Wish you were here


In an earlier post I mentioned how I always take up lots of projects when I’m stuck in bed. As well as being surrounded by loads of books, papers, pens and my typewriter, I now have lots of postcards of Cardiff to add to the pile. What could be my new project? Well actually I’ve gotten involved with someone else’s project.

Like most people my age, I would love to travel, but at the moment I’d be lucky to make it to the cinema because of my health. And, of course, the hurdle to most people- cost. So when I read about the Postcrossing experiment, I was more than excited about it. As fast as my little achy hands could, I typed in the web address and signed up.

You must be wondering what sort of project could get me so keyed up (pardon the pun). Postcrossing members exchange postcards with each other. I would have been sold at that, I love postcards and handwritten letters. I always collect and send them wherever I go. More than that though, Postcrossing is international so members get postcards from all across the world. When you sign up, you are given the address of strangers to send postcards to, and in turn, strangers are given your address and send postcards to you.* My first postcard was from Malaysia. Members can also browse each others’ profiles and request direct swaps. I am feeling very popular because I have already had a few such requests.

As though it were made for me, Postcrossing combines so many of my favourite things. The founder, Paulo Magalhães, is bringing back the wonderful tradition of handwritten postcards. I can’t wait to learn about the lives of people all over the world. How can you have possibly finished this blog post without clicking onto the site to sign up?

As a special offer I will send a unique postcard about where I live for the first three people to request it.

Do you like sending postcards or are they redundant with texts, emails, Facebook, etc?

For more information on Postcrossing, visit the website www.postcrossing.com

*For those of you who would be concerned about posting your address on the internet (and you are right to be), your address is not published on your profile but only given to members who are selected to send postcards to you. Clearly it’s not full-proof but I feel ok about a few random people who lives hundreds of miles away being given my address and nothing else.

My staycation update: becoming a tourist on the streets I walk (or wheel) everyday


In July I wrote a post about making the most of your summer (read it here if you missed it) and another about my staycation in Pembrokeshire with friends– now, as promised, I going to update you on how Paul and I have become tourists in the city we have already lived in for two years. We began, as I always do, with a list, a very long list, firstly, to get the old cogs turning we thought of all the places we have been once and said we should definitely go again, and then of all the places and things we have wanted to do but have never go around it. It is a very big list (and Cardiff isn’t even a big city) so I won’t tell you all about it in one post. I’ll tell you first about one of my biggest passions….FOOD

Part one: Fashionable BBQs, takeaway picnic and A LOT of ice cream on the side

Hunting for our Central Perk

You may have noticed from the name of this blog that I like coffee (LOVE coffee), and that I also really like coffee shops. I am really picky when it comes to coffee though, in fact whenever we go over to someone’s house Paul always tells people not to bother making coffee for me because I won’t drink it, my daddy is the same so it must be in my DNA. Finding a favourite coffee shop has been a bit…impossible, and we usually go out for coffee with friends, all of whom have different tastes so we haven’t become a “regular” anywhere. I knew if I was going to get through my studies and writing this summer, I’d need to find somewhere that just visiting would excite me and feel like a treat. So out the notebook and pen came and we made another list (list 2) of all the places we have been for coffee and rated them and then all the places we haven’t been and then we began going through the list in search the best. Off we went in week 1, trying this place first, then that place, and then- well… actually place number 2 stuck- ironically it’s called No.1 Coffee. I already have a summer drink and flapjack that I am literally addicted to and I love their coffee (I buy their coffee beans too) so when winter comes around I won’t jump ship. Like most writers, I’m really sentimental about going out for coffee, I like a place with nice big comfy sofas, antique bookshelves with old books for you to peruse and far enough away from the centre that it’s not plagued by families and teenagers but close enough to my house that it’s only a few minutes walk- this place ticks all the boxes, plus it has lovely places to sit outside and big open bay windows for the breeze and sunlight to come in. That was pretty easy for an “impossible” task.

The Great outdoors

Men love taking over the BBQ

Next up picnics and BBQs which I absolutely love but living in Wales (where it always rains) you don’t get many opportunities and need to take them when you can. This evening Paul and I packed up our lovely new picnic set (and fashionable) and matching blanket we bought on sale, our little BBQ and headed over to the huge park in the city centre- Bute. We went in far enough so that we wouldn’t be shaded by the trees and couldn’t hear the traffic and made an absolute feast. The thing about visiting parks, even the same ones over and over again, is that they’re different every time you go there because the seasons change whatever lives and grows inside them. I have to say, Bute Park is pretty damn brilliant as far as city parks go though. It was owned by the Bute family who also owned the castle and so the grounds literally stretch for miles and miles and miles, whenever I go there I discover new pathways, rivers, and even once a cafe. I haven’t even come across the boat dock yet.

