Wednesday, 26 February 2014

My list in details #2


As part of an on going set of posts I'm going to take a quick look at the things on my to do list, this week it's island hoping in Greece and visiting Iceland.

Island hop in Greece


I love the idea of chartering a boat and cruising around the Greek islands, stopping off to explore along the way. The blue water of the Aegean Sea looks so tempting, who wouldn't want to take a dip in them? There are around 6,000 islands and islets in Greek waters, with only 227 being inhabited. There are clusters of islands: the Ionian Islands, Saronic Gulf Islands, Sporades Islands, Cycladic Islands, Dodecanese Islands (Rhodes is the biggest and perhaps most well known of the islands), North Aegean Islands and Crete, the largest island.

With the British weather being so dreary at the moment a trip to Greece is very tempting.

Visit Iceland


I'm Iceland obsessed at the moment, I'm desperate to go and see the Northern Lights and visit the Blue Lagoon. In water massage? Yes please. So far what has stopped me from going is not having anyone to go with, I'm not really one for travelling on my own. I like the experience of being with someone when I travel, being able to turn to someone and share an amazing view or experience is part of what I love about travelling. Iceland is also not the cheapest place to get to, plus your chances of seeing the Northern Lights only occur for a few months of the year. One day I will go and hopefully I'll see the lights, I can't imagine how amazing it will finally be.

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Monday, 24 February 2014

Weekly round up

1. I was really struggling to sleep at the beginning of the week, thankfully something clicked after Wednesday and I've gone back to falling asleep as my head hits the pillow. It's been months since that has happened, I'm so glad I'm getting back to my old ways. Doesn't stop me wanting to nap at 10am though. 2. Lipstick stains have been everywhere this week, I'm getting rather addicted to lipstick at the moment. 3. Planning bakes to blog. 4. So in love with tulips, there's something nice about treating yourself to a bunch of flowers. Who needs a man to buy me flowers? 5. Nipped into town for some fresh air and came out with a new pair of shoes from Next. 6. A frankly amazing chicken burger from the Pen and Wig pub. 7. A rare glimpse of sunshine on my lunch break, moments after tweeting this picture it went away and it rained. Such is life. 8. No matter what complicated cake recipes I follow, sometimes the simple ones are the best. 9. Lazy Sunday afternoon outfit, love these combat boots. 10. I introduced Nat to E.L.F on Sunday, full length mirrors mean selfies surely? 11. We discovered a fantastic little tea room in town called Cinnamon Sticks in High Street Arcade, it's run by some wonderfully friendly people with 1950s movies on the TV, comfy chairs and amazing cakes. I kind of don't want to tell people about it but they deserve lots of success so I'm spreading the word. 12. Kath and I in Cinnamon Sticks on the cofiest of all sofas. 

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Sunday, 23 February 2014

What I'm thankful for #2


This week has been good! I'm not sure I want to go into why exactly but I've felt giddy and excited this week, I've felt things I've not felt in years. It's been good to be reminded of what I'm capable of feeling, it's fun and a bit silly. 

Friends - who send me texts that make my stomach flip, grin like an idiot and snort in the most unladylike manner
Rugby
New challenges
Invitations to fun nights out
The pub



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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Chocolate brownies


Another recipe for you, this time some chocolate brownies. A co-worker recently brought some homemade brownies into work and they were the best I've ever eaten, they stopped me mid conversation with my boss as they were so good. My colleague was good enough to bring in the recipe she had used, which somewhat amusingly had come from a children's cookery book. Going back to the basics is clearly where it's at.

Ingredients

40g plain flour

60g cocoa powder

500g caster sugar

200g dark chocolate

250g butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 eggs, beaten


You'll need a small saucepan, a brownie pan close to 20 x 30 cm greased and lined with baking paper, and either a mixer such as a Kitchen Aid or a bowl and wooden spoon. As usual, I had my mug of tea and laptop to hand, this time I went for Life on Mars. 


Method

1. Preheat oven to 180/gas 4. Grease your pan with either butter or oil, line with baking paper around the bottom and on all four sides.

2. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together.

3. Add the sugar and mix well.

4. Chop up the dark chocolate into small pieces. Mix into the flour/sugar.



5. Make a well in the centre of the flour/sugar/chocolate.

6. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat.

7. Pour the butter, eggs and vanilla onto the dry ingredients.


8. Mix until all the ingredients are well combined.



9. Pour the mixture into the pan, smooth the surface. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top starts to crack. 



You're lucky I stopped at three photos
10. Take out of the oven and allow to cool before cutting. These brownies are best made the day before you want them.


  


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Wednesday, 19 February 2014

My list in more detail


For the next few weeks I'm going to look through My List and give short explanations as to why I want to do them. This week it's riding a camel and paddling in the North Sea.

