Tuesday, 31 December 2013

My favourite dresses of 2013

It's New Year's Eve! I don't see the point of specific New Year's Resolutions as I like to make regular little resolutions throughout the whole year, so instead my last post of 2013 will focus on my four favourite dresses from the last year. Superficial? A little bit, but there is method in my madness.

Seeing as I would like to actually enjoy wearing dresses next year rather than dreading the occasions where I need to wear and/or buy a dress, I think this post is actually quite significant. I will still be wearing my jeans, hoodies and Ugg boots very frequently because I love them more than life itself, but I am going to make a conscious effort to dress up a bit more if the occasion calls for it. I must embrace dresses and all the fuss that goes with them.

So here are my favourite dresses from 2013... I'm not one to throw dresses away after I've worn them once, so these lovely dresses will definitely make more appearances in 2014!

Probably my favourite dress ever.
It's from Tesco!

My Christmas party dress, from Boohoo. 
Excuse the awkward mirror pose.

New Look sale!

Primark's best

What were your favourite dresses in 2013? Can you recommend any good websites or stores for me to browse through in 2014?

Happy New Year / Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Duffy's first Christmas

It's Duffy's first Christmas! He had his very own Christmas jumper especially for the big occasion, and I took him home with me for Christmas so that he could join in with the celebrations. For those of you who don't know what I'm on about and are wondering if I've somehow been hiding a baby or a dog for the whole year, I'm talking about Duffy the Disney Bear. The whole idea of Duffy the Disney Bear is to dress him up in different outfits and to photograph him in various places around the globe. You could say I'm a bit obsessed... you'd be correct.

Here's a snapshot of what Duffy got up to over Christmas!

Did anyone else spend Christmas with Duffy the Disney Bear? Send me your links if you're as crazy as I am!

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Ten things I love about Christmas

Did you all have a brilliant Christmas? Are you all still full of food and wearing your onesie/Christmas jumper? After having a lovely build up (including Fake Christmas with Neil last weekend) and a great Christmas Day yesterday, I thought I'd write a quick blog post about the ten things I love most about Christmas. It was very difficult to whittle it down to 10, believe me!

1. The food

Food just has to be on top of any list about the best bits of Christmas. Or is it that just me? It's the only time of year where I can totally justify eating as much as I want without worrying about calorie counting, going to the gym, eating healthily and so on. Although my mother's beautiful Christmas dinner is always the highlight, I also love having trifle and cold chicken at tea time, ice cream and chocolate at random intervals throughout the day and copious amounts of sweets and crisps. I love food!

2. The stockings

I love our stocking tradition and will be quite sad when this tradition comes to an end. Ever since I can remember, my siblings and I (just my brother and I in recent years) have got up early to open our stockings, then we run downstairs to see the presents under the tree before waking our parents if our squeals of excitement haven't woken them already. Although we had proper woolly stockings stuffed with presents when we were younger, we've had big gift bags for the last few years as they're a lot more practical. I had fluffy socks, a DVD, chocolates, sweets, pretty stationery, toiletries and much more in my stocking this year... long live stockings!

3. The presents

I still get excited about all the presents given to me, but I also get just as excited about seeing other people's faces when I give them their presents. I think this is a sign that I'm getting older! I had lots of lovely presents from my family on Christmas Day this year including DVDs, books, pyjamas, baking things and perfume, but I think my favourite present was my new pair of beautiful boots from Fat Face.

4. The standard Christmas Day outfit

I definitely don't go out to buy a dress specifically for Christmas Day. Who needs a dress when you can wear fluffy pyjamas and a hoodie? I'm afraid there's no photo of me in my Christmas Day outfit... I don't think people need to see that.

5. The chocolate

I know chocolate should come under the 'Food' heading, but it just has to have its own place on the list. I would stop myself in horror on an ordinary day if I decided to eat half a mini box of Quality Street chocolates before 10am. However, on Christmas Day, this is perfectly acceptable. This might be a hotly debated topic, but Quality Street are by far the best Christmas chocolates!

