Sunday, 31 January 2016

New thing every week in 2015 #4

Hello, and welcome to the fourth instalment of my 'new thing every week' series! You can read the first three posts here, here and here.

I did quite a bit of travelling during this section of 2015...

Week 31 (30 July - 5 August) - Visited Meifod to work at the National Eisteddfod. 

Week 32 (6-12 August) - Went to Clarks Village and found some epic bargains. 

Week 33 (13-19 August) - Went somewhere new for a hair cut... this has reminded me that I haven't had a hair cut for nearly six months!

Week 34 (20-26 August) - Went to London's Ice Bar and REALLY loved it. 

Week 35 (27 August - 2 September) - Celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a visit to Pettigrew Tea Rooms.

Week 36 (3-9 September) - Stayed at Walt Disney World's Port Orleans French Quarter resort in Florida.

Week 37 (10-16 September) - Ate in Narccoosse's at Walt Disney World's Grand Floridian resort (and had glowing cocktails!)

Week 38 (17-23 September) - Bought a chain strap watch, thanks to a Floridian bargain.

Week 39 (24 -30 September) - Went to the British Museum in London for a marketing conference.

Week 40 (1-7 October) - Ate (a lot) at ZaZaBazaar in Bristol during a weekend away with university friends.

I seem to have fitted a lot in between August and the beginning of October... find out what new things I got up to during the final weeks of 2015 in my next post. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

New thing every week in 2015 #3

I'm now on my third post of my 'new thing every week in 2015' series (you can read the first post here and the second post here). It's such a great way of remembering what I got up to last year, and I would definitely recommend it for 2016 if you're up for it. We're only a few weeks in to the year (believe it or not) so there's still time for you to get involved.

So what new things did I get up to between 20 May and 29 July? Let's find out...

Week 21 (20-26 May) - Had Neil's family over for Sunday lunch.  

Week 22 (27 May - 2 June) - Got told my post was at risk of redundancy (it turned out ok in the end, as you'll see in week 27!).

Week 23 (3-9 June) - Went to Tony's in Penarth for my 29th birthday meal. 

Week 24 (10-16 June) - Went to a Spin class on a Saturday. 

Week 25 (17-23 June) - Went to a conference in Merthyr Tydfil's Cyfarthfa Castle.

Week 26 (24-30 June) - Ate out at Signor Valentino in Cardiff Bay.

Week 27 (1-6 July) - Became a manager... the events of week 22 meant I had the opportunity to apply for a newly-created Communications Manager post!

Week 28 (7-13 July) - Managed my organisation's communications strategy for the UK budget announcement.

Week 29 (14-22 July) - Drove to Southampton in my new car to celebrate my nephew's first birthday. 

Week 30 (23-29 July) - Went to Penarth's Bar 44 for Sunday lunch. 

These ten weeks were a bit of an emotional rollercoaster but everything worked out in the end. I apparently ate my way through the stress, according to some of these entries... look out for the next instalment over the weekend! 

Monday, 25 January 2016

New thing every week in 2015 #2

After publishing my first 'new thing every week' post a few days ago, it's now time to look at the new things I did in the next ten weeks of 2015. I'm really enjoying putting this series together as it's reminding me of all the great times I had last year, so it's definitely something I want to continue in 2016. It's almost doubling up as a 'highlights of 2015' series!

So, here goes... the second ten weeks of 2015 were more photo heavy than the first ten so there's plenty for you to feast your eyes on. 

Week 11 (12-17 March) - Went to a housing rally in London.

Week 12 (18-24 March) - Went on a Bannatyne's spa day for Fee's hen weekend. 

Week 13 (25-31 March) - Celebrated our seven month wedding anniversary.

Week 14 (1-7 April) - Went to the Forest of Dean for Fee and Dave's wedding. 

Week 15 (8-14 April) - Tried Katsu curry at Wagamama... it was good.  

Week 16 (15-21 April) - Went for a walk around Cosmeston Country Park on my own. 

Week 17 (22-28 April) - Went on holiday to Amalfi.

Week 18 (29 April - 5 May) - Had a Limoncello Fever.

Week 19 (6-12 May) - Bought a hanging basket for the front of our house. 

Week 20 (13-19 May) - Had a make-your-own pizza from Asda.

Look out for the next instalment in a few days!

Friday, 22 January 2016

New thing every week in 2015 #1

I decided to unashamedly copy Liz at the beginning of last year by doing one new thing every week during 2015 (read Liz's first post here). There were admittedly times when I forgot to record something new for weeks on end which meant I had to rely on my Instagram updates to figure out what new things I did... this is why there are so many food entries!

I've split last year's 'new thing every week' posts into five instalments as I seem to be a big fan of splitting up my posts at the moment.

Here are the new things I did between 1 January and 11 March 2015... enjoy!

