Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Life without a smartphone

If you're following me on Twitter, you'll already know that my beautiful brand new BlackBerry Q10 conked out last weekend after trying to install a software update and has been sent off to be repaired. As a result, T-Mobile have given me an awful loan phone until I get my BlackBerry back. This could take up to 3 weeks. It's the most basic phone I've ever had, and literally just facilitates calls and texts. No camera, no internet, and the smallest screen I've ever seen.

The loan phone has one positive... I only have to charge it every 4 days whereas I had to charge my BlackBerry every night. This is most definitely the only positive, and is probably only saving me about 20p off my electric bill.

I'd seriously forgotten what it was like to live without a smartphone, so I'm missing my BlackBerry a lot and can't wait to get it back. I am aware that this post is very #firstworldproblems, but I'm sure most of you would feel the same if you found yourselves without a smartphone for a few weeks. Please correct me if I'm wrong!

Here are the ten things I miss most about my BlackBerry:

1. I can't just Google something whenever I feel like it. For someone who Googles everything under the sun (and I do mean EVERYTHING), this is sheer torture.

2. I can't take photographs of random views, food, shopping and so on. I love taking photographs and have made an extra special effort to take lots of photos this year so I'm really missing my phone camera, especially as the BlackBerry Q10 camera is of a very high quality.

3. I can't tweet when I'm out and about. I keep thinking of things I want to tweet, then remembering that I can't until I get home and go on my laptop. By the time I get to my laptop, I've forgotten what I wanted to tweet in the first place. As an avid tweeter who also likes to twitpic frequently, this is very difficult!

4. On a similar note, I can't check my personal emails until I get home and go on my laptop. On my BlackBerry, they'd be delivered straight to my phone like text messages. This usually means I have about 40 emails waiting for me by the time I get home and sometimes miss important messages.

5. I can't promote my blog as much as usual as I haven't got constant access to the internet or to Twitter, my main promotional tool. My blog views are suffering as a result!

6. This stupid basic phone doesn't automatically put apostrophes in for me, and it takes ages to put them in manually. For a grammar geek, this is no fun as I can't bear to leave them out! It also doesn't capitalise 'I' automatically. So irritating.

7. This basic phone arranges my text messages into 'inbox' and 'outbox', rather than displaying the text messages as conversations. So if someone sends me three questions in a text message, I can't just keep scrolling up to check what they were while I reply. How did I ever cope with this before?!

8. I have to use the standard ringtones that came with the phone... there aren't many of these and they're all rubbish and annoying. I miss having McFly as my ringtone! The same applies to the alarm tone... I can no longer wake up to Hakuna Matata.

9. I never go on my laptop over the weekend as I'm always out and about, so this means I'm left without internet access for an entire weekend. How am I supposed to catch up on anything? And no Twitter for a whole weekend? Seriously? The internet is like my oxygen...!

10. I miss my Twinkle countdown app. Now I have to manually count how many days are left until I go on holiday...

I can think of many more reasons why I miss my Blackberry and why this basic phone is so awful, but I think I should probably stop now before I bore you. Has anyone else been separated from their smartphone lately? Did you miss these ten things too? Share your pain!

Monday, 29 July 2013

Happiness is... #1

I saw the idea for this post on the lovely A Life of Geekery blog, where Vicki has listed 100 things which make her happy in two separate posts. I'm going to write about 50 things rather than 100 things... I'm not sure if I could come up with 100 things within a realistic timeframe! It's good to reflect on what makes you happy whenever life seems a bit rubbish, however small those things may seem, so this list should come in useful.

I decided to link each item to a relevant blog post if there was one... it turns out that I write a lot of blog posts about the things that make me happy! Isn't that what blogging should be all about? That's probably a separate blog post in itself.

So here are the first 25 things that make me happy, in no particular order...

