Monday, 25 February 2013

Packing for New York!

I'm going to New York today! Eeeeep! As is my custom, my packing method was very organised and planned weeks in advance.

First of all, I wrote a list (obviously).

I always list each individual item of clothing on my packing list... just writing 'clothes' isn't enough. It might be enough for normal people, but it isn't enough for me. I also note down which items I'll be wearing to the airport, so that  I don't accidentally pack them. As you can see, I was halfway through my packing when I photographed this list as half of the items are crossed off. Why write a list if you're not going to cross items off?

Next, it was time to actually pack my suitcase. As you can see, I have a very pretty suitcase which my boyfriend's parents bought for me as a Christmas present. It has pink, purple and flowers on it. Three of my favourite things!

I then put everything methodically into the suitcase... I'm not sure why I always pack so neatly, everything always shifts to the bottom as soon as I stand the suitcase up and wheel it around. Ah well, at least it looks tidy in my head. There's loads of spare room in the case, which means more room to bring back some souvenirs. Woopee!

Lastly, I packed my hand luggage which is always my favourite part. Sweets, fully charged Kindle and iPod, travel information and passport in a little plastic wallet, and my American dollars. 

So I'm off to the Big Apple... speak to you all soon!

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Cineworld Unlimited Card

I am a massive advocate of Cineworld's Unlimited card. It costs £14.99 per month, and enables you to go to Cineworld as many times as you want to... as the name suggests. Once you've been an Unlimited member for a year, you get upgraded to Unlimited Premium for no extra cost. Being a Premium member means you get 25% off food and drink, and don't have to pay any extra to see films in 3D. Seeing as the cinema costs roughly £8.50 these days for one film, you only need to go twice to make your money back. I probably go to the cinema an average of five times every month, so I'm definitely getting my money's worth out of the card. Cineworld is my favourite cinema in Cardiff too, which is an extra bonus.

After I'd been a member for a year, Cineworld wrote to me and confirmed how much money I'd saved by using the Unlimited card... £168!! That's a lot of films. I know the direct debit comes out of my account every month, but I really feel as if my cinema visits are all totally free of charge. I especially appreciate the card on the last weekend before pay day, as it enables me to do something fun which doesn't cost me any money at the time!

I hardly ever buy food or drink at the cinema as it's super expensive even with the 25% discount, and there's a Tesco Express around the corner. However, the discount is handy if you're really desperate and haven't had time to take an emergency trip to Tesco.

My record for the number of films seen in a single month was last July, when I saw 8 films. Bargain! I've actually been to see a lot of films twice (Wreck-it Ralph, Ted, The Amazing Spiderman and Men in Black 3 are just a few examples). If I had to pay each time, it's unlikely that I'd go to see a film twice unless I really, really loved it. However, having the card means I'm perfectly happy to see a film two, three or even four times if I'm so inclined.

A few films I've seen recently

Does anyone else have a Cineworld Unlimited card? What's your record of most films seen in a month?

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Scarf fever...

When I was packing for New York earlier in the week, I made a discovery. I own a LOT of scarves. I have woolly scarves, silky scarves, cotton scarves, floaty scarves and scarves with bobbles on them. I have a huge range of colours too, so I'm pretty sure I have a scarf to go with every outfit. However, even though I clearly love buying scarves and do so quite often, I tend to wear the same two or three all the time which means I'm wasting all the others. So... from now on, my mission is to rotate the scarves to make sure I get some wear out of them all. Some of mine are really colourful, so they could brighten up some of my outfits too. It's all about the accessories! I was going to be super organised about it and write a list of which ones I've got and how often I wear them, but I thought that would be going a bit too far, even for me. 

Some of my scarves...

I can't really explain the appeal, but I just love scarves! Has anyone else accumulated a huge collection? 

Friday, 22 February 2013

10 favourite guilty pleasures

I do eat very healthily most of the time, but I do love crisps, chocolate and sweets. I make sure I don't stock any of these things in my flat, or I would actually be huge. If I don't buy them, I can do without them. However, if they're right in front of me, I find it very hard to resist.

Here are my top ten 'naughty' food items... Sorry to those of you who have given up nice things for Lent, you might want to stop reading at this point!

1. Haribo Tangfastics
I dread to think how many Tangfastics I've eaten in my lifetime. Best sweets ever, and you can guarantee people will buy me packets of these for my birthday and for Christmas because I love them so much.

2. Galaxy
Galaxy chocolate is amazing. Just plain Galaxy is fine, no need for any of their fancy varieties. Although I could really eat a Galaxy Caramel right now too, come to think of it.

3. Lindt truffles  
My mouth actually waters whenever I think of these. I love the original milk chocolate truffles, but the white truffles and the hazelnut ones are amazing too.