Week 1 (1-7 January) - Changed my name on my passport due to getting married in 2014.

Week 2 (8-14 January) - Fake Christmas with university friends in Milton Keynes for the first time.

Week 3 (15-21 January) - Started this challenge!

Week 4 (22-28 January) - Had a wisdom tooth out, hopefully for the first and last time. 

Week 5 (29 January - 4 February) - Bought a red bag (and a yellow purse). 

Week 6 (5-11 February) - Ate churros in this country during a visit to Chimichanga - I've only had them in Florida previously. 

Week 7 (12-18 February) - A bird did its business on my head... I didn't have much choice in this one, and I definitely haven't got a photo!

Week 8 (19-25 February) - Went to Wahaca.

Week 9 (26 February - 4 March) - Went to Llanerch Vineyard as a surprise for Neil's birthday. 

Week 10 (5-11 March) - Went to an engagement party.

So, as you can see, I ate a lot during the first quarter of 2015. The next ten weeks will follow in a few days! 

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Books I read in 2015 (part 2)

If you follow me on Twitter or Bloglovin, you might have read the first half of my 'Books I read in 2015' series over the weekend.

For those of you who haven't read it yet, I read 50 books in 2015 so I'm blogging about them and giving each book a one sentence review. So, without further ado, here are my summaries of books 26-50! Again, I've provided links to each book if you're interested in reading them.

26. Anne of Avonlea, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Another lovely and quaint story about a slightly wiser Anne, but nothing will ever beat the first book (see the last entry of my previous post)!

27. Anne of the Island, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anne goes off to college in this book which means a lot of the series' childish charm has disappeared by this point.

28. Anne of Windy Poplars, Lucy Maud Montgomery
The worst book of the series - a huge part of the book is made up of letter exchanges between Anne and her boyfriend which makes for a very slow and plodding narrative.

29. Anne's House of Dreams, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Back to form with a bang - Anne starts a family and the whole thing is beautiful!

30. Anne of Ingleside, Lucy Maud Montgomery
A hilarious book full of Anne's children's adventures, sorrows, joys and scrapes.

31. Rainbow Valley, Lucy Maud Montgomery
Another excellent book which introduces a whole new family and their trials and tribulations.

32. Rilla of Ingleside, Lucy Maud Montgomery
The most poignant book of the series which requires many tissues - Anne and her family live through the horrors of World War I and certainly don't emerge unscathed.

33. The Illegal Gardener, Sara Alexi 
Your heart is made of stone if the heartbreak and the desperately unjust juxtaposition depicted in this book fails to have a profound and lasting effect on you, particularly during the current political climate.

34. Dead Wrong, Helen Durrant
This book would have been absolutely amazing if a clumsy throwaway sentence in the middle of the book hadn't revealed the identity of the murderer!

35. Dead Silent, Helen Durrant
An enthralling book with a cliffhanger ending which means you just HAVE to download the next one.

36. Dead List, Helen Durrant
Although this was another gripping read throughout, the excitement petered out in the final chapters which contributed to a disappointing anticlimax.

37. Finding Emma, Steena Holmes
Not the type of book I'd usually read as it was quite sentimental, but I couldn't put it down until I reached the very tearful end.

38. What Katy Did, Susan Coolidge
A book I always intended to read when I was younger but never got around it... an easy read with lots of obligatory morals and lessons!

39. The Magpies, Mark Edwards
This book massively freaked me out by focusing on perfectly ordinary people in ordinary situations who turn into absolute monsters and life-wreckers... they could live next door to anyone!

40. Girl on a train, A.J.Waines
A slow start, but the characters in this book are cleverly and intricately woven to create a pretty shocking finale.

41. Lost Girls, Angela Marsons
Another grim encounter with DI Kim Stone which involves the abduction of two little girls, and yet another Marsons book you won't be able to put down!

42. The Girl in the Spider's Web, David Lagercrantz
I was disappointed by this book and didn't think it lived up to the original trilogy - a slightly confusing narrative which lacks Larsson's captivating writing style.

43. Dark Murder, Helen Durrant
A spin off to the original Durrant trilogy which doesn't disappoint - a whole new set of characters and their challenges who are arguably more interesting than the original cast!

44. Splinter the Silence, Val McDermid
Tony Hill and Carol Jordan reunite to solve a crime which hasn't even been uncovered yet... another blinder from the queen of crime fiction!

45. Christmas is Murder, Val McDermid
A short story collection which still manages to enthral in spite of the brevity of the stories.

46. Girl number one, Jane Holland
Just spectacular - most certainly one of the best and most addictive books I've read all year.

47. Miranda, Jane Holland
I was hoping for more of the same after reading Girl Number One, but Miranda is much more slow-paced, more philosophical and less appealing.

