Thursday Through My Camera Roll

Fog, a Facial and Frank’s…
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Even though I absolutely love my old Nikon DSLR Camera (it’s almost ten years old and still going strong), sometimes you just can’t beat the off-the-cuff candids lurking on the ol’ mobile phone camera roll. That’s where real life happens, right? All the snaps that never make it onto Instagram, never fling back and forth via Whatsapp and just end up cluttering your camera roll for all eternity. So, I thought I’d unleash them and show you the kind of behind the scenes snaps that get saved into my camera roll on the daily. These are all from yesterday, which started off with a very foggy walk in the field with Bungle.

The light was kind of eerie up there, and whereas usually there’s a great view over Cardiff Bay, yesterday I could barely see a couple of feet in front of me. Bungle stayed close, got very muddy (as usual), and was happy to pose for a photo as the sun started burning through the fog.

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By the time I got dressed and headed into town (leaving Bungle fast asleep on the sofa…) the sun was out and it had turned into one of those perfect crisp and clear winter mornings. Every hometown looks stunning in the sunshine, but Cardiff especially 😉

I parked the car and headed off to Elemis for a facial. I’ve had some items gifted to me from Elemis in the past and have absolutely loved pretty much everything I’ve tried (especially their Peptide Thousand Flower Mask) – so my Mum and Dad booked me a facial for my birthday back in November. I saved it up, knowing I’d probably need it by the end of January and I was right! I had the Superfood Facial Treatment (with products from their Superfood and Pro-Collagen Range) and and it was absolutely lush. My skin felt glowy and glorious afterwards. 🙂

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Fresh out of my facial I killed a bit of time in Oliver Bonas and quite fancied this book by Felicity Cloake about her culinary journey around France via bike. It’s going straight to the top of my reading list once I’ve finished the books I had for Christmas…

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Next, I headed to Cardiff Market and met up with Sunny for a bit of lunch. We went to Franks for proper hotdogs. HOW is it possible that there’s been a hotdog joint in Cardiff for two months and I’m only now getting around to visiting it??? Everyone who knows me knows that I bloody love a hotdog – the filthier the better – and Franks was absolutely well worth the wait. Franks dogs are juicy, generous and downright delicious – and I should probably add that they’re only filthy in so far as that I added to my Elemis facial with a fresh layer of ketchup round my chops (yum yum) because they’re all made with outdoor-reared pork (they also have a vegan dog on the menu). Hands down, the best hotdog I’ve had in a loooooong time – and it’s really good to know that I can finally scratch that hotdog itch I get every week so often.

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Waved goodbye to Sunny and then headed back home (via Bakestones) to take Bungle out for his lunchtime walk. We did another lap around his favourite field (in the sunshine this time!) and then came in for a cup of tea and a couple of lemon curd Welshcakes (soooo good!) from the Bakestones ladies in Cardiff Market.

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My favourite tree on the evening dog walk is starting to blossom – finally! Feels like spring is just around the corner (even though it’s forecast to drizzle all weekend here in Cardiff – gross 😦). Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Finding Joy in January

Why the bad rap’s totally unjustified…
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Hey look at us; who would have thought? Not me! Because the fact of the matter is that anyone who knows me well knows that I’ve got a long history of ripping on January. Historically, I’ve hated it. I’ve called it the worst month of the year, the most depressing month of the year, and if there’d ever been a petition to bin January then my signature would have been right at the top. I mean, let’s be honest; at face value, there’s not a lot to like. It’s dark, it’s gloomy, there’s all that new year/new you pressure, all the Christmas fashion’s on the floor in the sale section, and – let’s be honest – the bank account’s always in a state of recovery this time of year.

So I was more than a little bit surprised when the other day (in the middle of cleaning my bathroom – that’s when all the big thinking in my life happens, clearly) that so far, I’ve actually really enjoyed January. Even though, I haven’t really done much. I haven’t booked any holidays, I haven’t eaten out (other than a massive fry up round the local garden centre cafe), I hadn’t even hit the Sales until last week. I’ve just been quietly doing the things I enjoy – like cooking, writing, walking – and since Sunny decided to relax the crazy hours he was working before Christmas, we’ve had more time to piss around on the PlayStation and goof around with Bungle. There have been zero plans made, zero events attended… and zero expectations.