6. The tree

I love Christmas trees and published a blog post last week on my favourite Christmas trees of the year. There's nothing better than sitting around in pyjamas around the Christmas tree with the Christmas lights on! There's something very comforting about a Christmas tree... have I said 'Christmas tree' too much in this paragraph?

7. The company

Christmas is such a great time to spend quality time with my parents, my siblings, Neil, the in laws and my handsome little nephew. Everyone comes together from various corners of the UK, no one needs to rush away, everyone wants to catch up on each other's news and the camaraderie is brilliant. It's a shame we can't all be in the same room more often!

8. The novelty crackers

Who doesn't love crackers and their random novelty gifts? Yesterday we acquired two pairs of tweezers, two little packets of playing cards, a bottle opener and lots of paper hats.

9. The relaxation

I'm usually super busy all year round and find it hard to sit down and do nothing, so Christmas is a great chance to just relax, recharge the batteries and indulge in some guilt-free reading. Does December have to come to an end?

10. The films

I love the films that regularly get rolled out for Christmas. Home Alone 1 and 2, Santa Claus the Movie, all Disney films, Nativity, The Santa Clause, Elf, Jingle all the Way, Muppets' Christmas Carol... who doesn't love these films? Yesterday we managed to watch Toy Story 3, Home Alone 2, Muppets' Christmas Carol and Nativity 2. Christmas film fest!

What do you love most about Christmas? I'm sure there are lots of blog posts floating around on this topic so feel free to send me some links!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Fake Christmas with Neil

It's Christmas Eve! I've already celebrated Christmas once this year with Neil, but this hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for celebrating actual Christmas tomorrow. You can never celebrate Christmas too many times.

Neil and I celebrated our own little Christmas over the weekend as we won't be seeing each other on Christmas Day. We had a Fake Christmas Eve on Friday, then a Fake Christmas Day on... yes you guessed it, Saturday. This Christmas was quite significant as it's our last Christmas before becoming husband and wife next August!

My little tree and Neil's bag of presents

Some treats!

On Fake Christmas Eve, we ordered Domino's pizzas and watched Nightmare Before Christmas. Some would argue that this is a Halloween film, but it always makes me feel very Christmassy. 'What's this? What's this? There's colour everywhere!' We haven't eaten Domino's pizza since our last Fake Christmas so it was a nice indulgent treat. I'd also optimistically bought some Pringles and Cookies and Cream Lindt chocolates. We were too full to even touch those! I'm keeping them for New Year's Eve... I like a bit of forward thinking. 

My delicious Veg-a-Roma pizza

I was genuinely too excited to sleep on Friday night because I was so excited about opening presents in the morning. Consequently, I had an awful night's sleep but was still up at 8am as planned. All the presents were assembled together ready for the grand opening... Neil brought his parents' and sister's gifts for me as well as his own, so I had a very large haul!

There's a mirror in the background... there weren't two large sacks

I had a Welsh rugby shirt, two Disney teddies, a selection box, mug and a big tube of Smarties from Neil's parents, so I was very spoilt. I also had a really pretty Sleeping Beauty mug from Siรขn and a Guess perfume set. I've been on the look out for Guess perfume for ages so that was well timed. If their perfume is half as good as their bags, it'll be brilliant!

After opening the presents from Neil's family, we moved on to opening the presents from each other. 

As you can see, I was spoilt rotten by Neil as usual! Highlights included Winnie the Pooh pyjamas, Mike Wazowski, a beautiful Disney bag from Florida, Body Shop products, Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse in Pluto pyjamas (also from Florida), gloves, nail varnish, earrings and an Italian phrasebook ready for our honeymoon. All very exciting!

However, the icing on the metaphorical Christmas cake came when I opened the very last present. Donald Duck popped cheekily out of the wrapping, and he was holding something in his hand...

