Blown away at Blue Honey Local

I’d fancied the look of this place for a few weeks now since hearing they’d moved into the old Milgi residence, yet it was a Wriggle deal which looked too good to miss which prompted me to crack on and give it a go.

Blue Honey have had the Night Cafe in Sully’s, Quay Street since April 2017, offering an array of live music and mouth-watering meals that have had many a glowing review from the Cardiff food community (Korean Fried Chicken, bao buns, bang bang cauliflower just to name a few). The new venture on City Road is but a moment’s walk from home for me and so I was thrilled at the chance to try it out for myself!

We used the fab little Wriggle deal ongoing at the moment, giving you 3 small plates for £10 [if you’d consider booking through my affiliate link, I’d be ever so grateful] which is a bloody bargain let me tell you; especially considering the quality and freshness of the food served here. We were given a small menu on arrival and asked to tally up what dishes we wanted, bringing it to the bar to order. There were three of us so we went for a bao bun each and one of everything; normally I don’t share food very well but as everything on the menu is vegan I knew I was in safe hands. The result? Hand on heart, it was a bloody triumph. 100% will eat again and again!

Arriving first were the butterbean puree topped with parsley & dukkah and served with warm bread; the cucumber salad with chilli oil sauce, sesame seeds & spring onion; and the Vietnam rolls with thin strips of veg, mint and peanut wrapped up in rice paper served with a sweet chilli dip. I mean if that doesn’t get your mouth watering already, you’ve no idea what you’re missing. The puree was hummus-like and was a refreshing alternative dip with the accompanying bread, given a light spice from the dukkah and presenting a texture contrast with some of the more crunchy elements of the table.
The cucumber salad had a kick to it I didn’t expect but was crazy moreish and thoroughly enjoyed by all. The Vietnam rolls were a little fiddly at first but the sweet chilli dip was the perfect accompaniment to the veg and mint, the latter of which I’ve never had in this context but it worked well.

Next came the chargrilled hispi cabbage with nam prik sauce and lime – this was, for us, the star of the show believe it or not. Who knew cabbage could be SO GOOD?! It was a big portion (thankfully) so I brought some home with me for lunch the next day. Fantastic decision. Give it a go, please.
The crispy tofu, cucumber and black pepper sauce bao bun was a delightful experience, as was the chargrilled edamame with garlic & lemon (be prepared for finger food here) but the other stand-out piece for us was the cheung fun: crispy noodle roll pieces with spicy hoisin sauce. I could have eaten this all day! Very moreish, very tasty, very up my street.

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The flavours were well-balanced throughout the whole meal, service was spot on and the atmosphere was idyllic – just look at that tipi! I’m very glad Eartha stayed here as the greenery everywhere was super soothing on a warm summer evening. All in all, this was a brilliant midweek treat and I urge you to give it a go yourself. You won’t be disappointed! Wriggle’s offer of 3 small plates for £10 is available on weeknights, 5-7pm, no booking required. If you fancy giving it a go, I’d really appreciate use of my affiliate link. Enjoy!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Brilliant breakfast at Big Moose Coffee Co.

You may have seen a post of mine about my top 5 favourite breakfast spots in Cardiff a while ago; this is a place that deserves a new spot on that list.

Big Moose Coffee Co. is a new coffee shop tucked away in Cardiff’s city centre offering sandwiches, omelettes and some seriously tasty breakfasts with a twist. Crowdfunding exceeded all their expectations and allowed this charitable group to make their dreams a reality without becoming a charity; these guys have the sole mission of ‘leaving the world a better place than we found it’ and intend to do so by employing homeless or disadvantaged youths through Llamau, training them up for the world of work with the customer service and transferable skills many of us take for granted.

Not only that, but their offerings in the café are serious contenders in the Cardiff food & drink scene. I’ve been twice already and will not hesitate to return time and time again, not just because of the incredible service and perfectly executed breakfast, but also because the coffee shop itself has such a welcome, friendly and relaxing feel to it that you simply don’t want to leave. It’s a large space but it feels warm with the right lighting, not to mention the pleasant greenery on each table and potted planters on one of the walls, adding both a decorative touch and a strange sense of peace – perhaps all the hoo-hah about plants being good for the mind and soul is true after all?

