Monday, 31 August 2015

My bedroom - Looking for those finishing touches - #TransfAutumn

I know it's still festival season and kids haven't gone back to school yet but Autumn is approaching and the nights are starting to draw in a little earlier. I'll be heading out on my camping trips and days at the seaside less often and spending more time at home over the next few months so I want to get it looking and feeling just right. 

I've been in the house for over a year now and it is much more homely than when I moved in. I've added a lot of feminine touches to the bachelor pad I moved into and it feels a lot more 'me'. It's the first time I've ever really moved out of home apart from my student days so I didn't have much furniture to take with me. I've picked up a few bits and bobs in Ikea and charity shops because I'm on a budget and because my room looked very bare when I initially moved in. 


As you can see I've managed to fill my room and now have a place to store some of my books and put my cup of tea on when I'm reading in bed. I'm trying to pick up bits of furniture when I can so I have some of my own things when I eventually buy a house as my current house came furnished. 



I still don't have a wardrobe as they can be a pretty expensive investment so I'm making do with a rail  at the moment and a £20 charity shop dressing table. George at Asda have asked bloggers to think about how they would transform a room for Autumn (check out other posts using the #TransfAutumn on twitter) and I would do that by investing in some nice white furniture which would help my make my room seem more calm, less cluttered and mean that I don't have to store things in boxes under my bed.


I'm loving the simple Baltic range which fits in with what I already have and the deep drawers will be great for my 1000s of pairs of tights and all my accessories. I don't mind filling my room with some budget saving second hand items but it would be lovely to have something new and that matches nicely with other items in my room.



Will you be adding any items to your home this Autumn/Winter? It's definitely time for throws and candles to make you feel warm and cosy.

*A collaboration with George Home Furniture for Asda.

Gemma
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Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A coat for life




A Barbour Wax Jacket is one of those items of clothing which never goes out of style and as long as you keep them waxed a Barbour jacket can literally last you decades. My first ever foray into the work of Barbour was the Beadham Waxed Jacket I bought back in 2012. I had had my eye on one for a while and the history of the brand had always appealed to me. I like to buy British and Barbour have been making their products in the North East since 1894. Today the 5th generation family owned business remains in South Shields and remains true to its core values and still makes beautifully functional clothing. In total, 3,000 waxed jackets are made every week (25 per machinist). I love knowing that my waxed jacket was handmade here in the UK.

My jacket has been all over the world with me. It's reached the peak of a very windy Pen y Fan, travelled to Austria and Hungary and it always the jacket I pull on when I go out for a walk in Wales. It's also stylish enough to wear to festivals and it's had a few drinks spilled on it at Bestival and Reading Festival. My Barbour jacket is my pride and joy and could really do with a re-wax to keep it in tip top condition because it has been so well loved and well worn. It’s one of the most versatile jackets I’ve ever owned – keeping me warm when the wind’s blowing but not too warm when the sun shines and navy blue goes with pretty much everything.

After three years of pretty much continuous wear I've decided to get my jacket re-waxed and relegate it to my spare coat. I treated myself to a new coat because as much as I'm attached to my old one I fancied a change. I love Barbour jackets and I'm pretty loyal so it was completely logical to get another one. I opted for a waterproof one this time (no need to re-wax) from Outdoor and Country and I think I made a good choice. This one is a bit longer, has a pretty fancy striped lining and pairs up naturally with my wardrobe staple Joules dresses. Sometimes I even throw on my Hunter Wellington Boots at the same time for that full on town girl tries to do country look ;) I've got some lovely gloss black boots.


Are you a fan of the heritage Barbour style? What are your favourite British brands?


Gemma
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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

A day in Salzburg











I can't believe my trip to Austria was just over two months ago now. Time has flown by since then and I've moved jobs so I almost forgot to share my photos from my wonderful day trip to Salzburg. I've already posted about my camping trip in Zell am See and all the things to do and see there but today I'm sharing my thoughts on Salzburg.

Salzburg was the birthplace Mozart, the filming location for various scenes in The Sound of Music and is Austria’s fourth largest city.  This historical city is surrounded by the stunning Berchtesgaden Alps and has a lovely old town district with narrow streets and quaint shops. 