1. Cwtches (or hugs, for those of who you aren't aware of this lovely Welsh word)
2. Listening to my Now That's What I Call Disney CD
3. Fresh bedding
4. Haribo Jelly Babies
5. Buying outfits for Duffy the Disney Bear
6. A good session in the gym
7. Proofreading
8. Joe's Ice Cream
9. Going on holiday to Florida
10. McFly
11. Sun
12. Buying a new diary
13. Painting my nails
14. Going for long walks
15. Friendly people
16. Pyjamas
17. Soap & Glory Peaches and Clean
18. Saving money
19. My Kindle
20. Watching a Disney film
21. Friday evenings
22. Barbecues
23. Watching Outnumbered
24. Ticking items off my to-do list
25. Welsh rugby Grand Slams

What makes you happy?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

I REALLY love flip flops

I never used to wear flip flops when I was younger. I preferred to be properly strapped in to chunky sandals so that they definitely couldn't fall off my feet or trip me up. What on earth was I thinking? These days, I absolutely love flip flops and want to buy every pair under the sun. Luckily, my bank balance doesn't allow me to do this. They're just so comfortable, and you can always find a reasonably priced pair to go with whatever outfit you're wearing. I'm not really a shoe person and don't have many pairs of actual normal shoes, but I'm building quite a hefty collection of flip flops.

My flip flops!

I've been able to wear flip flops non stop for the last three or four weeks as it's been so hot, and I've loved it. The basket I keep them in has been taken out of the store cupboard and put in pride of place in the living room so that I can rummage and find a matching pair every morning.

I also couldn't resist buying two new pairs this week from Debenhams and Accessorize... in my defence, I was having a bad few days and needed to cheer myself up! I love flip flops with a lot of detail on the straps, so these pairs were perfect. The pair from Debenhams matches my holiday bikini and will be perfect for the beach or casual shopping trips, and the pair from Accessorize is perfect for work or going out for dinner. Multi functional!

I've already chosen 9 pairs to take to Florida with another 2 possibles... I might have to be more ruthless with my shortlisting!

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Frantic about Florida #7

This is the seventh post in my Frantic about Florida series, and I'm definitely not running out of ideas yet! You can read all the previous posts in the series on the links below.

Frantic about Florida #1
Frantic about Florida #2
Frantic about Florida #3
Frantic about Florida #4
Frantic about Florida #5
Frantic about Florida #6

Here are yet another five things I'm looking forward to...

1. Fantasmic night show at Hollywood Studios

Amazing water and laser show, and a boat full of characters!

2. Epcot's Cooling Station

Free samples of fizzy drinks from across the world

3. Cheesecake Factory

Massive slices of cheesecake... they do amazing main courses too!

4. Sheikra at Busch Gardens

Extremely high rollercoaster... they leave you 
hanging at the top for what seems like forever!

5. Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom

Absolutely spectacular. 

Look out for the 8th instalment in a fortnight's time. It will almost certainly feature some kind of food item. I like recurring themes and I like food, what of it?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Top six autobiographies

I've read some great autobiographies lately so I thought I'd share my top six with you. I really love reading autobiographies by people I'm a big fan of as it gives me such an insight into their lives and how they got to where they are now. There's a big range here, so I'd be surprised if anyone else has read all six... if you have, you and I have remarkably similar tastes.

Lucky Man: A Memoir, by Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox begins his autobiography in a Florida hotel where he first noticed the early symptoms of Parkinson's disease. He then goes back to describe his childhood, early years as an actor and his rapid climb to worldwide fame when he starred in the Back to the Future trilogy. He then goes on to describe his diagnosis and subsequent battles with denial and depression, his acceptance of the disease and his activism in finding a cure for Parkinson's. I cried, smiled and laughed throughout this book and read reams of it in each sitting as it was so engaging. Fox explains how he is much happier now than in his pre-Parkinson's years and emphasises that, given the choice, he wouldn't change his diagnosis. I thought the autobiography was totally inspirational and it proves that it's possible to overcome massive life-changing challenges and to come out on the other side as a happier and a more secure person. Fox describes his symptoms in detail and explains how he hid them from the public for eight years before going public in 1999. His bravery and strength of character is amazing and I would highly recommend reading this autobiography.

