on Sunday night to maximise our time with them. Their garden is amazing, particularly during the summer months, so I absolutely had to feature a photo of it on my blog. 




After a trip to Costa with my parents on Monday morning for another hot chocolate fix, we drove back to Penarth to blitz all our chores before going back to work on Tuesday. 

And, just like that, the weekend was over. Although it seemed to pass in the blink of an eye, we had such a great time and loved spending some quality time with Jessie and with each other. It's always lovely to catch up with my parents too, and it felt as if we fitted lots of nice things in to our long weekend. 

Hopefully we'll be back in the Gower with Jessie very soon... watch this space! 



Monday, 24 June 2019

Food and drink on Cardiff's Whitchurch Road

Last March, I started a new job. My old office was on Ocean Way where Subway and the pub across the road were the only lunch options, so imagine my excitement when I started working a stone's throw away from Cardiff's Whitchurch Road.

I've tried lots of the cafes and restaurants this busy road has to offer over the last 15 months, so I thought I'd post a summary of where I've been so far.



Got Beef

I've been to Got Beef three times over the last few months, and it might be my favourite restaurant on Whitchurch Road. There's a big variety of different burgers on the menu, ranging from the weird and wonderful to good old bacon cheeseburgers. Got Beef is very reasonably priced, particularly if you order from the lunch menu, and it's a great option for both lunch and dinner. You'll smell of burger fat for a few hours after you've left, but I promise it'll be well worth it.






Brass Beetle

Brass Beetle specialises in pizza and cocktails, and I've been there twice so far.  I've always had my car with me so haven't been able to sample their cocktails yet, but they also have a lovely selection of mocktails. The pizzas are cooked in a huge wood-fire oven at the back of the restaurant, and my pizza was really spectacular both times. Taking the size of the pizzas into account (they're massive), I think Brass Beetle is pretty reasonable. Again, it's a nice option for both lunch and dinner.






Crispy Duck

I tried Crispy Duck for the first time last week. I don't know of many pan-Asian restaurants in the Cardiff and Penarth area, so this one was an excellent find. I had lemon chicken and egg fried rice, and my friend ordered the sweet and sour chicken. We were the only people in the restaurant when we arrived at 6:30pm, but it was full by the time we left. I thought the prices were very reasonable, and I'll definitely be trying this restaurant again soon. It's worth noting that it's only open for lunch on Sundays, but it felt more like a nice dinner option to me in any case.






The Greek Spot

A big group of us went to The Greek Spot a few months ago for a colleague's leaving lunch. My food was ridiculously cheap, and there was loads of it! I'd say it felt more like a lunch spot than a dinner location, but that might just have been because there were so many of us. We were served very quickly and the staff members we met were really friendly and helpful. With such a varied menu, I'd definitely like to visit again at some point.






Cocorico Patisserie

I've been to Cocorico a few times for both food and drinks. The lunch I had there was absolutely delicious and it still pops into my head all the time. I've also had hot chocolate and macarons there a couple of times. I'm yet to sample their decadent cakes, so I need to make sure I tick that off my list before the year is out. Although the cakes are pretty expensive, I thought the lunch prices were very reasonable. Cocorico closes at 6pm, so it's one to add to your lunch list.








The Pot Bistrot

I haven't eaten at The Pot Bistrot yet, but I did pop in for a hot chocolate with a friend one evening. There was a lovely atmosphere in the restaurant and it felt quite upmarket. The Pot has sporadic opening hours during the week, so make sure you check when it's open ahead of your visit if you do decide to pop in one afternoon or evening.





I've also popped in to So Coffee Bar numerous times for a takeaway hot chocolate, and I fully plan to treat myself to a drink-in hot chocolate and a piece of cake at some point. My only complaint is that they're not open on a Monday which is when I need my hot chocolate fix the most! 

By this time next year, I'll hopefully have tried even more places on Whitchurch Road. Can you recommend anywhere else I should try? 