4. Texas BBQ Pringles
Although I've never kept the food guilt at bay long enough to try it, I'm pretty sure I could eat a whole tube of these by myself in one sitting. You know how it is... once you pop, you can't stop.

5. Haribo Jelly Babies 
These sweets are just immense. So much better than the Bassett's Jelly Babies! These are my sweets of choice for cinema trips.

6. Marshmallows 
I love pink and white marshmallows. I do always keep these in my flat, but I only ever use them to put in my hot chocolate. I've managed to be disciplined and I don't eat handfuls of them at once, although it's tempting sometimes!

7. Chocolate digestives 
Definitely my favourite biscuit of all time. It would certainly be dangerous if I ever bought a packet of these.

8. Twix
Yum. Just yum. I mostly love the biscuit bit in the middle, and also like the way it's split into two pieces so you can save the other half for later. If you can be that disciplined.

9. Fruit pastilles
These were always my favourite sweets as a child, and I still buy them occasionally if I need a sugar rush. The yellow ones are my favourites.

10. Kit Kat Chunky
I love the ordinary Kit Kat Chunky, but I usually just eat the normal version because it's fewer calories. I think Kit Kat chocolate is extra nice, and I love the wafer in the middle. Simple but gooood.

What are your favourite 'naughty' foods? I've made myself hungry now! Might eat a marshmallow...

Thursday, 21 February 2013

What's in my bag?

I've read lots of 'What's in my bag?' posts lately and thought I'd jump on the bandwagon. First of all, one thing you need to realise is that I love bags, so I always use a different one depending on what I'm wearing, how much I need to carry, or which mood I'm in. This means I have some essential items which I transfer from bag to bag on a regular basis. The contents of my bag aren't particularly girly if I'm honest, the items are more geared towards organisation than beauty. This won't surprise you too much, as I LOVE ORGANISATION. 

My essentials

Purse: I never leave the house without my purse, whether it's got money in it or not (it usually hasn't). I bought this purse from a Guess outlet in Florida at a very reasonable price, and I absolutely adore it.

Phone: My phone is one of my favourite things in the world, ever. Whenever I forget it or the battery dies while I'm out, I genuinely feel as if part of me is missing. Got to love the digital age.

Keys: Obviously I never leave the house without these, or I wouldn't be able to get back in. I love my little pink Converse keying!

Diary: I'd be totally lost without my diary. I write all my work meetings, appointments, college sessions, social occasions, holidays, birthdays and addresses in it, and genuinely enjoy keeping it up to date.

Book of lists: Yes, I have a notebook specifically for lists which goes everywhere with me. This book contains my monthly budgets, to do lists, shopping lists, lists of what to pack when I go away, and any other lists you can think of.

iPod: My boyfriend bought me an iPod Nano for Christmas, and it's definitely a handbag essential. I can plug it in to the tape deck in my car while I'm driving (yes, my car is old enough to have a tape deck), I listen to it in the gym, and also when I go for walks. And it's pink!

Soap and Glory Hand Food: The best hand cream ever. No really, it is. It's essential for keeping my hands moisturised when I'm out and about, and it smells amazing too!

Mirror: I always carry my little pink mirror around just to make sure my hair hasn't done a wobbly and to make sure I haven't got food on my face. Usually, people won't actually tell you if your hair is messy or you've got food on your face, then you feel like an idiot when you see yourself in the mirror after talking to them for an hour.

Paracetamol: You just never know when you might get a headache.

Pens: An obvious essential... My diary and book of lists wouldn't be very useful without one of these. And it doesn't hurt to carry a few spares!

What's in your bag?

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Restaurant review: Nando's

Nando's is definitely a regular favourite of mine. There are two Nando's restaurants in Cardiff city centre, and one in Cardiff Bay. My favourite is the restaurant in the Brewery Quarter in town, as the other two are always so busy. The one in St Davids 2 is also full of giggling teenagers and always has a massive queue, so we try to avoid that one. It is the biggest restaurant out of the three, but definitely not the most pleasant. In my opinion, the Brewery Quarter has a much nicer atmosphere than the food court at St Davids 2 too.

Last Saturday evening, we wanted something quick to eat before heading to the cinema and decided we were in the mood for some Nando's goodness. We went to the Brewery Quarter restaurant and were seated straight away without having to wait. Quite rare for a Saturday night in Cardiff!

I don't think I've ever sat at table number 1 before...

I'm not sure why I even look at the menu any more in Nando's as I always tend to have the same thing. I love their chicken wraps, I love their chips, I love their halloumi from the 'sides' menu and I love their lemon and herb sauce. Simples!

The food came really quickly, and the chips and halloumi were amazing as always. My wrap was very spicy this time for some reason though, a bit too much chilli jam I suspect I don't mind spicy food, but when I choose the lemon and herb sauce I don't expect much spice. The salad was also quite dry, so it wasn't the best wrap I've ever had. Still, it was a lovely and filling meal as usual.