Picnic in the park, brought to you by Nandos

Tucking into some strawberries and cream

We took our fashionable little picnic set and blanket to the castle a few days earlier but being wheat intolerant it’s not very easy to pack a picnic so we threw in some bits and bobs and planned to get food to take-away from somewhere. We had our Nandos loyalty card all filled up so we got some yummy chicken and had ourselves a picnic inside the castle walls. All of my nature-loving, out-doorsy friends would be horrified that I did this but I know all of you who hate soggy salad and sandwiches with extra sand will think it’s a brilliant idea. There are so many chains that will do takeaways if you collect now so why not go and eat it in the sun with a chilled drink instead of sitting inside or on some uncomfortable furniture out on the street (practically)? I always feel like I can’t read at the table in restaurants and I definitely can’t sunbathe.

NB: please pick your rubbish up though, it’s just not cool leaving litter in nice grassy areas.

“I’ll have two ice cream sundaes please, what are you having Paul?”

Last bit, another of our favourite new routines is Cadwalders’ ice cream sundaes. I am a coupon girl, there are loads of discount and voucher websites and apps to use, one of my favourites is VoucherCloud. It picks up your location and lets you see all the offers you can get in the area, you can store your favourites in ‘my wallet’ so it’s easy to find the code to show the cashier. At the moment they have 2 for 1 on ice cream with this welsh company who have parlours all over Cardiff. We’re big lovers of ice cream, and with 2 for 1 it’s a cheap treat. One of the most impressive ones we’ve had so far is Tutti Frutti- check it out in the picture!

Cadwalders tutti frutti sundae

It is definitely well worth visiting new foody places or places you’ve been before and finding your favourite so you enjoy every single visit, most places have a loyalty card or you might be lucky like me and find it has an offer on almost permanently.

Hope this post has inspired you to dig deep in your local area and make the most of your summer by finding a place you just love to visit over and over again. Not to mention that it helps support the economy in your local area (which let’s be honest it really needs at the moment).

What have you been doing with your summer? Do you have a favourite picnic spot or are you a regular at a coffee shop? I’d love to hear what you’ve been up to over the summer and any great ideas you have for tourist-ing in your own city.

BBC HD and cucumber sandwiches


As I am sure you are tired of hearing, it was the Royal wedding yesterday. Although I am not a Royalist, definitely not a monarchist, or even  a fan of the Royal family, I did watch nearly all of the coverage and took part in the celebrations. The media have more than covered all of the highlights so I’ll restrain from cooing over the dress and giving a moment by moment commentary, instead I’ll give the best things about the wedding, some silly details, and then more seriously, the flip side of the celebrations, almost completely unmentioned by the media.

I’m pretty sentimental, probably why I enjoyed the day a bit too much, so I loved the tributes to Diana. Will gave Kate his mother’s engagement ring (obviously didn’t see it as a bad omen) and they played ‘Guide me, O Great Redeemer’ as her tribute to the princess (the hymn was played at her funeral).

The Welsh elements of wedding also went down well here. Firstly, the couple chose a piece from a completely unknown Welsh composer, Paul Mealor to be played at the wedding. Will also held up the tradition of giving Kate a wedding band made from Clogau gold. Since 1923, royal wedding bands have been made from the pink gold mined from St.David’s mine in North Wales. The women in my family have quite a lot of Clogau gold jewelery, it’s like the Bennetts and the Royal family shop in the same jewelers. Ha.

Kate didn’t vow to obey Will- good woman in my opinion. What do you think? BUT she did wear a veil, although I seriously doubt she was a virgin. Your wedding day is the only day in your life when you will be able to wear a veil, I’m glad she stuck with tradition and wore it personally.

Princess Beatrice with her monstrous hat

At my sister’s party, we ran through the whole BBC coverage again to identify the best and worst outfits. Vicky B won best hat, and no guesses who got worst. I thought it would be the lady with the wedding cake hat, but Beatrice had slipped under my radar- what an absolute blunder. Someone buy the woman a mirror- clearly her blood and fortune have not bought her taste. Are there any fans of the hat?

Is Pippa smaller than a size 8?

On another superficial criticism, how skinny are the Middleton women? They must not have eaten for months. More seriously though, the Royal cleaners went on strike the day before the wedding to ask for their wages to be risen to average rate for a cleaner in London. At the moment the cleaners are paid £6.45 per hour, a whole £1.40 per hour less than the average cleaner in London. The strike barely received any attention from the media however, and so is largely unheard of.