Unsaid Things, by McFly
This autobiography is surprisingly deep and reveals hundreds of things I never knew about McFly... and believe me, I know a lot about them. Tom, Danny, Dougie and Harry take it in turns to describe their childhoods, teenage years and their journey towards become members of McFly. They talk freely about being bullied at school, taking drugs, trashing their first band house, partying with Lindsay Lohan, mental health issues and rehab experiences. It was interesting to read surprising things such as the fact that they hated the video for Five Colours in her Hair and that their latest album (Above the Noise) is their least favourite. Their close friendship shines through, as does their frustration with being dubbed as a typical 'boy band' even though they write all their own songs and play their own instruments. Judging by this book, it looks as if McFly will be making music for many years to come!

Life and Laughing: My Story, by Michael McIntyre
This book is spectacularly hilarious. I read it in two days, and actually cried with laughter at some points during the book. I love watching Michael McIntyre's stand up comedy, and his autobiography is just as good. I read this a few years ago now so I won't review it in detail, but you should definitely read it if you're a Michael McIntyre fan and want to laugh until you cry!

Ooh! What a Lovely Pair: Our Story, by Ant and Dec
I love everything about Ant and Dec, so I couldn't wait to get my hands on their autobiography. You'll be pleased to hear that it's just as funny as they are in person, and I could almost hear them telling the story in their own voices as I was reading. It's very fitting that they wrote a joint autobiography with intermixed narrative, seeing as they're so synonymous with each other. I often wonder if they'd have been half as successful as individuals? Probably (definitely) not. I would definitely recommend this autobiography if you're looking for a bit of sillyness! Is that even a word?

Raising the Dragon: A Clarion Call to Welsh Rugby, by Robert Jones
I've read loads of rugby autobiographies, but this is definitely my favourite. Robert Jones only had a few years of rugby left in him when I became a big Swansea fan, but I still remember him being one of the most genuine and gentlemanly players in the team, on and off the pitch. His autobiography is a candid reflection on his own career and the ups and downs of Welsh rugby during this time. Again, I read this autobiography years ago so won't write a detailed review, but you should add it to your wish list if you're a Welsh rugby fan and can still remember Robert Jones' days as the Welsh scrum half.

Gavin Henson: My Grand Slam Year
This autobiography is brilliantly controversial and is just typical of the Gavin Henson we've come to know and love. Well... the 'love' part might only be true in my case. He bitches about fellow players, criticises coaches and just generally offends nearly everyone who's mentioned. Gethin Jenkins and Brian O'Driscoll are notable examples! He also goes into great detail about his beauty regime which I thought was very amusing. I'm well aware that it was silly of him to write an autobiography after a year or two of fame, and to offend so many people in the process, but I still loved it. I actually bought this book at a signing where I got to meet the man himself. He greeted me with a casual 'Hey, what's going on?' I had no idea how to reply to this so I just grinned like an idiot and stared at his immaculate hair. Even if you're not a Henson fan (and let's face it, not many people are), I'm pretty sure you'll find his autobiography extremely chucklesome!

I also want to mention the worst autobiography I've ever read... My S**t Life so Far, by Frankie Boyle. I do enjoy some of Frankie Boyle's stand up comedy, so I was pretty disappointed by his book. It's not particularly funny and he just comes across as a grumpy and bitter man who doesn't even enjoy what he does half the time. I'm well aware that that's usually why his stand up routines are so funny, but it really doesn't come across well in written format. I'm sure plenty of people would enjoy it, and the bitterness was definitely supposed to add comedy value, but it didn't do it for me.

Can anyone recommend any other autobiographies for me? I love a good autobiography!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Monsters University

Disney films rock my socks. This is no secret, and you can read posts about my enthusiasm for Disney films here and here. Disney have released some excellent films during the last year (Frankenweenie, Brave and Wreck-it Ralph), so I was super excited about seeing Monsters University. I absolutely love Monsters Inc and thought it was a great idea to release a film about how Sulley and Mike Wazowski actually met and became friends, rather than making a sequel which might have had a samey plot to Monsters Inc.

I love Sulley, so my boyfriend bought me a Sulley teddy for Christmas last year. Imagine my excitement when I heard that Disney were releasing a Sulley costume for Duffy the Disney Bear! You're right, I was pretty excited. You probably can't imagine the true extent of my excitement though... When I saw the costume in the Disney store a few weeks ago, I absolutely had to buy it.