Nando's feast

I'm yet to meet anyone who doesn't like a good Nando's meal from time to time... is there anybody out there who can prove me wrong?

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Valentine's surprise

I don't really do Valentine's Day. I'm of the opinion that you should do little things for people every day to show them that you love them, rather than splash out on one day every year. Myself and my boyfriend said we'd exchange cards, but wouldn't buy presents as we're going to New York next week. However, I wanted to do something nice and surprise him. Not because it was Valentine's Day, just because I wanted to make him smile. Cheesy, I know. Only problem was, I didn't have any spare money left before pay day. So what could I do?

When I won Rebecca's giveaway, I thought of the perfect surprise.
Heart shaped shortbread!

I made chocolate chip shortbread last month, so I already had all the 
ingredients and utensils I needed. 

So, last Friday evening, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work! In case you're wondering, my boyfriend lives in Shrewsbury so I didn't see him on Valentine's Day, I didn't just get the date wrong. I followed exactly the same process as last time, but rolled the dough out after chilling it in the fridge, rather than cutting into rounds as I did last time. I could then cut out the heart shapes with the cutter and put them on the baking trays.

The cutter in action!

The biscuits weren't quite as thick as I'd have liked because I rolled the dough too thinly as it was difficult to judge, but they still turned out really well and tasted delicious. We're supposed to be trying to be healthy at the moment so I kind of put a spoke in that wheel by making the shortbread, but you have to treat yourself sometimes!

The finished products

My boyfriend really appreciated the gesture, which shows that the little things are just as important as the big extravagant gestures. Now... what shall I bake next?

Monday, 18 February 2013

Bar/cafe review: Shot in the Dark

One of my favourite places to meet for a catch up is Shot in the Dark on City Road. It's a quirky little bar/cafe which serves food, hot drinks, smoothies and alcohol. I must have literally been there hundreds of times during my time in Cardiff. It really is that good. It has comfy seats, a relaxed atmosphere, and unusual photographs on the walls which always catch your attention. It also has a rustic quality to it, which adds to the cosy factor. I always feel as if I want to put on my slippers when I'm in there because I'm so relaxed... I haven't tried this yet though. It's the perfect place to meet your friend for a chat, go on a date or go out with a group of friends.

Old fashioned table and chairs, with a nice candle!

I've eaten a meal in Shot in the Dark on a few occasions and have always been amazed by the sheer volume of food! At first glance the menu is quite expensive, but when you see the portion sizes you don't begrudge paying for it. I would recommend their nachos and their chilli con carne, as well as the bread selection. They also do a lovely selection of cakes which are positioned right next to the till. I usually manage to resist, but I have given  in and bought a brownie a few times. They're usually the smallest cakes on offer, and at least they're easy to cut up and share with other people!

Look at the size on those muffins!

Although they make lovely cold drinks like smoothies, juices and milkshakes, my favourite thing about Shot in the Dark is their hot chocolate. You won't be surprised by that if you're a regular reader of my blog! Even with skimmed milk, their hot chocolate still tastes super creamy and chocolatey. You can also ask for various shots of syrup in your hot chocolate, such as hazelnut or gingerbread. Last time I went to Shot in the Dark, I was very good and didn't have any cream or marshmallows with my hot chocolate, and had it with skimmed milk. It was still amazing, so it didn't feel like too much of a sacrifice.

The healthy version of hot chocolate, if there's any such thing...

I'm sure I'll be visiting Shot in the Dark again soon, and maybe next time I'll actually have some spare funds to splash out and buy food. I'm already excited. 

What do other people think of Shot in the Dark? Let me know if you love it as much as I do!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The joys of being a red head

My hair causes me no end of grief. First of all, it's super curly and takes ages to straighten and de frizz. Secondly, it's orange. I refuse to use the 'g*nger word to describe it... those of you who have the same colour hair will understand why. Years of having that one word shouted/chanted at you in a derogative manner kind of puts you off it, funnily enough.

My natural colour (ish). I dye it every two months so have forgotten what 
my actual natural colour is! Definitely more orange than this...

Anyway... when I was about 20, I decided to start dyeing my hair. I used to dye it a dark brown at first, which didn't suit me because I'm very fair skinned and it made me look like a ghost. I then decided to just dye my hair bright red, in order to get rid of the 'orangeness' of it. I was happy with the finished effect, and have been dyeing my hair red ever since. I use Schwarzkopf Live Color XXL, and have never had any issues with it. Orange hair is notoriously difficult to dye so my hair never turns out as it looks on the box, but I'd probably have to bleach my hair in order to get that effect. And that's just not happening.

I always find this picture slightly freaky. Why would you want exactly the same
hair colour as your partner?