The journey from Zell am See to Salzburg was a breathtaking one, we took the OBB train and enjoyed views of the Alps on the way.  Salzburg train station is only a short walk from the main town and we didn't need to use any public transport once we were there. As soon as we arrived I dragged Martyn straight to the famous Mirabell Palace and garden. This is a mandatory spot to visit in Salzburg. Not only are the gardens very well maintained it was the location for the "Do-Re-Mi"scene in The Sound of Music. 

From the gardens, its just a short walk over to the Old Town of Salzburg which is a UNESCO World Heritage protected area. The Old Town is home to The Salzburg Dom Cathedral; St. Peter’s Monastery; Hohensalzburg Fortress; Mozart’s Birthplace on Getreidegasse and lots of lovely shops. 

The Dom is a 17th century baroque cathedral and is very grand and beautiful. Entry is free and Mozart was baptized in the cathedral. The cathedral was destroyed by a bomb in second world war and took almost 15 years to restore. The interior was pretty breathtaking and reminded me of the St Stephen's Basilica in Budapest.

Next we headed to the impressive Hohensalzburg Fortress. There is a cable car from the “festungsbahn” stop right behind the Dom (I do love a cable car) There are amazing views over the city from the top of the fortress which is one of the largest medieval castles in Europe. Don’t miss the Golden Chamber which is lavishly decorated if you visit. Archbishop Gebhard von Helfenstein built the fortress in 1077 to protect both the bishops and the city.

It was a real shame that Martyn and I only got to spend one day in Salzburg because there were lots of museums we didn't get to visit and we we didn't have time to eat at any of the lovely restaurants in the city. I hope I can visit the small but perfectly formed city again in the future. 

Gemma
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Thursday, 13 August 2015

Trip to West Wales - Thinking about my future

photo of a boat in the sea near Tenby

I just a long weekend camping in beautiful West Wales on the Trevayne campsite. It's there third time I've stayed there. I love the small and friendly site and the amazing views of Tenby and Saundersfoot from the site.

photo of caravans in a field at Trevayne campsite

this is a picture of Tenby when the sun is setting

I visited Newgale and Monkstone beach, read a book, relaxed and pottered around. Bliss. 



This is a picture of newgale beach in West Wales

When you’re in still in university, trying to save for a house or just having the time of your life, saving for retirement is probably the last thing on your to-do list. After all, your retirement is probably 30/40 years away, you’re more focused on things like paying the bills and trying to figure out where you're going in regards to your career. 

My recent weekend break in West Wales prompted me and Martyn to chat about our future and how we want to explore the UK more and the rest of Europe. We only get to go on short breaks now or visit countries for a week at a time, saving up and sacrificing things to go away and not being able to cram everything in everything we want to see around work. Some people think that you should go travelling when you're young and that the best way to see the work is to go backpacking on a gap year but I can't wait to retire and do the most OAP thing ever and buy a little caravan or motorhome. I'm looking forward to endless days of possibility, exploring new locations and not having stresses and worries. I've already planned on blowing my retirement lump sum on travel.

McCarthy & Stone shared the results of their Colour Report and I learned that age really is just an attitude; 79% said they feel younger than their true age, and this feeling only increased with age, with 81% of over 75s saying they feel younger than they are. Essentially, those in their 60s felt 50, and those in their 70s a youthful 60. It's reassured me that I've got lots to look ford to and all those hours in work will be worth it when I can spend the rest of my days exploring. Retirement is not all doom and gloom, but rather colourful, fun and still a very active time for over 55s.

84% of retirees said having a laugh with their friends keeps them feeling young. I'm looking forward to spending the 'golden years'  of my life with my best friend and partner Martyn. Look out for us on a beach in West Wales with an ice cream in 2045. He'll be the OAP sporting loads of tattoos and I'll be the one taking a photo of my ice cream to post on instagram. 

this post has been a Talented Talkers collaboration

Gemma
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Monday, 10 August 2015

Wagamama - Eat Club

I had the pleasure of sampling the new Summer menu and find out more about Eat Club courtesy of Wagamama at the Cardiff Library branch a couple of weeks ago. I'm always pleased to see new additions to the menu as I dine there pretty frequently and like to try new things.

If you have never been to wagamama before they are inspired by traditional Japanese ramen bars and Asian flavours. wagamama spans 17 countries with over 99 restaurants in the UK alone. They cook super fresh food and (in my opinion) offer a modern dining experience at an affordable price. It's always at the top of my list of places to go for lunch when I'm out shopping because everything is cooked fresh to order. Enough about the company, lets take a look at the food!

wagamama is excited to reveal a new menu offering shoppers something delicious to enjoy. With fresh juices for those on the go, steamed buns and gyozas for the peckish and innovative new mains to satisfy hungry shoppers after a day of retail therapy.

