Friday, 29 July 2016

Florida 2016 - Advance Dining Reservations!

One of the most exciting things about going to Walt Disney World on holiday is that you can book so many aspects of your trip in advance. You can book the colour of your magic band, check in to your hotel and choose your preferences, make restaurant reservations, and make your 'fast pass' bookings for various rides and attractions. All these milestones and research opportunities make holiday planning so much more exciting!

With advance dinner reservations opening six months before your travel date, there's plenty of time to drool over various menus and make a list of those places you definitely want to book in advance.

We've booked eight restaurants so far for this year's trip so I thought I'd blog about them... I won't lie to you, I'm feeling extremely hungry as a result.

1. Plaza, The Magic Kingdom

We ate lunch at the Plaza on the first full day of our holiday in 2013, immediately after getting engaged! We've booked it again for our first day this year and I can't wait to go back. I'll definitely have dessert as well as a main based on the vanilla cheesecake I had last time which you can see on my A-Z of Walt Disney World - Food and Drink post. It'll be the first full day of our holiday so it's got to be done! 

2. San Angel Inn Restaurante, Epcot

This is one of the new restaurants we've chosen for this year, and it's situated in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase. The restaurant itself is in a beautiful themed setting and the menu looks delicious. I'm excited about trying yet another cuisine in Epcot! 

3. Shula's Steakhouse, Dolphin Hotel 

Shula's was one of our favourite restaurants last year and it was one of the first ones we booked for this year's trip. Quite honestly one of the best steaks I've ever had, and even the sides were exquisite. Who knew that mashed potato and asparagus could taste so good?

4. T-Rex, Disney Springs

Another new restaurant for this year - T-Rex! I've never taken a photograph of it for some reason despite walking past it tens of times, so here's an image from good old Google. If T-Rex is anything like Rainforest Cafe, I'll definitely love it there.

5. Narcoossee's, Grand Floridian

Another one of my favourite meals from last year's holiday and an absolute must for this year. Glowing cocktails and a spectacular main and dessert, as well as an amazing view of the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom's night show. The restaurant also streams the music from the night show which contributes to the magical atmosphere. This might well be the restaurant I'm most excited about!

6. Grand Floridian Cafe, Grand Floridian

Another new one for this year which comes highly recommended - the only breakfast we've booked so far. I love visiting the beautiful Grand Floridian so I'm very pleased that we're guaranteed to go there twice this year!

7. Morimoto, Disney Springs

This restaurant wasn't even open last time we visited so here's another stolen picture from Google! There are loads of restaurants to choose from in Disney Springs, but this was one we definitely needed to book in advance to guarantee a place. I love evenings spent at Disney Springs, and evenings which involve lovely food are even better. 

8. The Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club

Another new restaurant, and another steak house! I'm so glad I finally discovered steak on our honeymoon back in 2014... now I can't imagine going on holiday and not eating steak at least four times. The Yacht and Beach Club is set in one of the most beautiful areas in Walt Disney World with lots of pretty views and walking spots, so I'm really looking forward to our evening at the Yachtsman. 

What do you think of our Advance Dinner Reservations so far? We've got a big list of restaurants we still need to consider so it'll be interesting to see if we can fit them all in! 

34 days to go... it really can't come quickly enough. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

Restaurant review: Kaspa's

Kaspa's is a dessert restaurant which has two branches in Cardiff - one in the city centre and one on Roath's City Road. At first glance, the restaurant and its retro branding might not look very enticing or impressive. I promise you that first impressions are incorrect in this instance!

I'd been determined to visit Kaspa's as soon as I could after seeing lots of mouth-watering photos on Instagram. I decided to take the opportunity to go for the first time when two of my university friends came to visit as the three of us have a mutual love of food in common. We went for a late lunch at Cafe Citta before relaxing with a few cocktails, then we walked over to Kaspa's just before 9pm.

The city centre restaurant looks tiny and cramped at first glance but, as you're led to one of the many booths at the back, it becomes clear that it's a very long and narrow restaurant with plenty of seating areas. So don't let the gaggle of people hanging around by the door put you off - they'll either be waiting for their takeaway dessert or ogling the display cabinet!

The menu is massive. MASSIVE. You can choose anything from sundaes to waffles to cheesecakes to milkshakes to crepes, with a whole host of side and swap orders to give you even more choice. I decided fairly early on to narrow my options down to the Waffles section just for my own sanity. I figured that I could have a sundae or a cheesecake anywhere, but I've never had a particularly good waffle outside of America.

I eventually decided on the Strawberry Shortcake Waffle... in the meantime, I saw lots of waffles being delivered to other tables and realised what size they were! It's worth noting that, for an extra 99p, there was an option to choose your own flavour of ice cream to go with your waffle rather than Kaspa's standard vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. However, I had a sneaky suspicion that I wouldn't be able to finish the whole waffle, let alone tackle the ice cream, so I didn't go the whole hog this time.

My dessert arrived in no time at all...

Look how amazing it was! This beauty was made up of strawberries, crushed digestive biscuits and white chocolate sauce and it was absolutely heavenly. I couldn't finish the whole waffle as it was so big, but I made sure I ate all the strawberries and the crushed digestive biscuits as they were so delicious. Although I'm not usually a fan of excessive white chocolate, this sauce was really tasty without being sickly and helped to break up the texture of the waffle. As predicted, I didn't even touch the ice cream!

My dessert was £5.95 which I thought was pretty reasonable considering its colossal size, and they definitely didn't skimp on the toppings. You'll generally pay around £5 for a dessert in a chain restaurant and this was much bigger than anything I've ever eaten in one of those (thankfully - imagine trying to eat one of these immediately after a big meal!).