Ride a camel


The last time I went to Dubai I had the opportunity to ride a camel in the desert, but I turned the chance down. Instead I watched my dad ride one and took photos of the scenery, it's a decision I want to reverse when I go to Dubai later this year. 

When Nat and I are in Dubai we're planning on going on a desert safari, I loved the one I went on last time and would really like to do another. The evening safari ends with a camel ride and then a barbecue and shisha, I'm really looking forward to it. It's Nat's first time in Dubai so I'm excited to see what she thinks of Dubai and camels. I'm planning a post about Dubai soon, keep an eye out.

Paddle in the North Sea


Paddling in the North Sea has been on my list for about eight years, ever since I almost moved to Scotland. In 2006 I was accepted onto a business masters degree course in Scotland and was days away from booking my accommodation when I realised that a) Scotland is quite far away when you don't really know anyone and b) it was all too expensive. My dream of paddling in the North Sea was put on hold and has been on hold ever since. 

I'm still not 100% sure why the North Sea holds such an appeal to me, maybe it's because I know how cold it'll be, maybe it's part of my love of Scotland and wanting to go as far north as I can in the UK. I'm not sure I'll get to do it this year, as yet I have no plans to go to Scotland but that can always change.

Do you have a to do list? If you do, leave me a link in the comments so I can have a look.

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Monday, 17 February 2014

Joan's raspberry flapjacks


On my first day in my new job, my line manager made some raspberry flapjacks for our first team meeting. The idea was that we'd sit around over a cup of tea and the flapjacks and chat about what I'd be doing for the next 18 months. Everyone agreed that the flapjacks were amazing, they were probably the best I've ever tasted.

I've taken the basics of Joan's recipe and adapted it to suit what I wanted from them, I wanted them to be gooey, sticky and with a bit of a punch from the raspberries. These flapjacks are not of the healthy variety, don't let the fruit fool you.

Ingredients


200g butter

4 tablespoons of golden syrup

200g dark brown sugar

420g rolled oats

200g frozen raspberries

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 180/gas 4

2. Melt the syrup and sugar together

The golden nectar *swoons*

3. Add butter and oats and mix 


4. Pour half of the mixture into a baking tin

5. Scatter the raspberries over the mixture and then pour on the other half of the oats



6. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes

7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting 




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Weekly round up

1. The early part of the week saw me back into my nightly routine of a mug and a hot chocolate with a sleeping tablet. 2. Snowdrops have come up, spring is on the way. 3. Daffodils in my office. 4. Three visits here, oops. 5. Treated myself to a Valentines Day lunch from Coffee a go go. 6. Valentines flowers for me, from me. 7. At a ceilidh on Saturday, the smile on my face says it all. 8. Waking up to sunshine was so lovely. 9. Sunday morning breakfast bagel with 'proper' bacon.

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Sunday, 16 February 2014

What I'm thankful for #1


Over the last couple of months I've been trying to train my brain to think positively. It's not something that is always easy to do, we all have demons lurking in us that like to remind us of things that we don't care to be reminded of, but I've persisted. My physical health and mental health have become more important to me over the last few months, I've had to take both things seriously.

Positive Thinking

Thinking positive has become very important to me, I have to do it. It would be so easy to slip into depression with what has happened to me, I saw my GP about my mental health and sleeplessness soon after my marriage ended. I was given sleeping tablets, which turned out to be a god send, but my doctor wouldn't prescribe my anti depressants. I hadn't gone in to see him to get them, I wasn't depressed and I didn't even mention them, but I had plenty of people tell me that I should have asked for them to help me through the weeks and months ahead. What the doctor said to me has stuck with me, my reactions and emotions following what happened were normal. Of course I was going to be upset, down, not sleeping and not eating. He knew that I would come through and appear on the other side of this as a strong person, but I was going to have to do it myself.

Positive thinking isn't always easy but I'm finding it increasingly easy to swap negative thoughts for positive ones as soon as they pop into my head. The positive thoughts can be anything, it can be the thought of going dancing with friends, the thought of my holiday to Dubai later this year or it can be as simple as knowing there's chocolate waiting for me at home.

The Future

Ah, the future. Both terrifying and exciting in equal measure. Four months ago I was utterly, utterly terrified of the future. But now? Now I'm looking forward to it, I have lots to look forward to: holidays, buying my own home, getting a dog, spending time with friends, being a bridesmaid...so many positive things are ahead of me.

When I can feel myself slipping down, I head to places like Pinterest or Rightmove. Pinterest lets me plan out the future I want, such how I want my house to look whereas Rightmove lets me window shop for the type of house I want and the area I want to live in. I'm not planning on selling my house until the end of the year, but it's good to know what's out there.

