5 Things I've Been Loving Lately

…because we all need a bit of positivi-tea right now…
5 Things I've Been Loving Lately - The Cardiff Cwtch - IngenuiTEA Teapot Review

(Don’t worry, that God awful pun will become clear in a mo…) How are you? No really, how are you? Because in between all the terrifying news updates, social isolation and uncertainty about what the next few months are going to bring, we really need to keep checking in with each other and helping out whenever and in whatever way we can. If you’re like me then you’re probably feeling absolutely fine one minute and plodding along like nothing’s changed, and then staring into space for twenty minutes after tuning into the news for two minutes. I’m feeling angry, sad and overwhelmed all at once sometimes – and helpless; I mean, how the hell am I supposed to walk the dog, do the shopping, see my favourite people, take my car in for a service and MOT (grrr, why is that ALWAYS due at the worst possible moment?!)… I feel robbed of all the things I usually enjoy doing this time of year with my family, and all the daily things I do that I suppose I normally take for-granted.

But, like everyone else, I’m also trying to spot the silver linings in all of this – and they are there if you look for them. My husband’s lucky, he gets to work from home from time to time anyway and so we’ve kind of set up a co-working space in our tiny home office (we’ve NEVER worked together before, so it’ll either be a disaster or a dream…) – and Bungle is always on hand to cheer us both up when we need it (plus, he needs a walk every day – so we’re never short for fresh air). I’m also used to being stuck indoors for long stints as I’m home most of the time anyway – in fact, I LOVE it; I rarely get stir crazy, and so being given the go-ahead to be antisocial and binge on boxsets for a few months is a-ok with me!

Keeping well in every sense of the word is going to be absolutely key to getting through the next few months; not just in protecting ourselves and others against Covid-19, but also when it comes to Mental Health. Not being allowed to go about your usual routine and do the things that you normally love to do is going to be tough-going for a while – so finding small pick-me ups where you can and things to enjoy around this altered (and alien) state will help to keep things in balance when the world seems like it’s flipped completely upside down.

Anyway, here are all my recent pick-me-ups…

5 Things I've Been Loving Lately - The Cardiff Cwtch - Golden Retriever Beach

Finding new ways to get out and about

The week before last Sunny and I enjoyed what was to be our last day out before we dove into full-on isolation last Monday (surreal). We took Bungle down to Jackson Bay for a swim in the sea (he absolutely loves swimming!) and then walked around the clifftops to Whitmore Bay for a portion of chips each from O’Sheas. Obviously we had absolutely no idea how much everything was about to change – but I’m so glad we got out and enjoyed ourselves before getting sick ourselves and having to stay indoors (we both developed a nasty cough a couple of days later – still have no idea whether it was actually Coronavirus, but if it was, it was a relatively mild strain).

Obviously, once our isolation is over we’ll be out and about again – but definitely in a more mindful way. I couldn’t believe the pictures from Snowdon and Pen-y-Fan over the weekend of people out and about enjoying the sunny weather in big groups, as well as caravaners and second-homers opting to leave their homes and self-isolate in rural Wales. It’s not okay, and if either you or a member of your family is in the “at risk” category then I’m sure you were as similarly horrified as I was.  I really hope people start taking the rules on social distancing seriously.

(All I need is for someone to explain what “social distancing” means to my over-friendly floof-ball…)

5 Things I've Been Loving Lately - The Cardiff Cwtch - Barry Island5 Things I've Been Loving Lately - The Cardiff Cwtch - O'Sheas Barry5 Things I've Been Loving Lately - The Cardiff Cwtch - Adagio Tea Giveaway

Loose Leaf Tea

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of a good ol’ cuppa, and in times like these there’s really nothing better than a steaming cup of the good stuff to pull you through. Until recently, I was all for the ease of a plucking a tea bag out of the jar and popping it into a mug first thing in the morning – but when push comes to shove, I actually tend to prefer the taste of loose leaf tea. The problem is, it’s usually a bit of a faff; I find infusers (you know, reusable tea bags) don’t allow enough space for the tea leaves to brew properly, and loose leaf teapots I’ve tried in the past are either too big (so the second cup is cold by the time you get around to drinking it), or too difficult to clean.

