My Favourite Things to Read Online

I am guilty, as I believe many of us are these days, of spending a fair amount of my spare time reading online. Blogs, articles, news sites and, the favourite of any procrastinator, Wikipedia.

I have made it a personal goal to try and restrict this a bit more. I should be spending more time doing my own writing or just doing anything that’s a bit more productive. That’s not to say I want to cut it out altogether, just a bit. Online articles can be informative, inspirational and amusing. With that in mind, here are my favourite sites to read:

I Fucking Love Science. Written in a usually lighter tone and with citations in abundance, I find it an enjoyable and trustworthy source for science news. It’s articles are often about debunking common myths, for example the lies spread by many anti-vaccination campaigners.

Seychelles Mama. I bet most of us at some time or another have thought how awesome it would be to pack up and move somewhere tropical. Well, this lady and her family did just that. This blog is all about the realities of being expats in the Seychelles, both the pros (there are some gorgeous photos) and the cons (of which there aren’t many!).

Words from the Corner. This is actually written by my own Hubby. He started a blog in the New Year (definitely not a resolution, he makes clear) and writes on various topics. I know I’m his wife so you might think my opinion is a bit biased but really it’s good stuff. I think my favourite so far was his post on the apparently not so universal appeal of music.

Rules of Play. This is actually the blog of an independent games shop located in the shopping arcades of central Cardiff. While we lived much closer to the city centre, we could probably be found in there at least once a fortnight. Sadly, moving further out means that we visit much less regularly. However, this blog not only offers updates on the new titles they’re stocking but also suggestions of new games to try. If you’re a fan of tabletop games, even if you’re not in Cardiff, I’d suggest reading this.

Cardiff Mummy Says. A brilliant parenting blog in any case but particularly handy for me as it includes regular lists of stuff to do around Cardiff. I often look at this when I’m a bit stuck for something to do or feel like I’ve already tried everything Cardiff has to offer (I never actually have!)

So those are my favourites blogs. For news, I generally favour BBC. I know every now and then they get told off for claims of being biased but most of the time, I feel like I can trust them to give the facts, though even then I’m very cautious. With fake news being so widespread these days, I like to check sources and facts for any piece of news I hear, wherever it comes from. Fake news has stopped being about celebrity gossip and moved quickly in the realms of actually affecting politics. So it’s important to be properly informed.

Just to end with a little shameless self promotion, if you often find you’re stuck for something to read, the Bubele newsletter is released every fortnight and always has a few things going on in your area, plus competitions and a suggested article to read. Go and sign up!

Thanks for reading.

Five years in Cardiff

Five years ago, we moved from London to Cardiff. It’s probably been the best five years of my entire life.

Back in 2011, we lived in an area not far from where the riots had recently happened. It’s not easy being out in a place and constantly wondering if the person you’ve just passed in the street was looting a few nights before. We’d been talking about moving away for a long while but it had always felt like fantasy, like when you plan which mansion you’ll buy when you win the lottery rollover (Everyone does that, right?). But with London (or at least the bit of London we lived in) feeling more and more like somewhere we didn’t really want to raise our child, we started looking elsewhere.

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View across Cardiff Bay, 2011

Cardiff was a pretty obvious choice. We’d been there on a day trip a year earlier and instantly loved it. It’s a capital city – a good place to find jobs with plenty of cultural stuff to enjoy – but at the same time it’s a quieter, more laid back and friendly place than where we were. Plus it’s where Doctor Who is filmed and for a family of geeks, that’s a massive tick in the pros column.

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At the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff Bay, 2012

Husband went on a little reconnaissance mission. The poor guy spent two days looking at what were mostly pretty grim flats, attending job interviews and spending the night in hotel room with a broom closet sized bathroom and a TV smaller than his iPad. He had the pressure of actually picking where we lived without me ever laying eyes on it. When we actually moved, I arrived a few hours ahead of him (he finished packing up at the old flat, while me and Pip went ahead) and he texted me, all anxious about what I thought, given that this was the first time I’d set foot in the place. I think my reply was ‘I f*cking love you’. He’d chosen brilliantly.

I loved that flat. It was the first place that really felt like our home, rather than somewhere we’d had to settle for out of necessity. It was just near Cardiff Bay, still one of my favourite places to visit, plus near plenty of shops including a huge 24 hour supermarket. The best thing about it was it’s second bedroom. Pip finally had a room of her own, which we were all extremely happy about.