Sulley and Duffy!

I was originally going to take Sulley to the Monsters University screening (yes, I'm that sad), but after buying the Sulley costume I decided to take Duffy instead. Consequently, I rocked up at the cinema on Saturday afternoon with my Duffy teddy and had my photo taken in front of the Monsters University billboard. A little boy was having his photograph taken with his Sulley teddy before I went to pose for mine so I actually had to queue, but this didn't deter my enthusiasm. As you can tell, it was very sunny outside which impeded the quality of the photo somewhat. How inconvenient.

I'm not going to write an actual film review as I'm not very good at those and I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I absolutely loved Monsters University. The characterisation was great and the animation was amazing, as you'd expect from a Disney Pixar film. There were a few twists which I didn't see coming at all, which again disproves the argument that Disney films are horribly predictable! The young Mike Wazowski was adorable, and there were some clever links between Monsters University and Monsters Inc. Squishy was probably my favourite character apart from the main two protagonists... I wanted to pick him up and give him a squishy squeeze. His mum is also a brilliantly humorous character, and the film is worth watching just for her!

Duffy at the cinema

I'm already excited about the next two Disney films coming out in the next two months... The Lone Ranger and Planes. Keep them coming, Disney! Has anyone else seen Monsters University? What did you think?

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Cardiff International Food and Drink Festival

I've been living in Cardiff for 9 years, but I've never been to the annual International Food and Drink Festival in Cardiff Bay. When we heard that it was running from 12th to 14th July this year, we decided to find out what it was all about. It was a baking hot day and the Bay was absolutely heaving with people. Cardiff Bay is a beautiful setting for events like this. People must have flocked there in their thousands over the course of the weekend... the combination of food, drink, music and sun was obviously too tempting to miss.

There was a great band from Swansea playing at the festival on Saturday afternoon, and there was a real carnival atmosphere. There was a huge food court selling all kinds of different cuisines, along with masses of stalls selling everything from cheese to cider to doughnuts to sausages. As you can imagine, the various smells wafting over from different stalls were enough to make anyone spend money on at least one thing!

We were starving by the time we got to the festival, so we decided to try a Venison Easy Cheese Burger. I've never tried venison before and part of me felt as if I was eating Bambi, but it tasted amazing. You just can't beat a good chunky burger smothered in onions and ketchup.

We then went to find some ice cream for dessert... there were about 7 different stalls to choose from! We went for Rowlestone Farmhouse Ice Cream in the end as that had the shortest queue, and I chose the Hazelnut ice cream. It was very tasty and creamy, definitely in my top 5 favourite ice creams. Not quite as good as the ice cream at the Magic Kingdom or Joe's Ice Cream, but not far off! That is excellent praise, believe me. I also loved the poster they had on their fridge (see below). So true... ice cream is amazing! If I had a freezer in my flat, I'd eat ice cream every day. This is why I don't have a freezer.

When I saw a stall called The Fudge Box, I just had to go in there to see what was on offer. I'm a little bit obsessed with fudge and love trying all the different flavours. I don't eat it very often seeing as it's horrendously unhealthy, but I thought I'd treat myself to a 200g box of four different flavours for £3.80 as they all looked so tempting. I chose Vanilla Surprise, Mint Chocolate, Maple and Pecan, and Chocolate Orange after a lot of indecisive agonising. I know it's only fudge, but it was an important decision. I can confirm that all the flavours were scrumptious, especially the Chocolate Orange, and that myself and my boyfriend demolished the contents of the box within 24 hours. It would have been rude not to.

We saw a fantastic selection of cheese at the festival, and my boyfriend couldn't resist buying a block of cheese from the Teifi stall. He chose the onion and garlic cheese as he loved the taste of the sample piece he tried. I'm not a big fan of cheese, but even I could tell that it was good stuff. I was quite tempted by the Sweet Pepper cheese but couldn't justify buying such a massive block seeing as I live by myself and don't actually eat a lot of cheese. Two good reasons to leave my purse in my bag at a cheese stall. 