Positive People

They say that when a crisis hits you really find out who your friends are, this has been true for me. Some friends have been in touch maybe once in the last few months, some friends never ask how I am and have never talked about my marriage ending as if it's not happened, which is fine. However, other people have been truly amazing. Those are the people I have surrounded myself with, people who aren't afraid of the emotions I've shown but they're also people who have shown me that there's a great life out there to be had.

Being Thankful

I have a lot to be thankful for in my life. I have an amazing family, wonderful friends and a good job that I enjoy. When I'm feeling down I try to remind myself that the fundamentals of life are well taken care of. I initially bought a journal in order to record three things each day that I've been thankful for but I'm terrible at keeping a journal, instead I've decided that each Sunday I'll list what I've been thankful for that week.

Some weeks I may have ten things, whilst other weeks may have been tough but I'm determined to be able to list at least one thing I'm thankful for. Whether those things are basics such as having a roof over my head and being able to eat a hot dinner everyday, or whether they're other things like being able to buy a new pair of shoes, or Cardiff beating xyz team that week. I will have things to be thankful for.

This week I am thankful for:

The beautiful tulips I bought myself 
Being able to bake yummy things
Friends who like to do fun things
Supportive colleagues
Dancing

Do you write down what you're thankful for? If you do something similar and you blog about it, leave me your links.

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Saturday, 15 February 2014

Super chocolatey bundt cake


I've known for a while that for Valentines Day this year I would bake a cake. It wasn't until yesterday morning that I actually decided on which cake to bake, but I think I went for something suitably fitting: a super chocolatey bundt cake.

When I think of bundt cakes I think of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it was the first time I'd ever seen one. Unfortunately my cake doesn't have a bit enough hole in the middle for a plant.



Firstly, get yourself set up. You'll need a small saucepan, bundt pan (mine is 25cm) and either a food processor or a large bowl. Don't forget to provide yourself with something to watch or listen to, I opted for Gilmore Girls.




Ingredients

300g caster sugar

180g plain flour, sifted

50g cocoa powder

1 teaspoon/packet baking powder

1 teaspoon/packet bicarbonate of soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

250ml milk

100g butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

250ml boiling water

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180/gas 4 and prepare your cake tin (I greased mine with butter and then dusted cocoa powder in the pan but you can use cake release spray if you prefer)

2. Mix the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, baking powder and bicarb of soda in a bowl

3. In a food processor/bowl mix the eggs, vanilla, butter and milk together

4. Continue to mix as you add the dry ingredients a spoonful at a time

5. Once all the dried ingredients have been added, add the water

6. Pour the mixture into your tin and place on the middle shelf of the oven for 40-45 minutes

7. Make a cup of tea, carry on watching your TV show of choice, take photos of stuff around the house



7. Remove from oven and leave to cool before attempting to remove the cake from the tin

8. Decorate as you wish, I melted some dark chocolate using a bain-marie and then drizzled it over the cake

  




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Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Valentines Day Gift List

It's pretty difficult to avoid anything Valentines Day related at the moment, there are TV adverts, online gift lists and pinterest boards bombarding everyone. Admittedly it's pretty hard to believe in love and not be bitter about it this year, I've so far unfollowed any Valentines related boards on pinterest and found it hard not to be a tiny bit jealous of couples telling the world what their plans are for Friday. However, instead of focusing on the negatives I've decided to join the hoards in coming up with a gift list, except this gift list is for those ladies out there who are single. Maybe you've not been in a relationship before, been single for a while, don't want to be in a relationship or you've just come out of one and you could do with loving yourself for a while, take some time out and spoil yourself this Friday.


1. Time to pamper yourself, stick to the theme of all things pink and opt for a super bright nail polish by OPI.
2. Burn a gorgeous smelling Jo Malone candle, because lets be fair, who doesn't love a trip to the Jo Malone shop?
3. Whilst we're pampering ourselves, how about a new lipstick? I'm an absolute sucker for buying pink lipsticks at the moment, and this one looks gorgeous.
4. Treat yourself to a new mug to sip a warming hot chocolate from. Whipped cream and marshmallows are mandatory, obviously.
5. Why wait for someone else to buy you flowers? I'm planning on buying myself a bunch of flowers on Friday.
6. Angel by Thierry Mulger is my go to perfume at the moment, I'll definitely be wearing this for Valentines Day.
7. To round off your pamper night how about a new onsie?
8. Not much of a onsie wearing? This nightdress should do the trick.
9. If you don't fancy a hot chocolate, something fizzy would do the trick. Not that I want to alert people to a problem but I currently have two bottles of prosecco on my nightstand, maybe I should pop one in the fridge now.
10. Cake! Hopefully I'll be able to muster up the energy after work on Friday to make a cake, it's been my Valentines plan for a few weeks. I highly doubt that it'll look like this one but hopefully it'll be tasty.

