I love Cardiff

Recently I realised that it has been four years since we moved here to Cardiff. It feels like so much longer, memories of my home town where I spent the first 22 years of my life are getting a little hazy now. I feel totally at home here and I’m so glad we chose this city to move to. In celebration of this milestone, here are some of the things I love about Cardiff:

  1. The people. Yes, like anywhere else, you get grumpy people and angry people and generally rude people but on the whole, Cardiff people are friendly, helpful and quite laid back compared to other places. I was in shock when we first moved here and complete strangers kept saying hello to me in the street – nothing like the grumpy silence that was the norm in my home town.
  2. The Bay. Gorgeous views, lovely places to eat, a wildlife reserve and the Doctor Who Experience. What more could you want?
  3. Cardiff Castle. Even on a normal day it’s a great place to visit with it’s lovely architecture and stained glass windows. Big occasion days are frequent with lots of fun stuff going on for everyone to enjoy. Plus, owls live there, which just doubles the awesome, in my opinion.
  4. Shopping arcades. Filled with brilliant little independent shops and cafes, selling everything from board games to ice cream made with liquid nitrogen to liqueurs in pretty bottles, all sold by some of the friendliest shopkeepers I’ve ever come across. I also love the look of the arcades, they’re so wonderfully Victorian.
  5. The Museums. I was concerned that living further away from London would mean fewer trips to museums. I was totally wrong. In the city centre alone there’s the Cardiff Story Museum and the National Museum. We make frequent visits to both. Slightly further afield there’s St Fagan’s open air museum and Cosmeston medieval village and Techniquest in the Bay (a bit like the Science Museum in London).
  6. Green Spaces. Cardiff has lots of parks and other outdoor areas. My favourites are Heath Park (for the miniature railways) and Roath Park (for the boating lake and terrapins in the conservatory).
  7. Great for keeping active. You never seem far from a leisure centre, swimming pool or community centre in this city. My favourite swimming pool is the Cardiff International Pool in Cardiff Bay. For the kids, there are tons of play centres all over the city. If you’re looking for an activity for the whole family, Treetop Adventure Golf is in St David’s shopping centre.
  8. Christmas. Cardiff city centre turns into a magical place at Christmas time with pretty lights and decorations everywhere, Christmas markets with all sorts of independent businesses selling unique gifts and decorations and plenty of events going on. Cardiff Castle goes particularly Victorian – the Santa’s grotto there is enchanting.
  9. Independant cafes. From Selah in Llanishen to Cafe Barker in the Castle Arcade, Cardiff is home to so many gorgeous little cafes, each one with a unique feel to it. As a writer, there is nothing I love more than a peaceful hour in a corner of a cafe with my laptop and a big mug of hot chocolate. Simply wonderful.
  10. Patriotism. No, that is not a dirty word. I know these days it conjures up all kinds of ideas about racism and xenophobia but it doesn’t mean any of that here. The crowds on St David’s day, the support for the Welsh rugby team, the pride of calling such a brilliant city home. I really admire the Welsh for how much they love their country and capital. You’ll now regularly find me cheering at the television at a rugby game!

So there we have it. My ten favourite things about Cardiff. I hope to live here for many years to come and discover lots of other things to love about it.

Did I miss out your favourite things about Cardiff? Do share the love and comment!

My October

Happy Halloween everyone! October is coming to an end so here’s what I’ve been up to this month.

October began with Pip’s 6th birthday. Lots of family came to visit and she had a superhero party with her friends.

Superhero Cupcakes

We got our new iMac computer. After months of only using laptops, it’s great to have a family desktop computer to use again.

My last ever university module began. This year, I’m studying Children’s Literature. It’s already proving to be a really interesting subject. This time next year, I should have my degree!

I got my first Christmas present ridiculously early – a new fish tank! My new fish then arrived this week and everything’s gone reasonably well. There was a little problem with ammonia levels in the water on the second day but that was sorted out pretty easily with a water change and has been fine since.

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Pip’s been on half term for the past week. We’ve spent an afternoon in Heath Park collecting pretty autumn leaves. We went to Treetops Adventure Golf in Cardiff city centre – great fun and challenging but not too tricky for Pip.

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A Fishy Delivery

This morning, my new fish arrived. They were delivered by post, from the website Aquatics To Your Door. They were very well packaged and all were alive and so far appear to be healthy (I say that because some health issues aren’t immediately apparent).

I went through the acclimatisation process one bag of fish at a time. This involves floating the closed bag in the tank for about twenty minutes (I was given advice both longer and shorter so I went for an average) then very carefully letting them out into the tank. I kept the lights off all the time and for an hour after all fish were in the tank.

