Escape Reality

I completely forgot what Cardiff is like on a Saturday night.  To be fair, I think the last time I went “out” in Cardiff you could still drive down St Mary’s Street and Oceana was still around.  Ho yes, it’s been a while.  But this time, instead of the whole drinks, drunk-dancing, dirty burger routine we opted for something a little bit different.  We dodged the crowds ducking down Caroline Street and decided to Escape Reality instead.

I’d heard of the whole escape room thing before – in fact they’re so popular that there are now four different companies in Cardiff alone – but I’d never tried it.  (If you’re new to the concept the idea is to team up with up to 5 other friends, family or coworkers, get locked in a room and then work together to solve a series of themed clues in order to “escape”)  So when Escape Reality got in touch and asked if I’d like to give it a try, I said “yes please!” and dragged my brother, his girlfriend and the hubs along for an early Halloween night out.🙂

Tucked away on St John Street (opposite Burger King and Owain Glyndwr) you’d walk straight past the entrance if you didn’t know it was there.  A sign beside a door leading to a dark staircase is the only hint at what lurks upstairs.  We walked through that door clueless as to what to expect – especially as none of us had ever tried an escape game before – and the reception and bar area wasn’t exactly forthcoming as to what was in store!  No glossy promotional snaps, just black walls and bar stools, and a leader board of team pictures on the far wall.

We were a bit early, so we took a seat in the bar with a drink while one of the girls explained how the game worked.  We’d be locked in the room of our choice (there are six to choose from, all with different difficulty ratings and background stories; from Saw-themed “Enigmista”, to “The Heist”) and we’d have one hour to solve all eight clues and crack the door code to escape.  We were given torches and an iPad which we’d be able to use to get hints and solutions if we got stuck (with a time penalty for each one used, obviously!).

…I don’t want to give away the story behind the room or any of the clues we had to solve and spoil the surprise – but we did escape… only just!  For the first 10 minutes we completely ignored the first hint and turned the whole room upside down snooping in cupboards and drawers with our torches.  I had no idea how interactive and atmospheric it was going to be – and that solving clues might mechanically open boxes and unlock doors etc.  It kind of reminded me of the Crystal Maze or Fort Boyard.  Once our time began to run down and we’d sort of worked out the whole process of solving clues, we got really into it and raced around the room shouting at each other as we desperately tried to solve each clue and quickly move onto the next one!  As soon as we cracked the final clue and got out with seconds to spare we were a bit bummed that it was over and all wanted to try another room🙂

If you’re looking for Halloween night out with a difference, then I’d definitely recommend trying out Escape Reality.  There’s a room to suit everyone, from difficult to easy and from horror to heists.  It’s great fun, and as soon as you’ve escaped you’ll want to be locked back up again🙂

(Psst! I’ve just noticed via Twitter that you can get a 20% discount on your booking between the 28th and 30th of October if you add the code HALLOW20 at the checkout. PLUS, if you turn up in costume, you get a free drink at the bar. Happy Halloween!)

Hello Autumn

I can’t believe we’re already over halfway through October – which means that almost a year has passed since moving back home to Cardiff.  It’s crazy, in some ways it feels like we’ve been here forever and yet in other ways it still feels like we’ve only just arrived.  I mean yeah, there are still a fair few boxes in the garage (how the hell we managed to cram everything into our London flat, I’ll never know…) and the argument about which pictures to hang and where is ongoing… but on the flip side, we’ve found our favourite Chinese Takeaway – the one! – we’ve got a favourite spot down the local pub, have handful of favourite walks and green spaces and have sort of slipped into a happy new routine🙂  We’re definitely here to stay.

Saying that, we’re still discovering our faves around the city, and last week when the hubs needed to have dental work on Cathedral Road, I dropped him off and went exploring for an hour.  It was one of those crisp, sunny days that lure you into believing that Autumn is the best season of all (…before you remember that they’re rare and real Autumn days are just damp and dreary).  I took a shortcut through Sophia Gardens and went for a walk in Bute Park.

I stopped in at the Summer House Cafe on the edge of the river for a toasted teacake (obviously…) and one of their “extra special” hot chocolates and sat out in the sun for a while.🙂

I have to say I’ve been fighting off the arrival of Autumn – even though it’s technically my favourite season! – I just wasn’t ready for summer to go.  I think probably because summer seems to arrive so late these days that once it’s here you’ve got to grab onto it and refuse to let it go.  But that was the day I gave in and dragged one of my scarves out from the back of the cupboard.  As soon as I threw it around my neck and snuggled down, I immediately forgot about summer🙂  Scarf season, yay!