If I wasn't being so careful (or obsessed, whatever you want to call it) about eating healthily and exercising at the moment, I would definitely have bought many more unhealthy items at the food festival. I was massively tempted by the selection of chocolate brownies on offer on the Devilishly Good Brownie stall, but managed to drag myself away and tell myself that I was saving money as well as saving my waistline.

Look how good they look!

We've decided that we'll try to have a proper day out at the food festival next year, especially if it's as sunny as it was last weekend. I might even try eating a different animal next year... who knows! Did anyone else go to the food festival? What did you buy?

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Summer bargains

You all probably know by now that I'm off to Florida in September. I've lost weight and gone down a clothes size or two since I went last April, so I needed to buy a brand new holiday wardrobe ready for this year's trip. I love it when I have an actual legitimate excuse to go shopping. especially if it's because most of my clothes are too big for me!

I've been purchasing items steadily since the beginning of the year rather than buying them all at once just before going away. This means I get to spread the expense between a few pay packets and I can also keep an eye out for spontaneous bargains. I've trawled a lot of internet sites and charity shops... I love a bargain.

I think I've nearly finished shopping for holiday clothes now, and I've managed to do it pretty cheaply considering I had to re-buy nearly everything. I thought I'd share some of my favourite new summer clothes with you in this post, and I've provided links to the items where I can and where the items are still available. Enjoy!


£14 from Primark

£13 from New Look

£5 from Primark


See previous blog post for details

£23.60 in the Debenhams sale. See my Duffy the Disney Bear 
blog post if you want to know why I'm holding a bear!


Absolute bargain from Play at £6.99 each. I'd have paid over £30 
if I'd have bought these from a proper surf shop!


£3 from a charity shop, originally from New Look


£3 each from Peacocks. These are a lovely fit, even if they do look creased!


Trainers - £6.99 from Primark
White flip flops - £4 from Tesco
Blue flip flops - £3 from Tesco


In the sale in Debenhams. Got to love Mantaray!


Minnie Mouse sunglasses case - £3.75 in the Disney Store sale
Sunglasses - £4 in a random shop in Cardiff's Queen's Arcade
Black bag - £2 in a charity shop
White bag - £5 from Tesco

Spread over seven months, I've managed to buy a new holiday wardrobe without breaking the bank. I've even managed to wear some of these clothes in this country in the last few weeks as it's been so hot. Bonus! 

Has anyone else been shopping for summer clothes? Any last minute bargain ideas for me?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Day out in Shrewsbury

My boyfriend has been living in Shrewsbury for the last year due to unforeseen circumstances, but we haven't had much of an opportunity to explore the area as he comes back to Cardiff every weekend. He'll  be moving back home shortly (yay!) so we wanted one last chance to have a wander around the lovely area. Last Thursday evening, I travelled up to Shrewsbury on the train so that we could spend some time there before heading back to Cardiff on Friday evening. The train journey took just under two hours so I amused myself by listening to my iPod and reading McFly's brilliant autobiography. I passed some fantastically comical place names on the way... I think my favourite was Woofferton.

Shrewsbury is a quiet and pretty town with nice views, plenty of shops and lots of places to eat. Perfect! We walked into town in blazing sunshine after having breakfast on Friday morning. It's so nice to go out in a vest, skirt, flip flops and sunglasses without having to worry about getting cold or rained on. Long may it last...!

There are some lovely houses in Shrewsbury! House envy...

Lovely view from the bridge into town

The town itself is filled with a mixture of independent shops, vintage stores, charity shops, coffee shops and the usual chain stores. It's all pretty hilly, so walking into town in the heat was good exercise and helped to burn off some calories from our rather large breakfast. 

One hill!

Lovely building in the centre of town

Market stalls!

Selections of jams at one market stall... I loved the display.

My favourite shop in Shrewsbury is definitely Mollie's sweet shop. It's full of every kind of sweet thing you can think of... retro penny sweets, huge assortment of fudge and chocolates, American sweets, ice cream, sherbet, lollipops, Slush Puppy, nuts, and a whole lot more. I would definitely recommend popping into Mollie's if you're ever in Shrewsbury for the day. The pick'n'mix was 80p per 100g (I think), so not as extortionate as a lot of other places. Definitely not as expensive as cinema pick'n'mix, and there's a lot more variety too.