We stayed there for a year, then our landlord quite suddenly decided that they were going to sell the flat and gave us just over a month to move out. This time I chose the flat and Husband was the one that didn’t get to see it until after we moved in. I won’t go into much detail about that place but suffice to say, we’ve since made an agreement that he gets to choose all subsequent places we live in. It was bloody awful.

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Victoria Park, 2013

Since 2014, we’ve been living in my favourite place that I’ve ever lived in. Plenty of space, brilliant location and a lovely landlady. I don’t see us leaving here for quite some time yet, which is quite something for a family that’s moved five times in eight years.

I love Cardiff. I love the Bay, a beautiful place to have a walk, take some pictures and perhaps have an ice cream. I love the city centre, full of shops, two museums and a castle, plus a massive library and loads of lovely places to eat.  I love that if you say Good Morning to someone in the street, most of the time they’ll say it back rather than look at you like you’ve just casually uttered a racial slur (seriously, I wouldn’t even make eye contact with strangers in London). I love how comfortable I feel here.

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Castell Coch, 2016

Starting fresh in Cardiff has made me a such a different person. I might still be shy but I’m way more confident than I used to be. I’ve faced up to the fact that I have PTSD and depression and had treatment and now I feel so much better. I’m not cured but it’s incurable so being able to deal with it is the best I can do and I think I’m doing it (most of the time).

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Me, 2011

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Me, 2016

So thanks Cardiff. I can’t wait to see what the next five years have in store!

 

Our Summer Half Term 2016

This morning I was a little sad to send Pip back off to school but I’m also breathing a sigh of relief to have a quiet day at home to myself. We’ve had such a busy half term week!

On Monday, we went for a walk and picnic in Cefn Onn Park, to the north of Cardiff. We hadn’t been before but it came highly recommended and it’s close to Lisvane and Thornhill train station, making it easy for us to get to as we don’t drive. It is a beautiful place, filled with pretty flowers.

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Cefn Onn Park, Cardiff

There was a pond with big koi carp appearing occasionally through the murky water and a multitude of tadpoles clinging to algae covered rocks all around the edges. Pip spotted a dragonfly but I wasn’t quick enough with the camera to get a shot of it!

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Tadpoles in the pond

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By the stream

 

There are picnic tables and plenty of benches but we chose to use our picnic blanket and eat on the big picnic meadow to the north of the park. Recently I bought a really lovely picnic backpack from Mountain Warehouse. It comes with cutlery, plates and cups for four people, plus a nice big food storage section and an insulated removable bottle pouch attached to the side. There’s even a little chopping board, bottle opener and salt & pepper shaker in there! I knew it would be perfect for all of our summer outings.

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A perfect place for a picnic. I promise that’s a glass of squash! 

We’d spent Sunday afternoon preparing some yummy picnic food. Pip snipped the herbs for our pasta salad, helped to fill the tortilla wraps and she really enjoyed dipping strawberries in chocolate!

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Zesty pasta salad with tomato salsa

On Tuesday, we went to Penarth for some fossil hunting. We’d been there before (here is a post about our previous trip) and Pip, an aspiring palaeontologist has been really keen to go back for ages. We found a few ammonite fossils this time, to add to our collection at home.

We had ice creams on the pier, while looking out at the beautiful views all around.

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Ice cream and the stunning view from Penarth Pier

We picked a nice spot in Alexandra Park for another picnic. It’s a lovely green space, with plenty of shade to relax in after a long walk on the beach. There’s a also a small aviary there and Pip loved watching the little birds flit about.

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Alexandra Park, Penarth

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At home in the afternoon, once Husband had arrived home from work, we all made ice cream sundaes to cool down.

On Wednesday, the gorgeous weather turned a bit grey and dreary so we had a day indoors. We watched the new BBC adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, my favourite Shakespeare play. Pip loved the fairies and magic in it, plus we both giggled at Matt Lucas’ portrayal of Nick Bottom. I really recommend watching it – it’s a bit of a departure from traditional stagings but I really liked all of the changes and the special effects and the cast were superb.

Afterwards we got out our new fabric pens and designed t shirts inspired by the play. I was pretty impressed that Pip remembered a quote that she wanted written on hers.

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T-shirt inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and created with fabric pens

I had to work on Thursday, Friday and Saturday but Pip got plenty of fun time with Husband. They went off to Cardiff Bay together on Thursday.

