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.

A holiday even you can afford!


In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I had been on holiday.

Outside St.David's cathedral- they always pose like that

When I told people I was going on holiday, they assumed I must be going abroad, but I didn’t, I went to a costal county of Wales called Pembrokeshire. More specifically I went to a little town called Broad Haven. Since the recession, magazines and newspapers inform me that staycations are becoming more and more popular. It’s a cheaper holiday, arguably ethical (helping the local economy), but it is also a lot of fun. My experience taught me that you can have a great holiday without spending a lot of money.

My friends and I stayed in a self-catering lodge which had a beautiful scenic view and a veranda, a lake for fishing, a child’s play area (my boyfriend loves rope swings)  and big open grassy space to play in. The boys went fishing a lot, we had a bbq and sunbathed on the veranda, we had rugby golf on the common land, played murder mystery in our lodge, and each night we took it in turns to make very nice dinners. We managed to do all of this for no extra cost to our accommodation. As we went out of peak time we had the lodge for a very cheap price, but even if we had gone during the school holidays it still would have been an absolute steal. Having a self-catering lodge meant that we didn’t have to spend lots of money on eating out, and as we each only cooked one night, everyone made a big effort, it was like having a dinner party every evening, and much cheaper than having dinner in a restaurant. Lodges, B+Bs, and family run hotels are sometimes not much more expensive than camping or caravanning so it’s worth looking around, especially if you are not the sort of person who appreciates living in the great outdoors.

This sunset was free

Once you pay for accommodation then you don’t need to spend loads of money on day trips, you can go to the beach, to parks, go on costal or countryside walks, all for free. A lot of the attractions (museums especially) in Wales are free so we didn’t have to pay many entry fees, we might even have spent less while we were away than we would have in a usual week. If you have a family (entry fees get pretty expensive when you’re paying for four) or are really strapped for cash then visiting these attractions would be perfect.

One evening we played murder mystery

We were pretty lucky with the weather but on a rainy day we went to Pemberton Chocolate Farm because it was indoors, the tour would have been £4.50 but we skipped that and paid 50p to design our own chocolate and then looked around the free museum and cinema. Other rainy days we stayed in doors to play games (Twister was lots of fun) and watch movies, so weather shouldn’t put you off of holidaying in the UK. Don’t underestimate how relaxing it can be not to have to work through your to-do list every day, you can just read a novel or magazine without having to worry what you should be doing around the house or running errands.

We might have bought a treat in the chocolate shop...

We did take a day trip to St.David’s, the cathedral didn’t charge to go in but just took donations. It was a really sunny day so we got chips and ate out in the sun, but for a cheaper alternative you could take your own picnic, especially as you won’t feel bad buying an ice cream then! Just looking around the city and visiting the galleries was a fun day, you don’t always need to go shopping. My boyfriend and I collect postcards and fridge magnets where ever we go, it’s a cheap way to buy souvenirs that will mean we remember our holidays. Instead of spending a lot of money on buying gifts for every man and his dog, it’s much more personal to pick out postcards you think the each person will like and send them a little message while you’re away.

If you were feeling crappy that you’re not going to have a holiday this summer, I hope this post inspires you to do a bit of research to see if you can change that. If you really can’t afford to go away though, I am also going to attempt being a tourist in my own city so watch out for posts about that. And, of course, I would love to hear all about the staycations you have planned or have been on. Happy holidaying!

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.

Home-made: CHOCOLATE FAIRTRADE PUDDINGS


A quick and easy Fairtrade pudding is chocolate fondu- melt some Fairtrade chocolate and dip bits of Fairtade food into it.

BAKED CHOCOLATE BANANAS

This recipe is a little more time consuming but will still only take a couple of minutes to prepare, and it’s part of your five-a-day!

All you need is:

One Fairtrade banana per person, preferably a bit more ripe than the ones I have here;

A bag of Fairtrade chocolate buttons, big or small, or can use squares of chocolate;

A tub of your favourite Fairtrade ice-cream (optional).

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150C/ 300F/ Gas mark 2

2. Slide each banana open, do not peel the banana.

 

3. Push the chocolate as deep as possible into the banana.

4. Cover eat banana with foil and place on baking tray. Put in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the banana and chocolate seem gooey. Keep checking them though, you don’t want them to burn.

5. Remove the bananas from the oven and carefully scrap all of the inside of the banana into a bowl. Add a few scoops of ice cream and serve immediately.Enjoy!

Let’s go bananas!


If you’ve ever been a waitress then you know you’ve hated your boss for paying you minimum wage to run around all night. You hate anyone who doesn’t tip fairly, even when you were extra nice because you needed some extra cash. It just doesn’t seem fair. Imagine how much cotton pickers and coffee farmers feel when you pick up Nescafe at Tesco instead of one of the many Fairtrade coffees now available, just because you didn’t want to pay the extra couple of pence or even as much as £1. We have all been frustrated to tears many times in our lives because we feel that we have been treated unfairly. Think about the mothers in poor countries, doing back-breaking work all day every day and are still unable to feed their malnourished children.  Or the child now without a mother because their family did not have access to safe water. I’ve noticed that people are quick to jump on the bandwagon moaning about all the people who unfairly claim benefits with the tax payer’s money, so annoyed that someone is gaining on the taxes they pay. This is an injustice they care passionately about. When you bend someone’s ear about shopping more ethically, they quickly wave you off because they can’t afford it. I questioned posting this blog because I have been trailing out this argument many, many times in the last few years and the response is always silence, or a roll of the eyes- here she goes again. I couldn’t not use my blog as a soundboard for Fairtrade Fortnight though.

Fairtrade Fortnight begins tomorrow and runs until the 13th March. I’ll be writing some specially themed posts throughout the fortnight but I’ll start off by listing some of everyday products, found in all supermarkets (including Lidl), and some smaller shops too, which you can switch to Fairtrade today!

Chocolate: Cadbury’s Dairymilk or Bournville, most of Green and Black’s chocolate bars are Fairtrade, and organic too, and the lesser well known, Divine (aptly named).

Tea and coffee– there are tons of different Fairtrade coffees (instant and ground) and tea bags now

Wine– red, white, and rose

Fruit and fruit juice- Bananas, mangoes and more

Rice- I’ve only seen this is Sainsbury’s so far

SugarTate and Lyle

Hot chocolate

Spreads and sauces- Honey, peanut butter, mango chutney, etc

Ice cream- lots and lots but most famously Ben and Jerry’s

Snack barsKitkat, cereal bars, flapjacks, brownies, biscuits, nuts, etc

and there’s lots more too!