And that’s the trick to it, I think. Zero expectations.

The trouble with January is that there’s a huge amount of pressure to blast out the other side of Christmas and into the new year at a hundred miles an hour. It’s all about movement – about setting goals, making plans, booking holidays, and this year I just didn’t bother with any of that! Not intentionally, I might add; the truth is that it was a busy Christmas and I was absolutely knackered come January 1st. I needed a break – a couple of weeks just to breathe – to slip back into a routine. I didn’t want to throw myself at a hundred miles an hour into anything other than my baggiest jumper, the left over Christmas chocolates and season one of The Witcher. Normally I’d have slapped my own wrist after a couple of days and had a bit of a word with myself, but this year I decided to just allow that slight pause and not expect too much out of January – and I tell you what, it’s been the best thing I’ve done for myself in a while.

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The only slightly “January” thing I have done is that I’ve started documenting on my phone – through my camera roll and in my notes – the little things that I’m grateful for every day. Small things, like late breakfasts on the weekend, frosty mornings walking Bungle in the field, a bargain Sezane shirt dupe for £5, home improvements and playing board games with my family. I knowwwwww – whenever I’ve seen people mention Gratitude Journals in the past my eyes have rolled so far back into my head that I could see my own brain. But after a heavy 2019 the only thing I’ve been craving for 2020 is more of the little things I enjoy – and writing them down and taking pictures of them just serves to remind me what those things are. That way I can make time for more of them – which is exactly what I’ve been doing so far this January. No big plans, no expectations, just small moments of gratitude for the things I love. 🙂

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Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

Lessons from Women at the Top: My First Warrior Women Event

Brands, Bubbly and Some Bloody Brilliant Women…
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I’ve always wanted to think of myself as a “Warrior Woman”, but the truth is that any evidence in support of that is massively stacked to the contrary; most days I’m just a walking train-wreck in yoga pants and a messy bun. For example, the hot water tank and boiler in my house had an argument yesterday afternoon – which meant no central heating (and a small waterfall in the airing cupboard later that evening…). It’s almost December; it’s freezing. But instead of choosing to tackle that problem head on like an adult, I just rolled my eyes like a teenager, filled up my hot water bottle and sat at my desk buried under three layers of blankets and dressing gowns as I tried to find the perfect GIF on Twitter to sum up the situation (…Ryan Reynolds rolling his eyes if you’re wondering). The fact of the matter is that I’m a 34 year old woman who has absolutely no idea how to operate her own central heating. Warrior Woman, I am not. So, you can imagine how unsure I was about heading off to an event specifically for so-called Warrior Women.

Warrior Women Events have been up and running in Cardiff for a couple of years now, popping up in coffee shops and popular hang outs across the city centre with evenings of networking and talks by businesswomen and entrepreneurs at the top of their game. Strictly women only, each event aims to inspire and to celebrate the successes and journeys of the women who attend. And as is the case with most women’s networking events in Cardiff, Warrior Women Events are resoundingly popular; tickets tend to sell out within hours of being released. But, when I get an invite to pop along to the November Event – the theme of which is “Women at the Top” – I’m in all honesty, a little unsure. I imagine a room packed-full of seriously intimidating women, all successful, all smart, all confident and absolutely bossing it (and quite possibly all kitted out in suits with shoulder pads like Melanie Griffith in Working Girl). Would I comfortably fit into that room? Little old me? Would I come away feeling inspired, or…. deflated?