I watched a Mexican Standoff between a dog and a squirrel… which the squirrel won.

What are you looking forward to this Autumn?


Mars Bar & Walnut Brownies

No apologies here; this time of year all I want to do is curl up in a baggy hoodie and pjs and eat things that are warm and gooey and ideally full of chocolate.  Brownies tick all those boxes, and yeah, the regrets will probably kick in when jumper season is over, but… Nope.  I changed my mind.  No regrets, ever.  I firmly believe that a little bit of what you fancy does you good – especially when it’s cold and miserable outside.  :-)

Mars Bar & Walnut Brownies


  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 100g butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 35g self raising flour
  • 50g chopped walnuts
  • 2 Mars Bars chopped into chunks
  • Tsp of Sea Salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 170° (fan assisted).
  2. Break up the chocolate and chop the butter into small squares and then melt together in the microwave for a minute (don’t make the mistake of walking away – chocolate burns easily and butter makes a hell of a mess if it boils!).  Stir and then leave to cool slightly.
  3. Whisk together the eggs and sugar, then gradually fold in the chocolate/butter mix, then the flour.  Once combined, stir in the chopped walnuts and mars bar bits.
  4. Grease and line a deep baking tin and pour in the brownie mix.  Bake for 40 minutes.
  5. Leave the brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares (don’t be tempted to scoop ’em while they’re still warm, and trust me, you will be…), scatter with sea salt, then scoff  :-)

Love the Look not the Label

Here’s a fun fact; Bicester Village is the UK’s second top attraction for Chinese tourists.  Yep, apparently cut price designer handbags are only slightly less interesting than watching the changing of the guard outside Buckingham Palace (which still reigns supreme as the top tourist spot).  I was totally lured in by Bicester Village; so many people go on about it being a shopper’s Shangri-la that I was kind of excited to make the pilgrimage myself and y’know, see what all the hoo-ha was about.🙂

A few weeks ago Sunny was Oxford-bound with his Dad for a Charlton Athletic game, so we made a very gender stereotypical family day of it – the guys went footballing and the girls went shopping.

I wasn’t exactly expecting to come home laden with bags full of designer bags (no 5p charge in Bicester for fancy bags…), but I had no idea quite how out of my league price-wise everything was going to be – even with 50% off.  I was expecting cold, hard BARGAINS, people.  But alas; bargains there were none.  Not unless your idea of a bargain is a Versace chinchilla coat at an eye-watering £11,000, even after taking 20% off (!!!!!).

We drifted from store to store flipping tags and gulping, while Chinese tourists were loading up on whatever they could carry.

The best bargain by far were these Clarks brogues for £10 (cheaper than lunch!) – but when Sunny politely pointed out that they were a bit Micheal Jackson I had to kick them off and moonwalk away. (I bought a red leather jacket back in 2011 and was told by one of the kids at work that it was a ‘Thriller Jacket’😦 )

I’m firmly in the “love the look not the label” camp when it comes to fashion.  I’ve got a beautiful Micheal Kors purse in my £7.99 H&M handbag (the only fancy-pants designer item I own), and  a Zara dress I bought when I was 19 that I still adore and wear every summer – it was a bit pricey at the time and my student loan took a hit, but it was worth it because I’ve worn it thousands of times and probably will a thousand times more.  But I can’t see myself – even if I was overflowing with cash – ever spending £200 on a handbag purely for the name on the side of it.  I’d have to love it.  Like, really, love it.  Love it, marry it, have babies with it – love it.  And, meh, I don’t think I could pull it off anyway.  It’s just not me.

All I bought was my favourite Origins Charcoal Mask from the Cosmetics Co (£6 off RRP- not too shabby), while my Mum picked up a lil’ something from Jack Wills.

No offence, Bicester, but give me the great British High Street and a bit of Primani any day😉

Oliver’s First Birthday

A few weeks ago Sunny and I were invited to a first birthday party and christening.  I thought attending friends’ weddings made me feel old, but first birthdays?  They make me feel flippin’ ancient!  It was gorgeous though, our friend Hannah (and Oliver’s Mum) had organised every tiny detail; from making hundreds of teeny felt carrots to decorate the place cards, to the pretty flower garden centrepieces – it was pinterest perfect from start to finish :-)