Martyn and I opted for some old favourites for our starters including the ebi katsu crispy fried prawns in panko breadcrumbs which come served with a spicy chilli and garlic sauce. These lasted about two minutes...

This is a picture of ebi katsu crispy fried prawns

This is a picture of stuffed tempura mushrooms & chilli squid

stuffed tempura mushrooms & chilli squid



One of the newest additions to the menu are the Omakase dishes, which simply means ‘trust the chef’ in Japanese. These five dishes have been carefully put together and selected by the head chefs of Wagamama from their most popular dishes, and made with a twist. Warm coconut seafood broth, marinated beef in a fragrant massaman curry sauce and tasty yakitori duck with zesty flavours are just some of the dishes to be enjoyed.

wagamama traditionalists need not fear, classic favourites such as katsu curry and prawn firecracker (my all time favourite) will remain firmly on the menu alongside other much-loved dishes. There is now the option to customise your dish so you can add extra chillies or take them out.

Beef massaman curry & teriyaki lamb
I enjoyed some marinated beef with sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and baby aubergine in a mild, fragrant massaman curry sauce. It was a lot more subtle than my normal choice of firecracker   but I loved it. Martyn had the teriyaki lamb with mushrooms, asparagus, kale and mangetout served on a bed of soba noodles in a pea, herb and wasabi dressing which we would both have again.

Even though we were pretty full we couldn't leave without some dessert. We shared some taster sized pieces of the wagamama top sellers which was the perfect way to end the meal. 

This is a picture of dessert at Wagamama

We definitely recommend that you go in and try out something you may have never had before, especially something off of the Omakase section – the wagamama chef’s are ones you can truly trust, those guys know their flavours.

Wagamama is one of the restaurants in St David’s taking part in Eat Club, an exclusive online club. By joining Eat Club by St David’s you will get top foodie news, cooking inspiration, recipes and interviews with top chefs- straight to your inbox every month. To find out more and to sign up, visit www.stdavidscardiff.com/eat

I was invited to Wagamama as a guest

Gemma
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Friday, 7 August 2015

That time everyone came to Wales...

This is a photo of Caerleon in Wales

I can't believe it's been just over four years since I attended my first ever blogger meet up in Birmingham. I made some friends that weekend that have been a big part of my life since and if Claire hadn't organised it I might not be here blogging today because as much as I love blogging I've mainly stuck at it for 5 years because I like to interact with all the friends I met online.  It was lovely for the gang to come and visit me at my home in Wales, we normally meet in the Midlands because it is central for everyone but the time had come to show off my lovely home country. 



Backpack buddies

We didn't do anything too strenuous or try and pack in loads of sightseeing. After a night of movies and Welsh cheese and cakes we headed out for a stroll in my local area. We took in the Roman attractions in Caerleon, hanging around the amphitheatre and scoffing some pizza in The Snug. Talking about rude topics a bit too loudly and having prosecco with lunch because why the hell not?! 


This is a picture of an afternoon tea with cake and scones and cucumber sandwiches

I went a bit OTT on the afternoon party nibbles, I was baking like a woman possessed the night before everyone arrived and made about 30 scones even though there were only a handful of us ( I was eating leftovers for days after) I do love an excuse to get my pretty tea cups out and go a bit bunting crazy. My confetti print bits and bobs come from DotComGiftshop and all my cake stands are charity shop finds.


I had set up the garden for a afternoon tea party but sometimes you just need to snuggle on the sofa under a blanket and do a quote-along with Mean Girls right? After taking all the cake inside and settling down we drank thoroughly British beverages like Pimms and tea and didn't move from the sofa all night. Who needs a night out? I might prefer a night in my PJs having a good natter. I'm getting old.


Sarah, Sophie, Maria, Claire & Katy, I bloody love you guys! Thank you for a wonderful weekend.

I'm in the car going to Tenby for a birthday camping trip as I type this. I hope you all have a lovely weekend. Big shout out to everyone hanging out with their girl gangs this weekend. My blogger girl gang rules! 