After work on Thursday, I went and bought myself some new fish. The tank now contains five neon tetras, seven platys, four otocinclus catfish and a cherry shrimp.

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Platy

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Otocinclus catfish

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The platys

On Saturday, I took Pip to her first tennis lesson before my shift started then to her friend’s birthday party after my shift. I was pretty tired by the end of the day, as I’m sure you can imagine!

We all had a well-earned chilled out Sunday at home.

It’s been an all round brilliant half term. I know it won’t be long until the summer holidays are here – I’ve already been busy planning!

 

Looking Back and Planning Ahead

Looking back at the beginning of 2015, I was unemployed but positive for the future. I found a job this year. It’s not a job I’ll want to keep forever but it’s good for now. It’s providing a little extra income and some extra experience for my CV.

We didn’t have any holidays in 2015 but we did have a few trips to interesting places.

We went Fossil Hunting at Penarth beach (something I’d love to do again this year).

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fossils & stones collage

We went to Castell Coch, a beautiful fairytale castle.

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We went to Bristol Zoo, to visit the baby Gorilla Pip has adopted.

We went to Roath Park and the conservatory there.

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This year I decided to start keeping tropical fish. The fish attempt did not go well. The fish sadly all passed away due to white spot (a common fish illness). The retailer I bought them from took responsibility and replaced them. The second attempt, so far, seems to be going well. I’m being extremely vigilant for any signs of illness or stress though. Fingers crossed they’ll still be here when 2017 begins!

Pip started her second year of school. She settled in brilliantly and is doing really well. I was so proud on hearing a glowing report from her teacher on parents’ evening and even more so when I saw her performance in the nativity play.

2016 should be one to remember. All being well, I’ll complete my degree this year. This feels like a really huge achievement for me – someone who dropped out of sixth form ten years ago. I’m hoping it can lead me on to better things.

Everyone makes New Years resolutions about losing weight. I do it every year. I normally succeed for a month or so then fall back into my bad habits. This year I feel a little differently about it. I don’t just feel a bit down about my appearance, looking distinctly chubbier than I once did. I feel unhealthy. I feel a little worried that those bad habits are going to actually start to have an impact on my future. I’m not just chubby, I’m properly overweight. If I want to live a long, healthy life, I need to change. I fear becoming a parent that can’t run around the park with my child. I’m hoping these worries and fears can finally motivate me to make a proper change to my lifestyle. This isn’t a resolution exactly. Those just don’t work for me. It’s more of a realisation.

I’m hoping we can take some trips to new places this year. I’ve already got some ideas but I’ll keep them under my hat for now!

2015 has been pretty good. Let’s see if 2016 can be even better!

 

 

 

My November

November has been a quiet month, as it always seem to be for me. Its the lull between the excitement of the summer, which always seem to spill over into September, right up to Pip’s birthday, and the excitement of Christmas, which seems to dominate the whole of December.

I have started preparing for Christmas already though. I took a trip into town, mostly for window shopping, gathering ideas of what I might buy. Of course, as with all of my window shopping trips, I did come home with a couple of little bits!

I’ve already wrapped the presents I’ve bought. I don’t leave them unwrapped as then there can’t be any temptation for anyone to peek (let’s face it, I mean my husband as much as I do my daughter).

We were considering going to Sparks in the Park, the big fireworks display in central Cardiff but in the end Pip had a friend’s birthday party to attend and that appealed to her much more than standing outside in the cold. I’m actually fairly glad we didn’t go – I’ve since heard a few stories of people waiting ages to get their tickets.

I did bake some Ninjabread men. I’ve had these cutters for years but they’ve been left forgotten in the cupboard for quite some time. I’m glad Husband suggested digging them out. I haven’t done much baking lately and I do really enjoy it.

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Of course, there was Remembrance week. I find it really important to instil the message of this with Pip. She had her poppy, of course, and we spoke at length about why we wear them and about the various wars soldiers have fought in to defend our country, as well as other countries.

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We finally watched Ant-Man. As big Marvel fans, we’ve been eagerly awaiting this and we weren’t disappointed. It had that great mix of action with comedy we’ve all come to expect and love! We also started watching the new Jessica Jones series on Netflix. It’s certainly much more adult than the comic book inspired films and TV series we’ve watched so far. David Tennant gives a brilliant, if extremely creepy performance as Kilgrave, the psychotic, mind-controlling villain.

In general, things carry on pretty much as normal in November. Now it’s time to start getting excited because Christmas is well on the way!

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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