Thursday, 30 October 2014

Modern Life is Rubbish

It’s really common for people to push themselves, always be on the move and never have time to unwind. All that pushing can feel so smart and productive until you’re exhausted, dehydrated, overextended, overwhelmed and about to snap. I’ve felt all of those things and pressures of modern life often get on top of me but I've found a few tips and tricks that help me to relax and feel less stressed.
1. Get some sleep -  whether it’s by going to bed a half-hour earlier or by sleeping in an extra fifteen minutes you will really notice a difference in your energy levels and health by upping the amount of time you sleep.

2. Try something new - I've been going to yoga for the past couple of months after always assuming it wasn't for me and I have to admit I'm a total convert. I get time to focus on myself and work on my strength and flexibility. Try new foods, new activities and visit new places.

3. Sing, paint, dance and be creativeIt’s really hard to stress and over-think when you’re engaged in something fun and expressive. I'm not particularly creative but I do like experimenting in the kitchen and I've been trying new cake recipes and made stuffed peppers for the first time last week.

Go outside, have fun in nature -
 Feel the grass underneath your feet and enjoy the scenery. I'm guilty of spending most of my day in work, commuting home and then sitting in front of the TV. Martyn bought my a lovely red bike for my birthday and I try and get out on it as much as I can when its not raining to get some fresh air.

5. Indulge in a guilty pleasureRead a trashy magazine, go shopping, drink a latte or eat some cake, most things are fine in moderation so don't worry about indulging every so often. I like to pour a little Baileys in my hot chocolate in the winter or make a mulled drink and just sit back and enjoy.

6. Just be -  Choose to do nothing—don’t read, watch TV, surf the web, or in any way consume information. When was the last time you did that?

7. Give technology a bed time. I know from experience how pre-sleep white light can effect me. I try and avoid looking a my phone, watching TV or using technology for at least half an hour before bed.  Choose other relaxing activities before you head to sleep like reading a good book, choosing what to wear the next day or de-cluttering and tidying up. I also hate to think that the first thing and last thing I do each is check my phone rather than give my partner a hug. I like to chat to my partner before bed and make sure the rabbit gets some attention.

Have a cup of tea. There really isn't anything a good brew can't help with. I've been trying to cut down on caffeine recently and these M&S
Cranberry and Pomegranate Infusion Tea Pyramids really hit the spot. Sit down, have a quiet moment with a cuppa and noting seems quite so bad.

What are your top tips for relaxing?
I was asked to take part in a competition by Artesian Spas and this is my "Art spas say relax" contest entry.

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Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Trip to Bath Pt 1 - Francis Hotel & Fashion Museum

Last weekend Martyn and I had a wonderful night away in one of my favourite cities - Bath. We only get one in four weekends together so it's nice do something a little special and out of the ordinary on the ones we get together. It's only under and hour away from where I live in Newport and around an hour and a half on the train from London so Bath is really accessible for those in the South. We stayed at The Francis Hotel and took in some of the sights the city has to offer.

The Francis Hotel recently underwent a complete refurbishment but retained many original features and added some fun and flamboyancy with it's use of bold colour and quirky furnishing. It's part of the M Gallery collection of hotels and is located on the very central Queen Square (near the stunning Circus and Royal Crescent). The hotel has a very colourful history and is nine townhouses that join up to make up the south side of Queen Square.The hotel was bombed by the Luftwaffe during the war and The Beatles stayed in the hotel in 1963.

Our room was a decadent blend of rich reds, navy blue, striking monochrome stripes in the bathroom, gold detailing and sleek black glass furniture. It seemed a shame not to spend the time in our room so even though I had planned on eating out in the evening we brought food back with us after a busy day of sightseeing. We relaxed on the comfy bed in the fluffy robes provided and I made Martyn watch Doctor Who with me, perfect night in.

After checking in to our hotel we headed out to explore and visited the grand Assembly Rooms. They were designed by the same architect that designed the Royal Crescent (John Wood, the Younger) in 1769. The Assembly Rooms were at the heart of fashionable Georgian society and the perfect venue for entertainment. When completed in 1771, they were described as ‘the most noble and elegant of any in the kingdom’. The chandeliers there were breathtaking and I can imagine the dances, gossiping gambling that happened there in the 1700's were all jolly good fun.

 I also visited the Fashion Museum which is housed on the lower floor of the Assembly Rooms. It's one of the world’s greatest museum collections of historic and fashionable dress and I loved discovering more about how fashion has evolved. I think Martyn was a little reluctant about visiting because he thought it wouldn't be his thing but there's plenty to see and lots of male fashion too.
The latest Fashion Museum Dress of the Year has been unveiled and fashion blogger Susanna Lau from Style Bubble made the decision.She chose a sugar pink silk organza dress from Christopher Kane's Spring/Summer 2013 collection, it was interesting to see that bloggers impact on fashion is being recognised by institutions like this museum.