And the other big controversial point is the decision not to invite previous Prime Ministers Blair and Brown. This is allegedly because they are not Knights of the Garter, unlike Thatcher and Major. At Charles and Diana’s wedding, all living Prime Ministers were invited though. Simon Schama, interviewed on the BBC, said this was a

Vicky B's lovely hat

mistake because all PMs play a big role in British history, they add to the country and nation we are, and since the wedding was clearly purposefully a very British affair, with all traditions upheld, it seems rude not to have invited them.  What do you think?

Did you watch the coverage or just enjoy the day off from work? How did you celebrate or boycott? Or are you just simply sick and tired of hearing about it, and glad the whole thing is finally over?

For my international readers, I’m dying to hear your thoughts about the wedding. The American film about Will and Kate was given awful reviews here, that is not anywhere near representative of British life! Just a heads up…

Easter for athiests


Did you have a nice Easter? I went home to see my family so I didn’t get to write many blog posts last week. The weather has been far too lovely here in Wales to be sat inside typing away at the computer. Hope you had a nice weekend and managed to complete lent. Despite many-a-messy-hair day I stuck through the 40 days and have barely used my GHDs since. I hope my hairdresser will be pleased with the condition of my hair next week. Like Lent, Easter has something to offer everyone outside of chocolate eggs and hot-cross buns.

As my family are Christians, we went to Church a few times over the weekend and Easter is a big deal for us. Thinking over the message of Easter, I realized that, like Lent, Easter has a message for everyone, even if you’re an atheist or a member of another faith.

For Christians, the cross symbolizes the love God has for humanity (He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins), forgiveness and transformation. I think most of us would that there are many parts of our character which leave a lot to be desired. Lent encourages us to develop self-control which prepares us to transform ourselves at Easter. Most people make resolutions at the beginning of the year, why not start a tradition of making resolutions at Easter? My plan is to make resolutions which change my character, less superficial than new year’s though. Instead of resolving to loose weight or read more, make resolutions to be more generous or less judgmental.

Why don’t you join me? Is there something you’d like to change?

HOME-MADE: Mother’s day gift flower


Here is the promised mother’s day gift. All you need is:

  • Small pot or bucket, I bought mine from Hobby Craft for only 59p, any craft shop should have something similar. If you don’t have either then you could use a yogurt pot or ice cream tub and cut it to size. Wrap some gift wrap around it
  • Gravel, sand, or something which will anchor the flower in place
  • Lollypop sticks (good excuse for eating an ice lolly) and some green paint, or a straw or pipecleaner
  • Patterned paper and card, or patterned card
    • Bottle top or button
  • Pritt stick or PVA glue
  • Glue gun or super glue
  • Small piece of card to write message on and sticky tape (optional)

Begin by painting the lollypop stick green on both sides. While it is drying, draw a flower shape on some card and cut it out. Using Pritt stick, stuck the patterned paper on to both sides of the card flower. Then, heat up and load the glue gun as instructed by manufacturer and stick the bottle top/button into the centre of the flower on one side.

When both the lollypop stick and flower are dry, glue the stick onto the back of the flower. If you want to, write a message on a small piece of card and stick it onto the flowerpot/bucket. And, to finish, fill the pot with gravel and push in the flower, ensuring that it will stay up. Quick and easy, and I am sure your mum will love having the flower at her desk in work. Alternatively, you could make the flower and stick it onto a card, or go to town and make several flowers of different sizes to make a flower box or bunch.

Happy mother’s day!

Let me know if your mummy liked it.

Pancakes and hairdryers


It just turned midnight on Shrove Tuesday which means that for most of us, we are stuffed all the way up to the tippy top with pancakes. Shrove Tuesday is paradoxical, it brings two things- an excuse to gorge on pancakes and an attempt at self-control. By the time Ash Wednesday rolls around, most of us have already broken our new year’s resolutions. In the last few weeks springtime has crept up on Cardiff, making my friends and I feeling a bit fresher and lighter. The feeling of new-ness turns our attention into thinking about all the great ambitions we had made in January. Even if you are not religious, lent is an opportunity to test yourself. It need not just be about restriction though, lent can provide an opportunity to take up a good habit.

You could try eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day or start exercising. If you’re a writer then lent is a really good motivation to start writing for 5 or 10 minutes a day. Or, maybe you could finally start that hobby you’ve been planning on.

When I was trying to think up ideas of what to give up for lent, I came across an ehow article which gave some good hints. If you’re stuck for ideas then try thinking about giving up an activity, maybe watching telly or checking Facebook. I know someone who gave up shopping for non-necessity things- that is a toughie. Or you could try swapping, so you could watch half an hour less of telly or using the internet and spend that time reading a novel.

