Wednesday, 4 November 2015

BBQ Pulled Pork



Last week I was looking for the best pulled pork recipe out there but had no luck in finding one, so I decided to wing it and man was I glad. I somehow managed to create a stonking rub for the meat, I'll have no need to look elsewhere for a recipe as this is now my go to.

Ingredients

Pork shoulder (with or without the bone)

30g paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic granules
1 teaspoon cayenne

240ml water
240ml cider vinegar

BBQ sauce (I use Newman's Own)

Method

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Rub all over the pork making sure to get into any crevices in the meat.

Pour the water and vinegar into a slow cooker.

Place the pork into the slow cooker.

Cook for eight hours on low.

Once done remove the meat to a cutting board, drain off around 240ml of fluid from the cooker and set aside. 

Pull/fork apart the meat and put back into the cooker, pour in the fluid as well as as much BBQ sauce as you like to taste.

Serve in your favourite way, in a bun, in tacos or quesadillas, sweet potato or my current favourite: on top of mac n cheese (recipe coming soon).






Disclaimer: terrible photos thanks to using my phone, these dark evenings are a nightmare for blog photo taking.

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Saturday, 3 October 2015

The downside of living alone



Yesterday I was reminded that living alone can be scary as well as awesome (need I remind you that living alone means you get to wander around in your underwear?)

As I was getting ready for work I pulled a muscle in my upper back, which then went into spasm. Not to sound too dramatic, but it was the worst pain I've felt in my life. Give me my tattoo over that any day of the week. I stood frozen to the spot in my bedroom whimpering through the pain and not sure whether I should move or not, only when I was about to faint did I move towards the edge of my bed in order to sit down. I figured that if I did faint at least I'd have less distance to fall.

The first thing I did was text two colleagues to tell them I wouldn't be in work, and then I called my mum crying in pain and through being afraid. I was afraid, at that point I didn't know what was wrong with me. I suffer from health anxiety so I automatically jump to the 'it's cancer' 'I've broken my back' 'I'm dead' mentality. Thinking back on it, I'm not sure why I thought contacting work was more of a priority than contacting help but there we go.

My mum called for an emergency doctor's appointment for me, they wanted to call an ambulance because I couldn't breathe properly but thankfully she said no (being admitted to hospital is a major fear of mine).

The problem was that my bedroom is on the top floor of my house (a townhouse) and even though my parents have a key to my house, I'd put the chain across the night before. This meant an agonising journey downstairs to take the chain off. I'm not sure how I did it, but doing it almost made me faint again. By that point I'd realised that standing was less painful than sitting so I stood in my living room, sobbing, until my dad arrived.

I'm incredibly lucky to have family who are only 15-20 minutes away, but days like yesterday remind me of just how scary living alone can be with no one immediately available to help me if things go wrong.

For those wondering, the doctor told me that I'm holding a lot of tension in my back which caused me to pull a muscle which then spasmed. I'm drugged up to the eyeballs and unable to move far from the sofa or drive for a few days. I need to learn some stress busting techniques I think!



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Monday, 24 August 2015

Having a type



You know how some people say they don’t have a type, but deep down you know they do. I’m one of those people. I swear blind that I don’t have a type but I do. That said, I keep an open mind when it comes to who I’ll date. 

I also have a list of things I’m theoretically looking for in someone and recently I’ve discovered that it doesn’t matter how many ticks I can give a person, if the chemistry isn’t there then it isn’t there. Back in March I started dating someone who I would go on to date for about three months, out of all the things on my list he ticked maybe two things but I liked him. I really liked him. From the moment I laid eyes on him I knew I wanted a second, third, fourth date...but things didn’t work out. We were in different places, he wasn't ready for a relationship (we'll skip over the part where he told me initially that a relationship was what he wanted - a post about listening to your gut it a whole other thing) whereas that's what I wanted. Casual dating isn't for me, I thought I could do it with him but seeing someone once a week when you like them isn't enough for me. 

I was asked recently if I’d date him again if he got his act together (not the person’s exact words) and I gave the answer of “Yes” straight away with no hesitation. I weirdly feel like I'm letting the sisterhood down in admitting this, how sad to be so into a guy that just isn't that into you. We’ve all probably got that one person we’d happily date again though, right? I wouldn't want him to know this, it feels like it would do his ego a world of good but it does nothing for me other than making me feel crap when I think about it. 