Just one piece of advice... I can eat a LOT, and I couldn't finish this even though I'd eaten my lunch 4 hours earlier. I wouldn't recommend going to Kaspa's straight after a big meal - save it for when you're really hungry or for a few hours after you've eaten.

Have you been to Kaspa's? What did you think? I can't wait to go back!

Monday, 11 July 2016

My frustrations with the blogging world

I've recently got my blogging mojo back and have been posting fairly regularly over the last few months. However, the general blogging world seems to be much more difficult to crack than it used to be when I first started out a few years ago.

Although I never write particularly personal posts as I don't have the confidence to publish and share them, I thought I'd go halfway there by sharing some of my blogging frustrations. Apologies in advance for the self-indulgent post, but I'm sure I won't be alone in some of these thoughts!

1. When you spend hours on a post and no one reads it

I know blogging isn't supposed to be about the numbers, but... let's be honest, the numbers are important. I blog as a way of keeping a digital scrapbook of what I've been up to and to focus on those things which interest me most, and I do obviously like it when lots of people read my posts. Who doesn't? I'm always keen to gather more views on posts I've spent a significant amount of time on just to see some return on my investment, but these are often the ones with the most disappointing take-up. For example, I literally spent hours on my recent Disney A-Z posts (here and here) and had low views for both even though people who have written similar posts have had lots of interest. It's difficult not to take it personally when you write at length about something you find interesting and are passionate about and no one takes a look!

2. When you try to take part in blogger chats but can't penetrate the clique 

This is something I've always struggled with, both in the blogging world and in real life. I've never been any good at becoming part of the 'clique' in my everyday life and it seems that it's no different when it comes to online interaction. How does one become part of that esteemed blogging circle? Everyone already seems to know each other and there often isn't room for someone who sits on the sidelines and isn't part of the 'in' crowd. I know engagement is the key to growing your following, but it's discouraging when you do try to engage and don't get acknowledged.

I gave up on the #lbloggers chats a long time ago for this very reason. I was hoping the more recent #disneybloggerschat would be different as the topic is right up my street and it's a bit smaller and more contained than the #lbloggers chat. Unfortunately not... it's exactly the same. When you feel as if you're standing on your tiptoes knocking on the window and no one's taking any notice of you, it gets a bit tiring and it's just easier not to take part. I used to contemplate attending a blogger meet-up but the thought of the same thing happening in real life where I can't escape or ignore it strikes fear into my very core!

3. When you can't get good lighting for your photos

This is a more light-hearted gripe, but how irritating is it when you've got lots of blog posts lined up which require a decent amount of photography and the weather is dull and grey for two weeks? Living in Wales, this is a frequent annoyance! There's only so much editing you can do to pretend you've had the perfect lighting, and I don't like using heavily edited photos on my blog.

4. When you proofread all your posts within an inch of their life and yet the badly written ones are still more popular

Those of you who know me in real life will be painfully aware that I'm a stickler for accuracy. I constantly and compulsively proofread everything from signage to labels to menus to my favourite books.. It goes without saying that I proofread all my blog posts dozens of times as they form an important part of my personal online 'brand', and I don't want any inaccuracies associated with anything I've written. However, I frequently read posts from all corners of the blogging world which are badly written and have been read and commented on tens of times. Doesn't good writing count for anything any more? I realise I sound as if I'm throwing my toys out of my pram here but it's something I feel very strongly about!

So... is there anything I can do about it? I could certainly improve on reading and commenting on other people's blogs which is something I'm determined to do more of. I read lots of blogs but hardly ever comment, and I'm also quite forgetful when it comes to replying to the few comments I get on my own blog. I also need to get better at reading through my Bloglovin feed - I often click on blog posts promoted on Twitter but haven't been very good at actively seeking out the posts from my favourite blogs in recent years. However, part of me feels that no amount of interaction will help with some of the issues above as it's just the way things are.

Does anyone else feel the same? Do you have any blogging gripes you'd like to share? Let me know!

As an aside... wouldn't it be ironic if this post wasn't well read?!

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Last of the birthday blog posts... my birthday cards!

I love birthdays, Doesn't everyone? One of my favourite things about my birthday is receiving cards from my friends and family. Coincidentally, I also love sending cards to other people. They might not cost much or take much time to buy, write and send, but cards are a really thoughtful way of showing someone that you're thinking of them and wishing them well.

The cards I receive always have a very definite set of themes... pink, flowers, cakes and fluffy things! I had some beautiful cards from family members this year which I've pictured below - I even had a pretty birthday card from the in-laws' pets. I also love receiving 'Auntie' birthday cards from my nephews, particularly as my oldest nephew is now able to write the card himself. I think you'll agree that the themes I've mentioned above all feature strongly in this particular set of cards...

My birthday cards from work colleagues were an interesting mixture of humorous, floral and Disney-themed! One of my colleagues is well aware of my feelings towards the monarchy so the Kate and Wills card was an ironic choice, in case you were wondering. The card on the bottom left was thoughtfully arranged by Sue and signed by any colleagues who hadn't sent me a separate birthday card, and I loved my personalised Minnie card from Claire. All in all, a great birthday card haul from my colleagues.

I also had some lovely cards from various friends... as you can see, the standard themes continue! I had a couple of Welsh cards from this group of people, and I also received a brilliant personalised card from Liz which was full of hilarious memories from years gone by. I loved the thought that went into the messages inside this particular group of cards and I felt very privileged to have such generous friends with excellent card-buying/writing (and personalising) skills. 

My 30th birthday lasted longer than I could ever have imagined and I'm sure it's an occasion I'll remember for a very long time. Thank you to everyone who took the time to buy a gift, send a card or message me on the day itself - it means a lot. 

I'm now off to return the favour by writing my next set of cards for upcoming events/birthdays!