McBusted tickets!

This nearly sent me over the excitement edge. I hadn't been able to afford to get the tickets myself and was getting fed up of hearing about people all over the country getting their tickets, so this was a very welcome surprise. I would pretend that I need to swot up on Busted's songs before the big event, but I still listen to them all the time so I won't need to do anything of the sort. 'Everybody bought our seventh album, it had outsold Michael Jackson...'

After all the excitement of opening the presents (and the even bigger excitement of eating cold pizza for breakfast), we drove over to Costa for a lovely hot beverage. 

I had a Black Forest hot chocolate with cream... 
it is Christmas, after all!

We then headed over to Neil's parents' house for a few hours as I wouldn't be seeing them again until after Christmas. They conveniently live near a Harvester, so we popped in there for some food before going into town. After my usual salad bowl full of the most unhealthy bits of the available selection, I had the bacon, pineapple and BBQ burger. I was too excited to take a photo before I started eating, so had to take one when I was half way through. That is one loaded burger!

I did feel disgustingly full after finishing my burger and decided we definitely wouldn't be needing any cinema snacks. After managing to roll ourselves out of the Harvester, we drove into town for the 7:30 showing of Anchorman 2. I must admit that I didn't really get the first film (don't be too shocked), but the second one was pretty good. However, it just got far too random towards the end... they just HAD to take it too far. In spite of the unnecessary randomness, it was a nice way to pass the evening and was very funny in parts. Brick is by far my favourite character!

So a lovely Fake Christmas was had by all... well, by the two of us. Does anyone else celebrate Christmas several times? Surely it's the best way to do it? Let me know!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I've been baking again... Chocolate chip muffins!

Life has been very busy for the last few months so I haven't baked anything since my beautiful chocolate brownies back in June. When I found out that we were having cakes in work after opening our Secret Santa gifts, I decided to get back on the baking bandwagon!

I dug out my Mary Berry 'Cakes and Bakes' book and salivated over all the possibilities for about half an hour. Although I loved my chocolate brownies, I wanted to try a different challenge. I eventually decided on the rather tempting Chocolate Chip American Muffins (page 60). The muffins were really easy to make and went down very well at the Secret Santa gathering. They did taste very good, even if I do say so myself. I followed the recipe literally to the nearest gram, but people must have thought I'd put extra chocolate chips in as the muffins were so very chocolatey. I definitely wasn't going to complain about that, and neither did anyone else!

The finished product (ignore the mess on the tray...)

Recipe (makes 12 muffins)

250g self-raising flour
1 level tsp baking powder
50g butter
75g caster sugar
175g plain chocolate chips
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250ml milk


1. Preheat the oven to 200C / Fan 180C / Gas 6. Place your muffin cases into the 12-hole muffin tin. I didn't specifically buy muffin cases, I just used large cupcake cases. 

2. Measure the flour and baking powder into a large bowl then add the butter and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. I recommend that you take off your rings before doing this, and I also wouldn't recommend trying to do it with long nails! Stir in the sugar and chocolate chips. 

3. Mix together the eggs, vanilla extract and milk, then pour the mixture all in one go into the dry ingredients. Mix quickly with a wooden spoon to blend. Don't panic if the mixture isn't totally smooth after stirring, it's supposed to have a lumpy consistency. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases in the tin, filling each one almost to the top. I'll be amazed if you can do this without making a mess... look at the mess I created!

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and firm to the touch. Leave to cool for a few minutes in the tray then lift out the paper cases and cool the muffins for a little longer on a wire rack. I don't have a wire rack, so I just cooled them on a different baking tray!

And there you have it... it really is as simple as that. What shall I bake next?

Friday, 20 December 2013

My very first ImPress manicure

I'm not a particularly girly girl, but I do absolutely love nail varnish. As I explained in my very first post on this topic, you'll never ever see me without nail varnish on. I've even planned what shade of nail varnish I'll be wearing on my wedding day!