My bag of Pick'n'Mix!

I also found a lovely dress for £3.95 in a charity shop, which I'll be blogging about in a separate post on my recent charity shop finds. 

Has anyone else visited Shrewsbury recently? Did you go to Mollie's? I'd definitely like to repeat the experience one day!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Hot chocolate, marshmallows and flowers solve everything!

You know when you just have 'one of those days'? This happened to me very recently. EVERYTHING seemed to go wrong. My day started with an awful night's sleep and a very bad hair day and ended with a wasted trip to the travel kiosk in Tesco and with someone parking in my designated residents' space, with a super busy day in between. These might all sound like little things, but they all built up into massive things in my frazzled mind until I was ready to throw something at someone, or at myself. I just kept thinking 'Why me???' in a very self pitying manner. However, my boyfriend saved the day with the lovely presents below :)

Beautiful flowers

Hot chocolate, marshmallows and a mug!

My love for hot chocolate is well documented, and I genuinely look forward to having a hot chocolate in the evening with three marshmallows for a treat. I live a simple life, obviously. I also love having flowers in my living room window to brighten up my flat, and these flowers match the photo frames Neil bought me for my birthday. These really were the perfect presents to cheer me up, especially because a lot of thought went into them. 

So perhaps hot chocolate, marshmallows and flowers don't solve everything, but they do go some way towards improving your mood when you have 'one of those days'!

Monday, 8 July 2013

Frantic about Florida #6

Time for the sixth post in my Frantic about Florida series... I'm getting more excited every day! You can read the previous posts in the series by clicking on the links below. Just a reminder, the photographs were all taken when I went on holiday to Florida last April.

Frantic about Florida #1
Frantic about Florida #2
Frantic about Florida #3
Frantic about Florida #4
Frantic about Florida #5

Food appears to be a constant theme in all these posts. I would expect nothing less!

On that note, here are five more things I'm looking forward to:

1. Pizza in Via Napoli (Epcot)

Possibly the best pizza I've ever eaten in my life. 

2. Space Mountain at The Magic Kingdom 

Not really a thrill ride, but still one of my favourites!

3. Honeydukes in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Sells ALL the sweets and chocolates mentioned in the books!

4. The dolphin show in Sea World

Absolutely captivating. I'm also very proud of this photograph...

5. Meerkats in Animal Kingdom 

So cute! And very suspicious.

Did anyone else enjoy these attractions as much as I did? Have you ever seen a pizza quite like the one from Via Napoli...? Look out for #7 in a fortnight's time!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

The travelling bug

After travelling to New York earlier this year and planning for our second trip to Florida in September, I've become a bit obsessed with travelling and going on holiday. I'm already thinking about potential holiday destinations for next year, and Italy is very high on my wish list. I found the travel questions below on Luchesse's blog so I decided to give them a go as I'm so interested in travelling at the moment. I'm definitely not as well travelled as some (I didn't even get a passport until I was 21!), but I'm hoping to rectify this in the next few years. So here goes...

1. Which airport would you like to never see again?

I've never been to a terrible airport... I assume I'm very lucky in this respect! I wasn't a big fan of JFK airport in New York as I thought it would be much more impressive. It was also pretty stressful trying to find out where we needed to be at different times, but this could have just been because of the sheer size of the place. I'll be visiting Orlando airport in September for the first time (we flew to Sanford this year), so hopefully that'll be a continuation of my good experience with airports!

2. What is your travel nightmare?

Being told that my hold luggage has been taken to a completely different country and that it'll take days for me to get it back, or that I won't get it back at all. This would totally stress me out and would probably spoil my holiday, even though I assume I'd be compensated. The other nightmare would be massive delays... we experienced a 7 hour delay last October when we flew to Edinburgh from Bristol, and it wasn't pleasant!

3. Would your rather stay in a fancy hotel and do less activities or stay in a hostel and do more activities?

I'd prefer to go for something in the middle. For example, when we visit Edinburgh, we always stay in the Premier Inn which is very reasonable. It's always nice to stay in a fancy hotel, but I'd prefer to have enough money left over for food, attractions and souvenirs. I stayed in a hostel once and didn't have a great experience, so I wouldn't do it again.

