My Cardiff

As many of you know I have landed myself an amazing new job, however it’s in Reading which means I will be leaving Cardiff in a couple of weeks time.

Cardiff has introduced me to so many hidden gems so I thought it only fair to share my absolute favourites with you all and a few photo memories from my adventures in these wonderful places!

Breakfast

Cafe Pure is by far the best place to grab a healthy and super yummy breakfast.  They have lots of options to choose from and has fantastic views overlooking Cardiff Bay. They pride themselves on their ‘clean-eating’ options and make the most amazing healthy, fruity and fizzy drinks in the summer.

Cafe Pure

Lunch

The Deck is my Cardiff Bay haven! Tucked away down a small road opposite Cardiff Bay Police Station they serve up meals that taste ‘just like mum makes it’. Everything from comforting lasagne to the Mother Omelette stacked with various toppings. I always popped in for their famous bacon & brie baguette with cranberry sauce. They are also the best place in Cardiff to get cupcakes and brownies, with different flavours every day.

NY Deli is my guilty pleasure for a day when I just don’t feel like being healthy. This small cafe nestled in High Street Arcade offers up the most amazing selection with everything from bagels to hoagies. My favourite is the Richie Parks Special; mountains of salt beef and pastrami stacked on top of a layer of sweet gherkins with lashings of French mustard…mmm!

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Richie Park’s Special at NY Deli

Dinner

Gourmet Burger Kitchen was a place I had never heard of before I moved to Cardiff… I’m so glad I discovered it though as it has everything that I look for in a brilliant restaurant. Superb staff, banging tunes, delicious food and of course great value for money too. GBK make the most refreshing Strawberry milkshakes and of course you can get grilled halloumi as a side dish so naturally this was going to be a winner for me.

GBK

Cocktails

Cosy Club is my favourite place to drink in all of Cardiff! The prices are a little on the steep side but when you try the concoctions on offer you will be pleased with every penny spent. My two signature favourites have always been the Lemon Drizzle Cake and the Cherry Bakewell… No these aren’t cakes, they are drinks, but my oh my they taste like alcoholic, liquidised cake…Mr Kipling would be proud!

Cosy Cocktails

Salt is another place I love drinking in as it’s so close to my flat in the bay and the flavour combinations in their cocktails are just crazy. From their espresso martinis to the candy-tasting Jolly Rancher there is something for everyone here. They have spectacular views of Cardiff Bay from their rooftop terrace which is a lush setting to sit and eat dinner in the summer. It’s also a great place if there’s a large group of you, with the option to reserve an area upstairs. They have brilliant live music nights too, be sure to catch ‘Salvation’ playing there.

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Sarah and I on New Year’s Eve

Nightlife

Peppermint is the place to be on Mill Lane! With cool decor, cheap drinks deals and varied music across two floors, it’s always the best bar on a Friday or Saturday night. It can get very busy in here but that just adds to the atmosphere. Their outside seating area is beautiful to enjoy in the summer and they always put on great entertainment throughout the year and on key dates such as the Six Nations.

Brewhouse is the best place for live music in Cardiff in my opinion. Spread across a large venue on multiple levels it’s a lovely place to grab something to eat and listen to chilled musicians during the day, but by night it turns into a hive of energy with the dance floor full every night. Check their website before you go as they always have great deals on food and drink that you can take advantage of.

Live Lounge had to be mentioned! Simply because it’s a rite of passage to go there at least once during your time in Cardiff and it’s the place to end your night. Open until 4am, people pour into this venue already completely intoxicated but that’s why it makes for such a great venue. Everyone is in such a good mood from their night out that everyone is just really friendly to each other. There is nothing pretentious about Live Lounge, quite the opposite actually; but the music and atmosphere can’t be beaten on a night out in Cardiff.

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Ieva & I at Live Lounge after Varsity 2013

A Pukka Meal

I was lucky enough to go to Jamie’s Italian with a very handsome young gentleman last week and it was the best meal I’ve had in quite some time!

