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!

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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!

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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! ✨

Mirror, Mirror

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When do you feel that you look most like yourself?  For me it’s about twenty minutes before I fall into bed when I’m in my bathroom and about to take my makeup off (on one of the days where I’ve actually done my makeup – that’s very important; I don’t count the other days).  That moment before I scoop my hair up and run the tap, I lean on the sink and look into the mirror and actually recognise the reflection staring back as most like “me”.  Or maybe the more accurate way of putting it is that I actually like the reflection staring back.  I mean sure, it’s not as polished as the 10am version – but that’s okay and I kind of prefer it that way; it’s more realistic, less maintained (but at the same time not the horror show that is the 7am version).  I’m slobbing around in my pyjamas, my makeup’s worn in, I’ve shed my glasses, the curl’s mostly fallen out of my hair and I’m about to get into bed (the best time of the day, I think you’ll agree) so I’ve usually got a happy little grin going on.

That slightly dishevelled, chilled out and cheerful reflection is what I expect and hope to see in every mirror I come across day to day – not just in my bathroom one – but also in changing rooms, hotels, other people’s houses, the windows I walk past when I’m out and about, in photographs and in the eyes of everyone I know.  Kind of like the evil step mother in Snow White (Mirror, mirror on the wall…).  So, how come I NEVER do!  That bathroom reflection never bloody leaves the house and I feel like I’m constantly being pounced on by other reflections of myself that I don’t recognise AT ALL.  Like the one lurking behind me in that long, tilting mirror you get in every H&M fitting room that lets you see what you look like from a horrible backwards angle (“Jesus christ, is that what my nose looks like from the side???  That’s not me!”).  Shudder.  The horror at seeing a photograph of myself on a day where I thought I was walking out of the house looking absolutely smokin’ in that new skirt when actually – turns out – it makes my thighs look massive.  Yeesh.  Then there’s that weird moment where I try and correlate those two very different images of myself and work out which one is actually real – because there can’t possibly be two.  I’m just one person after all, I don’t have two sets of thighs.  So which is the liar: the camera or the mirror?

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We’ve all experienced those surreal moments when people actually voice how they see you.  The first time I became aware that other people might see me differently to the way I saw myself was when I was about seven.  I was in school, queuing up with the rest of the kids to go to assembly and one of them suddenly turned around in the line and gave me a long, hard look.  “…It must be really strange having one eye bigger than the other,” they said, then shrugged and went off to assembly without realising that they’d just performed the equivalent of a hit and run on my appearance, and man was it a kill shot.  I remember being simultaneously confused and completely horrified, because firstly I’d never noticed anything different about my eyes, and secondly – hold up – “is that what everyone thinks I look like!?  Am I a monster!”   Thinking about that now makes me laugh out loud (kids are dicks, aren’t they?) – I mean, how ridiculous!  But I never forgot it and – you know what? – there might actually be some truth to it because to this day I can never seem to apply my eyeliner evenly.  Oh well.

Why is it that criticisms of our appearance – however wide off the mark and ridiculous – are so easy to believe, but compliments aren’t?  There are some observations that we want to believe, but flat out refuse to – like a mirage.  For example, my husband is always telling me that there’s nothing of me – that I’m stick thin.  I know he’s not lying, but I’m convinced that he sees me as skinnier than I actually am because he’s taller than me and so he’s always looking at me from a slightly skewed angle (isn’t that mad?!).  A few weeks ago my sister-in-law turned around, pointed to my eyes and said they were “quite stunning” because apparently they’ve got a darker ring around the outside of the iris.  Excuse me, what?  Looking at my eyes in mirrors all my life I’d never once noticed this mythical dark ring – but she’s right, it’s there.  How the hell did I miss that?  Why didn’t I see it?

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It’s a kind of weird, daily challenge that we all face, isn’t it?  Gathering up all these different versions of ourselves and trying to marry them up with the one we accept as the “real” us (and that’s without adding that impossible bar set for us by the media, fashion and beauty industries).  I’m 33 and I still haven’t figured out which is the real one, or whether I care.  Is it that bathroom version?  The skinny one with the stunning eyes my husband and sister in law see?  Or the sloppy one my neighbours see at 7am when I walk the dog?  Or are they all way, way off?  Are my thighs big?  Are my wrinkles easy to spot?  I can’t for the life of me work out how I can look in a mirror and love my appearance one minute and then take a photograph two seconds later only to stab furiously at the delete button.  I have absolutely no idea.  There’s no easy answer except that I’m probably all of these different versions of myself and none of them at the same time – and that mirrors are very, very strange objects.