Breakfast the next day was rather lovely - there was a continental and hot buffet, as well as an à la carte menu. I couldn’t resist going for the eggs Royal and Martyn had a full English which we both enjoyed. I also helped myself to a mini pastry, juice and some yogurt and tea and coffee was brought to the table for us. The breakfast room was nice and bright and we had a seat next to the window.

I wish I could have had more time to relax at this hotel and try the pancakes the next day for breakfast (the table next to us ordered those and they looked divine) but sadly we had to head back home for work the next day. We really couldn't have been happier with our stay.The hotel is located just next everything you'll want to see in Bath: The Royal Theatre, The Roman Baths, the shops.

I'm going to do a second post about more things I saw and ate in Bath next week so keep an eye out for that.

Have you ever spent the weekend in Bath?

*our night's stay at the Francis Hotel & breakfast the next morning was provided free of charge for review purposes.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Transun Photography Workshop

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a photography lesson with a professional photographer.  The night was focussed on being able to take amazing photographs if we ever visit the Northern Lights but  (sadly) we couldn't get to Norway or Iceland for a couple of hours so we headed to Canton in Cardiff. I've never turned my Nikon D3200 off auto mode (how embarrassing is that?) so I was keen to get stuck in and learn as much as possible in our evening session.

Simon the photographer taught us lots of useful information about what a DSLR’s manual settings can do and I'm going to put what I learn to use this Halloween and bonfire night and on my trip to Budapest.

I wasn't 100% successful on the night but here are some of the photos I took on the night with my new skills:


Ideal for freezing or capturing motion.
Shutter speed is how long the camera’s shutter is open. The higher the number, the faster the shutter speed will be. Photos taken at night require a slower shutter speed so more light can get in.
Shutter Priority 
A rough guide to shutter speeds 
1/4000 - 1/2000 will stop the wings of a hummingbird 
1/1000 - 1/500 will freeze an athlete running 
1/250 - 1/60 will stop everyday motion 
1/30 - 1/8 will blur motion 

0.5 - 30” will capture low light, motion and long exposures 

Ideal for ‘everything in focus’ shots or blurry backgrounds.
The aperture also controls the amount of light reaching the sensor. So, at f2.8, more light gets in and at f22, less light gets in. The aperture controls the depth of field, so the wider the aperture 
(smaller number, i.e. f2.8), the less is in focus, whereas the smaller the aperture (bigger number, i.e. f22), the more is in focus.

Gives you FULL control of ISO, Shutter Speed and Depth of Field 

ISO affects Noise/Grain 
Aperture affects Depth of Field 
Shutter affects Motion

If you don't have a tripod use objects around you to balance your camera on and reduce shaking. This could be a wall, a bin, the floor etc. Be inventive.

Don't take the obvious photos and plan ahead. People don't always take photos of where they are staying or what the journey is like. Everyone has seen photos of the Northern Lights but might also like to see what the lodge is like where you stay whilst on the trip.

Thank you to Transun for providing this photography session, hopefully I will be able to visit the Northern Lights and put my new skills to the test one day. If you want to read their post about the evening head over to their blog.

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Monday, 20 October 2014

The Best Christmas Present EVER!

You might be think I'm a bit keen posting about Christmas in October, but there's only 65 days until the best day of the year and I'm super excited. Who doesn't love being able to wear your PJs all day, eating your own body weight in chocolate, drinking Baileys until your wobbly and watching The Muppet Christmas Carol?

I've been reminiscing about my favourite holiday periods spent with my family, the year I got my Barbie house was pretty special and spending time with my late grandfather will always bring back good memories for me. I think the best Christmas I've ever had had to be in 2009...

I wanted a dog pretty much all of my life but my mum was never keen on the idea, a dog is a huge commitment. My brother and I would beg my mum for a dog every year and despite always having wonderful presents and a lovely Christmas we were always a tad disappointed that there wasn't a puppy with a big bow on under the tree.

My mum finally surprised my brother and I on Christmas day nearly five years ago with the best little Labrador anyone could wish for. My mum let us open all of our other Christmas presents first, she even let us put a movie on and tuck into our selection boxes and then she said 'I think I forgot one of your presents, let me go upstairs and check' She came back downstairs with a puppy in her arms and I burst into tears. She was perfect and the pet I always dreamed of. Sookie was one of the first names that came to mind  for her and it stuck (it's a Gilmore Girls reference) and I think it suits her.


The years of waiting were worth it and I'm now the owner of the cheekiest, cutest, most loveable and spoiled rotten dog in the whole world. I mean, look at her! She's so sassy, has her own way at all times and gives the best hugs. I like to think she follows after me ;)

She is also probably one of the most photographed dogs in history, I'm always trying to get her to pose for me which she does with a huge sigh and only if I promise her a treat.

Me making Sookie pose for a photo // Sookie's first day with the family // Sookie helping me out with outfit photos // Sookie doesn't like antlers // Sookie's first birthday (yes, I got her a cake. Problem?) // Adorable // Sookie looking a bit like Dobby // Sookie in one of her many coats // Sookie generally looking pretty cool

Photo of my dog on Christmas day.