So, I decided last week that my roots were getting horrendous so it was time to get the dye out again. I always make a huge mess when dyeing my hair, even though I should have mastered the process by now. Red dye seems to be extra difficult to remove too, especially from your face, so I usually have light red patches on my face for a few days after the process. Delightful. 

Here's the finished result:

Excuse the flyaway bits, I desperately need a hair cut

I'm always very pleased with the final colour as it's vibrant, and definitely more red than orange. Result! It does still make me a red head though, but I'm attempting to embrace it. Can anyone recommend any other hair dyes, specifically for people of the orange haired variety?

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Wreck-it Ralph - Disney never disappoint!

I am a total Disney junkie. Naturally, I was very excited about seeing Wreck-it Ralph last weekend as it was widely described as being the best animated Disney film for years. I'm not a big fan of watching films in 3D, but the 2D showings were either too early or clashed with the France v Wales game, so we went to see the 3D showing at 8:30pm.

My ridiculous 3D glasses... so glad it's dark in the cinema

The 'short' at the beginning, a characteristic of Disney and Pixar films, was simple, cute and a little bit magical. I know that sounds cheesy, but I think it's actually apt when used to describe anything to do with Disney! I might be biased. 

I definitely wasn't disappointed by Wreck-it Ralph. The characterisation was great, the animation was amazing and the plot was very original. I've never played video games so probably didn't get all the hidden references, but I loved the references to Mario Kart as I did play that a few times (badly) in my university days. I can see why proper gamers would absolutely adore this film as it would probably bring back a whole host of childhood memories. I really warmed to Ralph as the 'bad guy' character, which is obviously the whole intention, and was rooting for him the whole way through the film. The Bad Anon scene was one of my favourite opening scenes, and I loved their motto: 'I am bad and that's good, I will never be good and that's not bad, there's no one I'd rather be than me.' Typical Disney affirmation there! I don't care if it's predictable, I love it. 

The film improved even further in the later scenes and I actually wanted to play Sugar Rush right there and then. King Candy and Vanellope von Schweetz were brilliant and vibrant characters, and the twist at the end was very clever. I didn't guess what it was because I was so absorbed in the film, so it came as a surprise. The film was funny, tense, sad and full of action... everything you'd expect from a Disney film. It was much more original than a lot of Disney films I've seen in recent years though, so I think it'll appeal to a larger audience and will enhance Disney's reputation even further. It also has a great soundtrack, which has been added to my Amazon wishlist.

I didn't think the 3D effects added anything to the film to be honest, but then I've never been a big fan of watching films in 3D so don't take my word for it. 

Disney are the Movie Kings!

Have you seen Wreck-it Ralph yet? What did you think?

Friday, 15 February 2013

More glitter!

I recently posted about my experiment with Barry M glitter nail varnish. I appear to have caught the glitter bug, and now I'm now wearing a totally different shade of glittery goodness. I had forgotten  one thing about glittery nail varnish though... it's an absolute nightmare to remove it so make sure you allow enough time, patience and cotton wool!

I wanted purple nails this time with some glitter, so I used these two shades:

Bright Purple and Silver Multi Glitter

I love this purple shade and use it very regularly, so it was nice to try a variation on the theme. I used the purple as a base coat, then painted the silver glitter polish on top.

The finished result!

I really love this shade, and it totally transforms the ordinary purple nail varnish into something a lot more sparkly and unique. The silver polish could also be worn by itself as it's very striking and won't always need a base coat. What combination shall I try next?

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Costa, Nero or Starbucks?

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll already know that I don't drink tea or coffee. However, I could be described as a bit of a hot chocolate fiend. My boyfriend is a big fan of coffee, so every weekend we usually go for a hot beverage in either Costa Coffee, Caffe Nero or, very occasionally, Starbucks. The hot chocolate in Starbucks is pretty good, but it's not spectacular so I don't really think it's worth the money. We also don't have a Starbucks loyalty card, and I always feel cheated if I'm not using some kind of loyalty card. I know I know, I'm a marketer's dream.

So... Caffe Nero or Costa Coffee? I think I prefer the hot chocolate in Costa, but their loyalty card is awful. We must have bought about 20 coffees and 20 hot chocolates before we had enough for two free drinks, and we'd had taken advantage of a few double points offers too! However, they do make a gooood hot chocolate. I usually have a medium hot chocolate with semi skimmed milk, and they put a nice chocolate pattern on the top for you.

Christmas hot chocolate

I did spoil myself when we were on holiday in Edinburgh and had a large hot chocolate in Costa with cream and marshmallows. It was amazing, but I did feel slightly sick after it. 