A couple of weeks ago all my tea dreams came true when Adagio Tea sent me a box full of loose leaf tea to try, along with their IngenuiTea Teapot – which I have to say has been an absolute game-changer for me first thing in the morning! It’s very, very clever. Not only is it dishwasher and microwave safe (no more faffing around trying to unhinge stubborn tea leaves, or “ugh, my tea’s gone cold” face), but the brewed tea is released through the base – you just pop it on top of your favourite mug and – thanks to the nifty base mechanism – the tea flows straight down into it. Not a stray tea leaf in sight – and NO LEAKS.

Not only is the teapot an absolutely genius bit of kit for tea lovers, but Adagio Tea’s loose leaf blends are gorgeous too. From their dreamy Moonlight Earl Grey to their delicate and sweet Butterscotch Flavour (my favourite by far!) they’ve got a lovely selection of black teas – which are my go to every day – but they’ve also got a selection of special ImmuniTEA Booster blends like Turmeric Bliss and Chamomile.

5 Things I've Been Loving Lately - The Cardiff Cwtch - Adagio Tea Butterscotch

Boxsets

Thank God for Boxsets, amiright? I mean, I’m boxset mad at the best of times so I don’t need to be sold on the idea of staying in and binge-watching my way through all seven seasons of Mad Men – which I totally did a couple of weeks ago (it’s brilliant, by the way – absolutely well worth a watch). Other box sets I’d recommend are Succession, Billions and The Newsroom if you’re looking for smart and snappy dialogue (let’s add Madmen to that pile too) The Witcher, True Blood (…even though it loses the plot somewhere around Season 5) and Penny Dreadful if you’re looking for monsters and magic. And, Outlander, Vikings, Peaky Blinders and The Crown if you’re a history nerd like me. Oh, and if you’re looking for a fresh take on Superheroes, then I can’t recommend The Boys more – seriously good.

I’m also making my way through some of my favourite comedies, from The Office (Micheal Scott never fails to make me smile during “OH MY GOD IT’S HAPPENING” moments) and Parks and Rec, as well as old Britcom faves like The It Crowd, Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley (which is coming to Netflix – rejoice!).

Beating Boredom with Creativity

I doubt anyone’s missed the memes going around over on Twitter and Instagram about how Shakespeare wrote King Lear when he was holed up during The Plague etc. And while – yeah – not everyone’s about to be handed a free pass to pen a masterpiece, and no one should feel pressured to emerge from self isolation with something to show for all that time spent indoors, there is something to be said for killing boredom with bouts of creativity. If you’re a creative like me then it’s likely to be your modus operandi during times of stress and anxiety anyway – but for everyone else who’s never had to stay indoors for long stretches of time, then creativity can be great for keeping your mental health in check.

Me? I’m going to be writing a lot and baking a lot. If you’ve ever fancied trying your hand at writing a book and communicating with other writers, then I can’t recommend Camp Nanowrimo enough. If you’ve ever wanted to write a book then you’ve probably heard about National Novel Writing Month – where writers pledge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days during the month of November. Well, there’s also Camp Nanowrimo, which happens a couple of times through the spring and summer where writers pledge a month of non-specific writing related work – whether that’s editing, rewriting or starting something from scratch! You can do as much or as little as you want, but the best thing about it is that you’re in it with other writers who you can communicate with through the website – which makes social isolation a little more social and a little less isolating. 🙂

I’ll be signing up and trying to write a 70,000+ word historical novel from April 1st (nope, not an April Fool’s Joke, I really am going to do this) – so if you’re interested in joining me or hearing more about my slow descent into madness – then let me know.

Crafty Cupboard Meals

I don’t know about you, but my kitchen cupboards have been begging for this moment for years. They’re stuffed with so many tins and ingredients that almost never get used, and all because I’m one of those “ooh, I’ll use that at some point” shoppers – you know, a curry jar here and a tin of chopped tomatoes and peach halves there. If there ever was a time to use up what I’ve already got, then it’s now – and actually, that might be kind of fun.