Fun fact, every time you see your reflection in a mirror it’s out by about 10 nanoseconds – so it’s a slightly younger version of yourself.  *eye roll* In case you wondered, that’s probably the real me – the one who has to punctuate everything with a nerdy fact. 😉

How to Organise your Life using Instagram

How to Use Instagram to Organise Your Life - The Cardiff Cwtch

Okay, I know, I know!  You’re looking for more reasons to step away from Instagram – not towards it.  But hear me out.  If you’re like me (i.e. OBSESSED) then it’s probably one of the first apps you open up and choose to have a quick scroll through first thing in the morning – y’know, during those ten or so minutes in bed after the alarm has gone off but before you’ve resigned yourself to crawling out and facing the day.  Whereas Twitter is the go-to for up-to-the-minute news and the latest talking points (kind of like ye olde newspapers – remember them?), Instagram – on the other hand – is the glossy magazine alternative; the place to go for (mostly) real lives, viewpoints and stories, holiday spots, styling tips and food.

As a teenager, I loved cutting up magazines.  Once I was finished reading the latest issue of Marie Claire, Glamour, Seventeen or Mizz (yikes, remember Mizz?!) I’d get snippy with the scissors – flicking through and cutting out my favourite pictures, from clothes to quotes, to photographs of food I wanted to make and faraway places I wanted to visit.  I’d blue-tack them all to the walls of my bedroom (permanently pock-marking the paintwork and forever putting me in my Mum’s bad books…) – and it was a kind of my own mood board, and a scrap book of ideas; Instagram and Pinterest before they even existed.

Nowadays, I can just use Pinterest and Instagram – and I do!  And while Pinterest is great when I’m on my computer or tablet, I wouldn’t dare put it on my phone (buh-bye monthly data allowance!).  Instagram on the other hand is far more portable.  It’s not just a social media app or a tool I use to promote my recipes and my blog, but now that you can create collections of saved photos it’s also become a handy tool to organise my ideas, interests and inspirations.  Much like Pinterest, I use it to collect recipes that I fancy trying out, outfits I want to recreate, places I want to visit, as well as photos that I love – all to create my own little mood board to inspire my own photography.  If you’re on the app all the time then you might as well use the features to help make life easier, right?

If you’ve never heard of the save function on Instagram or have never used it, then hold tight; I’m going to show you how to use it, and how I use it to organise my life!

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How to Save/Bookmark Photographs on Instagram

Scrolling through Instagram, if there’s a photo that you really like the look of – whether it’s an interesting outfit (ooh, I fancy getting a coat like that), or a recipe you really fancy – you can save it to your own private collection.  All you have to do is click the little bookmark symbol in the bottom right hand corner.  No one will know that you’ve saved it, so don’t worry about feeling like a creep!  Just clicking it once will save it, but if you hold down, then a little menu will pop up at the bottom of the screen, giving you the option to organise that photo into a specific folder that you can label yourself.

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To see your collection of saved photos, head to your profile page and click the little symbol made up of three horizontal lines in the top right hand corner.  A menu will slide out and from there you’ll be able to access your saved photos by clicking “saved”.

This is where you can get as creative and as organised as you like!  What you save and how you save it and organise it is entirely up to you – but here are a few collections I like to keep.

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Midweek Meal Ideas

I’ve got quite a few collections of recipes that I’ve stumbled across on Instagram (I’m a food blogger, after all!).  I’ve got a collection full of recipe ideas for Christmas, and one full of desserts, but the one I keep on adding to and tend to dip into the most is the one I’ve labelled Midweek Meals”.  I love cooking, but sometimes coming up with something to cook in the middle of the week when I’m knackered and tempted to call in a takeaway is TOUGH.  So what I like to do is save some ideas from the food accounts that I follow on Instagram – that way, I’ve always got something up my sleeve when I come to plan my meals for the week and can’t think of anything to cook. 