Pure chocolatey and creamy indulgence 

Caffe Nero is actually slightly cheaper than Costa, and their loyalty card is brilliant. You get a stamp every time you buy a drink, and you get your tenth drink free. Can't argue with that! Also, I prefer the Caffe Nero locations in Cardiff city centre to the Costa ones. Again, I usually get a hot chocolate without cream in an effort to be vaguely healthy, but I do splash out on special occasions. 

Birthday hot chocolate with cream

So, to sum up... I prefer Costa's hot chocolate, but Nero's loyalty system is irresistible. And I do love the little tiny chocolate drops they put on your hot chocolate, whether you have cream or not. 

Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Restaurant review: Red Hot World Buffet

When Red Hot World Buffet first opened in Cardiff, I would happily have gone there every week. It's seriously like a Food Heaven. It's an all-you-can-eat restaurant, and you can choose from the following cuisines: Italian, British, Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Mediterranean, and American. Obviously you can mix and match as much as you want to, and your starters, main courses and desserts are all included in the price. I'm not usually a fan of all-you-can-eat places as the food quite often isn't of a high quality, but in Red Hot World Buffet everything always tastes really good. The various tureens are constantly replenished, and there's a huge variety of choice for everyone. There's plenty for vegetarians to eat too, so no one should feel as if they have a limited choice.

The service is always good, and you can guarantee that your plate will be taken away as soon as you've finished your last bite. Staff can be quite slow to serve drinks and to bring the final bill, but I don't think this is a big issue as the restaurant is always busy so the staff are usually rushed off their feet.

I went to Red Hot World Buffet last Friday with some friends from work, and promised myself beforehand that I wouldn't eat loads. In an all-you-can-eat restaurant, I always feel tempted to literally eat all I can eat in order to get my money's worth. This results in feeling very sick and having food guilt for about three days. I'd like to think I was fairly disciplined on Friday... my first plate consisted of three different kinds of potatoes, 3 onion bhajees and a small naan bread. I didn't take a photo of the first plate as it looked very dull and brown/beige. However, rest assured that I did enjoy it, especially the onion bhajees.

My second plate - Chicken tikka masala, chips, biryani, noodles, 
mango chutney and an onion bhajee

The chicken tikka masala didn't taste as good as it looked unfortunately, but everything else was delightful. I could have gone for a third plate of mains after this one, but decided to be disciplined and head for the desserts instead. I secretly just wanted to save some extra room for desserts... there are actually two aisles full of desserts. They have loads of ice cream, waffles, pancakes, sweets, sauces, cakes, crumbles, mousses, fruit, pavlova, and a load of other things which escape my mind for the time being. It's just a sugary paradise. I'm a firm believer that there's always room for dessert, however much food you've eaten beforehand.

My dessert plate... Strawberry and toffee ice cream with chocolate sauce, Tiramisu, Bailey's mini cheesecake, mini pancake, carrot cake, lemon and strawberry symphony, and Eton Mess 

Before you judge me for having such a massive selection of desserts, I didn't like the Tiramisu, Bailey's cheesecake or the lemon and strawberry symphony, so I left those. You win some, you lose some. The ice cream was immense, as was the Eton Mess. The mini pancake and carrot cake were also very nice, but not out of the ordinary. 

After all that, I was definitely ready for a little food nap. However, I still had room to eat the fortune cookie we were given with our bill. Obviously. 

Opportunity is knocking at my front door, apparently

We did have a chuckle at one of the decorations in the restaurant, following the recent scandal.

Horsemeat, anyone?

What do other people think of Red Hot World Buffet? And how many plates have you managed to consume?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Organisation is the spice of (my) life

Being organised is a chore for some people. I, on the other hand, love being organised and find it very disconcerting if I feel as if my life is getting disorganised at any point. I love writing to-do lists and ticking items off, planning my meals a week in advance, putting my CDs and DVDs in alphabetical order, colour coding everything, and just generally organising every single little thing.

My friends know all about these habits, and Liz bought me the most amazing present for Christmas. It's a week-to-view planner where I can plan everything as far in advance as I want, and it has nice long columns so that I can write down every little thing! I was feeling extremely stressed last week as I've got much to do in the next fortnight, so I decided to sit down and get planning. I felt loads better after writing everything down and planning what I'm going to do each evening, as everything seemed more manageable and achievable when it was all written down and accounted for.

This list in progress

I actually look forward to getting all the relevant tasks done so that I can cross them off and feel a sense of achievement... I know I know, it's not the most riveting thing to get excited about. 

Can anyone recommend any other tools to keep organised? I've got a diary, book of lists, food planner and calendar, as well as the planner above, but I'm always looking for more!