Still, I’m definitely curious and I’ve heard there’s going to be cake and prosecco, so I head to Tramshed Tech on a very drizzly Thursday evening to see what all the fuss is about. After briefly stumbling into a Cuban Brothers Concert in THE Tramshed down the street, I make it… and instantly breathe a sigh of relief. (If you’re a freelancer or a creative and you’ve never been to Tramshed Tech then you need to check it out; it’s a gorgeously modern co-working space on the edge of the city centre – beautifully kitted out as a social working environment with benches, booths and comfortable seating, as well as a shared kitchen. Not too shabby a spot to pitch up with your laptop and run an empire from!) Well, it’s certainly a room – although much, much cosier than I imagined – and yep, it’s full of women… but definitely not the intimidating crowd I pictured in my head (and not a shoulder pad in sight!). There are young women and there are older women. 9-5 mums on a night off, as well as single mums and working mums. There are women who are starting over, and some who are still studying. There are women who are building their business and hoping to take it to the next level, and there are women who are thinking of starting a business or have got a bit of a side hustle going on and wonder whether it could become something more. And, then there are the women who’ve popped in just because they fancied meeting some new faces, and wanted to have a drink and chinwag. They’re women who are all on very different journeys, and – more importantly – at different stages of that journey. All smiling, all chatting away.

And there’s cake! 🙂

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“It’s only when you start using your voice that you realise what you have to say is important.”

– Sophie Howe

I grab a welcome drink, find a seat to ditch my bag and coat, and then get stuck in (to eating the beautiful cakes and bakes from The Tidy Kitchen Company, mostly). The thing about blogging is that I can go a whole day – a whole week sometimes – without actually using my voice. You know, my actual voice; not just the jumbled thoughts that make it into this space. So it’s really nice to use it when I bump into a few familiar faces, including Kacie (The Rare Welsh Bit). We take a seat and catch up on all things blogging and life in general – and have a chat about what we’ve got in the pipeline heading up to Christmas. Kacie tells me all about how she’s trying to improve her public speaking, and I tell her all about the speech that I gave a couple of months ago – which I was completely dreading, but somehow managed to pull out of the bag. It’s a weird moment as I remember that I actually did do that; I did get up in a room full of people and talk about creating The Cardiff Cwtch. As I said, sometimes I completely forget that I have a voice.

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“You’ve got to back yourself.”

– Louise Harris

Before the first speaker takes to the mic, there’s just enough time to check out some of the local brands that have pitched up for the night. They’ve all been created by some amazing local women, and among them, there’s Claire of Claire Hill Designs and her beautiful range of jewellery (I instantly fall in love with her gorgeous stackable necklaces), and Abigail with her stunning range of handmade lingerie, and then there’s Meg (AKA Megan Fflur) who’s a local social media rock star. As well as running her own fashion and style-based Instagram account, she created local lifestyle brand Pethau just this year selling clothing, homeware and gifts, and has already pulled in over ten thousand followers. I’m totally inspired, not only by the women behind the brands that are there on the night, but by all the other women attending who’ve been brave enough to back themselves – be their own biggest cheerleader – and bring their ideas to life.

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“When one door closes, another one opens – but you’ve GOT to be in the room.”

– Sophie Howe

Someone beats their glass of prosecco with a spoon and suddenly it’s time for the main event: the guest speakers, followed by a Q&A. First up is Louise Harris who’s the co-founder of the beautiful building we’re all sitting in, as well as the director of The Big Learning Company. She takes the mic and tells us all about her incredible career, from teaching Drama in Stanwell School in Penarth, to creating a company that supports schools and teachers in bringing technology into the classroom – and making the most of it. I can totally relate; I used to work in a Secondary School when I lived in London and saw first hand how important technology is becoming in getting kids to engage with a subject – whether that’s Maths (gross), English or even Drama. The whole room’s riveted as Louise tells us all about some of her career highs, including a story about how a mysterious email invite led to a one on one surprise meeting and 15 minute pitch with Theresa May!

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“Behind every great women, there’s a team of even greater women.”

– Sophie Howe

Next up is Sophie Howe, who’s had an absolutely fascinating career in local politics which all began with a stint working for local MP (at the time) Julie Morgan. Fresh out of University, she fought a tough election campaign whilst pregnant to become Wales’ youngest ever Councillor at 21, became the first Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for Wales – fighting hard to tackle violence against women – and is now the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. Oh, and she’s a Mum of five. Wow. Her journey is one of guts and determination, and there’s an audible gulp in the room when she tells us how her achievements as Councillor were downplayed in a newspaper article where the writer instead chose to focus on her appearance and describe her as “a little bit foxy”. There’s laughter too when she tells us a story about having to change her daughter’s nappy in the middle of a Radio interview. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all in awe; when she tells us that while she looks like she has everything together, she reminds us that it’s only because of the amazing team of women she’s got working hard behind the scenes.

