How I Kept It Welsh

For so long it was my dream to move to Cardiff and 2 years ago I achieved that dream and made the move from Reading to start my new job here. It’s been the best couple of years of my whole life and I have made the most amazing friends who I am going to be very sad to say goodbye to when I start my new job in Reading in a couple of weeks.

When I started looking back at the things I’ve had the chance to do since living here it made me realise just how lucky I have been to have so many opportunities to get involved in exciting things.

So these are the highlights of my time in Cardiff…this is how I spent my time… Keeping It Welsh!

Welsh Flag

Welsh Varsity is a grudge match of epic proportions. Cardiff vs Swansea it’s all or nothing!

Varsity 2013 was the night I met the beautiful Ieva! On a night out a couple of months after I moved to Cardiff, Ieva was bartending at what used to be Pica Pica. I stayed until closing and she came out partying with me for the rest of the night. We ended up in Live Lounge and I acquired a Varsity t-shirt from a random man in the street!

This year Sarah and I actually went to watch the match at the Millennium Stadium. There was such an electrifying atmosphere with all the rivalry banter and drunken shouting. As it’s typically a student event we thought we would feel a bit out of place but there were plenty of other ‘gatecrashers’ and we drank so much cider that we just made friends with everyone there.

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Cardiff Retail Awards 2013 was the professional highlight of my career. With the awards ceremony taking place on my birthday I was excited to say the least and knew there was some really stiff competition in our category. We had a champagne reception and a beautifully cooked dinner and then as the awards came around it was my turn to go on stage and find out my fate. Beating out several other retailers including John Lewis; they announced that my store had won Best Customer Service in Cardiff which was an absolute dream come true and was so rewarding after all the hard work myself and my team had put in.

Retail Awards

St David’s Shopping Centre put a call out for entries for their new blogging team in early 2013 and having just started up my own blog properly I jumped at the chance to get involved. I sent off a mock post to them and got an email the following week saying I had been chosen to be their resident Food & Drinks Blogger. I’ve been to so many amazing restaurants and met some outstanding people including some of my fellow resident bloggers Steph, Joshwa and Eve.

Blog Events

Photography was always something I’d been interested in but always felt unless I really knew what I was doing and had a top-notch camera that I had no business trying to showcase my photos. Over the last year however I have posted many of them on Twitter and had so much positive feedback that it’s really encouraged me to keep going.

Photography

In May this year I was given the massive responsibility of holding the ‘keys’ to Cardiff on the ‘Cardiff Is Yours’ Twitter account. I spent a week tweeting about where I liked going and what I was doing and essentially shared ‘My Cardiff’ with everyone. It was a pleasure to have the chance to get to know so many people through it and I was able to write a blog post for the masterminds behind ‘Cardiff Is Yours’  and also one for Citysocializer.

The one and only Jamie Laing…

Back in October last year I attended the Student Lock-In where I interviewed the one and only Jamie Laing from Made In Chelsea. As a die-hard fan of the show I was pretty much incapable of shaking while I was talking to him but he put me at ease and answered the questions I had for him. We didn’t talk for very long as he had a queue of people waiting to meet him but it was still amazing fun and he’s such a great guy!

Jamie

When I first moved to Cardiff I was finding it difficult to meet people outside of work so I joined Citysocializer which is essentially a local social networking group. Throughout my time with them I became a Community Host and helped to build up the Cardiff base to a team of almost 15 hosts with on average 4 socials every day. Some of the highlights for me were hosting the Halloween party last year, Mexican Night at the flat which I share with my flatmate (who I met through CS) & the Valentines Mingle at Vodka Revs which saw over 30 single Citysocializers descend for cocktails.

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I’ve been to some amazing gigs since living in Cardiff but my favourites have to be Our Last Night (Clwb Ifor Bach), Daytona Lights (Buffalo Bar) & Young Kato (Clwb Ifor Bach). They are both great venues and I had the chance to mix with all of the bands once they had finished. I ended up doing shots with the lead guitarist from Daytona Lights…Total hottie!

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I have made some of the most exceptional people living in Cardiff and have friends for life in them! Whether it’s a been a fellow blogger, people I’ve dated or my flatmate they have each contributed to making me the person I am today.