At the beginning of August I went on a lovely date with a guy who had more ticks on the list than the last guy, with pretty much all of them ticked. Good looking, well educated, good job, non smoker etc. But after the date I knew I didn’t want to see him again, the chemistry wasn’t there for me. This probably wasn't helped by me thinking about my first date with the last guy mid way through the date with this guy. I feel terrible that I even did that, it wasn't fair on him. The last guy I dated has set the bar as to the feelings I want on a first date, the feelings of being completely comfortable, of wanting to lean across and kiss them, the feeling of the first kiss. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing I’m not sure but I’m not willing to compromise on the feelings I know I can get from a great first date.

Dating is (once again) taking the back seat for me. Maybe a life of lots of greyhounds is my future instead.




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Thursday, 30 July 2015

Royal Welsh Show 2015


I've wanted to go to the Royal Welsh Show for years but for whatever reason I've never made it, until this year. I love being in the countryside, apart from by the sea it's where I'm most content and I love animals, especially horses. Cob day (the Wednesday) has been the day I've really wanted to go on to see the amazing Welsh cobs in the show ring and this year I finally got to.

The RWS takes place over four days in July each year in Builth Wells, Mid Wales. The main function of the show is to showcase the best Welsh livestock as well as amazing food and drink from across Wales. It's accessible to both those from rural areas as well as town folk like me. There's a huge array of things to see and do, want to buy a tractor? Here's your place to do it. Want to see lumberjacks in action or see the largest bulls you're ever likely to see? Again, here is the place. Each day of the show is a full 12 hours so if you get there early enough you can pack a lot in.

I arrived at around midday after travelling up from South Wales, the journey took about three hours in total thanks to the traffic going to the show but once you're in the car park everything runs like clockwork. No wonder the people running it know that they're doing, this year they saw over 240,000 people through the gates over four days. 


The highlight for me were the Welsh cob senior stallions, they were absolutely stunning animals and the crowd reaction to them was electric. Other highlights included seeing the prizewinning cattle being taken back to their pens, I've honestly never seen such large cattle. Bulls and cows made of pure muscle were calmly lead past large crowds of people within touching distance without batting an eyelid. The sheep shearing competition between Wales and France was amazing to watch, it was almost treated like a rugby international with the anthems sung before it began and then the crowd cheering and shouting on the Welsh shearers with commentators shouting over the top. 


One day was definitely not enough, there were large areas of the show that I didn't get to and lots of animals that I didn't get to see. Next year I'm hoping to go for two days and either camp nearby or stay in a B&B, either way I know I'm going back and already looking forward to it.

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Saturday, 18 July 2015

Getting to know Caerphilly


Back in 2012 when I first moved to Caerphilly from Cardiff I hated it. There was nothing about it that I liked, I was thoroughly miserable for the 11 months I lived here. Now it's easy to see that it wasn't the town making me miserable...

Roll on 20 months and I moved back to Caerphilly. It hasn't been smooth sailing, it's taken me a while to settle back into living here. There's something about that mountain that makes me feel very far removed from my friends and family but I'm now pretty used to it. In an attempt to get to know my adopted town I'm going to try and find out more about it. I'm very lucky to live within walking distance of the town centre so last weekend along with some friends who live locally I walked to Bella Capri for dinner.

Bella Capri is an Italian restaurant I drive past every day to get back to my house and I've often wondered what it's like as it usually seems busy. It turned out to be a really good evening with us being there for nearly three hours. The menu is more limited than I'm used to but rather than finding this worrying it was reassuring to know that they should get each dish spot on. 

As a first step into settling into Caerphilly it was a good start. I've got a few more places planned so hopefully I'll be able to update the blog on what else is out there in the county.



That really is a massive photo of my cabonara isn't it? 

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Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Brunching


Since moving into my house I've made an effort to be more social within the house, thankfully my friends have been happy to trek over the mountain and come to me. After a night of Italian food at Bella Capri in Caerphilly the girls popped back to mine on Sunday morning so we could have brunch. 

I bought a waffle iron a few months ago thanks to a gift voucher from my brother for Lakeland and I've really not utilised it as well as I could have. On Sunday I rectified that, topping fresh waffles with crispy bacon, a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. 