And that’s the main takeaway from my first Warrior Women Event, I think. Women don’t become Warrior Women on their own – the truth is that they need an army of other women behind them cheering them on. Whether that’s pouring them a massive glass of gin when they need it most, backing them when they forget to back themselves and supporting their ideas and helping them bring them to life. And after three hours at Tramshed Tech listening to some incredible stories about the highs and lows of other women’s journeys, I come away feeling energized and inspired about my own again – having had the boost from my local girl gang that I really needed. And, if you’re in need of a bit of that in your life – or just fancy adding some new faces to your ranks of supportive female friends, then make sure you bag a ticket to the next Warrior Women Event – they sell out quick!

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Keep up to date with all the latest from Warrior Women Events here. Their next event is on the 12th of December, with the theme “Eat, Drink and Be Merry”, with talks by some inspirational local ladies involved in the food industry. Buy your tickets here. 🙂

Cardiff Christmas Shopping Guide 2019

It’s beginning to look a lot like…
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Happy Monday!  Halloween and Bonfire Night are done and dusted, Cardiff’s Winter Wonderland opened up last week and Morgan’s Arcade is kitted out like Diagon Alley again, which can only mean one thing.  The C word (…no, not that one – behave, you!).  Dare I say it?  Christmas… is coming.  And before you panic and hurl your phone at me, let me just tell you; I’m nowhere near ready.  I promise.  My tree is still firmly tucked away in its box in the garage, I’ve yet to hear Mariah Carey wailing away over my car radio and it’s waaaaay too soon to go scrolling through the Christmas category on Netflix (for me, anyway…). But, the one Christmassy thing that is in full swing  over on my end is Christmas Shopping.  I mean, I’d love to be that person who has a brainwave in March and starts picking up presents as and when she sees them, but nope, the panic sets in at the end of October and sees me right through until the last present has been ticked off the list.

That being said, I do love shopping for presents – and Christmas Shopping is the one time that I’ll actually head out and do it rather than slob on the sofa and Amazon Prime it – just because, I absolutely adore Cardiff at Christmas time.  I love trotting up and down the high street to the tune of the Salvation Army and I love pottering around in the Arcades for those quirky, one off gifts that I simply can’t find online or elsewhere.  So, once a year I put up a Cardiff Christmas Shopping Guide to shine a light on the amazing shopping Cardiff has to offer, but also the best pit-stops for a coffee (or a gin, let’s be honest) along the way.

This year, my guide’s going live just in time to tell you all about City of Arcades Day – which is happening on Saturday the 16th of November.  There’ll be lots going on in the seven arcades dotted across Cardiff City Centre, including live music and plenty of offers in store. If one of the shops on my list has something special going on, then I’ve jotted it down in red. 🙂

Home & Gifts

Illustrate (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Unique graphic prints, t-shirts and accessories.  My husband and I have a whole zoo-ful of Tobias’ Zentangle Animal Prints on our walls at home! Definitely worth checking out. Check out the online store here.

Oliver Bonas (The Hayes)

Perfect for: I think I’d quite happily set up camp and squat in any Oliver Bonas Store! It’s a trove-full of quirky homeware, books and gifts – but also beautiful fashion and accessories.

Flying Tiger (St Davids)

Perfect for: Quirky stationary and stocking fillers.  Tiger also always has the best (and cheapest!) party supplies and decorations.  When it comes to banners, baking accessories, candles, napkins and nick-nacks, Tiger is the place to go.

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Creative Cardiff (The Capitol)

Perfect for: Shop full of products and gifts run by local artists and creatives.

The Joke Shop (Duke Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Fancy Dress Costumes, practical jokes and stocking fillers a plenty.  Perfect if you’re planning on dressing up as Santa, or you’ve got pranks planned around the Christmas dinner table.

Scribbler (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Quirky Christmas cards, Secret Santa gifts and small stocking fillers.

