Monday, 29 February 2016

Planning for Toronto!

We recently decided on the location for our next holiday. Drum roll... we're off to Toronto!

We've both had a week booked off in March for months but couldn't decide on where to go... we're both a bit indecisive when it comes to booking holidays which aren't Disney related. After a lot of research and number crunching, we decided to go to Toronto as it's somewhere Neil has wanted to go for years and a few of our friends have been in recent years and really loved it. We've heard that it's a friendlier version of New York which sounds pretty perfect to me.

We're jetting off  in just under two weeks so we're busy booking attractions and planning ahead. I'm also obsessing over the advanced weather forecast... one of my rather annoying customs every time we leave the house for longer than a day.

I've even started a Pinterest board which is clearly where every holiday planning strategy should start.

Find this image on Pinterest here

So, after our initial research, here are the top ten things we want to visit in Toronto:

1.Niagara Falls
This is an obvious one and I'm ridiculously excited about seeing this amazing spectacle! I'm fully expecting my camera battery to give up the ghost on this day trip.

2. CN Tower
I love beautiful views so I'm really looking forward to our visit to this iconic landmark. We've also booked a meal in the revolving restaurant at the top of the tower which promises to be an amazing experience.

3. Casa Loma 
This place looks beautifully elegant and stately. I'm particularly excited about seeing it as the Canadian section in Walt Disney World's Epcot is modelled on it. I feel as if I'm fairly well acquainted with it already!

4. Union Station
I love a good bustling train station. Union Station is Toronto's main railway station as well as one of the city's premier architectural landmarks. If it's anything like New York's Grand Central Station, I'm guaranteed to be impressed.

5. Toronto Island Park
I'm not sure if we'll get the chance to visit this area as it'll most likely need an entire day. However, I'm really hoping we can fit it in as it boasts a spectacular view of the Toronto skyline as well as being a tranquil escape from the city.

6. St. Lawrence Market
What better place to find local delicacies? Let's face it, it wouldn't be a proper holiday for me and Neil if we didn't seek out the best local food and drink.

7. Royal Ontario Museum
I love visiting museums at our various holiday locations as they give you such a sense of culture and history, and I'm sure this one won't disappoint.

8. Toronto Zoo
Again, we might not have time to visit this one as it's quite a way out from the centre of Toronto, but it's definitely a solid 'maybe'.

9. Distillery Historic District
This one has made the list as it's apparently the best place to go for quality ice cream... never mind the beer! And yes, I fully intend to eat ice cream in freezing temperatures.

Enough said.

Have we missed anything off our list? Let me know if you've been to Toronto and think we need to add something else to our itinerary.

12 days to go!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Disney Book

I bought myself The Disney Book on Amazon a few weeks ago after a serious case of Instagram envy... it was bound to happen when I follow so many fellow Disney addicts. Although I already knew the book would be of an excellent quality like all things Disney, I was seriously impressed when it arrived. It's a chunky book (I definitely don't advise packing it in your suitcase for your next holiday), and I absolutely love the front cover. A visual summary of Disney magic!

My new treasure is a beautifully presented hard cover book which achieves more than I ever thought it could. It starts with a timeline of key Disney milestones which includes every Disney film ever made and iconic events. The book also contains an in-depth description of the origin, conception, characterisation and filming processes for lots of highly celebrated classics, including my beloved Jungle Book and 101 Dalmatians. 

The book goes into a lot of detail about Disney's live action adventures as well as its many animated triumphs, and you get a real insight into Walt Disney himself and his hopes and dreams. I'd never realised how closely he was involved with the nitty-gritty of the different filming processes before reading this book... if I could go out for dinner with anyone (dead or alive), it would be Walt Disney! 

The book also describes all the Disney theme parks across the world and the inspiration behind each one, including insights into each location's focal point - the fairytale castle. It also takes the reader on an enthralling journey through the concepts of the parks' most popular attractions and world-famous parades. I want to visit all the parks more than ever after reading this book!

Are you a huge Disney fan like me? If so, I urge you to order this book if you haven't already. I promise you won't regret it! 

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Valentine's Day 2016

Although we don't particularly believe in celebrating Valentine's Day, we don't need much of an excuse to go for a nice meal. So, as Valentine's Day conveniently fell on a Sunday this year, we decided to go to The Captain's Wife for their special Valentine's lunch.

I thought it was the perfect occasion to wear my anniversary necklace with my new high-necked top from New Look... I haven't included a photo of my face as I was in the clutches of a horrible cold and no one needs to see that!

As it was such a sunny day, we decided to walk to the pub rather than take the car. It's only two miles or so away from our house so it's a perfectly manageable distance when the weather is nice, and we passed some beautifully Instagrammable views on our way there. We also thought we'd feel (slightly) less guilty about the volume of food we were guaranteed to eat if we burnt off a few calories first.