We had a 20 minute wait so we sat at the bar and I flashed my Jamie’s gold loyalty card at the barman. This entitled both of us to a free cocktail…result! We both has a Rossini which is a glass filled with red berry puree topped with Prosecco… Mmmmm!

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Rossini Cocktails

We were feeling fairly hungry so opted to skip starters and go straight for mains. I opted for the Pumpkin Panzerotti which is pasta filled with roasted squash, ricotta & Parmesan, in a pumpkin, chilli & rosemary butter with smashed amaretti. The pasta was fresh and the flavours really hit your taste buds in all the right places!

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My ‘date’ chose the British Lamb Lollipops.

Looking nowhere near a childish as the name suggests this gargantuan meal of lamb chops grilled under a brick with a pickled mint, tarragon & red onion salad, toasted nuts & a lemony yoghurt dressing is not for the faint hearted. The lamb was beautifully tender and mixed with the yoghurt dressing just improved the flavours even more.

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We both chose to have a side of Jamie’s famous Polenta Chips with a garlic mayonnaise to dip. I was a bit surprised by these as I’ve had them before and they are more chip shaped, whereas this time they came out the size of bricks. They still tasted AMAZING though!

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By this point we had both made our way through 2 of our favourite drinks each… the ginger mojito! Normally I’m a huge advocate of alcohol at dinner but these alcohol-free alternatives taste so fresh you can’t help but love them.

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For dessert  we always have very conflicting views. For me a warm fudgy brownie with amaretto ice cream & caramelised amaretti popcorn. Whilst Jack indulged in something a bit sweeter, the Autumn Ripped Pavlova, Zesty cream, limoncello-soaked fruits & smashed hazelnut praline.

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Needless to say we were both suitable full by this point and needed to go and have a well deserved lie down.

With a child-friendly atmosphere and a huge menu with several sharing options available too, I’d definitely recommend Jamie’s as a great place for any family to head this Mother’s Day.

Black Mountain Brownies

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to meet Darryl and Michelle at Cardiff Bay Farmer’s Market. This husband and wife team run O’Donnell Bakehouse based in Crickhowell, deep in the Black Mountains.

They make their luxury brownies using local produce and use the finest chocolate from Welsh chocolatiers ‘Black Mountain Gold’.

I tried a couple of their tasters and instantly fell in love!

Last weekend they were kind enough to drop off a box of tasters in all different flavours for me to have a munch and nibble on.

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Naturally, the first one I tried was the Traditional recipe although this was anything other than a ‘basic’ brownie. Soft and fluffy sponge on the inside, slight crisp on the edge topped off with a dusting of icing sugar.

Now I was slightly dubious about this next one as my past experience with orange-flavoured baked goods has never been a pleasant one… I needn’t have worried though. The tang of the Gooey Orange cut through the sweetness of the brownie perfectly, teasing your tastebuds just enough without overwhelming them. I can’t help but feel the only thing that would make this brownie even better would be to use a really high percentage cocoa solids dark chocolate in the base of the brownie.

Next was the Caramel & Sea Salt *deep breaths*…

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I’m a bit of a fiend when it comes to Salted Caramel anything! This brownie did not disappoint, with smooth, velvety caramel and a sprinkling of sea salt it was a party in my mouth and was gone within a few bites… I know, I’m bad… but it’s SALTED CARAMEL!!!!

I really did save the best until last though… the Irish Stout!

The moisture content in this brownie was a lot higher than the others so quite literally melted in my mouth. Filled with a rich and heady Guinness flavour, the burnt flavour that is derived from roasted unmalted barley and a light, smooth Irish cream frosting.

It was sweet enough to be pleasant for a beer unenthusiast such as myself, never letting the stout element become overpowering. This brownie really ticked every box and I can see why people go a bit bananas for them at the farmers’ markets.

So ladies & gentlemen… please put your hands together for the amazing O’Donnell Bakehouse!

The next time I see these guys I will definitely be grabbing one of their Peanut Butter flavour brownies.

Looking ahead to the 2014 madness…

As promised, here is my list of things I would like to do in 2014.