Forbidden Planet (5, Duke Street)

Perfect for: Comic books, cult action figures and collectibles.  If you’ve got a Sheldon Cooper to buy for then you’ll already know about Forbidden Planet and are probably a frequent visitor.

The Pen and Paper (Royal Arcade – Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Pens and Paper!  One of the best places in Cardiff to go for ink, card, pens, notebooks, art supplies, calendars and diaries.

*City of Arcades Day: Block Printing Demo with Sarah Walker from 11.30am – 3pm.

Rules of Play (Castle Quarter Arcades)

Perfect for: Christmas isn’t Christmas without some kind of board game, right? Whether you’re a Cards Against Humanity fan or prefer to rinse the relatives at Monopoly then Rules of Play has got you covered.

*City of Arcades Day: 10% Off Modern Classics including Catan and Pandemic.

Castle Emporium (Womanby Street)

Perfect for: Market full of independent retailers selling clothing, jewellery, second hand books, artwork and skateboarding equipment.

Camera Centre UK (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Cameras, Lenses and Equipment for the budding photographer (or blogger) in your family.

*City of Arcades Day: Half price prints, exclusive deals on Sony Alpha cameras and lenses as well as free family portrait photography ALL DAY.

Buddug (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Beautiful Welsh themed gifts and jewellery.

*City of Arcades Day: Free Christmas Card and Mince Pie with every purchase.

Galactic Attic (High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Vintage and retro toys, comic books and collectibles!

*City of Arcades Day: 15% off purchases all day, and a free photo with a Stormtrooper between 12pm to 2pm.

Shop Wales (Queens Arcade)

Perfect for: Welsh-themed gifts.

*City of Arcades Day: Free special edition Wales Toblerone with every purchase over £25.

The Welsh Shop (Castle Quarter Arcades)

Perfect for: Welsh-themed gifts and traditional, hand-crafted Love Spoons.

Beauty & Toiletries

Miss Patisserie (online and in Boots, St Davids)

Perfect for: Handmade Cosmetics, Bath Bombs, Candles. Tucked away in one of the Victorian Arcades (just off St John Street) Miss Patisserie is my go-to if I’ve got a pamper session planned – their bath balls are the bomb-diggity (much slower to fizzle out than, y’know, that *other* highstreet handmade cosmetics brand, and they create beautiful tie-dye swirls in the tub).  All their products are handmade, vegan and cruelty free and downright gorgeous.

Neal’s Yard Remedies (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Natural Remedies; I think you’d be hard pressed to find a Mama who isn’t a big fan of their soothing hand lotions.

*City of Arcades Day: Cuppa and a free 15-minute aromatherapy hand massage with free samples from the frankincense range.

Molton Brown (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Beautiful toiletries and perfumes (My Mum’s a massive fan – I don’t think she’d ever be caught dead with a plain ol’ Carex hand soap in her downstairs loo!).

*City of Arcades Day: Complimentary hand and arm massages, fragrance consultations and a free fragrance sample to take home.

Jo Malone (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Gorgeous high end candles, perfumes and toiletries.

L’Occitane (St Davids)

Perfect for: French toiletries – beautiful soaps, shower gels and hand creams.

Kiehls (St Davids)

Perfect for: Cult skincare products for men and women (I can’t rave more about their Midnight Recovery Oil).

Lush Shop and Spa (Queen Street)

Perfect for: Handmade cosmetics, bath bombs and toiletries. Definitely check out the upstairs spa (such a cosy space!) if you fancy treating your SO to a day of pampering!

Fashion

Most of the big names can be found dotted between Queen Street and The Hayes, with the majority tucked away in St David’s Arcade.

Hobos (High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: One of the oldest shops in Cardiff for vintage and second-hand clothing and accessories.

Shop Rugby (Duke Street)

Perfect for: Rugby Shirts, kits and accessories – as well as a few Welsh and Rugby-themed gifts.

*City of Arcades Day: Spin the wheel, win a prize all day.

Diba (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Clothing and accessories made in Wales using only natural fabrics like silk, cotton, wool and banana leaf!

*City of Arcades Day: 10% off all day.

Jon Ian (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Classic Cardiff Store selling designer shoes and handbags.