This year, while preparing for my office Christmas party, I decided to try something different with my nails. Neil's sister loves using ImPress press-on nails for special occasions like holidays and parties, and his mother had bought me two packets of the 'Working Girl' pattern a few months ago. I thought the Christmas party was the perfect opportunity to give them a go!

Each packet contains 24 stickers of different sizes, so firstly you need to select one sticker that's exactly the right size for each nail. Once you've lined up your ten nails, use the provided wipe to cleanse your nails before starting on the application. I've been advised that this step is vital, so don't leave it out!

I started with the little finger on my left hand, and left both thumbnails until last to make the application as easy as possible. The stickers were very easy to apply and fitted like a dream on all ten nails. I pressed each one firmly for a few seconds and they felt super secure. I thought they might feel odd because they're longer than my natural nails, but they felt perfectly comfortable and didn't get in the way. They weren't flimsy at all so there was no danger of them snapping or flying off.

They were really shiny and the glitter effect was very effective... perfect for a Christmas party! I was so pleased with the finished effect and couldn't stop looking at my hands for a few hours after I'd applied them. These nails really add a touch of glamour and make you look as if you've had a manicure in a beauty salon. They obviously don't chip like ordinary nail varnish, so there's no danger of having to redo one or two nails the day after you've spent ages painting them as you've had chipping issues!

I was a bit worried about removing the stickers as they were stuck on so securely, but they came off easily when I immersed my hands in hot water and peeled each sticker off, starting from the right hand side. They didn't leave any marks and didn't damage my nails at all. 

You can buy the ImPress range from Amazon and Boots as far as I know... let me know if you've found them anywhere else! I'll definitely be trying the ImPress collection again as I'm well and truly hooked after my first experiment.

Has anyone tried ImPress nails? What did you think?

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree...

One week to go until Christmas Day! I thought I'd celebrate this by featuring some of the best Christmas trees I've seen while I've been out and about this year.

I love a good Christmas tree! I like real trees, synthetic trees, trees with plain lights, trees with coloured lights, trees with loads of decorations and minimally decorated trees. I can't wait until next year when Neil and I have our own house to decorate, but this year I'm just admiring other people's lovely trees from afar.

I couldn't pick a favourite out of the trees below, so these photos are in no particular order. Enjoy!

I absolutely love this elegant Christmas tree at Cardiff International Pool

Silvery white tree in Cardiff's Queen's Arcade

Lovely tree in the Metropole Hotel, Llandrindod Wells

Beautifully simple tree outside Neil's house

Tacky but fantastic effort from Asda!

Colourful tree in Shot in the Dark

McArthur Glen's massive Christmas tree!

Have you found your favourite Christmas tree yet? 7 days to go!

Monday, 16 December 2013

Restaurant review: Mission Burrito

I blogged about my restaurant wishlist a few weeks ago, and Mission Burrito is the first place on the list we've managed to venture to. We've had a busy few weeks! Cardiff's branch of Mission Burrito has only been open for a month or so, and the smell wafting out of there is always amazing as you walk past. We decided to pop in last weekend for our lunch.

After staring at the menu for a while because I tend to get confused if there are lots of different options, I decided on the chicken fajita burrito. I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer amount of chicken they loaded on to the wrap... probably more meat than I'd eaten during the last fortnight put together. I also had rice, peppers, onions, salsa verde, sour cream and cheese.

The counter and ordering process at Mission Burrito aren't dissimilar to the system in Subway, but you have about five times more food.

Once your wrap has been filled until it's about to burst, it's wrapped up in foil and given to you to tackle in the most ladylike manner possible. Good luck with this... I definitely didn't succeed with the 'ladylike' part and managed to get burrito juice everywhere. Totally worth the mess though!

