Thursday, 29 January 2015

A peek inside my home

I've spent the past few months trying to make the house I share with Martyn feel a bit more like a home. I'm lucky to be living in rented accommodation that doesn't cost the earth so I can still afford to save to buy my own home. I don't want to spend too much on a house that isn't mine but I've been trying to add a bit more personality with pictures, some fresh new bedding and Martyn is great at hanging things up for me and assembling book shelves. 

I posted about my new home a couple of weeks after moving in and it looked a bit bare then. I had started to put my stamp on the house but I think it looks a lot better now. You can take a look and compare for yourself here.


I bought Martyn this print because we visited Tintern on his birthday and we're both huge train geeks. We had bare walls in our bedroom for months so I was glad to see this go up and add a bit of colour. The bedding was a ASDA £6 sale bargain, Martyn loves the Alps and we are going on holiday there in June so I couldn't leave it in store. I know it's not Christmas anymore but it's still ski season so it's staying on a bit longer.



It's hard to jazz up a bathroom but I found this glass bottle in a charity shop and we bought the picture whilst on holiday in Dorset last year to add some interest.


I'm a bit of a magpie so my room is fast becoming full of junk and nick nacks. My brother brought this frame back from his trip to Florida (can't believe he went to the Wizarding World without me) and I've picked up some cheap and cheerful bedside tables and bookcases from Ikea.


Some more George bedding in my room, isn't it cute?! You really need to check out their bedding because it's usually only about £12 and they always have something I like. If you're looking to make your halls of residence room a bit more pleasant or want to impress some guests using your spare room for next to nothing then bedding some budget bedding is the way to go.


I moved the old record play in my room because Martyn treated himself to a fancy new one for Christmas. He can listen to punk downstairs and I can blast Morrissey and 60s girl bands upstairs.


I bought this pink glass dressing table set from a charity shop, lego librarian is obviously drunk and has fallen over. I've got a few dressing table sets but only one dressing table, I'll have to rotate them. I just can't leave them in the charity shop for 3-4 quid.



I think the biggest improvement since I last posted  about the house has been in the kitchen. The tiles used to be brown but I forked out £50 for some white tile paint and it's really made a huge impact on the kitchen. I also painted the little cupboard white and added some eBay handles to the doors to give it a new lease of life.
There are a few more things I want to change like the strip blinds that are in some rooms which are a bit dated now but I'm trying to hold back on spending more money and put it into my house deposit and renovation fund. Most of the houses I've looked at in my budget would eventually need a new kitchen, bathroom, contemporary blinds and new flooring. I'm having to weigh things up because I'm going to be in this house for a couple of years whilst saving so I want it to be comfortable but I also want my own place to be kitted out with the best.


This hanging frame was a Wilkinsons bargain, it was about £6 and was the perfect place for me to hang my Budapest holiday photos.


The pride and joy in my kitchen is my new KitchenAid. Is it weird that I clean it more than anything else in the house? I don't like it to gather any dust. She's a beaut!


So there you have it, a closer look at my house and all my little knick-knacks. How have you made rented accommodation feel more like home? Any tips for budgeting and saving for a house?

Gemma
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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Wahaca Cardiff

This is an interior photo of Cardiff Wahaca

Wahaca is one of my favourite London restaurants to visit when I go and hangout with my blogger friends. I've been to the Southbank one a few times and I was really glad to hear that this chain which specialises in fresh and seasonal Mexican street food was going to open its first non-London restaurant at St. David’s, Cardiff.

Wahaca first arrived in 2007 and was founded by Thomasina Miers the 2005 Masterchef winner. She was inspired by her travels to Mexico swapped and cooking in a Michelin-starred restaurant to open a UK restaurant that would reflect the vibrant colours, flavours and buzz of the Mexican markets.
Thomasina wanted “to overturn the prevailing ‘Tex-Mex’ stereotype of tequila girls and greasy tortilla chips" I love Mexican food but a lot of what we're served up in the UK is cheap meat covered in melted cheese and is more about quantity than quality.

I went along to try some of the food with Martyn and see what the Cardiff store had to offer just after its launch. The restaurant has a really unique feel with bold street art murals, feature lighting and lots of colour.
There's a no-reservation policywhich can mean queues at the weekend but don't let this put you off, there's a bar upstairs where you ca have a pre meal drink whilst you wait for a table.




The menu comprises of two main sections and you can choose between street food or bigger plates. If you're ordering street food you choose 2-3 dishes. Both options are value with the smaller plates are around £4 and the large plates cost about £10.

Martyn and I chose come pork scratchings and super fresh guacamole to nibble on whilst we waited for our meal. These were amazing and one of the highlights of our evening there. The scratchings were really light and the guacamole was fresh and worked surprisingly well with the pork scratchings. I wasn't sure the combination would work well but it was a winner.

Photo of a Wahaca Burrito

We ordered a mix of street food dishes including Pork pibil which is slow cooked pork in aYucatecan marinade with pickled onions, grilled British steak with grilled cheese & salsa and a seasonal duck dish. We shared three of those and the British steak was the highlight as it was cooked to perfection. We also opted for a Slow-cooked pork burrito which was served with pink pickled onions & habanero chillies. It was tasty a little tame for my tastes (I add chilli to EVERYTHING) but the beauty of Wahaca is that everything is cooked fresh on site so if you like your food a certain way you can just ask for some alterations.

After all that food Martyn and I opted to share a dessert and we tried the Chocolate tres leches
cake which was completely overshadowed by the scoop of peanut butter ice-cream that topped it. I'm an ice cream lover and I could of eaten three scoops of this as a dessert in it's own right.