*City of Arcades Day: 10% off all day.

Sobeys Vintage (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Vintage clothing and accessories.

*City of Arcades Day: 10% off all day.

White Stuff (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Cosy fashion (and a few homeware and gifts) – the perfect place to find a Christmas Jumper!

*City of Arcades Day: 15% off full price items.

Urban Outfitters (The Hayes)

Perfect for: Quirky fashion with a vintage feel, but their homeware and gift section is where you want to be this time of year…

Kiti Cymru (Pontcanna Mews)

Perfect for: Fashion boutique in Pontcanna with carefully curated fashion from brands such as Lily & Lionel, Tatty Devine and Traffic People.

Dot Clothing (Royal Arcade)

Perfect for: Small, niche designer women’s clothing brands.

*City of Arcades Day: Entry into a free raffle with every purchase.

31 The Store (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Independent menswear store in Cardiff with products exclusive to Wales.

Route One (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Street wear and Action Sports clothing.

Two Seasons (Queens Arcade)

Perfect for: Ski, skate and surf shop selling main brands of clothing and equipment for adults and kids.

Christmas Markets

Cardiff Indoor Market

Perfect for: Cardiff’s indoor market is over a hundred years old and still going strong.  It’s a great place to hit up if you need home hardware, specialist foodie gifts, pet supplies, sewing and crafty gifts and vinyl records.  It’s absolutely criminal to come away without buying a bag of ten Welsh Cakes from Bakestones. Also, they’ve got their Night Market this week on Thursday (14th) from 6 til late.

Cardiff Outdoor Christmas Market

Perfect for: Opening this week on the 14th of November and running all the way through until the 23rd of December, the Christmas Market is one of the best places to support independent Welsh Brands and pick up one of a kind gifts. Find a list of this year’s vendors here.

Cardiff Christmas Makers Market (Paget Rooms, Penarth)

Perfect for: (*16th and 17th of November only) Market packed full of stalls by local brands, crafters, makers and creatives. £1 entry – find out more information here.

Food & Drink

Wally’s Delicatessen and Kaffe Haus (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: Foodie gift central.  Wally’s has its own unique aroma, you’ll smell the spices and cured meat long before you step inside.  It’s definitely the place to go if you’re looking for things to go into a Christmas hamper, as well as hot sauces, biscuits, chocolates, cheeses, pannettone and Christmas pudding.  They’ve also got a coffee shop on the second floor.

*City of Arcades Day: Buy an open sandwich or platter from the Kaffehaus and get one half price. Sample Hensol Castle Distillery’s range of Crawshay’s Gins and Gin Liqueurs. Buy One Gin, Get One Liqueur Free

Wally’s Liquor Cellar (Castle Arcade – next to Gin and Juice)

Perfect for: Wines, drinks and spirits.  Perfect if you’re looking to gift some quirky drinks or liquors – including Welsh-brewed products – or stock up for New Year’s Eve!

*City of Arcades Day: 10% off all purchases of Cloven Hoof products.

Vom Fass (High Street Arcade)

Perfect for: Specialist Oils and Spirits in aesthetically pleasing and quirky jars and bottles.

Bean Freaks (St Mary’s Street)

Perfect for: Natural foods, remedies and beauty products.

*City of Arcades Day: Free Goody Bag with every purchase.

Simply V (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Vegan groceries, toiletries and clothing.

City of Arcades Day: Get 10% off all purchases except non-food items.

Madame Fromage

Perfect for:  Cheesy gifts, literally!  Specialty cheeses and hampers.  They also offer Cheese and Wine Tasting evenings from £25 a head which my Dad would be all over.

Bird and Blend (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for:  Quirky Loose Leaf Tea Blends and Mixology. It’s just moved in to the old spot next to Troutmark Books where the Harry Potter Store used to be; I popped in the other day to see what it was all about and was blown away by all the beautiful tea!

Fabulous Welshcakes (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for:  Beautifully made Welsh Cakes in lots of quirky flavours!

*City of Arcades Day: Limited edition salted caramel welsh cakes.