I've never tried salsa verde before, but it really added something to the burrito. It helps that I love coriander, even though I'd never have thought of putting coriander in a burrito myself. The chicken was also seasoned with their chipotle sauce which was really tasty, and peppers and onions are always going to improve any burrito. Or any meal, for that matter.

My very messy burrito...

Has anyone else been to Mission Burrito yet? What did you think? I'll definitely be going back very soon!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Diet advice, please!

Ahh the confusing world of diets and dieting... I'm very strict about what I eat during the week and used to think I ate a healthy and substantial diet, but now I'm not so sure. I'd like some advice, please!

I go to the gym nearly every night after work and burn an average of 450 calories each time. I often feel quite weak and wobbly after a tough session, and I've had to buy some emergency jelly beans from the sweet machine on a few occasions before driving home. I also recently fainted during a Stereophonics gig because I suspect I hadn't eaten enough before going. Not my finest hour, but at least it was at the end of the gig and not at the beginning. If I had to choose somewhere to faint for the first time, I definitely wouldn't have chosen a packed arena containing one of my favourite bands of all time!

I absolutely love food (as you'll already know if you're a regular reader) and I'm much less strict on weekends, but I do try really hard to be good during the week in terms of diet and exercise. I want to lose more weight before my wedding next August, but I think my weight loss goal might be unrealistic as I haven't lost a substantial amount of weight for a while according to the scales, yet I've gone down a clothes size in the last few months. I think I must have reached the stage where I can't actually lose much more weight so it's all about toning up. For someone who weighs themselves every day and judges themselves based on their weight, this is hard to accept! I am a healthy weight for my height, but I don't think anyone ever really wants to believe those figures.

I find it so difficult to know what a healthy and nutrituous diet should contain... the media is always publishing conflicting stories about good and bad foods, carbohydrates always have mixed reviews and everyone has a different opinion on what makes a healthy diet. I'm not even sure if I'm eating enough during the week, especially as I go to the gym so often and burn 400 to 500 calories every time. I'd hate to find out that I'm actually hindering any weight loss because I'm not eating enough, not eating the right things or starving my body of the energy it needs.

To sum up, I'm getting fed up of struggling through the confusing world of healthy diets so I thought I'd ask for advice from the blogging community!

This is my diet on a typical week day:

Breakfast - 2 Weetabix biscuits with semi skimmed milk

Lunch - Beans on toast (half a can of Tesco Light Choices beans and two slices of Hovis Nimble bread, 51 calories per slice)

Dinner - Either poached eggs on toast (Nimble bread again) or a bowl of pasta and pesto, veggie stir fry, veggie curry or chilli con carne. I'm not a vegetarian, I just don't like spending money on meat!

Snacks - Apple (12:30pm), banana (4:30pm), Weightwatchers yoghurt (after lunch), two breakfast biscuits (one before lunch, one after lunch), Options hot chocolate with three marshmallows (evening), a handful or two of sultanas (evening), multivitamin with iron (evening).

Yes, I really am that strict with the timings and quantities.

I know this diet isn't particularly varied but I think it's pretty healthy on the whole. It's also important to note that my food budget is very small due to all my other monthly expenses, and I'm also way too busy to cook meals which require a lot of effort every night. I usually cook a huge meal once or twice a week then divide it into 4 or 5 portions for the rest of the week.

The big questions are... am I actually eating enough and am I getting enough nutrients from the food above? Is there inadvertently too much sugar in  my diet? Am I eating enough from all the vital food groups? Am I just thinking about this too much? Should I put my weighing scales in the bin? I'd be really interested in hearing your thoughts!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Body Shop's never ending Satsuma shower gel

You might remember that I wrote a blog post about my Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel back in April. In that post, I said 'I'm pretty sure this bottle will last for months'. It definitely did last for months... I've only just finished it!