4. Do you have any pre-travel rituals?

I absolutely have to write a list of what I need to pack. The list is divided into hand luggage and hold luggage, and items are neatly crossed off as I pack them. How on earth do people pack without a list?! I also have to clean my house/flat from top to bottom before I go on holiday. No one wants to come back to a messy home after travelling!

5. What is your favourite airline to fly with?

I've only ever flown with Flybe, EasyJet, British Airways and Thompson so haven't got much experience with a variety of airlines. British Airways has to be the best out of those four, and EasyJet is definitely the worst. They were the cause of aforementioned 7 hour delay... enough said.

6. If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I really really want to go to California. It even has a Disneyland!

7. How do you survive long haul flights?

I take a book or two, plenty of sweets, and a bottle of water. I don't tend to sleep much, so I amuse myself by reading or trying to watch a film. However, I'm yet to watch an entire film on a flight. I mostly spend the whole time wondering when my next meal will be arriving!

8. What is your favourite stamp in your passport and why?

Probably the one I had when I went to Florida last year, as it was the best holiday I've ever had.

9. What are your top 3 necessary items for travel?

a) Comfortable shoes! I love seeing lots of different places when I go on holiday, which usually means lots of walking. I definitely don't enjoy sitting on a beach all day.
b) My camera. Everything must be photographed. EVERYTHING. 
c) My hair straighteners. An everyday essential!

10. What's your favourite holiday photograph of all time? (I added this question myself, I don't like odd numbers!)

Taken from the top of the Empire State Building. I'm so proud of this photo!

Has any one else caught the travelling bug? Please leave me a link to your answers if you decide to tackle these questions :)

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

30 before 30 - Update

I posted my 30 before 30 list last August, so I thought I'd revisit it to update my progress. I hadn't made much progress at all when I posted my last update in December, mainly due to being so busy, but I've done a lot better in the last few months. Considering I've still got nearly three years left until I hit the big 30, I'm pretty pleased with my progress so far.

1. Learn to swim
2. Go to Harry Potter World
3. Visit a country outside Europe
4. Live on my own
5. Do a Marketing course

6. Learn to cook 10 things that are a bit more complicated than pasta and pesto. I've actually done really well on this one in the last few months... my favourites include chicken and chorizo fajitas and chilli con carne.
7. Visit Wimbledon - No progress here yet... maybe one for 2015. I suspect that 2014 will be too busy/expensive!
8. Become an expert on 5 different social networking sites - I'm now very confident on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Blogger and LinkedIn. My next conquests will be YouTube and Instagram!
9. Get a pet - I can't do this one yet as I live in a rented flat.
10. Climb Snowdon - No... I have climbed Pen y Fan though. Might be a good challenge for next year.
11. Run on a treadmill  Finally! Unfortunately, it was nearly as bad as I imagined so I don't do it very often.
12. Go for a month without eating crisps - I haven't been keeping track and I definitely don't eat crisps very often any more, but I don't think I've gone longer than 3 weeks without any crisps at all.
13. Learn more about politics - I still need to do a lot more work this one.
14. Have a personal training session - No... still too scared.
15. Go to a Welsh game at one Six Nations venue that I haven't been to before - I really want to see Italy v Wales in Rome in 2015. We'll see!
16. Collect 15 Classic Disney DVDs I have 23 now! Thanks, Disney Movie Rewards.
17. Reach 500 followers on Twitter - No... nearly halfway there though.
18. See a musical in London/another city that isn't Cardiff - Still haven't had the time or the money to do this one.
19. Post regularly on my blog  I've been managing to post an average of three or four posts per week which I'm very pleased with :)
20. Join a book group - No progress on this one yet.
21. Do more creative writing - Haven't done this yet, but I have a few ideas.
22. Study another Psychology module - Haven't done this yet as I've only just finished my marketing course and want a short break!
23. Sample at least 10 new authors   I've sampled even more new authors since having my Kindle... current favourites include Jeff Miller and Chris Ewan.
24. Try 10 new types of food - I don't think I've completed this one... must start keeping track of all the new foods I try. I had calzone for the first time quite recently, does that count as a new food?
25. Visit somewhere in Italy - No, but hoping to pencil something in for 2014. I'm pinning a lot on 2014...
26. Use Pinterest/other Internet sites to learn how to make 5 new craft type things - No progress on this one.
27. Make a slightly different fruit smoothie every week - I haven't made any smoothies at all... fruit is so expensive!
28. Do more freelance proofreading and advertise my services more widely - I haven't had enough free time to do this... sadly, I'm not sure if I ever will.
29. Try another 10 Soap and Glory products  This one was an easy one to complete. My favourite is currently the Sugar Crush body scrub.
30. Learn more about criminology, definition of crime and the criminal, etc - I started to get interested in this in university but haven't really explored it further since then.- I've read a few news articles on this recently, but haven't looked into it in detail.