Books & Music

Spillers (Morgan Quarter)

Perfect for: LEGENDARY.  CDs and Vinyl.  The world’s oldest record shop and a Cardiff institution.  ‘Nuff said.

*City of Arcades Day: Live music and DJ sets from 5pm until late.

Cranes (High Street/Lower End of St Mary’s Street)

Perfect for: Gifts for musicians.  Cranes is the Mecca for Cardiff Musicians and the place to go to buy instruments and accessories.

Troutmark Books (Castle Arcade)

Perfect for: Lovely secondhand book store tucked away in Castle Arcade. Great place to pick up a secondhand gem! 🙂

Coffee Shops & Pitstops

Barker Tea House (High Street Arcade)

*City of Arcades Day: Free mini Bakestones Welsh Cake with any Large, Hot Drink.

Nata & Co (Castle Arcade)

*City of Arcades Day: Get 15% off all flavours.

Crumbs (Morgan Quarter)
The Plan (Morgan Quarter)
Llaeth a Siwgr (Yr Hen Llyfrgell)
Big Moose Coffee (Frederick Street)
Science Cream (Castle Arcade)

*City of Arcades Day: 20% off Hot Drinks.

Arcade Vault Retro Gaming Cafe

*City of Arcades Day: Mario Kart 8 Charity Tournament.

Gin & Juice (Castle Arcade)

*City of Arcades Day: Special Show Case of Gins with recommended garnishes and tonics.

Uncommon Ground (Morgan Quarter)
Waterloo Tea (Wyndham Arcade)

*City of Arcades Day: Get 20% off gifted teapots and a free sample of loose-leaf tea with any tea that is bought to drink inside.

Hard Lines (Cardiff Indoor Market and Castle Emporium)
The New York Deli (High Street Arcade)
Coffee Barker (Castle Arcade)

*City of Arcades Day: Free mini Bakestones Welsh Cake with any Large, Hot Drink.

Happy Shopping! If you’ve got any Cardiff Christmas Shopping suggestions then I’d love to hear them – I’m always discovering new favourites! 🙂

How to Go it Alone and Survive a Party or an Event Where You Know No one

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When I first started blogging nearly four years ago, the thought of going solo to an event where I knew absolutely no one would have been enough to bring me out in hives.  I’d have had some questions before predictably deciding to skip it.  Number one: Why the HELL would I voluntarily put myself through that kind of torture?  Number two: Can I bring a friend to cling onto/hide behind? and if not, then Number three: How do I get out of this and hide out at home without looking like a total loser?  The truth is that I’d have made my excuses, metaphorically shut the curtains and hid out at home – simple as.  “If anyone calls I’m not here!!!”

We’ve all been there (I hope!); at some point we all get invited to that party of a friend of a friend – only to have the friend bail at the last minute, or get sent to a networking event to mingle with total strangers (smingle?)Shudder.  I got invited to my first event four months after I started blogging and even though I was thrilled to have been invited, I was rattled.  I’d have to go alone and worse, as I was brand spanking new to the Cardiff Blogging Scene, I wouldn’t know anyone.  Yeesh.  Thankfully, I decided to be brave and went anyway, and even though – yeah – it was a bit awkward walking into a room full of unfamiliar faces, by the end of the event they became familiar and I came away realising that – actually – I wasn’t the wallflower I thought I was.  Four years on and I pretty much go solo to all the events that I get an invite to (in fact, as this post goes live I’ll be on my way to yet another one), and even though I still get those butterflies and that urge to bail – every single time – I’ve learned to take a breath and power through it and I always end up having a good time.

So, down to the million pound question: How do you survive a party or an event when you don’t know anyone?  How do you do it without clinging to a corner scrolling on your phone or choosing to keep the dog or cat company (GUILTY)?  Here are some tricks and tips I’ve picked up over the years.

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Arrive Early

I honestly can’t think of anything worse than turning up to a party or an event when it’s in full swing.  Having to walk into a room where everyone’s already paired up and chatting away is my idea of hell, so I always – if I can – try to be the first person to arrive.  Yeah, it’s a bit lame and you risk looking over-eager, but there’s a massive upside.  If you’re the first to arrive you’ll get one on one time with the host before anyone else does (and before they’re busy) – so, you can introduce yourself, offer to help out – and, when everyone else starts arriving they’ll most likely zone in on the host too, who’ll probably introduce you.  Easy, you’re in!

