Friday, 28 September 2018

Ten things I love about blogging

If you've read last week's blog post, you'll already know that blogging is one of the new hobbies I've picked up over the last few years.

Inspired by Cat's blog post a couple of months ago, I thought it was about time I blogged about why I enjoy blogging so much. This also means I had the opportunity to make use of one of my greatest loves... a list!

1. I like to think of my blog as a digital journal or scrapbook. Although I look back at some of my older posts and cringe at the quality of the photography and sometimes even the writing, it's nice to be able to look back at the things I've shared over the years and to relive some of those memories.

2. I find it much easier to write about things than to talk about them. I've shared some very personal posts on this blog over the last two years since my cancer diagnosis, and it always feels very therapeutic to be able to get those feelings down on paper (or on screen).

3. Following on from the last point, writing is a great distraction for me when I need to escape from whatever thoughts I've got whirring around in my busy brain. Writing also helps me to be more mindful and to anchor myself in the present moment, which can only be a good thing.

4. Instagram is my favourite social networking platform, and I like to think of my blog as an extension or a supplement for my Instagram grid. If I've been somewhere instagrammable and shared lots of photos on Instagram, you can almost certainly expect a follow-up blog post on the topic.

5. I publish a new blog post every Friday at 5pm, and I've found that having such a defined schedule has really helped me to brainstorm and organise ideas for new content. When I used to publish hap-hazardly a few years ago, I'd either go for weeks without posting anything or I'd enthusiastically post a few times per week and use up all my ideas too quickly.

6. I particularly enjoy stretching blog posts on a certain topic into a series, such as my 'Twelve posts of Christmas' series or birthday haul posts. It makes my content last for a few weeks and also makes the posts more digestible for my readers.

7. Very few people read my blog, if I'm completely honest. However, although I'd be lying if I said I never got annoyed about this, I do blog for my own enjoyment first and foremost which means it doesn't really matter how many people read my posts in the grand scheme of things.

8. I'm pretty shy in real life. Blogging has allowed me to find my own voice and to share my experiences, all from the comfort of my laptop while wearing my pyjamas and drinking a hot chocolate.

9. I don't blog about divisive topics. This is partly because I've always worked in places where I have to remain politically neutral, but also because my blog is my happy place. I blog about whatever I want to blog about, and not necessarily about whatever everyone else is talking about.

10. Last but not least, my blog serves as my 'brain dump' for photos, exciting times, new adventures and, occasionally (see point 2!), difficult times. I love having a little corner of the internet that's all mine where I can document snippets of my life and blog about the simple little things that make me happy.

Have you blogged about why you love blogging? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 21 September 2018

Hobbies of an early-30-something

During that hazy twenty minutes between my alarm going off and eventually forcing myself out of bed, I always have a quick scroll through the day's Timehop memories. I joined Facebook about 11 years ago which means that Timehop now shows me updates from as far back as 2007. I was in my third year of university for the first half of 2007 and worked in Tesco for the last half, so life was very different back then.

My daily trip down memory lane has made me realise that my hobbies and interests have changed quite a bit over the last ten years as I've got older and my lifestyle and priorities have changed. I enthusiastically decided a few weeks ago that this would make an excellent topic for a blog post.

So, here's a bit of an audit on how my hobbies have changed from my early 20s to my early 30s...

New hobbies

I set up my blog in 2011 and have been blogging pretty regularly since, particularly over the last five years. Blogging is a great creative outlet for me and I do genuinely enjoy updating my own little corner of the internet.

Although I used to walk everywhere when I was a student, that was more out of necessity rather than because I enjoyed it. I couldn't afford to pay for taxis and I didn't pass my driving test until I was 21, so walking felt like a bit of a chore. Nowadays, I love going out for walks around our beautiful local areas.

Eating Believe it or not, I used to be quite a fussy eater when I was younger. While I was at university and for a couple of years afterwards, I didn't really appreciate the joy of food like I do now. I'm not a very good cook and I couldn't afford to eat out much, so I used to live on pasta and beans on toast. These days, it won't surprise you to hear that I LOVE eating. 