Single this Valentines? Let me know what you're up to, happy Valentines Day everyone!

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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Snowdrops

Photo taken in my parent's garden yesterday. I planted these bulbs back at the beginning of September, I planted more in my back garden, hopefully they're starting to bloom now.
The snowdrop is one of the first bulbs to flower, signalling the start of spring. The flower is a symbol of hope. According to legend, the snowdrop became the symbol of hope when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. When Eve was just about to give up hope that the cold winters would never end, an angel appeared to her. The angel transformed some of the snowflakes into snowdrop flowers, which proved that winters do eventually give way to the spring.

As I was outside in my parent's back garden yesterday I noticed that these snowdrops had flowered in one of the pots I brought back from my house. After a day of feeling quite low (see previous post) a little symbol of hope was what I needed. 

I'm looking forward to my spring.



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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Four months on

Image from Pinterest


It's been just over four months since my world came crashing down around me. I'm still alive, although four months ago I wouldn't have believed it. I thought the pain in my heart would have caused me to die, some days it felt preferable to the prolonged agony that was waking up each day to find out that the nightmare was in fact reality. Thankfully, those dark thoughts subsided and I was able to smile and laugh again.

December was always going to be a difficult month, it would have been my third anniversary at the beginning of the month, not to mention everyone is so geared up for Christmas. I will fully admit to not looking forward to Christmas, cosy couples everywhere, people partying and celebrating life? No thanks. That wasn't for me. I wanted December to come and go as quickly as possible. I dreaded Christmas day, I was afraid that I would wake up already crying and that I would spoil the day for my family. As it happened, I didn't wake up crying. I woke up in a surprisingly good mood, I only had one moment of not being quite myself - at lunch as I sat with my family, just the four of us for the first time since I was a child, and I couldn't quite believe that it was Christmas day. 

January was a very good month, my thoughts hardly touched upon my ex-husband, I went out with friends a lot, I laughed, I danced, I enjoyed life. I started a new job and thought more of the future. It wasn't until this month that a cloud descended on me again, keeping me awake long into the night despite being agonisingly tired, filling my dreams when I did sleep with thoughts I had kept at bay for weeks and waking me with his image already burning into my mind's eye, wondering what he was doing, who he was doing it with, was he thinking of me, when would he go home so I wouldn't have to live in fear of bumping into him? Horrid, tiresome thoughts that caused me heartache. 

I know that this will pass. I know that eventually, although I don't know how long it will take, I will be ok. The time between the highs and lows will grow increasingly longer until one day I'll realise that it's been a year since my last low point. I yearn for another month of not thinking about him and what my life may have been. I know that I deserve so much more in a partner, but I know it will be difficult to give myself up to someone next time because I will be afraid of rejection and hurt again. From reading other blogs and websites of other women in similar situations it would seem that I'm not alone in thinking as I do, from which I take a little comfort. Although it's sad to know that other people have shared the same pain as me (which I wouldn't even wish upon my worst enemy, should I have one), it's good to see that they have come out on the other side and in some cases have gone on to marry again and even have families. 

In the mean time, I'm left to weather the stormy seas that trouble me. The dark thoughts that swim around in my head, the ones that make my stomach lurch with fear, that make me feel physically ill, they have made a home for themselves for a little longer. The difference in me after four months however, means that I can banish them and think of positive things a lot easier than before. Each day I wake up is another day that I have survived, another day that I have become stronger, another day to be thankful for what I do have in my life rather than mourning what I used to have. It's a long slog, and sometimes I can't believe that four months have gone by, but if four months ago you had told me that I could have a smile on my face again I would never have believed you. I'm looking forward to calmer seas ahead. 

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Another lazy catch up


I've been a bad blogger lately, it's not for the want of having things to write about either. I'm just...lazy I suppose. This brief catch up will have to suffice for now I'm afraid. 


1. Watching the Cardiff Blues play on a dank and gloomy night. 2. Took a trip to Cardiff Bay with the girls, got asked to be a bridesmaid for my lovely friend, Natalie. Said yes, obviously! 3. I've yet to build up the courage to wear red lipstick so I'm sticking with pinks for now. 4. After going to a ceilidh I was inspired to wear my tartan skirt to work. 5. Rainbow through my office window. 6. The weather in Cardiff has been less than glorious. 7. My new pair of New Look boots, I managed to buy two pairs of boots last week. 8. Two new favourite mascaras. 9. For the first time in years I bought myself exercise clothes, planning on getting my arse into gear. 10. Sneaky shopping trip to Boots, the hair dye came out more red than I was anticipating but I still like it. 11. Tried out the Barker Tea House for the first time, definitely going back. 12. Another first on Friday was Got Beef at The Canadian.


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