I have one Siamese Fighter, or Betta fish, eight neon tetras and two blue platys. The Siamese Fighter hasn’t shown much aggression at all, something the species can be somewhat known for! It flared it’s gills once at a platy but since has been swimming around with the others for hours with no problems. Unfortunately, I’m yet to get a decent picture of a platy as they’re very fast moving.

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I’ve also added in some new stones and live plants.


I’m really pleased with how the tank looks and how the fish are getting on so far. I’ll be testing the water tomorrow and doing a water change if needed.

A New Addition

After lots of procrastination and research and planning, I finally have my new fish tank! It’s a very early Christmas present from Husband – we jointly decided that it would be better to actually have it set up and fully functioning before Christmas. Or at least that’s the excuse I’ll be sticking to…

I went for a starter kit with the main equipment I’d be needing included – a filter, LED lighting and, since I want tropical fish, a heater. This is an Aqua One AquaLED 68 aquarium, purchased from Seapets, where I also got my gravel.

An Aqua One AquaLED aquarium, purchased from www.seapets.co.uk

When I originally thought about getting fish, quite sometime ago, I imagined they’d be a really easy pet. You buy a tank and some pretty fish then pop in some food each day and occasionally clean the tank. It turns out it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, you shouldn’t buy a tank and then instantly put fish in it. Between filling the tank with water (which needs to be treated with conditioner) and adding fish, there’s a waiting period while friendly bacteria builds up. This is necessary because fish are going to produce lots of waste, which become harmful toxins. The friendly bacteria gobbles this up so that it can’t harm the fish. Basically what I’ve had to get my head round is that my fish tank will actually be an enclosed ecosystem and it needs to be balanced.

This is why I currently have a nearly empty tank. The fish are being added next week.

I have put in my gravel and one rock with some fake plants on it. I am planning on getting some live plants and also some pebbles. I’ve also added a thermometer to make sure the water is the correct temperature. I’ve bought a battery powered gravel cleaner, a magnet algae cleaner, fish food (flake and freeze dried bloodworms), a pack of water testing strips, a bottle of water conditioner and a bottle of biological supplement – basically a bottle of live bacteria to kick start the aforementioned biological cycle.

There is quite a bit maintenance. I’m planning on a weekly 20% water change, using the gravel cleaner to siphon away dirty water and then replacing it with fresh and conditioned water, plus a little more of the biological supplement. Then there’s also weekly water testing to make sure that none of the toxins are building up. If the tests show too much toxins, I’ll need to change the water more frequently or in higher quantities. Obviously the fish need to be fed daily, although there seems to be a lack of consensus over whether it should be once or twice a day. I think there’ll be a certain amount of trial and error here. I’m going for mostly flake food with the occasional treat of blood worms. Once every few weeks, the filter will need a clean out. Once every 8 weeks, the carbon filter media will need to be changed.

Okay so that does sound like quite a bit but really, it’ll be about an hour and a half each week. As pets go, that’s really not a lot. I used to keep rabbits, whose huge enclosure had to be mucked out with a spade once a week. Or my dog that needed daily walks and tons of attention. I suppose the downside is that you can’t cuddle a fish!

I’m really happy to be starting a new hobby. I’ll post all about my new fishy friends when they arrive!

Are Video Games Good For Our Children?

As a follow up to my post ‘Are Video Games Bad for Our Children?’, today I want to write about how video games can be beneficial to our children.

Firstly, to cover a rather obvious point, there are video games made specifically for educational purposes. My own daughter has used a game on her iPad to help her in learning to tell the time. The range of computer and tablet games available provide a great resource for more independent learning.

Further to this, scientific studies have suggested that playing video games can improve visual focus and processing, as well as working memory and attention span. Not only is this great for children, it’s also good for people in every other age group, including us – so grab a controller and join in!

That last point brings me neatly onto my next: video games can be a social activity to be enjoyed as a family. Our current favourite is Disney Infinity. My daughter is still having a little trouble with the controls but we’re seeing constant improvement. This game could be said to improve plenty of important skills – fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, working in a team and strategic thinking.

My favourite kind of video games are the fantasy role playing kind, such as Fable and Dragon Age. I realise that these are not exactly child friendly and it’ll probably be about a decade before I’m suggesting them to my daughter (by which time she’ll want to play current games and my old favourites will be left on the shelf and forgotten) but my point is more about why I love them. I  love stories. And these are stories that one can be directly involved in and have some amount of control over. That is just awesome.

What are your (or your children’s) favourite video games? Do you think there’s something to be gained from them?

Are Video Games Bad for Our Children?

For decades, people have been concerned with the effect video games might have, especially on children. From claims that it prevents socialisation and physical activity to the idea that it actually promotes and encourages violent and aggressive behaviour, parents are often given a myriad of negative perspectives on video games.