12 out of 30... not bad!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Restaurant review: Frankie and Benny's

My first two experiences of eating at Frankie and Benny's weren't particularly positive. On the first occasion I ordered the Chicken Carbonara Bake which was way too creamy for my liking so I couldn't eat much of it. On the second occasion, I had a burger which was pretty good. However, I started to feel ill about 8 hours later and consequently spent all night throwing up. I think it's doubtful that the food actually made me ill as I ate half a packet of Pringles a couple of hours before I started feeling dodgy, but it did put me off going back to Frankie and Benny's for a while.

After visiting Frankie and Benny's a few weeks ago for the first time since the throwing up incident and having a lovely meal, myself and my boyfriend decided to go there for our anniversary meal. I live within walking distance of the Frankie and Benny's restaurant in Cardiff, so it's pretty convenient. They also provide a great specials menu from Sunday to Friday with 2 courses for £10.95 or 3 courses for £12.20. Considering that some of their main courses alone cost over £12, this is a bargain.

The specials menu is fairly limited compared to their full menu, but there's still plenty of choice for everyone in my humble opinion. There's actually too much choice for me, even though I have to steer well clear of anything which contains their philly cheese sauce. I also always avoid their Carbonara after my first negative experience of Frankie and Benny's. I chose the BBQ pulled pork potato skins for my starter, the BBQ Burger for my main and the Mint Choc Waffle for my dessert. 

BBQ pulled pork potato skins

I love potato skins at the best of times, and these definitely didn't disappoint. The skins were the perfect level of crispy, and the pork was tender and tasty. The cheese on top finished them off nicely, and the BBQ flavour was an excellent addition. Thumbs up for the starter!

BBQ Burger

As you can see, the burger was pretty big and smothered in BBQ sauce, salad and bacon. The burger itself was quite disappointing as the consistency wasn't great. It tasted processed and watery in parts, so I didn't eat the whole thing. However, the toasted sesame bun, bacon and BBQ sauce were lovely so I polished all those off. The chips were also delicious and just the way I like them, as I would expect in this type of restaurant. So apart from the burger itself, the main course also got a thumbs up.

Mint Choc Waffle

The dessert was definitely my highlight of the meal. The waffle was warm and flavoured with cinnamon, topped with mint chocolate chip ice cream, warm chocolate fudge sauce and chocolate honeycomb. The ice cream was good quality ice cream... I know good quality ice cream when I taste it, believe me. Although the chocolate fudge sauce was very rich, it had been used sparingly so that it didn't overpower the rest of the dessert. The chocolate honeycomb pieces were really tasty too and worked well with the mint choc chip ice cream. I would probably have chosen vanilla ice cream for this dessert if I had a choice,  but the mint choc chip really works. Massive round of applause for the dessert!

Frankie and Benny's has a nice family-friendly atmosphere, although it can be noisy at times when the staff sing happy birthday to the birthday guests in a T.G.I.Friday's style. They also don't sell refillable soft drinks, which is disappointing and fairly unusual for an American-style restaurant chain these days. However, on the whole, my latest experience at Frankie and Benny's was definitely a satisfying one. 

So, it's safe to say that my phobia of Frankie and Benny's has been eradicated after my two initial bad experiences. However, I won't be ordering a burger there again!

Has anyone else had as many 'hit' and 'miss' experiences at Frankie and Benny's as I have? Have you tried their bargain specials menu?