I have to say though, the biggest achievement for me has been this… my own blog. Something I started as more of a journal when I first moved here has now become an outlet for my passions. A place for people to read what’s hot and what’s not and actually want to know my opinion. It’s amazing to have such an influence and I have been presented with exceptional opportunities to attend events which has helped me grow my blog and develop my writing style. What began as a humble WordPress page is now a fully fledged ‘.com’ and my reviews can be found on sites all over the internet which I never thought would happen.

Cardiff…you have been amazing!

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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

Let’s Get Cosy!

Anyone who knows me well, knows there is only one place in Cardiff I continually return to time and time again and that’s the hidden gem that is Cosy Club.

A discreet hideaway, it’s perfectly positioned in a central location with a great view across the main shopping street in the city.

Cosy Club is like a grown-ups’ social playground…Whether you’re grabbing brunch with a friend, booking one of their wine tasting sessions or curling up on the sofas for an intimate date it’s the perfect setting.

I recently went there for dinner with my friend Jack and we might have spoilt ourselves just a little bit.

We started with the Vegetarian & Cheese sharing platter, this included all of our favourites such as baked brie, olives and pâté. 

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We also had some cheesy garlic bread on the side which is the best I’ve ever tasted.

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We opted for tapas for our mains, both going for the crispy, cheese-coated potatoes and the pan-fried mushrooms in a fiery peppercorn sauce.

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My third plate was the red wine infused chorizo and Jack had the mini fish fingers with freshly made tartar sauce.

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Okay…we were so full by this point we contemplated stopping but then we remembered… there’s always room for dessert…hehe!

I chose the lemon posset which came with crystallized lemon and a lemon curd shortbread…nom nom nom!!

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 Jack chose the raspberry crème brulée, stunning to look at with the glass-like topping and once broken into there was the surprise of Chambord-soaked raspberries inside.

After feeling suitably stuffed we made our way home, but not before saying goodbye to the evening’s host Amy who always gives you a warm welcome and makes sure you’ve had a great time.

The whole team at Cosy Club always make you feel like one in a million and it’s for this reason that I will continue to keep going back!

Jamie’s Italian…Please sir can we have some more!

We visited this restaurant after deciding to make a girly evening of it! You certainly couldn’t miss Jamie’s as it towers over the riverside like a beacon, with a huge sign and floating balcony. Inside we were pleasantly surprised by the setting, tucked away inside, the seating reminded us of being abroad. Unfortunately it was a rather cold evening and so we opted to sit inside.

Our waitress was lovely, very enthusiastic and obviously knew the menu very well as she quoted the day’s specials to us. She took our drinks orders while we browsed the menu, Shauna had a coke while I ordered a non-alcoholic ginger mojito, and promptly brought them over to us. We were surprised at how reasonable the prices were and ordered our main courses and sides.

We were not kept waiting long and the food was delicious. We both opted for the Sausage Pappardelle; Slow-braised fennel sausage ragù with Torrione red wine, Parmesan & crunchy, herby breadcrumbs…It was amazing! You could tell that the pasta had been made fresh that day and all of the flavours complimented each other wonderfully. We also had some polenta chips, crispy fried with rosemary salt & Parmesan on the side.

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After our main course we ordered a dessert each… My friend opted for a trio of ice cream; vanilla, chocolate and salted caramel all dusted with crushed nuts. I chose a warm fudgy brownie with amaretto ice cream & caramelised amaretti popcorn. Both of these were exquisite and left us feeling suitable full up.

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As the restaurant got busier we were slightly over looked after requesting the bill but overall our experience at this restaurant was positive and the food was certainly good value for the money, we will definitely visit again.

The truth…

At some point growing up I decided that the only way to survive in the world was to shut down and close off my heart. I’m sure given a choice I would have chosen only to avoid the pain of life… not the pleasure… but open or shut were the only options available.

Most of the time, everyone and everything around me was inconsistent, physically and emotionally. A broken family, turbulent relationships and an appalling time at school all contributed to this.

Every time I started to get settled, it would all disappear. I had no control, and I couldn’t trust anything. It became unbearable.

I couldn’t make people or the world go away, so instead I shut up shop and hid my true self away from them, behind a mask…

I put a smile on my face, and became a reflection to others’ wishes—like the princess in the tower, a prize to be admired, completely untouchable.