A good brunch and friends, there's not much better on a Sunday morning.

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Sunday, 12 July 2015

Gingerbread cupcakes


Before I start, I realise it's July and that gingerbread is a very Christmassy thing but I really love gingerbread. These cupcakes are my go to cake, they're crazy easy to make and never fail to be moist. I'm actually a bit baffled as to how I've never blogged them before as I've been making them for years. They're not particularly special to look at, but if you want to spruce them up with sprinkles you obviously can but really, they're pretty spot on as they are.

Sponge ingredients
140g unsalted butter
200g caster sugar
310g plain flour
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons black treacle
2 tablespoons golden syrup
240ml milk - heated
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Frosting ingredients 

600g icing sugar
100g unsalted butter
250g cream cheese
lemon zest

Note: this makes far more frosting than you'll need but if stored in an air tight container it will keep in the freezer for up to three months or one week in the fridge.


Method

Preheat oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 5.

Line a muffin tin with cases.

Cream the butter and caster sugar together until pale. 

Add the treacle, golden syrup, egg yolks and eggs and continue to mix. 

In a bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. Slowly add this in small batches at a time to your wet mix, using an electric handheld whisk or a freestanding electric mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid to bake with) will make this part much easier but it's totally doable by hand. If using an electric mixer, keep the speed low.

Add the hot milk slowly, continue to mix on a medium speed.

Divide the mixture between cases, the mixture will be really runny - don't panic! I use a measuring cup to pour it into the cases for ease.


Place the tray in the oven and bake for 16 minutes or until the cakes have risen. Test your cakes using either a sharp knife or metal skewer, poke the cake in the middle, if the knife/skewer comes out clean then your cakes are done.

Leave the cakes on a wire wrack to cool. While they are cooling start your frosting.

Whisk the icing sugar and butter together until the mixture almost looks like sand.


Add the cream cheese to the mixture and mix on a medium speed. Mix until it is fluffy.


Stir in the lemon zest by hand.

Once the cupcakes are completely cool, spread the frosting over the cupcakes.


 If you make these, let me know how you get on!

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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

What I'm thankful for #14



I’ve not done one of these posts in…too long. It’s not because I’ve not needed to, I definitely have, it’s more than life got in the way of blogging for a while. I’m never going to be one of those bloggers who writes every day for a number of reasons that include me being lazy, not being willing to make the time, and wondering who on earth really has something of quality to say every day.

For the last two months life has not been easy, not for any major reasons, I've just struggled to pull myself out of whatever funk it is that I've been in. I can pinpoint when it started and I'm almost certain I know the reasons why it started. It’s a combination of moving into this house, boy stuff, being about to turn 30 and work stuff all happening when I started a new bc pill that completely screwed me over for the first week, and two months on I'm hopefully coming out of it. Logically I can run through everything in my head and know that everything is fine, but my emotions are harder to keep quiet. Things with the house are fine, I have plans with it that will hopefully allow me to sell it at some point this year (please) so I can move back to Cardiff. Things with the boy are…well, there aren’t things any more. I’m back facing the prospect of those dreaded first dates again after dating someone who I felt totally comfortable with and really enjoyed spending time with, but when something isn’t right, it isn’t right. I’m 30 the first weekend of July. Life absolutely isn’t how I thought it would be at this stage and I’m coming to terms with that slowly, I’m actually surprised by how much turning 30 is upsetting me but there’s nothing I can do about it so I’m trying to be positive as much as I can. Things with work are actually fine, I started a new job in the same department in April and I’m still getting to grips with it. There are things I miss about my old job, but in today’s climate a half decent paying job surrounded by people I like makes me very lucky. For my second appraisal in a row the topic of me doing a masters has come up, it would take me two years of part time study alongside a full time job to do it. The money is there for me to do it, but honestly? I’m not sure I’m actually clever enough. I’ve said that to two people who both enthused that I definitely am, but I genuinely don’t think I am and the thought of flunking out or failing a masters is scary. I have until the end of summer to apply.