This works so much better for me than a New Year’s Resolution as it’s much more specific than simply ‘Go travelling’ or ‘Lose weight’

I’ve already had some great help and suggestions from people on Twitter and Facebook on how I can accomplish most of these.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations be sure to email them to me… likewise if you’d to come with me or offer to help that’s even better!

You’ll notice that the list doesn’t contain any crazy travel plans… at the moment I’m not in the position to go very far. I have a demanding job and am currently paying off my last holiday so would rather get the things closer to home done this year so that I can go all out next year!

– Make Keeping It Welsh a dot.com    DONE

– Learn to play the piano

– Take the next step in my career

– Move back into a flat on my own

– Get a cover up tattoo on my wrist + one new tattoo

– Become a British Heart Foundation volunteer

– Run the Cardiff Half Marathon

– Go to the MTV EMAs 2014 in Glasgow

– Learn sign language

– Go camping (I’ve never been…)

– Give blood

– Fall in love

– Go to 10 gigs/concerts/shows

Jan 2nd- Smokin Aces    DONE

Feb 3rd- Our Last Night

Feb 16th- George Ezra

March 26th- Josh Widdicombe

– Eat at 20 new places

– Bake at least once a month

– Visit 5 places on my UK list

Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye ( Scotland)

Whitby, North Yorkshire (England)

Clovelly, Devon (England)

Giants Causeway (Northern Ireland)

Fingals Cave (Scotland)

– Try a new sport

Learning to surf in August

– Do something that scares me

Learning how to crew a hot air balloon in March

 

 

 

2013 in a nutshell…

Yes I realise this is probably way overdue…

I had no intention of writing about 2013 to begin with, in a way it’s a year I could probably have forgotten all about for all the drama that I went through… the stress of packing up my whole life and moving here, a failed relationship, and the realisation that I was drinking far too much alcohol in order to cope with the way I was feeling. 

I could have quite happily left it all there in 2013…

I do however want to write about my exciting plans for 2014 but feel I can’t do this until I explain where I’m already at.

I will post later about my list for this year, but for now you can enjoy the things that I am happy that I achieved last year:

– This blog was born…my baby!

– Moved in with my new flatmate

– Won a retail award

– Learnt to kayak

– Held a wine tasting session

– Became a Citysocializer host

– Started learning Welsh

– Aced my fear of dogs!

– Dyed my hair red… for about 4 months

– Went Geo-Caching

– Became the resident Food & Drink blogger for St David’s Shopping Centre

– Learnt to Salsa dance

– Hosted a cocktail masterclass

– Volunteered as a Childline schools service counsellor

– Went to see Young Kato at Clwb Ifor Bach and Daytona Lights at Buffalo Bar

– Now refer to myself Half-English instead of Half-Welsh

Making Friends In A New City and The Big Apple Competition

The end of December officially marked 1 year in Cardiff for me, which is insane because it feels like only yesterday that I packed up my life and moved here with 3 weeks notice before opening my own store. At the same time, though, it feels like a lifetime ago that I was living in Reading with my mum and sister. So, so many things in my life have changed. My life in Cardiff is a world away now from the one I used to lead. 

Since moving here, I’ve had a lot of requests for a post on how to make friends in a new city. And while I, by no means, consider myself a pro, I thought I might as well share what I have learnt.

Now don’t get me wrong… I wasn’t trying to replace the friends I already had.

The problem when you move is that you begin to realise that we’re not all the same. When you’re not living the same life as you did with your friends [wake up, go to work, go to the gym, dating, eat, go out.], priorities become very real.

There are people that will still go out every night, rolling into work hungover but somehow magically presentable.

There are people that get married and have babies right away.

There are those that fly through work, pouring themselves into everything, climbing and climbing… This is the category I fall into at the moment!

Then there are those who are slowly trying to figure it out – manage a balance of work life and  enjoying adulthood.

My life in Cardiff really began though, when I discovered Citysocializer…

When I first moved here, my life was so busy that I couldn’t always rely on my friends being free to visit and to do what I wanted with, when I wanted. So often I found myself missing out and staying in when all I wanted to do was go out and let my hair down.