Monday, 11 February 2013

Overcoming my fear of dogs

I never thought I'd say this, but I really like dogs. I was afraid of them for years and would avoid them at all costs, all because a big dog jumped up at me when I was younger, knocked me off my feet and gave me a large paw shaped bruise. To be fair to him, he was only being friendly and didn't mean any harm, but I didn't understand that at the time and it left me terrified of all dogs. I'd ask people if they had dogs before I went into their houses, and would sometimes have to ask if the dog could be put into a different room because I couldn't sit comfortably knowing that there was a dog in the same room as me. It sounds ridiculous now, but it was a very real fear at the time. I never had much contact with dogs when I was growing up, apart from my grandmother's dog Patch. I didn't mind Patch as he was old and gentle, but he was the only dog I could tolerate. Perhaps the fear would have subsided earlier if I'd have had more experience with dogs, but I went out of my way to avoid them.

When I first met my boyfriend in June 2011, he asked me if I liked animals as he had two dogs and a cat. I just said honestly that I was very afraid of dogs, but I was willing to give his dogs a chance as I'd heard so many good things about them. I was very nervous about meeting the dogs when I went to his house for the first time, but I needn't have worried. After meeting Tara and Homer, dogs didn't seem so scary any more. They are two of the nicest dogs you could ever meet, and they've helped me to see that dogs aren't terrifying beasts who jump up and bite people for no reason. They have a lovely nature, and I think the same could be said of most dogs if they're treated properly by their owners. I love the way they get excited when I walk in through the door, even if I've only been gone for ten minutes. I also love the way Homer jumps up on the sofa for a cwtch when he thinks no one's looking, and the way Tara puts out her paw if you stop stroking her. They're so loyal, and obviously love their owners to pieces.

Here are some photos of the dogs:

Homer sitting patiently waiting for the ball to be thrown

Tara's 'indoor face'

Homer having a cwtch

Tara after her hair cut. 'Why have you stopped stroking me?'

It actually feels quite liberating to have overcome my fear of dogs, and makes me feel as if I can overcome my other fears too if I try hard enough. Next fear I need to conquer... swimming with my head under the water! Watch this space. 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Glitter glitter glitter

As you'll have read in a recent blog post, I absolutely love nail varnish. I recently bought some new glittery Barry M nail varnish from Boots as it was on offer, and Barry M make the best nail varnish in the world. I haven't had glittery nails for ages, so I fancied a change. Rather than just using the glittery nail varnish, I decided to use a base coat too to add some more colour.

Aqua Glitter and Turquoise

I painted my nails with the Turquoise first, then painted the Aqua Glitter on top! Here's the finished result:

I've had the nail varnish on for three days now and it hasn't chipped at all yet. The picture doesn't really do the nails justice, as they're actually a lot more sparkly than they appear on the picture. I love them!

Can anyone recommend any other Barry M shades which I haven't tried yet?

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Cards and letters - will they ever go out of fashion?

I love sending and receiving cards and letters. Whether they're for a birthday, Christmas, congratulations, get well soon, or just a letter to say hello, I just think cards and letters are a lovely simple way to show someone that you're thinking of them. I know a lot of people don't send birthday/Christmas cards any more due to the popularity of E-cards, but I'll always remain old fashioned in this respect. I probably don't send as many random cards as I should, and this is definitely something I want to rectify this year. It always brightens up my day when I come home from work and find a letter from my mother or a card from a friend, and I'd like to have this effect on people more often.

I keep all the cards/letters I receive in this pretty box

These are some recent favourites 

I like using Moonpig for cards too, but sometimes I prefer the personal touch of actually writing a handwritten message inside. Do other people still send cards and letters, or do you think they've gone out of fashion?

Friday, 8 February 2013

Poached eggs on toast... my second staple meal!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my favourite staple meal which I always fall back on when I haven't got much money left or haven't been shopping for a while. My second favourite staple meal is poached eggs on toast... I seriously can't get enough of the stuff. I'd never even tried poached eggs until about a year ago, so it was a very happy day when my boyfriend introduced me to them and taught me how to make them. I now eat them regularly and have actually used 500ml of vinegar in the last three months, just on poaching eggs. I haven't got much protein in my diet as I don't eat a lot of meat, so eggs are good for me as well as being easy to cook after a long day.

I'm always pleased when I manage to make two perfect poached eggs

Poached eggs are probably the healthiest variety of egg too...  I know boiled eggs are healthy, but I can never peel the shell off properly so they irritate me and put me in a bad mood. I don't like it when my food is difficult to get at! 

Poached eggs are really easy to make. You fill a saucepan with boiling water and put some vinegar in, swirl the water around with a fork until you form a mini whirlpool, then crack your egg into the centre of the whirlpool. You only have to leave them for 3 or 4 minutes, depending on how runny you like your yolk to be. I used to be fussy about eating eggs with a runny yolk, but poached eggs on toast are definitely better when runny!