Holiday Rec List

Before I go away somewhere – whether that’s a city break or a beach holiday – I like to create a new collection on Instagram full of ideas on places to visit and to eat!  Before Sunny and I flew out to Vancouver last year for our Canadian Roadtrip, we knew we were only going to have a day at most to explore the city and so we used Instagram to decide what we wanted to see and where we wanted to eat.  By doing that, we found this tiny, tiny Taco Bar for dinner that we never would have known about had it not been for photos of their crazy cocktails and tacos on Instagram.  It’s such a great way to plan a trip – or even collect places you’d like to go in your own Home Town!  Plus, you’ll always – hopefully – have your phone on you – and with the added locations and maps feature, it’ll be like having a curated and personalised guidebook in your pocket! 🙂

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DIY and Interiors Projects

I’ve been thinking about giving my office a little bit of an overhaul recently and so I’ve created a collection full of ideas on how I’d like to decorate it.  Instagram is full of interiors and DIY accounts as well as brand accounts selling home furnishings.  So as you can see, I’ve saved lots of photographs of home offices, storage ideas, lamps (gotta find that perfect desk light!) and even colours for the wall via the Pantone and Farrow and Ball accounts!

Seasonal Outfits

I follow a lot (A LOOOOT) of fashion accounts because I’m pretty hopeless when it comes to creating outfits for myself.  I organise any fashion posts that I save into Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter collections – so everything’s easy to find.  Not only are these collections great for creating outfit mood boards and collecting ideas for outfits, but I use it to inspire my future wardrobe.  If I can see that I’ve pinned a lot of white blazers in my summer collection, then I know that that’s perhaps something I’d like to add to my wardrobe next season.  By scrolling through what I’ve saved, I can get real idea of which styles I tend to like and might like to buy into, and also how to wear them!

That’s it! Have you ever used the save function on Instagram?  Have a great weekend everyone! 🙂

Why we all want to be a bit more Villanelle (minus the murder)

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My husband and I always tend to have our most deep and meaningful conversations in the car.  It makes sense; you’re wedged together for anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours where at least one person isn’t allowed to scroll the time away on their phone.  Conversation is going to happen, and when you’ve known each other for ten plus years, it’s not going to be about the weather.  In between mini-arguments over who’s Spotify Playlist has got the best mix (mine, obviously), bouts of road-rage and scrambling around to find that fruit pastille I dropped between my legs (it was a black one, no!) – we tend to get a little deep.  Last weekend – road tripping back from West Wales – we somehow got onto the subject of murder.  “Could you ever kill a dog?” I asked.  “No, never – not unless it was in pain,” was our united stance on that one.  Even then, I’d struggle and sob myself silly; I couldn’t even bear the thought of it, because, well… dogs.  And then we played that game you always play when pondering moral dilemmas; you go to the most extreme situation you can think of.  I shrugged my lips, “Alright then, could you kill a person?”  

Now before you start thinking that my husband and I are psychopaths who spend every single car journey plotting murder, I should probably explain that we don’t.  We’ve just been watching waaaaaay too much Killing Eve.

It’s back this weekend for Season 2; are you as excited as I am?  I’m so ready for another helping of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s razor dagger-sharp script-writing, more scene stealing fashion and two of the most complex, well-written female characters on the box (three, if you include Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn – which I totally think you should because she’s awesome).  But mostly because, finally, more Villanelle!  Played by the brilliant and beautiful Jodie Comer, she’s become a bit of an unlikely icon and – yikes, dare I say it? – role model?  Probably not for the cold blooded killer bits, but for just about everything else.

I mean, there’s a reason why tailored suits are everywhere at the moment, along with frou-frou pink tops and dresses (who can forget that psychiatrist scene from Season 1?).  And it’s not just the fashion, it’s her playful, devil may care attitude that we’re all hooked on; she does and wears whatever the hell she wants, speaks her mind, and is as tough as the Balenciaga Biker Boots she stomps around in.  There’s a beautiful brutality to her that I think we all fancy injecting a little of into our own lives – whether that’s wearing something eye-catching and extravagant, to telling someone exactly what you think of them.  To their face, with a serene smirk.  Sorry not sorry, baby.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge explained in an interview that crafting the character of Villanelle (originally created by the writer Luke Jennings in his book Codename: Villanelle) came from continually asking herself the question, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”  And I think that’s the question we should all probably be asking ourselves every day in as many variously worded ways as possible.  It’s the only way to acknowledge the fear holding you back from being the most explicit and honest version of yourself, and then shake it and be that person – devil may care. “What would I wear today if I wasn’t afraid of being stared at?”, “What project would I take on at work if I wasn’t afraid of failing?”, “What would I say to that person if I wasn’t afraid of being rejected?” ad infinitum.  As long as the question isn’t, “Who would I kill today if I wasn’t afraid of being caught?” then you’re golden.

Killing Eve is back on BBC One this Saturday at 9.15pm.  Smell you later.  🔪