Whether you’re new in town, or your friends are out of town, Citysocializer lets you enjoy a great social life without the pain of organizing one. An easy way to fill in those last minute moments when you feel like going out.

Members are fun-loving and sociable people…like me… who organize cool nights out and activities for the rest of us to join in with- from after-work drinks and checking out the latest pop-up restaurants, to running groups, book clubs, festivals, holidays and everything in between.

Once you’ve been to a few you’re encouraged to host your own social to pay back to your local community… I’m now an official host and regularly host socials each month, including my regular Tapas Tuesday night and Breakfast Club.

Citysocializer is a subscription-based social networking website. The mobile and web-based service helps you tap into local social scenes and has now announced that it’s going freemium as it looks to drive growth in cities across the UK.

Founded in 2007 as Citysocialising by former BBC producer Sanchita Saha, the app rebranded as Citysocializer back in June just as it rolled out its first native mobile app (iOS). Though it’s currently very UK-centric, Citysocializer has been looking to push into the broader social sphere with a subscription-based approach to finding new friends anywhere in the world. Citysocializer’s app even plots social gatherings on a map to let you see local activities at a glance.

To announce the exciting launch of Citysocializer being launched in New York you can join Citysocializer using my unique link below which will give you 10 free credits when you sign up, giving you the chance to join a social for free and see what it’s all about.

To make this launch even more exciting, if you join using the link below you will be entered into a fantastic competition…

Citysocializer are giving you and a friend a chance the chance to discover The Big Apple in 5*style!

Win a 3 night break* including return flights and…

  • – 3 nights at 5* Soho Grand Hotel
  • – A helicopter tour of NYC
  • – Tickets to the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty
  • – Tickets to top of the world famous Rockafeller Centre
  • – Hop on Hop off Buss Passes for 3 days
  • – Return private car transfers

https://www.citysocializer.com/invite/237087

The Blog of Christmas Past

So I realise that this is a bit overdue, but it’s time to share my festive habits from 2013.

WHAT I WAS WEARING…

MAC Mineralized Eyeshadow in ‘Gilt by Association’

The bold and striking colours swept on beautifully and lasted long into the evening. It gave my eyes a sultry look which wasn’t too heavy for wearing in the day either. Add a flick of black eyeliner and a few coats of deep black mascara and you’re good to go!

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My novelty Christmas Jumper always seems to become like a second skin once we hit December 1st and I really do love mine… and I loved mine back when it wasn’t cool to be seen in a novelty jumper! I picked this one up from BHS online, super soft and comfy it also kept me toasty warm when the wear got a bit rubbish. Plus… who doesn’t adore Rudolph?!

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WHAT I WAS EATING & DRINKING

Marks & Spencer Festive Treats

These guys always send me lovely things to try!

The Glitter Juice Drink was divine! Filled with lots of fruit to keep you going through the alcohol-fuelled festivities but also perfect as a base for a non-alcoholic cocktail- just add lemonade. Filled with glitter…this drink is also great if the kids want their own mocktails too.

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Then there was the cream of the crop…the Salted Caramel gateaux. This cake was a beast!!

Absolutely stunningly presented with white chocolate Christmas trees on top and dusted with cocoa powder, the cake cut smoothly revealing layer upon layer of soft sponge and gooey fudge icing.

Needless to say, this disappeared within minutes of my party guests arriving!

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WHERE I SPENT MY DAYS

After falling in love with Coffee#1 just after my birthday, it has now turned into a full blown love-affair. Tempting me in with sultry names and luxurious ingredients, the brand never fails to excite my taste buds and the staff are always amazingly friendly.

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My evenings usually took me somewhere in town… Often Cosy Club! 

This year however I had the chance to visit Winter Wonderland twice and loved every second. It was great being able to stand in the Alpine Village, sipping an Amaretto hot chocolate whilst listening to the Oompah band and have fake snow blowing over our heads. It reminded me of my time I spent in Finland.

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WHAT I WAS LISTENING TO

Foxes- Youth

Bastille- Of The Night

Ellie Goulding- How Long Will I Love You

Martin Garrix- Animals