Take care everyone – and have a lovely week, whether you’re self-isolating or going about business as usual. Let me know what you’re doing to beat the boredom as well as your favourite boxsets and pick-me-ups in the comments below…

*This post contains gifted items, to find out more about what means – click here.

5 Things I’ve Been Loving Lately

My January and February Favourites, from books, to food, to TV…
Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden

It’s been a while since I’ve done a bit of a round up of all the things I’ve been enjoying lately – and what better day to show a little love for my daily loves than on Valentines Day? I mentioned in this post that I enjoyed a very slow, quiet January of self care and gratitude for the little things that make me smile every day, and February has started in much the same way… just with a few more plans scribbled into the ol’ diary and goals for the year ahead. I saw a meme going around saying that January 2020 was a free trial month – well, now I’m officially subscribed and ready to go. Anyway, here are a few things that I’ve been really enjoying lately. 🙂

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch

Pho

I can thank my husband for this one. We’re both big fans of Asian Food – ramen in particular – and a few weeks ago he stumbled into Pho looking for something different to take back to the office for his lunch. He came home that night gushing about the bowl of awesome sauce that he ended up slurping down at his desk, insisting that I had to try it – and that I’d love it more than Ramen. Challenge accepted.

If you’ve never tried Pho before (pronounced “Fuh”), then it’s basically a Vietnamese Noodle Soup with lots of fresh herbs and vegetables including bean sprouts and coriander. It is a lot like Ramen, but it’s lighter and fresher.

Anyway, we popped to Pho on a date night, I ordered the Spicy Chicken Pho and – whaddya know? – I did love it. And now I’m obsessed. I had a craving for it the other night and picked up one of the Blue Dragon Pho Meal Kits and it was a pretty good dupe for what I had at Pho.

Pho Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch - Spicy Chicken
Les Parisiennes - Anne Sebba - The Cardiff Cwtch

Parisiennes

You guys know how much I love Women’s History – my shelves are packed full of biographies about History’s most badass babes – and early in January I ended up watching Inglorious Basterds for the hundredth time (I’m also a big Tarrantino fan FYI) and kind of fell down a French Resistance hole. I picked up “Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940s” by Anne Sebba to read up a little bit of what it was like for the women of Paris under the Nazi Occupation during World War 2, and so far it’s been a really interesting read. Lots of stories of survival and bravery – as well an interesting dive into why women chose to collaborate with the Germans. I’ve nearly finished reading, if you want a full review, let me know in the comments.

Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base

I feel like I kind of escaped the dreaded winter skin until recently. It’s been a really mild winter until the past couple of weeks where the weather’s been a bit whacky, and in terms of my skin? Everything suddenly started to dry out and give up. (Thank God for the Elemis Facial I had last week!) I’ve had to double down on hand creams, lip balms – and I’ve even had to fish out the old anti-dandruff shampoo. But in terms of my face, I’m actually doing okay – and I think that’s all down to this tub of magic.

I mentioned the Bobbi Brown Vitamin Enriched Face Base in my Best of the Decade Skincare post – I had a small tester of the stuff after picking it up at a Bobbi Brown Makeup Masterclass last year, and completely fell in love with it. A couple of weeks ago I decided that I couldn’t live without it and bought a tub of the stuff. It’s gorgeous stuff. It smells like grapefruit, smooths on over my usual moisturizer, and as well as sinking into the skin quickly and creating the perfect base for my makeup (and a lot more staying power), it also provides an extra boost of moisture. Also, you don’t need a lot of it – a small blob goes a long way!

Patriot

I don’t know about you, but I’ve kind of been stuck in TV limbo recently – there’s been absolutely nothing to watch. Vikings is limping towards its finale (it’s just not as good as it used to be), I’m patiently waiting for the new season of Outlander to start (can’t wait!), and for Westworld to return… but in the mean time, it’s been slim pickings. And that’s meant that Sunny and I have been spending night after night of scrolling through the TV Guide/Prime/Netflix trying to find something – anything!- to watch. PAINFUL. And then we stumbled on Patriot. No, not the cheesy Mel Gibson flick.