Knowing what has caused the funk helps, at least I’m not grasping at straws, tearfully trying to work out why it feels like I’m going mad. I still have days when I feel like just not existing, the weekend just gone was particularly awful but on Monday evening the fog lifted and I felt like myself. I went to bed feeling positively perky, I had the best night’s sleep that I’ve had in two months (not waking up at 5am is always good) and actually managed to be productive in work rather than wanting to curl up and hide under my desk. Hopefully this will be the start of me getting completely out of this cloud I’ve been under, this isn’t me. Whilst I joke that I’m a cynic at heart, I’m actually a positive person. I’m usually the one helping friends when they feel down, having the tables turned on me has been pretty damn scary at times and I suppose that’s why posts like these are helpful. We need to remind ourselves of how good things can be, of what we have in life, no matter how small, to be thankful for. These are the things I’m thankful for.

My wonderful, wonderful parents
Having two amazing best friends
Security at work
Opportunities to meet people and experience things that have made my life richer
Sunny days so I can sit in my garden
Having a garden to sit in
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Sunday, 7 June 2015

Living alone


At the beginning of May I started living alone. I took the step to move back into my old house, the house that I had avoided for around 18 months, in the town that I had avoided for 12 months post split. Last September I saw a counsellor for a few sessions (yes, I'm happy talking openly about it, maybe if more people did that it wouldn't be so weird talking about it. If you need help, seek it out) who set me the task of at first just driving to Caerphilly mountain and sitting on top of it, that then progressed to going to the garden centre for a wander around before driving home. I did those things over two weekends, on the second weekend I drove home through the town centre and sobbed the entire way. I felt like I was going 'home' and my ex was waiting for me there. It felt like a normal day out until I realised that no, I'm divorced (at twenty-fucking-nine) and I wasn't going there, I was going back to my parent's house.

In March I had a conversation with someone and something they said purely as a passing comment pushed me into visiting my house. Not just driving through Caerphilly but driving to my house and going in it, walking around and making plans to move back in.

I'm fast approaching 30, I was living at home and paying a mortgage on an empty house because I couldn't sell it. It seemed like the right thing to do. So how am I finding it?


The first weekend was great, mainly because it was novel and I had people stay on the Saturday and Sunday nights. The following week was still good because I was unpacking and making it a home again but then things started going a bit downhill. It was nothing to do with the house, this house is great, it's nothing to do with memories as to be honest I don't think about the house it used to be, but it was more to do with being alone. Completely alone. Getting home from work and there being no one to talk to about how my day had gone, no one there on a Sunday morning to bring me a cup of tea in bed or for me to make lunch for. The silence of getting home to an empty house, it's a silence I don't like so either music or the TV is constantly on.


Steadily I'm getting used to living alone, I've been making mental lists about the pros and cons of it.

Cons
It can be lonely
When you're not feeling well there's no one to get you painkillers or a hot water bottle
Every bump or noise in the night is someone breaking in
There's no one else to blame for the mess in the kitchen
You worry you're going to become a mad cat lady despite not having a cat, although I've been adopted by the one next door
Cooking for one is a nightmare
The bills are yours and yours alone, as is the rent/mortgage

Pros
You can decorate exactly how you want, I've gone for lots of pinks and greys
No one is around to see you slob out eating a whole pack of chocolate digestives
You can leave the bedroom door open when you're getting dressed
Likewise, want to shower with the bathroom door open? Go for it
You get to enjoy peace and quiet
Walking around in your underwear never gets old
Making as much mess as you want



There's one more on the pro list than the con, I'm pretty sure a few weeks ago that wouldn't have happened. You get to know yourself when you're alone, I've discovered that I'm more inclined to be around people than I thought. I've also realised, once again, that living outside of Cardiff isn't for me. My house is still for sale and as soon as it's sold I'm heading straight back to the city. This isn't where I thought I'd be at nearly 30, but it's not that bad really.

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Edinburgh


I didn't realise it had been so long since I blogged, but life has well and truly been in the way of me sitting down and writing. Not only have I recently moved home (last Friday actually), I've been dating someone (apparently quitting the dating game is what I needed to do) and I managed to squeeze in a trip to Edinburgh last month. 

At some point I'll post a brief home tour as I'm kind of in love with how I've decorated my house, it's a definite girls pad, think lots of pink and grey. For now I'll leave you with a few photos of my trip to Edinburgh.