Whatever you pick, do something which will actually challenge you. I tried to give up chocolate many times. One year I did finally manage to achieve what many had thought impossible- I have to say, I did feel pretty good. If you manage to stick to lent, then you do get a feeling of self-achievement. And, if you give up chocolate, you have a reason to eat lots of Easter eggs come Easter Sunday. This year I am going to give up all electrical hair stylers- my straightners, my hair dryer and my curling tongs, in the hope that my hair might actually recover a bit from years and years of daily being twisted, pulled and generally burnt.

What are you going to give up?

The prophecies of the analogue world


If you know me personally, then you know how ridiculously generous my boyfriend is. This year we agreed on a maximum amount to spend on Valentine and anniversary presents. For quite a few weeks now I have been drooling over a camera, a Diana F+ with flash by Lomography. I wasn’t casually mentioning this to Paul as a hint. As usual, he cheated and bought me the camera I wanted, even though it cost more than we had agreed. If you haven’t heard of Lomography you are in for a treat.

The Lomography society is all about the snapshot. They produce cheap, almost entirely plastic cameras, made to be taken everywhere by their snap happy owner. The point is to capture that exact moment and turn it into brightly coloured, moving art. The model I have is based on a camera from the sixties, now improved and re-produced. It is really weird going back to film, it completely changes taking photos. Unlike with my digital camera, I don’t take a million pictures per event but only take one or two and I have to rely on skill. I can’t just keep taking photos and get the camera to auto-focus, I have to do most of the work myself, even deciding on the shutter speed. This leaves so much room for experimentation. And, best of all, the subject cannot request seeing the photo, and then keep asking for re-takes until a perfect one comes along. I haven’t finished my film yet, I’m a bit nervous, I hope it doesn’t come back from the processors as blank. The excitement of collecting photos from the processor is back!

Anyway, the Lomography society is now producing a new campaign- The Ten Prophecies of Analogue. I’ve listed a shortened version below. Even if you don’t like taking photos, take the principles to heart and let them change how you see the world. I was having coffee with a new friend today, a lady who has the same illness as me. We talked about the burden, the frustration, the pain, but we also talked about the way this illness has changed us. We are different people than before our lives were smashed apart, but we are not worse people. We have to take pleasure in the simple things, and take life in the slow line. Our lives are not, and cannot, be high-pressured, running from one task to the next in a caffeine fueled mission. And this is not necessarily a bad thing.

Today, well maybe tomorrow because its late, stop and take time to smell the roses, enjoy life- definitely don’t sit on your laptop all day. The digital world is a great thing, I found my new friend on Twitter, but use it to share all the things you enjoy about life, don’t let it be your life. Don’t be a slave to the beeper, to your smart phone, to your Facebook status, and for goodness sake, do not post your every move on Twitter. Instead of tweeting every inch of your train ride, look out of the window and at the people inside your carriage. And then, by all means, like me, come and report back, use social sites to be social, read blogs, but also remember to talk to people, to see people, to touch, to feel, to smell. But read the ten prophecies below first. If you want to apply these ideas to photography, you don’t have to buy a Lomography camera, although they are pretty great, you can pull out your old camera which takes film or buy a disposable one. The full version of these prophecies is on the Lomography website, click on the link.

If you have been inspired to be apart of the Lomography revolution then a great place to start is the Sampler camera. And, believe it or not, there are actually still places processing film.

THE 10 PROPHECIES OF ANALOGUE:

1. Leave the digital grind behind

2. The return of luck, coincidence, contingency, chance, fortune and surprise

3. Expect the unexpected and the excitement of experiment

Trial and error is your policy. Action and reaction your strategy. Believe in yourself, never stop looking, never stop asking and never stop recording.

4. Lomography will bring back overtones, nuances, smells, shades, dirt and dust and real life beauty to us

Great art is not imitation but interpretation of the world.

5. Film and paper ensure originality, authenticity, and eternity

6. Look twice

Pictures that don’t grab your attention today might do tomorrow, the day after or in your next life. Rediscovering means rein-venting your: taste, style, habits and general understanding of the world. A true revolution. Look twice to find real beauty.

7. Let loose with Lomography

You are a boat, the world is an ocean and you are floating along wherever it might take you with the wind in your sails. Nothing else matters; you’re alright as long as you’re with your Lomo.

8. The avant-garde is analogue

Through the challenge of the new, the old re-invents itself and breaks free from all conventions. It finds styles, relations and languages that remain undiscovered within the mainstream. Therefore analogue is the most exciting form of expression nowadays; the avant-garde of the 21st century.

9. A bazillion fresh tunes await us

10. The analogue future is the home of a whole lot of love, joy, fun, sex and… paradise!

Disclaimer: I did not take any of the photos featured in this post. I got them from Google images, have a look, there are tons more.