This is a picture of a Wahaca pork pibil

This is a picute of Cardiff Wahaca salsa

I really enjoyed my visit to Wahaca, there was a nice buzz all evening and the staff were all really attentive. I was struck by the freshness of the food and simple things like salsa and guacamole were made so well they stood out and you normally forget about accompaniments like that. I can imagine visiting again with a group of friends for an informal lunch or cocktails and nibbles in the bar.


Wahaca Cardiff
51-53 The Hayes
St David's Dewi Sant
Cardiff CF10 1GA
+44 (0) 29 2167 0414

Opening Times
Mon – Sat: 12pm – 11pm
Sun: 12pm – 10.30pm


Gemma
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Monday, 26 January 2015

We can save our libraries!

This blog normally focuses on trivial things like cake and dresses but I'm so angry as I type this. I've got tears in my eyes and I'm frustrated. I work in the library sector and although academic libraries where I work are not under threat I feel the need to stick up for my colleagues in the public sector where I started my career.

What do people imagine staff in libraries do all day? Sit down and read? Shush people?

During my time in public libraries I helped people apply for jobs, access their family history and was the only point of contact an elderly, lonely person had all week. I helped negelected children with their homework, found accommodation for the homeless and helped people to educate themselves who came from deprived backgrounds with little opportinities. Highly trained and dedicated staff should not be replaced with volunteers. There are no examples of community run libraries offering the same service as those staffed by professionals.

I'm shocked by the proposed changes to Cardiff Public Libraries and I'm going to ask for your help.


Cardiff’s public library service is being dismantled. The Central library, voted one of the top six libraries in the world, is now going through a second year of budget cuts. Last year they lost the top floor and a quarter of their staff, and closed one day a week. Next year it could become a “Super Hub” and lose even more floorspace when Marland House, the housing benefit and council tax centre, moves into the building. Hundreds of books have already been removed and library staff have been warned not to talk about the cuts on social media.

Meanwhile up to seven community libraries in Cathays, Radyr, Rhiwbina, Rhydypennau, Roath, Rumney and Whitchurch will stop receiving any council funding at all. The plan is to 'hand buildings over to the community' by making trained staff redundant and replacing them with volunteers. If these “community groups” cannot be found to take over they will have to close completely.

Libraries are more than a place to store books – they are the only free space where residents can meet in the winter, and a vital place for elderly, disabled and unemployed people to access computers and to search for work. Our right to participate in cultural life is essential for a democracy, and if we don't put up a fight for these libraries now we won't get another chance.

Be part of history. Defend our library service in our capital city. Make the council provide a comprehensive service as the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act demands: Save our libraries!

Called by Cardiff County UNISON & Cardiff People's Assembly


Head to the event facebook group for more information.

Gemma
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Smoked Paprika & Red Onion Chicken

Paprika is everywhere in Budapest. It's used in the national favourite Goulash and I picked some up on my trip there in the Great Market Hall. It's a spice made from air-dried fruits of the chili pepper called Capsicum. The spice was first introduced to the Hungarians by the Turks during their occupation in around 1530. 

I've been looking for a way to use my holiday souvenir since I got home and this recipe really ticked my fancy. It's really easy to make and if you serve it with vegetables it makes a pretty healthy midweek dinner option. 


Serves 4



Ingredients

10ml sunflower oil
1 red onion peeled and sliced
10g fresh sage
50ml red wine
340ml beef stock
17g gravy granules
pinch of salt & pepper
4 small chicken breasts
20ml olive oil
tsp paprika



Method
First off pre heat your oven to 180c/gas mark 4.

Heat the oil and saute half of the onions with the sage until the onions are golden brown.

Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, then add the stock and simmer for a further 10 minutes.



Thicken with gravy granules and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Season to taste. 
In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and seal the chicken breasts. Turn until evenly cooked and set to one side.

Add the rest of the onions and smoked paprika to the pan used to seal the chicken and saute until soft.
Place the chicken on a lightly oiled oven dish, then top with onion.


Pour the gravy mix around the chicken and bake for 25 minutes.


I served my partners with some homemade chips lightly coated in oil and seasoned to make it a little more filling for him. Have you got any recipes to share where I can use more of my lovely paprika?

This recipe is one of a series created by Sunrise assisted living, who have a team of chefs who create delicious and nutritious recipes which are perfect for a healthier way of life. They provided me with the ingredients so I could give it a go myself. 

Gemma
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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Afternoon in Penarth


I had spent the first day of Martyn's only weekend of the month off getting my hair cut and hosting a baby shower for a friend whilst he cleaned the house and went out for a drink with friends. Not exactly what you would call 'quality time together' so on the Sunday after a long lie in we headed to Penarth for an afternoon stroll.

Penarth is only a short drive from Cardiff but I've never been before which is pretty astonishing.I always visit Barry Island if I want a little faded seaside glamour. Built in 1894, and opened a year later, the 658-foot-long Penarth Pier is is one of only two surviving pleasure piers in south Wales, the other being Mumbles.The Penarth Pier Pavilion has been recently restored and has a cinema, exhibition space, cafe, bar and restaurant and meeting spaces. It really is very charming.



On the pier you get wonderful views of Cardiff and the barrage, Flat Holm Island and the Bristol Channel. There were lots of people fishing at the end of the pier and couples and families enjoying a stroll. It was voted Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society in 2014.


The pier appeared in the Torchwood episode To the Last Man, Tosh and Tommy share a brief moment on Penarth Pier, built in 1894, the same year that Tommy was born. Nice little fact for any Whovians like me out there.


I'm really happy with how these photos turned out. I went there at just the right time of day to get the prettiest pink sky and wondeful light. The afternoon out wasn't really planned, was cheap as chips (literally) and it was perfect. All you need for a good day out is great company and a nice view.


Gemma
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