Walt Disney World
I went to Walt Disney World for the first time when I was 25 and I well and truly caught the bug. I've been six times since then and fully intend to go back next year.

I've always worn pyjamas (obviously), but I've only started getting really excited about them during the last few years. I think I prefer shopping for new pyjamas than shopping for actual clothes.

I was absolutely terrified of dogs in my early 20s. Now, I think I actually prefer dogs to people most of the time and I've even got my own amazing dog.

Old hobbies

In my early 20s and for many years before that, I used to spend an absolute fortune on rugby tickets. I went to watch Swansea playing regularly when I was still in school, and I bought tickets to watch both Cardiff and Wales on a regular basis throughout my time at university. These days, I'm not bothered about watching the games on TV let alone in real life. I'm not sure when I fell out of love with it, but at some point it just stopped being a priority for me.

Collecting newspaper cuttings
Anyone who has ever lived with me will know that my bedroom walls and furniture used to be completely covered in newspaper cuttings featuring my favourite rugby memories, my favourite rugby players and my favourite celebrities. I also had separate folders full of cuttings which I couldn't fit on the walls. About six years ago, I decided that my bedroom walls looked much nicer without all that clutter and I haven't looked back since! 

Going out on a Friday and/or Saturday night
I used to go out quite regularly at the weekends in my early 20s, but these days I love nothing more than to curl up in my aforementioned pyjamas on a Saturday night with a film and a hot chocolate (and perhaps a glass of wine if I'm feeling adventurous).

Hobbies that have lasted the distance

I've loved reading since I was about four years old when I used to devour new Enid Blyton books every day. My love for reading has never wavered, and I hope it never will.

I started going to the gym during my second year at university. I've been a member of a few different gyms over the years and have experimented with exercise classes, cardio and weight training. This is definitely a hobby that's remained very constant over the last ten years or so.

My love for Disney has grown since I started visiting Walt Disney World (and so has my collection of Mickey ears), but it's always been there since I was a little girl who was obsessed with 101 Dalmatians, Bambi and the Jungle Book.

Listening to music became a hobby in my mid teens, and it's still up there as one of my favourites. My music taste hasn't really changed since then... I'm currently listening to S Club 7's Greatest Hits.

I did have quite a big gap where I didn't watch Neighbours for a few years during my mid 20s, but it's well and truly back in my life now and brightening up my evenings.

Buying pink things 
This isn't really a hobby as such, but pink has been my favourite colour for as long as I can remember and that remains the case to this day!

How have your hobbies changed over the last ten years? 

Friday, 14 September 2018

A summer of afternoon teas

Before last month, I'd only been for one afternoon tea in 2018. Can you believe it?

Thankfully, this precarious situation has been rectified over the last few weeks and I've been for two afternoon teas with lovely people. The first one was a brand new experience and the second was in one of my favourite haunts, so I thought I'd blog about them both to give you a bit of a flavour!

Sarah bought a voucher for a Mad Hatter's afternoon tea in Llety Cynin for my birthday back in June. We decided to book it for a Saturday in mid August as a mid point between both our birthdays. I stayed in Sarah's house on the Friday night to make a proper weekend of it, and we drove to Llety Cynin on the Saturday afternoon with high expectations.

From the minute we arrived, we definitely weren't disappointed. The function room was smaller than expected and only had about six tables, but this was a good thing as it meant our food was brought out quickly and it was nice and quiet. The room was perfectly themed and we even had photo props on our table. It was immediately clear that a lot of thought had gone into the whole afternoon tea experience as well as the food itself.

I had a peach iced tea to start which was tasty and refreshing. We were told we could have tea, coffee or iced tea to drink, or all three if we were so inclined! Unlimited drink refills were also made available for us if we wanted them, free of charge. 