Pick a Bomb Outfit (and compliment everyone else’s)

Obviously you’ll want to check the dress code, but pick an outfit that you’re not only comfortable wearing, but also one that makes you feel confident.  I always like to wear one of my weird shirts because that’s usually how other bloggers recognise me (I’m the weird shirt girl) but also because they’re striking and a bit of a conversation starter.  Also, complimenting other people’s outfits is one of the best ways to strike up a conversation – a quick, “Sorry, I just had to come over and tell you how much I love your dress/bag/shoes – where are they from?” is all it takes.

Hunt down other guests who’ve decided to go it alone

One of the best tips I’ve ever read about going it alone is to track down someone else who’s in the same boat!  There’ll always be someone shy standing alone desperate to be rescued – so why not be their knight in shining armour?  They’ll be so grateful!  And don’t stop once you’ve settled in and have found a few people to talk to – always be on the look out for someone in trouble. 🙂

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Come armed with conversation topics

Don’t be the nob who reverts to chatting about the weather when there’s nothing else to say!  Come armed with questions to ask and topics to talk about.  After moving in with a compliment conversation starter ask questions about the other person’s life and the ball will usually start rolling.  At a lot of the blogging events I’ve been to there’ll usually be someone I recognise from social media – even if I’ve never met them in real life, and that makes things so much easier! If they post pictures of their dog, I ask them questions about that cute pupper – if they recently posted pictures of themselves on holiday, I ask them about it! I always feel like a total stalker, but usually I find the other person is just so happy you’ve taken an interest in them on a personal level that it never seems to come across  as stalkerish.  Maybe it’s a blogger loop hole!

No one is staring at you

Unless you get naked, you’re golden.  After I attended my first event alone, one of the biggest things I realised about myself was that I’d much rather take a risk and be the loudest, friendliest person in the room than play it safe and be the one standing alone scrolling on their phone.  I’ve always thought of myself as this shy wallflower – an introvert to the core – and I still am; I always get nervous before throwing myself into a social situation and I actually get a social hangover if I’ve spent too much time socialising (It’s a real thing!).  But, I’ve realised that I can be social and that I enjoy being social.  The truth is that the party or event isn’t going to revolve around you, there isn’t going to be a big spotlight following you around and no one is trying to catch you out or trip you up.  No one will care if you make a mistake.  So relax!

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Don’t Drink

Okay, hear me out; there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of liquid luck, but use it once and it’ll become a crutch for every event you attend thereafter.  All the early events I attended on my own, I drove to – which at the time seemed like madness because, “How the hell am I going to be able to talk to people without a bit of dutch courage!?”  But actually, being forced to stay sober meant that by the end of the night when I’d come away having had a fantastic time and met some great people, I could chalk it up to being completely myself.

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know anyone

You mean, admit that you’re a loner!?  ARE YOU CRAZY?  Well, look.  You can either stand around and hope someone will come and rescue you, or you can take a gamble and admit that you’re vulnerable.  I’ve done it a couple of times myself when I’ve really struggled to find someone to talk to and the other person has always been absolutely lovely and introduced to their friends.  No one is ever going to turn their back on you and tell you to go away – that worst case scenario rolling around in your head doesn’t exist.

Give Yourself a Bail-out Time

Before leaving, I always give myself a deadline – a time when I’m allowed to “give up”, call it quits and leave.  Not only is it a sensible thing to do so your nearest and dearest know what time you’re likely to be heading home, but it also takes the edge off if you’re nervous.  You’ll know there’s an end in sight.  Usually you’ll find that your bail out time sneaks up way too soon and you’ll be having such a great time that you’ll end up extending it anyway! 😉

If you’re local to Cardiff, whether you’re a blogger or own a small business or just fancy mingling with some new faces then there are loads of networking events to attend.  Definitely check out The Monday Club (most of the photographs in this post were taken at their summer garden party earlier this week), The Wonders Of Events, Warrior Women and House 21.