48. No Kiss Goodbye, Janelle Harris
This book blew me away and left me shell-shocked, questioning everything I thought I knew about the human mind and its complex emotions.

49. Little Girl Gone, Alexandra Burt
A journey into a mother's damaged subconsciousness where the reader cleverly finds out the next shocking development alongside the protagonist as she uncovers her buried memories.

50. Stranger Child, Rachel Abbott
What a book to end the year... I read this in a day and was absorbed by the plot twists, scandalous revelations and constant suspense.

I'm already on my third book in 2016... any recommendations?

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Books I read in 2015 (part 1)

I made it my mission to read 50 books in 2015, and I did it!

I thought I'd list the books I read on my blog as a way of keeping a record for myself, as well as recommending the best ones to my readers. I'm not going to write a review of each one as that would take too long, quite frankly, but I will treat you to a one sentence summary of my thoughts.

Here are the first 25 books I read in 2015... check back for the second half on Tuesday!

1. This book will save your life, A.M.Homes
I didn't particularly enjoy this one and couldn't get engrossed in it at all... not a good start to my reading material for the year, and it definitely wasn't life-saving!

2. Die Again, Tess Gerritsen 
I absolutely loved this latest Rizzoli and Isles story and was gripped the whole way through. 

3. Northanger Abbey, Val McDermid
I was disappointed by this book but, in fairness, it's not a traditional McDermid offering and I should have researched it more before purchasing (I blame Jane Austen).

4. The fault in our stars, John Green 
Irritating in parts, utterly heartbreaking throughout. 

5. Because she loves me, Mark Edwards 
Enthralling book which kept me guessing until the very end, and kept me up until 2:30am. 

6. Life Support, Tess Gerritsen
A great stand alone medical thriller from Tess Gerritsen - nail-biting as ever!

7. Alan Turing: the Enigma, Andrew Hodges
Although I was looking forward to this one after seeing The Imitation Game, it unfortunately focused too much on detailed mathematics and computer science and not on the man himself. 

8. Bloodstream, Tess Gerritsen 
The weakest Tess Gerritsen book I've read to date as it was a little predictable, but still better than your average crime novel. 

9. Travelling to Infinity, Jane Hawking 
A poignant and easy-to-read autobiography which I immediately had to buy after watching 'The Theory of Everything'. 

10. Forward Slash, Louise Voss and Mark Edwards 
The clever red herrings and well-managed suspense almost make up for the overly annoying main characters (almost). 

11. Silent Scream, Angela Marsons 
One of my finds of the year - fantastic characterisation, thought-provoking themes and a gripping plot. 

12. Unthinkable, Clyde Phillips 
Although this wasn't a bad read, the final outcome was very predictable which meant the last few chapters weren't as captivating as they could have been. 
Very different to the books I usually read - an interesting delve into European languages (including Welsh) and their origins. 

14. What you wish for, Mark Edwards 
This isn't a bad book, but I'm not interested in the extraterrestrial which meant I didn't enjoy it as much as Mark Edwards' other novels.

15. Fifty Shades of Grey, E L James
I thought I'd see what all the fuss was about, and I'm still wondering if I'm totally honest... very dull on the whole. 

16. Fifty Shades Darker, E L James
Although this one had a better plot than the first book, the characters, dialogue, terrible writing style and constant email exchanges were still extremely irritating. 

17. Fifty Shades Freed, E L James 
Possibly the most exasperating and repetitive book of the three. 

18. The girl with the dragon tattoo, Stieg Larsson 
I know I'm late to the party with this one, but it was well worth the wait!

19. The girl who played with fire, Stieg Larsson 
I loved learning more about Salander's background and I was totally gripped by this admirable sequel. 
An amazing tale of integrity, courage, determination and unforgivable corruption - probably my favourite book of the three. 

21. The Middle Child, Angela Marsons 
Very different to Silent Scream, but this one also had me on tenterhooks until the final distressing chapters. 

22. Evil Games, Angela Marsons 
The excellent sequel to 'Silent Scream' which continues to give an insight into the fascinating Detective Inspector Kim Stone, alongside a thrilling non-stop plot. 

23. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll 
I can't believe I didn't read this until 2015 - weirdly and inexplicably wonderful!

24. Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll 
This book was a little TOO weird, even for me. 

25. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery 
One of my favourite childhood novels which definitely hasn't lost its charm.

Have you read any of the books above? What were your favourite reads in 2015, and did you read any shockers? Look out for the second instalment in a few days!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Twelve posts of Christmas #12 - My Christmas presents to myself

It's finally time for my final 'Twelve posts of Christmas' instalment... time really does fly, doesn't it? I snapped up some great bargains in the Christmas sales this year so I thought I'd blog about my purchases, as well as including some special buys which I've been saving up for as a post-Christmas treat.