The food came out within about ten minutes and it was a very impressive sight, to put it mildly. I loved the effort that had gone into the presentation, mostly because it made it very instagrammable. We had a selection of sandwiches, chive scones with cream cheese and parma ham, and an amazing selection of cakes.

The cakes were all homemade, including the Jammy Dodger, and the macaron was one of the best cakes I've ever had at an afternoon tea. I didn't need to eat anything for the rest of the day which is always a good sign that they didn't skimp on the portions. 

A few weeks after my great experience at Llety Cynin's Mad Hatter's afternoon tea with Sarah, Liz came to visit for a few hours on a lovely sunny day. We booked a table at Pettigrew Tea Rooms as it's one of our old favourites, and Liz also brought Abigail along (her 8 month old baby) for her very first afternoon tea experience!

One of the many plus points for Pettigrew Tea Rooms is that you have loads of choice when it comes to your drink, sandwiches, scones and cake. They have a great choice of flavoured teas on offer, as well as coffee and hot chocolate. I went for the Mango Noir tea as I'd never tried it before, and I managed to drink an entire teapot of it. 

We chose egg mayonnaise, brie and fruit chutney, and cheddar and tomato on mixed bread for our sandwiches, and we also had fruit scones with all the trimmings. And, as is customary at Pettigrew Tea Rooms, we had a massive slab of cake to finish. We both opted for the Passionfruit, Lime and Coconut loaf cake to take away and it was scrumptious. I was a little bit gutted that I offered to share it with Neil.. that'll teach me for trying to be thoughtful. 

I'm on a mission to make sure I book in a couple more afternoon teas before the end of 2018, and I've already got one booked in tomorrow with Amy which I'm very excited about. As always, keep an eye on my Instagram for updates. 

Do you have any afternoon tea recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments! 

Friday, 7 September 2018

Our fourth wedding anniversary

It was our fourth wedding anniversary last week. I know I know, I can't believe it's been four years either. 

Our anniversary fell on a Thursday which meant we didn't do much to celebrate on the day itself. However, we still opened our cards and presents and indulged in a few cranberry and white chocolate welshcakes from Fabulous Welshcakes.

The themes for fourth wedding anniversary gifts are fruit, flowers or linen, depending on which version you read. Neil and I don't stick to the themes too rigidly, but sometimes they can provide a spark of inspiration.

I had some lovely gifts from Neil, as always!

Beautiful flowers and a Mickey and Minnie Disney Traditions figurine. We got engaged in Walt Disney World five years ago so I love the sentiment behind this figurine. 

Cute Winnie the Pooh pyjamas which I've been coveting from Asda for ages. I'm a little disappointed that it's still too hot to wear long pyjamas to bed. 

Neil also bought a little floral charm for me from Amazon which fits perfectly on my Pandora bracelets. It's very pretty but didn't photograph well, so it couldn't be featured in the blog post! 

I got home from work on the day of our anniversary to discover that Jessie had very thoughtfully bought us a card. She'd also written a lovely message in it, although her handwriting looks suspiciously similar to Neil's. I still find big events and anniversaries a little difficult after the events of two years ago, so this gesture meant the world to me. 

We wanted to make sure we celebrated our fourth anniversary in style, so we went to Llanerch Vineyard for our celebratory meal last Saturday evening. It was a beautiful day which made the tranquil surroundings even more spectacular. 

We went the whole hog and had three courses (obviously), and everything tasted just as good as it looks in the mouth-watering photos below...  

Asparagus, black garlic emulsion, and a beer and charcoal polenta coated poached egg.

Sirloin steak with confit'd banana shallot, mushroom ketchup, crispy capers, smoked pancetta and truffle salted chips. 

Strawberry and pistachio meringue with clotted cream and vanilla ice cream. 

After finishing our meal and walking back to the car via some lovely views, we went home to Jessie and shared a bottle of wine to finish off the evening. Well, Neil and I shared a bottle of wine. Jessie had a dental stick and some chicken. 

I can't quite believe that another wedding anniversary has been and gone! We're now wondering how we should celebrate our fifth anniversary next year... watch this space.