I've used this shower gel pretty much every day for the last 8 months, sometimes twice a day. I used six squirts every time (I know, I have a very precise technique), so I wasn't even being stingy. These 750ml bottles are fairly expensive if they're not on offer (£12), but the longevity of this bottle proves that they're well worth the money. I've paid £3 for shower gel from Tesco in the past which has only lasted for 6 weeks or so, so it's worth paying more for a product which will last so much longer.

The Satsuma shower gel is listed as a best seller on the Body Shop's website... I can see why!

I'll definitely miss my amazing Satsuma shower gel and its beautiful aroma, but I'll be starting on the Lemon bottle from the Body Shop next. Look out for the review in a few weeks!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Friday, 6 December 2013

My Disney advent calendar

I have a Disney advent calendar. Is anyone surprised? I've always had an advent calendar for as long as I can remember, and I have no intention of stopping this tradition. It makes me feel extra Christmassy and enables me to eat a little piece of chocolate every morning for 24 days. Win win!

My Disney Princess advent calendar was £1 in Tesco, so the cheapest one I could find. I do love advent calendars, but I won't spend a fortune on them. You can tell it's cheap as it doesn't have a little foil covering over the chocolates and doesn't have an image behind each window, but luckily I love the taste of cheap advent calendar chocolate. 

I would have preferred to have seen Belle (from Beauty on the Beast) on the front instead of Cinderella as she's my favourite Disney princess, but unfortunately I don't work in Disney's design team. Cinderella is at the bottom of my Disney princess list... I have a feeling most people will disagree with me on that. Love the film, dislike the princess. 

6 windows down, 18 to go!

What advent calendar did you buy this year?

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

A busy weekend!

Last weekend was a bit hectic, so obviously I had to blog about it. I love using my blog to document various events and photos, even if they might seem mundane to other people. Isn't that what a lifestyle blog should be all about?

It all started with an awards ceremony at the Vale Resort on Friday night. A campaign led by my organisation had been shortlisted for a Welsh Housing Award... we won! It was a lovely evening (with amazing chocolates) and it gave me a chance to wear my beautiful new dress. I love the lacy detail... this might be my new favourite dress.

This dress is from Tesco, believe it or not!

Neil and I went to McArthur Glen in Bridgend on Saturday afternoon to do some Christmas shopping. I was absolutely determined to finish my Christmas shopping this weekend, and I always get some great bargains in McArthur Glen. It didn't disappoint, and I even managed to spend some money on myself... two pairs of jeans for £37 in Gap. Gap jeans are the only jeans which fit me properly as they actually cater for short people, so I was very happy with this bargain. They were originally supposed to be £39.99 each! I really wanted to post a few photographs of the presents I bought for other people, but I'm not risking it in case they happen to stumble upon my blog. That would be highly unfortunate.

Beautiful Christmas tree in McArthur Glen

We obviously had to pop in to Sidoli's for a break...

After finishing our shopping, we drove to pick Liz up from the bus station then went back to my flat to watch the rugby. I'm not going to comment on the result! We then went to Tenkaichi and ate a LOT of food, then went back to the flat to watch Black Books and play Scrabble. I won... I never win anything two nights in a row. Another lovely evening was had by all. 

On Sunday morning, I drove to Cribbs Causeway with Liz to meet Amy, another university friend. Our Christmas shopping trip to Cribbs has become an annual tradition and it's always a good chance to catch up on all the news and to blitz the last few bits of Christmas shopping. I loved the Christmas decorations in the shopping centre... 22 days to go!

Very similar to the decorations in Cardiff's St David's 2 shopping centre

Palm trees and Christmas trees... why not?

Pretty decorations in John Lewis

No visit to Cribbs is complete without a visit to Pizza Hut

After a very successful two days of shopping, I've actually finished my Christmas shopping! However, after such a busy weekend of catching up, eating and shopping, I feel as if I need another two days off just to recover. I'm definitely not complaining though, I love productive and sociable weekends. 

What did you get up to last weekend?