My favourite bit is bursting the yolk... yummers

So there's another simple meal for you to enjoy... I will learn to cook more complicated things soon, promise. 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Facebook v Twitter

I'm a bit of a social media geek, and would love to have more time to explore the vast range of social networking sites which are springing up all over the place. These are the sites I'm most familiar with and use most often:

- Twitter
- Facebook
- Pinterest
- Blogger
- LinkedIn
- Flickr
- YouTube

I use some of these in a personal capacity, some for work purposes, and some for both.

Twitter has to be my favourite, closely followed by Pinterest. Facebook is definitely lingering at the bottom of the list, whereas in 2007/08 I was totally obsessed with it. It actually took me a long time to get used to Twitter, whereas I became obsessed with Facebook straight away. However, once I got the hang of it and realised its appeal, I began to use Facebook less and less. So why is Twitter so much further up my list of social networking sites? In some ways it isn't a fair comparison as the two sites are largely used for different purposes, but I found that I lost interest in Facebook when I started using Twitter more. Most of my close friends are on Twitter too, and it's actually easier to communicate with them on there most of the time than it is on Facebook. Here are my reasons for preferring Twitter, please feel free to comment and disagree!

1. I consider Twitter to be much less intrusive than Facebook
My Facebook profile is totally private, to the point where you can't even find me in search results. However, I still feel very wary about sharing my information on there because Facebook keep changing their privacy settings and are increasingly becoming more commercialised and (probably) selling people's data. My Twitter profile is public so anyone can find me and follow me, and yet I embrace this openness. I obviously don't publish any of my personal information on there (such as date of birth, phone number, address) so I'm perfectly happy to share my tweets with the world, if people want to read them! Although I don't publish that information on Facebook either, I'm much more wary about who has access to my profile and my photos.

2. No petty arguments!
You don't tend to get the same level of arguments on Twitter as you do on Facebook, as the dynamics are totally different. If people do want to argue on Twitter, you can only see the tweets if you're following both profiles. Even then, the annoying tweets tend to get lost on your news feed as other people are tweeting at the same time. On Facebook, the arguments are there plainly for everyone to see, whether you're 'friends' with the other people involved in the argument or not. Why do people feel the need to argue on a social networking site? Sometimes these people actually live in the same house and are probably sitting in the same room! Talk to each other, people.

3. Twitter is a constant source of news and information
Major news stories are quite often broken on Twitter these days before they hit the news websites. People tweet live updates, tweet photos from the scene, and a lot of journalists also give their accounts via Twitter in the first instance. I never actually watch the news and rarely visit news websites. I don't need to, Twitter tells me everything I need to know! I've even passed a crime scene in the past, searched for the street name on Twitter, and found out exactly what's happened. I definitely never find out any real news from Facebook, apart from who got evicted from the Big Brother house or what the weather is like in Carmarthenshire. Obviously people tweet about these things too, but you still get some real news thrown in too as long as you're following the right people!

4. Hashtags!
Hashtags are a brilliant Twitter invention, and something Facebook will never be able to rival. You can find out who else is tweeting about a particular topic at any time, however random it might be. During big events such as the Six Nations, elections, awards and so on, you can follow the official event hashtag to find out what's going on. I quite often follow the hashtags for events without actually watching them on TV, it's just as informative and means I don't have to fiddle around with my TV aerial for hours. I can't see how this would ever work on Facebook, as it's more of a closed community in my opinion. Your content (in my case, anyway) is restricted to those who you choose to add as friends, so it doesn't give the same scope for discussion.

5. Connect with 'celebrities'
I put celebrities in inverted commas because I don't follow big celebrities such as Britney Spears or various Premier League footballers. However, I do like knowing what the Welsh rugby team are up to, so I follow a few of those. I also like following my favourite authors to get an insight into their daily lives and also to get updates on when their next books will be released. My favourite celebrity on Twitter is Tom from McFly, as you get a real insight into his personality from his tweets and he doesn't put on any airs or graces. You should definitely all follow him.

6. Sense of community 
Even though there are millions upon millions of Twitter users and tweets which can make it feel very vast, I still feel a sense of community when using Twitter. I follow a lot of people who I've never met in real life, yet I feel as if I know them and would probably get on with them straight away if we were ever to meet because we'd have some common ground. I don't get this sense of community from Facebook as it seems to be more self involved in some ways, rather than encouraging communication and discussion.

What do other people think? Which do you prefer?

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

I love gilets

I've been a bit obsessed with gilets for the last few months. They look really nice over a hoodie, can be worn with skirts or jeans, and are generally a useful addition to your wardrobe. So much so that I want to buy about ten of them in different styles and colours. I've managed to restrict myself to two... one navy and one cream. I bought them from New Look as they were reasonably priced and of a good quality.

Here's my navy one in action, which you can buy here:

You can't see it very clearly, but you get the idea.

And here's a clearer photo of the cream one, which you can buy here:

This is now in the sale, which is slightly annoying!