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Friday, 27 February 2015

Quitting



At the beginning of last month I wrote about how I'd got on after three months of online dating. I was ready to quit it all as I was fed up with it, but after reading some truly lovely messages from you guys I decided to try tinder. I did it on the spur of the moment one night, mainly out of curiosity to see if it's really possible to find a relationship that way. I knew it was possible for some people, my brother met his current girlfriend on there, but would it be possible for me?

Well, today I deleted the app.

Before you all cheer, it's not because I've found myself in a relationship but more because I just need a break from the whole thing. In the month that I was using tinder I went on one date, it was a good date, the guy was very gentlemanly and we chatted away until it became apparent that we were one of only two tables left in the place and the staff were wanting to shut up. It was that kind of date. However, the guy was pretty hopeless at keeping in touch and despite two sketchy plans to have a second date it never happened. I didn't bother replying to his last text because by then I was fed up.

Dating, in my experience, has been hard work. All those online conversations which all resemble pretty much the same thing:

  • What job do you do?
  • What do you do for fun?

Maybe you like the sound of each other enough to swap numbers or maybe it just fizzles out. Once a date has been set that's when my nerves set in, on the day of a date I get really nervous. I think I've managed to work out why, and weirdly it's not the conversation (I've discovered that despite not enjoying small talk, I can politely chat with someone for long enough to say that I at least attempted to see how the date would go all the while knowing I wanted to leg it) but it's about the guy being what I imagine and the potential for the let down of them not matching the image in my head. It's also of me not liking them and knowing that if I don't there won't be a second date so the cycle begins again.

I can't date multiple guys at one time, that's something I've discovered about myself over the last few months. To be honest this is something I would have said before I started dating, I'm just not programmed that way. I like giving someone my attention without others competing for it.

This takes me back to tinder, last week I managed to make a friend on it, which I'm pretty sure isn't the purpose of the app but sometimes it just seems right. Granted, he's a friend who is aware that I find him attractive and him me, but friends is what we are. The whole time I've been dating I've been discussing it with two of my closest friends, both are loved up and happily don't have to play the dating game. I've lost track of the amount of times that I've complained that what I really want is a friend who turns out to be something more, unfortunately that hasn't been the way it's gone for me as I don't really have that many male friends.

Today, whilst on my lunch break I decided to delete tinder. It was gone within seconds. So five guys and one friend later, I'm out of the dating game for a while. The timing suits me, domestically things (that I'm not going into here) look like they're about to change and that could keep me occupied.

I still want a relationship (why does it feel so lame to admit that?), I want those evenings cuddled up on the sofa watching Netflix, those silly texts that make you smile, the kissing (man, I miss the kissing) and the hand holding. But for now, those things will have to wait.


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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Ready for somewhere warm


Maybe it's got something to do with the rain we're experiencing today but I'm craving being somewhere warm. I love winter. I love bundling up in layers and getting outside only to come back in to get comfortable in front of the fire with a big mug of tea, gradually dozing off, utterly and completely content with the world.

Not today.

Today I want to have my most complicated decision be what bikini to wear under my dress.

Today I want to be stood on a beach, with salt having set my hair into waves, staring out to the sea. Take me to any beach, literally any beach – somewhere tropical, somewhere freezing cold in South Wales – and I'll do the same thing. Stare out to sea.

I'm not sure what I think about, perhaps I don't think. I'm able to just be. I struggle to converse with people I'm with when there's all that water to look at. It's almost as if I look hard enough I'll see across the water to the next land mass.

I want to do that today but a cold beach in South Wales won't do. I want the warmth of the sun beating down on my back, I want to be wearing sunglasses and factor 30.

How I wish I was brave enough to travel alone. There are so many amazing examples of women my age just going. They want to go and they do! Why can't I be that brave? Maybe it's one of the issues of having an over active mind (perhaps that's why I love being by the sea, my mind is finally quiet). I worry about getting lost, getting mugged, getting...hurt if I went away alone. Anxiety, you're a bitch. But also, standing somewhere amazing and being able to turn to someone and just smile at them because this is amazing! Look at that view! Sharing the experience with someone is what it's about for me. Going home and reminiscing about the experience is part of what makes travelling so great.

I looked at prices to fly to Bali this morning. It's cheap enough that I could just go now. But I won't. Not alone.

I annoy myself sometimes.

Instead I'll look out of the window as the rain hits it and dream of warm beaches and floating in the sea.

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