Patriot is unlike anything I’ve ever watched. It’s dark, it’s funny, it’s weird – and those are all boxes I like ticked when it comes to TV. The series follows John, who works off the books for the Government (for his Dad) as a spy. He’s asked to get a job for a company that send their employees overseas to sell piping in order to prevent some kind of arms deal with Iran (…or something, I’m a bit sketchy on the deets). But John’s father uses him like a machine when all John really wants to do is sing country music (he writes his own songs which often feature sensitive spying info). Anyway, he gets into all kinds of sticky situations having to pretend to be an employee of a pipe company (most notably from the bloke he pushed under a car in order to steal the job from him in the first place…!), all the while continuing to work as a spy. Definitely worth a look if you fancy something a bit different.

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch

Morning Walks

Simple, but probably my favourite daily love at the moment: taking Bungle into the field for his morning walk. Until recently, Sunny and I have been walking him on the lead around our village – which is fine for Sunny, but not so much for me because Bungle just doesn’t behave on the lead. He pulls, he lies down, he humps… it’s a struggle. Anyway, just before Christmas Bungle put on a few pounds and so we decided that he needed to run a bit more, rather than just settle for a stomp around the block. I’ve been taking him in the field to run off the lead every morning and – as well as being far easier – it’s quite possibly one of my favourite parts of the day. Bungle loves it, I love it – and we’ve scored some pretty funny burst shots out of it to boot! 🙂

Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Bungle the Golden Catch Fetch

Happy Friday, guys! Enjoy the Valentines Day weekend whatever you’re up to! ♥

Thursday Through My Camera Roll

Fog, a Facial and Frank’s…
Golden Retriever - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

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.

Foggy Cardiff - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff BloggersThe Hayes Cardiff - - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

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. 🙂

- The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff BloggersElemis Facial - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

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…

Cardiff Market - - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff BloggersFranks Hotdogs - - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

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.

Bungle the Golden Retriever - - The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers- The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

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.

- The Cardiff Cwtch - Cardiff Bloggers

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…
Finding Joy in January - The Cardiff Cwtch

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.

Finding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff Cwtch

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. 🙂

Finding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff CwtchFinding Joy in January - The Cardiff Cwtch

Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

Goodbye 2019

Hello 2020!

DSC_0155

A whole new decade, can you believe it? I usually love putting together these end of year posts and taking a moment to look back on all my favourite photographs and blog posts from the past year – but this year, I’m really struggling to put into words how I feel about saying goodbye to 2019.  The truth is that this year has been a tough one – under the surface anyway – and a few personal disappointments took a good chunk out of it for me. If I’m being completely and totally honest with you, I cannot be happier to see the back of 2019!  GOOD RIDDANCE! However, you take the good with the bad, right? And there have been plenty of amazing moments along the way – from visiting the puffins on Skomer Island (finally!), to jetting off to Florida again – my home away from home (including that incredible balcony bathtub)!  There have been some amazing events and opportunities, and of course, lots of time spent with my favourite people.  And dog!  I mean, what would I do without Bungle? 🙂

You can’t win ’em all, right? And this year I’ve grown a lot and learned a lot – about a lot!  Enough to take me through into a new decade with a whole new mindset and drive (…even though, when you really think about it – a whole new decade starts every single year in January anyway!).  Bring it on, 2020!

DSC_0564Snapshots from Tenby / Dinbych y Pysgoddsc_0328-1dsc_00081dsc_0445dsc_0501DSC_0844DSC_0010DSC_0122Processed with VSCO with a5 presetdsc_0059dsc_0111dsc_0088

Blwydden Newydd Dda, pawb! (Happy New Year, everyone!) Thank you so, so much for following along with my adventures (and misadventures!) in the kitchen and beyond in 2019! All the very best for you and your families 2020 – and for the brand new decade and beyond! Let’s make it the best yet! ✨