I used to think gilets were unflattering because some are very puffy, and I spent ages deliberating over various gilets before finally buying these two. However, I've now got over that paranoia and decided that the cream one doesn't make me look like a big snowman. If you think it does make me look like a big snowman, please don't tell me. 

I really want a pink gilet next... can anyone recommend a nice reasonable one?

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

20 insights into me!

As I'm new to the blogging scene, I thought I'd write 20 little known facts about myself so that readers can find out a bit more about me. People who know me in real life might already know some of these... feel free to carry on reading anyway, you might find out a few things you didn't know before!

1. I have a genuine fear of running on treadmills.
2. I was always left out of the folk dancing groups in primary school because I was too short. In a Welsh primary school, this is a big deal!
3. I would prefer to spend money on Disney DVDs than on heating.
4. I'm developing an obsession with scented candles.
5. My favourite childhood TV programme was Rupert the Bear.
6. I thought unicorns were real until about two years ago, probably as a result of fact 5.
7. I really really hate the way I sound on the phone and am convinced that I sound like a boy.
8. My dream job when I was younger was to be an authoress... I would still like to be an authoress but am a bit more realistic these days!
9. My hair is super curly, but I haven't gone outside with curly hair for about ten years. Yes, I spend a lot of time straightening it. No, I don't enjoy it.
10. I'm still a little bit scared of Santa Claus. Don't panic, I have been told that he's not real.
11. I once sprained my ankle really badly because I was running into the house with excitement to see... the new fridge freezer.
12. I can't ride a bike.
13. I always assume the worst. Always. It's a very tiring (and stressful) habit.
14. I used to think foals grew into ponies, then into donkeys, then into horses. I'm still not sure that I totally understand the difference between them all.
15. I've never lost a mark in a spelling test.
16. I had piano lessons for 13 years.
17. I've seen McFly seven times.
18. I own a crazy amount of teddies... I might blog about them one day.
19. I love brussel sprouts.
20. I used to regularly write to rugby players (often more than once) to tell them how much I admired them. I don't think I was considered threatening enough to be a real stalker.

So now you know a little bit more about me!

Monday, 4 February 2013

The Body Shop's blueberry body butter

I know I talk a lot about how much I love Soap & Glory, but I also really like products from The Body Shop. Unfortunately, my bank balance doesn't usually allow me to go shopping there very often. However, I was lucky enough to have some Body Shop products for Christmas from my boyfriend, so I thought I'd write a review about the one product I've used so far.

Blueberry body butter

It's actually really difficult to find a decent body butter which doesn't leave your skin feeling sticky for hours after you've applied it. This body butter does the trick! The consistency isn't as thick as other body butters I've tried, so it soaks in to your skin without the sticky greasy sensation. However, the smell stays around until the next time you have a shower, which is always what you want! The blueberry smell is amazing and actually makes me want to run out to the shop to buy some blueberries. I haven't done this yet, seeing as I always put my pyjamas on after applying body butter. 

This product costs £13, which is pretty steep (in my opinion). However, The Body Shop do have sales quite often so it's worth keeping an eye on their website. For example, at the moment their Chocolate and Strawberry range products are all half price!

What do other people think of The Body Shop's products? Too expensive? Or are they worth the price?

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Girly post #2... My love of nail varnish!

I haven't been seen without nail varnish on my nails since I was 14. This isn't an exaggeration. At first, I wasn't particularly interested in that kind of thing at all and just used to wear it to prevent me from biting them. This actually worked and cured me of the habit, and also encouraged me to become a little bit obsessed with painting my nails every different colour under the sun. I've gone through phases of painting every nail a different neon colour, painting each hand a different colour, using pastel shades and using glittery polishes. I can't get enough of the stuff. I gave my nail varnish drawer a good spring clean recently as I'd had some of the bottles for years, so I got rid of a lot of my old clogged up polishes. Here's my collection after my culling spree:

Still fairly extensive, although I'm sure some people have much bigger collections than this one. 

As you can see, my favourite nail varnish brand is Barry M, closely followed by No7. These two brands can last up to a week and usually only need one coat, unless you want your nails to be super colourful. I find that painting more than one coat makes the varnish chip more easily, so I only ever use one coat. Barry M nail varnish is £2.99 for the standard shades I've got in my collection, which is an absolute bargain. Their more fancy shades are £3.99, but I tend to prefer their standard range. No7 nail varnish is a lot more expensive, but I always use my Boots points and vouchers on them so that I don't have to pay the full price. 

These are my three favourites at the moment:

Barry M, No7 and New Look's own nail varnish brand

Here's a sample of what the middle one looks like when painted on:

So pretty!

The next shades I'd like to buy are a very deep purple colour, a silver glittery polish, and the most shocking pink shade I can find. Hurry up, pay day!

What's your favourite nail varnish brand?