We'd booked our table for 1:30pm and got shown to our seats straight away. The pub was really busy, as always, but the order for our starters and mains got taken fairly quickly. I went for the tomato soup to start... you can't go wrong with traditional soup and bread!

The soup was very tasty, and our main meals came to the table just as we finished our starters. We both went for the Vintage Sunday Roast Platter which included rump steak, turkey breast and pork loin, as well as all the usual roast dinner trimmings. Although we weren't given the extra gravy promised in the menu which was disappointing, the meal itself was delicious. The parsnips, steak and stuffing were my particular favourites! 

I was full to the brim after my main meal and probably shouldn't have eaten any more. However, dessert was included in the Valentine's lunch offer so I obviously had to go through with it. Our waitress also took half an hour to remember to take our dessert orders which meant I had a bit of time to prepare myself! I chose the apple crumble with custard and it was pretty spectacular. I'm not a big fan of custard and would have preferred an accompaniment of vanilla ice cream, but the crumble was nice enough (and filling enough!) on its own. 

Although the service was pretty disappointing and put us off from visiting again any time soon, we still had a lovely time and both thought the food itself was great. We got wrapped up again and left for our walk home... cue more breathtaking views!

We blitzed a few boring chores when we got home because we're very romantic like that, then we settled in for the night with a bottle of Prosecco and some exciting holiday shopping on the laptop (equally exciting blog post to follow on that). We definitely didn't need any more food for the rest of the day!

How did you spend your Valentine's Day? Hope you all had a good Sunday, whether you believe in celebrating Valentine's Day or not!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

A very belated post... our first wedding anniversary!

It's been nearly six months since our first wedding anniversary, so what better time to blog about it? I'll pretend I meticulously planned it that way rather than quite simply forgetting to blog about it until today. 

Our wedding anniversary was on Sunday 30th August, but we decided to start our celebrations on the Saturday evening as that was exactly 52 weeks from the wedding day itself. This also meant we could celebrate for longer (and eat more celebratory food) which is always a bonus. As we held our wedding reception at Cardiff's Copthorne Hotel with amazing food, we decided to go back there for dinner on the Saturday night. Everything I wore was from New Look, of course!

I chose the goat's cheese and balsamic red onion tart to start and it was really really good. I was a bit worried about the goat's cheese as I hadn't tried it before, but it just made me realise that I've been missing out on a tasty flavour all these years! I had steak for my main meal which was also delicious (although not photogenic enough to appear here). 

It was great to be back at the Copthorne a year on, eating in the exact same room where we ate our wedding breakfast with our family and friends. The restaurant was nice and quiet, and I enjoyed a glass of wine while we were there. I also took the opportunity to pose in one of our favourite wedding photo spots! 

On the day of our anniversary itself, Neil gave me a beautiful 'cariad' locket from Clogau to mark the day. This photo definitely doesn't do it justice! He also printed a tiny wedding photo which fits perfectly inside the locket to make it extra special and significant. It has quite a long chain so it looks great with high-necked tops and dresses, and I absolutely love it. 

In the afternoon, we went to one of my favourite places in Cardiff... Pettigrew Tea Rooms! As usual, the afternoon tea was spectacular and I even got to try a new cake flavour - blueberry and orange. Absolutely divine. 

We went to the cinema after our afternoon tea, but I'm afraid I've completely forgotten what we went to see. This is what happens when I don't blog about an occasion until six months later! I'm sure the film was good, whatever it was. 

I obviously used our first anniversary as an excuse to post a few collages from our special day on Instagram. I love a good collage, and I had hundreds of wedding photos to choose from! 

We went to Florida a few days after our anniversary and enjoyed a few special celebratory meals there too, so it was a really lovely first wedding anniversary all round. 199 days to go until the second one! 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A lovely date day

Although we've been married for a year and a half, we still love having a 'date day' every few weeks where we spend some quality time together and, as a bonus, avoid doing the housework. A few weekends ago, we had a spontaneous date day on a sunny Saturday.

We got all wrapped up and decided to walk into Penarth for a coffee and a hot chocolate. We mostly wanted to make the most of the weather as we hadn't been able to go for a walk for weeks!

After a lovely brisk walk into the centre of Penarth, we stopped in Coffee #1 for a drink. I had the Choc Full O' Nuts hot chocolate and it's the best one I've had for months. We should really go to Coffee #1 more often, although we do also have a small (large) obsession with Caffe Nero. 

After finishing our drinks, we decided to get the train into Cardiff for some food, shopping and a cinema trip. Believe it or not, despite living in Penarth for a year and a half, I've never gone on the train to Cardiff. I frequently get the bus if I can't be bothered to drive, but the train was a much nicer experience!

I needed to pick up one of Neil's birthday presents from the Disney store while we were in town, so I bought this beautiful bag for myself while I was there. It's almost too pretty to use... almost. 