As a parent, I have always looked in a little more depth at issues before coming to a decision. We’re all fairly aware these days of how the media can skew the facts to make their stories more sensational. There have been plenty of newspaper stories about how some shooting massacre was caused by the perpetrator playing a video game beforehand. Of course, they could have just taken one of the other many stories written to the same effect about certain music or films and pasted in the name of whichever Call of Duty has just come out.

Firstly, I’ll look at my personal experience. I really enjoy playing video games. One of my favourites is Dragon Age. I love the role playing and fantasy elements of the game but I also enjoy the combat. Yes, I like it when I manage to slay a few big nasty monsters with a gigantic sword or else set them on fire with my magical powers. I say ‘I’ and ‘my’ because it is a role playing game. You take on the part of the character. And yet, I have never been violent towards anyone. This is also true of the other many, many people I know well who have played very violent video games.

Next, let’s take a quick look at history. The absolute earliest form of video game was created in 1947. That’s 68 years ago, a comparatively tiny fraction of our existence. But violence and aggression is found throughout. In fact, taking a quick look at the statistics shows that violent crime in the UK has, in fact, been decreasing over the last twenty years. Surely if during that time more and more of us have been taking part in an activity that causes violent behaviour, you’d expect that figure to be rising?

So if video games don’t cause violent behaviour, is there anything we need to worry about in our children playing them?

I know plenty of parents who, through conversations in person, through twitter and various online forums, have asked if a certain game is appropriate for their child. The phrases ‘but they keep asking for it’ and ‘all of their friends play it’ seem to crop up quite a bit in these discussions. Personally, I plan to take the same approach I would for any other kind of media I’m trying to decide if my daughter can make use of. I’d play the game, or at least look at reviews. I’d ask myself if any of the content (not just violent but also sexual) is too graphic or disturbing for her. If I think it is, I will tell her so and not let her have the game. If she goes to a friend’s house, I will politely ask that friend’s parents if they can make sure the game in question is not used while she’s there. In our house, we are not big fans of censoring anything without a good reason to (this is a bit of a seperate issue will probably form another blog post in the future).

The next issue is how long should children play games for. There are concerns about lack of socialisation and time outdoors and even as far as addiction. Firstly, all of the evidence currently points to a small percentage of people being susceptible to addiction of video games. The likelihood is that these people are probably prone to addictive behaviour anyway. (Please take note of the language I’m using. I’m totally aware that a new study could be published tomorrow showing that this is a much bigger risk than previously thought and I would then look into the issue again and perhaps change my position accordingly). It’s something you should definitely try to be aware of, since addictive behaviour is something your child might need help with.

I do set time limits on playing video games. I want my daughter to participate in lots of different activities and there are things like homework and reading practice that take priority. She loves the outdoors – frankly I think she’d be pretty distraught at the prospect of sitting indoors playing games all day!

Basically my opinion on the issue is this: video games are not going to cause children harm as long as they’re appropriate (looked at on an individual basis by parents) and they do lots of other things as well.

What do you think? Are you worried about video games?

Forever Product Review

Autumn term has begun and, as much as I’m missing Pip, it is nice to have a little time to myself. After six weeks of days out, play time and generally trying to keep the little ones entertained from morning until bedtime, I think we all deserve a little pampering.

With that in mind, I’ve been reviewing a range of products by Forever, based around the beneficial properties of aloe vera. I was given a big range of products to test and these were my favourites…IMG_0175

Aloe-Jojoba Shampoo

This is a lovely smelling shampoo and it left my hair feeling thoroughly cleansed. As I’ve got coloured hair, I normally use a specific colour protection shampoo. If this weren’t the case, I’d definitely consider getting some more of this stuff! There’s also a matching conditioner.

Aloe Hand and Face Soap

As someone with naturally dry skin, I find I need to moisturise constantly to keep my hands soft. However, after using this soap, I found that my hands stayed soft anyway! Definitely recommend for anyone who suffers with dry skin.

Aloe Lips

With the colder weather coming up, protecting lips from the wind and rain is important. This lovely lip balm certainly does the trick. Not too thick or strongly smelling but acts as a good moisturiser and provides protection from the elements. A good choice for everyone, especially us gals who like to be outdoors a lot.

Aloe Propolis Cream

Another one for the dry-skinned amongst us. I find that once my skin becomes dry, getting it back to normal is a real challenge, usually taking up to a week to be smooth again. This stuff worked wonders though, getting rid of dry skin within a day or so!

I’ve really enjoyed reviewing these products. There’s plenty more in the range so if you fancy treating yourself, visit the website here or call the lovely Ellie Waite on 07971842203 to order something for yourself!

Note: I was given a selection of products from the Forever Living collection to try free of charge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are, as always, my own.