Before I go on, I apologise in advance for the dodgy quality of some of the photographs used in this post. This horrible weather means there's never any natural light to take decent photos! Such a blogger problem, and definitely a first world one too...

Anyway, without further ado, take a look at my post-Christmas buys below and let me know what you think. I've included links if items are still available.

I used my New Look gift card to buy these - absolute bargain (now sold out)!
They were originally £64.99 and, between discounts and my gift card,
I paid £22.00. 

A bottle of Guess for Women perfume from Amazon.
I'm a big fan of Guess perfumes!

A new leather jacket from New Look with a
lovely fur collar... £17.99 down from £49.99!

Three new dresses - a floral dress for work from New Look,
a party dress from New Look, and a casual dress from Animal.
I saved £37 in total on these dresses. 

A Pandora rose ring to go with my new watch - this one wasn't in the sale!

Some pretty rose gold jewellery from Debenhams which also goes with my new watch.
Find the bracelet here and the second pair of earrings here.

And last but not least, this adorable mug from the Disney Store!

I also bought a few new books for my Kindle with my gift voucher from Nicola... I've recently discovered Rachel Abbott and she's amazing!

A lot of the items above were on my 'want' list for a few months before Christmas, so I'm really pleased that I was able to either buy them in the sale or justify buying them at full price with my Christmas money/vouchers. 

Did you make any exciting purchases after Christmas? Please feel free to send me your links to similar posts!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Twelve posts of Christmas #11 - Christmas food

It won't surprise you to learn that I ate a lot over the festive period. I'm still eating a lot, but let's not dwell on that.

As well as all the usual Christmas snacks which suddenly become irresistible at this time of year, we were lucky enough to have five amazing meals over Christmas and New Year. I obviously have photographic evidence for all five, in preparation for this very blog post.

I'm not going to write a long explanation for these meals... the photos speak for themselves!

Christmas Day - Miller & Carter

Prosecco, hand rolled goat's cheese and walnut roulade, champagne sorbet,
turkey dinner, lemon tart, and a hot chocolate.

Boxing Day - my mother's dinner

Turkey AND chicken, and all the trimmings!

28th December - Neil's beef dinner

That gravy. Those roast potatoes. Those parsnips. YUM. 

New Year's Eve - Mint and Mustard

Taster menu:
Amuse Bouche;
Goan crab cake, water chestnut pattie, angara chicken tikka;
Champagne sorbet;
Guinea fowl kori gassi, mughlai lamb shank, dal panchratan, aloo katliya;
Berry parfait, almond halwa, pistachio kulfi

New Year's Day - my mother in law's dinner

Another beautiful turkey dinner with strawberry sorbet for dessert

Aaaaand I'll be going back to the gym tomorrow. Have you blogged about your Christmas meals? Please send me your links! 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Twelve posts of Christmas #10 - Christmas presents: gifts I can use

Welcome to the final instalment of my mini 'What I got for Christmas' series. I know 'gifts I can use' is a very generic heading, and I'm aware that I can use all the presents featured in my 'gifts I can wear' and 'gifts I can eat/drink' posts, but it's the only title I could think of to encompass all my remaining presents under one heading. I'm not entirely sure why I feel the need to justify my title... let's move on.

The aforementioned generic title means this is the biggest post of the lot, and it contains some humdingers!

A beautiful new jewellery box from my parents. It goes perfectly with
the colour scheme in our bedroom and holds a surprising amount. 

Neil bought me this pretty frame for our bedroom - blog post to follow on the
pretty photos we've chosen for it! Again, perfect for our bedroom colour scheme.

Two Disney Traditions figurines from Neil - Stitch and Thumper. 

Colouring books, colouring pencils and
a lovely notebook from my colleagues.

We had lots of joint presents for the kitchen from my parents in law, including this
Morphy Richards soup maker. I've heard lots of good things about this! 

A fajita warmer for the next time we have a Mexican feast!

My parents in law also bought us some amazing gifts from Denby.
I can't wait to use these!

And I definitely can't wait for our next fish and chip supper...
it'll be extremely instagrammable. 

I had some lovely Body Shop toiletries from Sian and
Neil - Mango, Papaya and Vineyard Peach.

I also had lots of Soap & Glory goodies from my parents in law and from Nicola.
They all smell so good! 

A cute Jack Russell cushion from Neil's auntie. 

An umbrella from my parents in law, cleverly disguised as a stylish wine bottle!

We had loads of DVDs between us from Neil's family and my
family - here are my favourites!

Afternoon tea voucher for Pettigrew Tea Rooms from Sarah and a New Look gift card
from my brother... the New Look gift card has (obviously) already been spent.

I hope you enjoyed my 'What I got for Christmas' posts - please leave your links in the comment box if you've written something similar!