We don't have any children in the family so Sookie is basically my mothers grandchild and my baby. She gets loads of Christmas presents, she's allowed to sit on the sofa and gets the attention from at least one member of the family at all times. She's not just a pet to us, she's a family member and is truly loved. We're completely mad about her and wouldn't have it any other way.


I don't think any Christmas present will ever top getting Sookie. Have you ever got a pet for Christmas? What are your fondest festive memories?

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Under the Weather

Birthday parties, a trip to London, a refurbishment in work, going to yoga & the gym and making sure I leave time to hang out with Martyn and see my friends has taken it's toll on me over the past month. I've been off work for a few days as I've got a bad case of shingles. Boohoo. Apparently shingles can appear if you're feeling a bit run down or stressed so I've had a few days at home to myself and I've done all the things I love but don't normally have the time too. (Except I had to do it with a tingly right hand side and a rash)

I made Martyn a chocolate orange cake because I like to bake but hate chocolate orange so I didn't eat any of it. All the baking fun without the calories, wooo.

chocolate orange cake

I've watched over 30 episodes of Gilmore Girls and I'm now making loads of pop culture references and speaking faster than the speed of light. Luke > all the other men in Stars Hollow, why does it take Lorelai take so long to figure this out?! I've seen every episode at least 4 times now and I never get bored.

Gilmore Girls

I've done a bit of shopping in bed and have ordered these gorgeous heart shoes beauties as a little treat to myself, a girl can never have too many pairs of heels right?

Had a lie in and made my favourite brunch, baked eggs.

baked eggs

I've tried to take in as many vitamins as possible by using my new juicer. Vitamins will make me well again, right? Having shingles is no fun at all.


Before the ever-so-fun shingles I went to see Martyn's band support Masked Intruder. I don't get to go out as much as I used to and Martyn works most weekends so I had a blast at this gig and it I really enjoyed dancing to this.

I also went out book shopping WITHOUT MY PHONE. Can you imagine that? I didn't check twitter the entire way to Cardiff on the train, I didn't post any photos on instagram and I walked around with two hands free to look at books. I bought a guide to Budapest (I just booked a holiday there) and a geeky book about the London Underground. I'm thinking of going out minus a phone more often.

I'm really looking forward to being well rested and heading to Bath for an overnight trip next weekend and hosting a blogger meet up at Pettigrew Tea Rooms on Sunday.

How do you fit it all in? Work, friends, fun. Being an adult is tricky isn't it?

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Monday, 6 October 2014

Cardiff Country Fair

Last weekend I attended the Cardiff Country Fair, held within the beautiful grounds of Cardiff Castle which showcased the essence of rural Wales in the city. It celebrated the best of farming, food and the countryside from across the UK. I live in Newport which is only 15 minutes away by train to Cardiff but it's well worth making the journey to the Welsh capital if you live a little further afield because there are plenty of big cultural events here, I love living so close to a capital city.

Livestock including cows, sheep, goats and pigs grazed around Cardiff Castle during the fair. There were cooking demonstrations, country games and more than 100 keen bakers entered their Victoria sponges, Welsh cakes, chutneys and jams into the cooking competition which was judged by Beca Lyne-Pirkis, a “Bake off” finalist in 2013. Bustling with families, keen cooks and students; the event had something to entertain everyone.

Cardiff Castle grounds with views of the Millennium Stadium in the background.

I was able to explore the grounds and the keep of the castle as part of the entry price to the fair. The castle is a mixture of  medieval castle and Victorian Gothic revival mansion. The future site of Cardiff Castle was first used by the Romans as a defensive location for many years and was probably built about AD 55.

I made a bee-line for the food and drink stalls. With a wide range of local and regional produce, all lovingly crafted by independent retailers, there were so many delicious treats to taste and buy. I took a few treats home including some lovely Welsh cheese and my favourite, elderflower wine. I can highly recommend the Snowdon smoked cheese, it's the best I've ever had.
Whilst at the fair, I also had the opportunity to watch one of the cooking demonstrations, which was a  new experience for me. I watched the team from Welsh Beef create budget friendly meals and I got to sample plenty of the food they cooked. A Shepherds pie with a creamy leek base was my favourite from that session. 
My afternoon ended with looking (and petting) some lovely curly haired cows, fluffy alpacas and cute piggies.

This is the first ever video I have made to go on this blog so don't laugh at my appalling iMovie skills ;) 

I had a fantastic afternoon at the Cardiff Country Show. There is so much to do in Cardiff and the surrounding areas that you could definitely have a little holiday here. I shared this post about my favourite things to do in Wales and if you want any other recommendations just ask and I will be more than happy to help. If you are looking to stay in Cardiff for the Fair next year or to visit all our lovely historical sitesibis hotels is an option you can consider as it's slap bang in the middle of the city centre and close to Queen Street train station.

Did you visit the Country Fair this year? Have you ever been to Cardiff?

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