I had the perfect disguise…

Today…years later I am a rather different person,

On my journey to get here, I felt like an adrenaline junkie, always seeking out excitement and pushing it to the edge.

Out of fear I tried to control the relationships in my life, as I had learned to control my emotions. I also looked for others to control me instead, always believing that power equalled love…Oh, how wrong I was…

The truth, though, was that I was still avoiding the depths of my own emotions.

It was falling in love though that would take me there and break me there.

With no warning a man came into my life, and I fell uncontrollably and unconditionally in love for the first time. I was completely unprepared and terrified.

But this wasn’t a fairy tale.

He didn’t rescue me, and I didn’t rescue him. Instead, I saw myself reflected in his confused and sometimes harsh approach to my deep longing.

And after a while, I began to realise…

He couldn’t love me, because I didn’t.

All the bottled pain, loneliness, and rage came crashing out of me like a wild thing let loose. It wasn’t neat, tidy, or controllable. It was messy, scary, and tremendously painful. It took time to heal the wounds that had been left unattended for so long.

Instead, I had to learn see it for what it was—just stuck energy that I needed to release to be happy.

I now generally live my life playing freely in the wide expanse where the two meet, being aware of me, the best I can.

It’s a balancing act—avoiding those extremes. It’s when we master this that we can love freely and live true to ourselves.

Breakfast at Bills

I’ve been meaning to go back to Bill’s in Reading for a while, but every time I was home I would look in at the windows and it was packed full, so this time we decided to go on an early Sunday morning and were lucky that it was quiet and almost empty.

We were very warmly greeted on arrival and given a choice of tables which I always like to have. It was such lovely weather that we chose to sit outside. All of the staff were consistently friendly and attentive, but not overly so.

My friend chose the breakfast which consisted of Cumberland sausage, smoked streaky bacon, fried egg, mushrooms, toast and he asked for the egg to be replaced by extra bacon which they were happy to accommodate.

I opted for the Eggs Royale…a personal breakfast favourite!…which was presented in an almost ornamental way, *I didn’t really appreciate the pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top*, but nevertheless it was cooked beautifully with fresh smoked salmon all on a lightly toasted muffin.

Bill’s has a lovely informal, slightly bohemian atmosphere with a stripped-down interior, a mixture of furniture and features with a great menu. The breakfasts are lush and this place is very popular no matter what time of day so you might have a short wait. In the evening, the atmosphere is more laid back and candle-lit. A really pleasant, friendly, modern place to eat and catch up with friends.

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Getting Cosy Up In Here…

Wednesday evening and it was my turn to host ‘Wine Night’ for the Citysocializer gang…

For any of you who aren’t already familiar with ‘Citysocializer’…it’s kind of like a dating site, but just for meeting people and making friends…I’ll talk more about that in a future post though!

When it came to choosing my venue there was nowhere else I’d rather spend an evening than Cosy Club!

In their own words…Cosy Club is quirky, eccentric, playful and offers casual dining, drinking and lounging in a homely and family-friendly environment…”Think Gents Club meets Village Hall meets Cricket Pavilion”.

If you are lucky enough to get a window seat, you can see all the way up and down The Hayes, the architectural detail of the buildings you can’t usually see from the ground. This in itself is a huge positive – in the day time, it’s light and bright, at night there is a romance of light reflection on the glass…both from the vintage tassle lampshades inside and the gentle fairy and street lamps on the out… This is a first floor, lofty seclusion, which I just haven’t experienced elsewhere in Cardiff.

As it happens, most of us ended up having varieties of cocktails or craft beer instead of wine…But hey, Wednesday Wine Night just has ring to it!

We also had some gorgeous tapas and garlic bread smothered in cheese with oils and balsamic which went down a treat.

We all decided to have a little dessert too and these guys know how to rock a dessert! I had the Salted Caramel chocolate pot which came in a cute little teapot with fruit on the saucer. If you ever referred to this as a ‘chocolate mousse’ you should be kicked down the rather grand Cosy staircase! It is essentially a pot of molten chocolate which has been chilled and in the middle alternate pieces of gooey and crunchy salted caramel which tantalizes every taste bud going!

If you haven’t been, get yourself a good book and pull up a sofa and get cosy…!

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