Monday, 10 June 2019

My birthday celebrations: the 2019 edition

As you'll have guessed from the title of this post, it was my birthday last week. My birthday was on a Tuesday which is arguably the worst day of the working week, so I booked the Monday and Tuesday off work so that I could celebrate for four days.


Saturday 

We made the most of Saturday's beautiful weather and took Jessie for a long walk to Penarth. Our local Coffee #1 branch has got a dog friendly area, so we stopped there for half an hour to have cheesecake and a hot chocolate (and water for Jessie, of course).





On Saturday evening, we went to Miller & Carter in Cardiff Bay for birthday meal number one. I hadn't had the opportunity to dress up for a while, and I took great pleasure in wearing a pretty new dress and highly uncomfortable shoes. 





Although my meal was nice, the service was terrible. They got every part of Neil's order wrong, even his very simple soft drink. It's sadly put us off going back to that particular restaurant for a while, but it'll make a good anecdote at least! 








Sunday 

On the Sunday, we had a lazy morning before doing some shopping and taking Jessie for a walk. I'd arranged to go to stay with my parents for a couple of days, so I packed a few things and headed west at around 4pm. I stopped off at Sarah's house first and was greeted with a little strawberry and white chocolate cake and candles. She'd also prepared fresh strawberries and a Highlights hot chocolate... she knows me so well.





After eating and talking with Sarah for an hour or so, I drove to my parents' house and caught up with them for a few hours before going to bed. I haven't seen them for a few months so it was lovely to catch up properly and to exchange some funny stories. 



Monday 

On the Monday, I'd arranged a spa day in Machynys Pensinsula Golf Club and Premier Spa with Nicola. We got there early and went to the gym for half an hour, then we had our back, neck and shoulder massages before lunch. We went to the hydro spa after lunch and had the whole place to ourselves. We spent loads of time relaxing in the jacuzzi and also made use of the sauna, aromatherapy room, steam room and heated stone chairs. It was such a relaxing day and it definitely encouraged me to make time for spa days more often.











After I got home from the spa day, I went to the Harvester with my parents for birthday meal number two. The three of us ordered the classic burger and it was SO GOOD. You absolutely can't go wrong with the Harvester in our opinion, and the service was impeccable as always. I had a voucher for a free sundae, so we shared two of their giant monstrosities between the three of us. I'm glad we didn't have one each as I couldn't even manage half of mine!








Tuesday 

On Tuesday, it was finally my birthday. I woke up and opened my cards and presents from my parents, then we went to Costa for a celebratory hot chocolate. The weather was absolutely hideous, but I didn't have any outdoor plans so I didn't particularly mind. 





After having some cake with my parents for lunch, I drove back to Penarth in torrential rain to spend the rest of my birthday with Neil and Jessie. I opened my presents from Neil and all my cards from family and friends, then we took Jessie for a walk as the weather had vastly improved. We then went to Tony's in Penarth town centre for birthday meal number three. It's one of our favourite restaurants, and the food and service was amazing as per usual. 






The presents! 

I know most of you probably clicked on this purely to see my birthday haul, so I had to include a little section on my gifts. I had lots of lovely presents, most of which are photographed below. 

The Minnie Mouse cupcakes were from Nicola and were a very tasty surprise. I had lots of bath and shower products and plenty of Disney themed gifts, along with an amazing phone case from clever Jessie which featured her own face. In addition to the gifts below, I also had a New Look gift card from my parents in law, a Lush gift box from my sister in law and an afternoon tea voucher from Sarah. As always, I'm really grateful to everyone for my gifts and I've already made use of quite a few of them!















After four days of celebrating with lots of my favourite people, it was very hard to get up to go to work on Wednesday. However, I felt as if I'd had a nice long break and it was the best birthday I've had since my 30th birthday three years ago. 

Now that my birthday is over for another year, I'm counting down to Christmas... 198 days to go!