After finishing our shopping, we decided to try the new Five Guys restaurant in the Brewery Quarter as we'd heard so many good things about it. I went for the cheeseburger with lettuce, ketchup, onions and green peppers, and we shared a large cajun fries. It was most definitely the best burger I've had for a long time - probably the best one since going to America in September. As for the chips, there were gazillions of the things. Neil and I can eat like horses, and we still couldn't quite finish the large between us! I personally don't like heavily seasoned chips so I'd go for the normal variety next time, but the cajun fries were very tasty and not at all greasy. We also bought a bottomless soft drink each... be prepared for the huge range of choices. 

After finishing our food, we made our way to the cinema to see Dirty Grandpa. It was a pretty hilarious film but I didn't expect it to be THAT dirty. Zac Efron and Robert de Niro make an excellent comic duo!

To round off our day, we walked to the bus stop to catch the bus back to Penarth. The bus stops just outside our estate so we didn't have too far to walk on the other end of our journey. We were also back by 9:30pm which meant we had a relaxing few hours in front of the TV when we got back. 

A perfect date day!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Fake Christmas 2016

I recently celebrated 'Fake Christmas' with my university friends - you can read more about this joyous annual tradition in last year's blog post.

We travelled to Kirsty and Vernon's new house in Minehead for the 2016 edition. There's nothing quite like packing up the car with Christmas presents and Christmas food in the middle of January!

We all arrived from our different corners of the UK on the Saturday morning, and I was welcomed with an Options hot chocolate and marshmallows as I don't drink tea or coffee. An excellent start!

January's obligatory diet quite rightly gets ignored for the weekend of Fake Christmas, so I was delighted when Liz turned up with some rather amazing (and massive) white and milk chocolate chip cookies. Although we all had loads of catching up to do, the room immediately fell silent as we tucked in to these beauties. 

It was so lovely to have one more Christmas in the middle of January... let's face it, January is never a fun month between the weather, post-festive slump and aforementioned diets. There were even Christmas serviettes ready for the occasion!

Kirsty had been preparing the spectacular Christmas dinner and all the trimmings for quite some time and, as always, it was well worth the wait. The cauliflower cheese was a particular highlight for me, as well as the roast potatoes. I think you'll all agree that nothing beats a hefty roast dinner (if you don't agree, we can't be friends). I've pictured the meal with and without gravy... feast your eyes on this!

After a lot of mutual appreciation and a universal need for a post-food nap around the table, we decided to open our presents. We now operate a Secret Santa arrangement rather than buying a present for everyone, and I had two lovely presents from Fee... a travel mug chock-full of Friends quotes and a Soap & Glory Hand Food gift set. The Sugar Crush bottle smells divine! 

After opening our presents, the motion to play Cards Against Humanity was almost unanimously approved. I didn't want to play at first and thought it would be best if I just watched , but it was actually hilarious even for an inoffensive creature like myself. Playing it with eleven people was definitely very interesting!

Although we were all still really full even after playing Cards Against Humanity for hours, there's always room for cake. Liz had made her traditional Fake Christmas cake and it was REALLY good. Between the cookies and the cake, Liz should definitely be crowned the Fake Christmas queen of desserts.

It won't surprise you to hear that I'm already looking forward to Fake Christmas 2017!

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

New thing every week in 2015 #5

Time for the last post in my 'new thing every week in 2015' series... I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have! Each post has been a great trip down memory lane and a really positive reminder of how many new experiences I enjoyed last year.

So, what did I get up to for the last twelve weeks of 2015? Let's find out...

Week 41 (8-14 October) - Tried Honeycomb Choc Swirl Frijj milkshake. There are no words. 

Week 42 (15-21 October) - Ate calamari at an awards dinner and was pleasantly surprised. 

Week 43 (22-28 October) - Went to a wedding party on a Monday evening. 

Week 44 (29 October - 4 November) - Bought my first Pandora ring.

Week 45 (5-11 November) - Tried pre-made cocktails from a can. Why did it take me so long to discover these?!

Week 46 (12-18 November) - Went to Penarth's Mint and Mustard for the first time.

Week 47 (19-25 November) - Met Mark Colbourne and had a chat with him (Paralympic cyclist and gold medallist). 

Week 48 (26 November - 2 December) - Bought a Maltesers advent calendar.

Week 49 (3-9 December) - Went to Cardiff on the bus with my parents to do some Christmas shopping. 

Week 50 (10-16 December) - Went for lunch on my own at the Cosmeston Country Park cafe after a wintry walk. 

Week 51 (17-23 December) - Went to Portland House in Cardiff Bay for my work Christmas party.

Week 52 (24-30 December) - Didn't go home for Christmas Day and spent it with the in-laws instead. 

I've already started my 'new thing every week in 2016' series, so make sure you check back at the beginning of next year for similar posts!