Gemma
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Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The cost of being a wedding guest



The chances are that you’ve attended a wedding or two over the summer season and perhaps have more to attend as the year draws to a close for those who prefer a winter wedding. Have you ever considered how much you’ve spent attending weddings over the years? Have you ever argued with a partner about attending a wedding? Experian’s latest survey suggests that the cost of weddings is causing stress for many couples, and not just for the bride and groom. In fact, almost one in four couples in the UK have argued with their partner about the cost of witnessing friends and loves ones tying the knot.

Managing your finances and your relationship can be very tricky – when it comes to both organising and attending weddings, moving in together or just life in general. Experian’s latest survey suggests that the rising cost of being a wedding guest is causing friction for many couples, and not just for the bride and groom. In fact, almost a quarter of Britons have argued with their partner about the cost of witnessing others tie the knot.

The findings also reveal that one in six people who are in a relationship are missing the nuptials of loved ones because they cannot afford to attend. This equates to more than one guest at each table.

More than one in ten people in relationships have spent over £800 each on attending weddings. Meanwhile almost a million Brits, report having spent more than £2,000 participating in other people’s weddings over the last year! Costs can escalate even further when you attend stag and hen dos overseas.  You need to factor in a fancy outfit, accommodation, transport and even the gifts. I've got a headache just thinking about attending a wedding.  If you forget to look at the gift list and panic purchase the week before then only the more pricey items are left. You end up spending way too much money on a dress you can only wear a handful of times and we all feel the strain to compete with others and we purchase things we can't really afford. 

People don't tend to stay in the same town all of their lives anymore. People move away for university and meet partners there, meet people online or through work and resettle far away from their hometown. Going to your best friends wedding can mean flying to another country or driving 200 miles away. 


James Jones, head of consumer affairs at Experian, commented: “Attending the wedding of family and friends should be great fun. However, for many ‘wedding season’ has become a source of financial pressure and domestic strife. The research suggests that at each UK wedding, there is an average of one person missing because they cannot meet the spiralling cost of attending nuptials – an obvious disappointment for hosts and guests alike.

“While racking up debt has often been seen as the price to pay for holding the wedding of your dreams, it now seems that many guests are also suffering financial stress. Sitting down with your partner to put some thought into your budget at the beginning of ‘wedding season’ is advisable. Discussing not just how much you can afford, but also how you’re going to pay for it can help avoid arguments in the run up to the big day and make sure you come out the other end without a nasty financial hangover.”

The research goes on to reveal that one in 20 guests have had to borrow money in order to attend a wedding.

A whopping 78% of people have formally borrowed money, including:
·         44% have had to use their credit card, increasing to a surprising 62% amongst 45-54 year olds
·         17% extended their overdraft
·         12% have tapped into their savings

Worryingly, almost one in three of those borrowing money to attend weddings have no clear plan to pay it back or have never even thought about it. The trend is even more concerning in some regions. In the North East, the number jumps to 80%, while 74% of people in East Anglia have not considered the long term consequences of borrowing. I don't know about you but all these figures have got me considering an elopement... maybe not. My mother would be devastated if she didn't get to see me get married.

Managing your finances and your relationship can be a tricky balancing act – when it comes to attending weddings, moving in together or just life in general. Here are the top five dos and don’ts for financial harmony:

        Do
  • Set the ground rules. Do you want a joint account for regular expenses and separate bank accounts for personal spending? Or do you want everything to go together?
  • Work out who does what. The more frugal partner could look after the budget, while the more extravagant works out the ‘treats’, like meals out or trips away
  • Agree on short and long-term goals and how you’re going to achieve them, and review regularly together
  • Be honest about your past. If you have a less-than-perfect history of repaying money you owe, this could affect both of you in the long-term if your credit reports become linked
  • Take time together to understand if you need to improve one or both of your credit reports. Do this well in advance of applying for credit together
        Don’t
  • Spend all your time together talking about money 
  • Keep secrets. Research from Experian shows that 29% of people in the UK discovered that their partner was keeping credit card debt from them
  • Dig yourself into a hole. If you find yourself in debt, don’t borrow more in the hope of putting things right. Ask for help and be open about it with your partner
  • Talk about money issues when you are angry. Arguing about money is never going to be productive
  • Expect your partner to completely change. It’s unlikely an extravagant spender will do a complete about-turn and suddenly become frugal
*Research provided by Experian

Gemma
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