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As well as all of this, there are two extra features I feel I have to mention which make this place really special: firstly, the stairs are incredible, serious home-deco inspiration I intend to recreate one day when I’ve a house of my own. Mix & match tiles sounds so simple but it’s so effective in my opinion, donating a very personal touch which large open spaces like this so often lack yet make you feel at home, comfortable, content.

Secondly, the toilet is uniquely kitted out with a grass-like wall, fairly lights and a wall print reading “Be kind” which is perfect for toilet mirror selfies but also serves as a reminder for everything Big Moose represents. Embrace it, welcome it and let yourself feel at home in this coffee shop and I can confidently say you’ll enjoy the whole experience.

Menu options vary from sandwiches to omelettes, toast to tea & cakes but the two breakfasts I’ve had there so far have been easily two of my favourite breakfasts in a while. Big Moose is already right up there with Milk & Sugar (the old library) in my go-to city centre brunches. First to be put to the test was my classic, ‘basic b*tch’ breakfast of avocado and poached eggs on toast which has become my solid point of comparison for all new breakfast/brunch experiences [see aforementioned top 5 Cardiff breakfasts post for evidence].

The yolk was the star of the show, running perfectly over a lovely thick spreading of smashed avocado and presented on a wooden board for extra pizazz. I was invited to season it with salt & pepper myself so as to suit my own taste, which I liked, and on the whole this breakfast was a dream. I was especially excited that somewhere was mad enough to be open at the absurd hour of 8am on a Sunday which I found myself walking through town in. So, whatever the time or occasion I’d certainly recommend giving Big Moose a try, you may just be in luck as I was!

Second time around I took my parents along and ordered the other thing on the menu screaming my name: the banana, walnut, maple and coconut cream toast. Sound strange? Trust me, it’s a stroke of pure genius. Also totally vegan, by the way. I still can’t quite decide (or perhaps I’m just scared to admit) whether this superseded my beloved avo & eggs on toast and became my new breakfast heaven. It very well may have.

This is one for a sweet tooth, I will warn you, but the texture contrasts were also amazing with the crunchy walnuts and toast against ripe banana and smooth coconut cream, maple syrup marrying it all together in perfect harmony. I’m seriously hungry just thinking about it again; if you like bananas then you really, really need to try this. For the sake of your tastebuds. For the sake of your soul.

And that, my friends, is why you should visit Big Moose Coffee Co. next time you’re in Cardiff city centre. Yes, the food is brilliant. Yes, they’ve designed the café with environmental awareness in mind, taking the no straw stand and encouraging everyone to help themselves to free tap water, both to drink in and fill up your water bottles. Yes, the décor is brilliantly cosy, homely and welcoming. But most of all it’s the culmination of all of these things that makes this place so special and good for the soul in every way.

Treat yourself, treat others, take some time to relax and unwind and all whilst supporting an incredible, local cause. Big Moose, you know I’ll be back soon.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

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‘Special’ by name, special by nature: Arbennig

The award-winning Arbennig restaurant is situated in Pontcanna not far away from the well-reputed Brød Danish bakery (which I’m sadly yet to visit, but it’s on my list) and Pipes beer (a personal favourite of mine), but well worth the wander out of town. I’d heard many good things about it from colleagues and fellow bloggers beforehand and even met the owner briefly when handing out roast dinners to the homeless with the Arbennig staff and other volunteers just after Christmas, but I was yet to dine there myself. So for Valentine’s Day this year we decided to take the plunge and try it out. We were not disappointed.

The set menu was short but catered well for different tastes, we thought, and sometimes I think there’s a charm in smaller menus as it allows more focus on the ingredients themselves and can result in dishes of a higher standard (see photo below). IMG_7008 All three of the starters were chosen between us, mine being the beetroot cured salmon with horseradish, blood orange and endive. I didn’t really know what endive was but I assumed it was the baby gem-like leaves when the dish came, which presented a good texture contrast. It was very tasty, the combination of beetroot and cured (rather than cooked) salmon worked really well, however I personally don’t like horseradish so that was my only issue. My father had the same and absolutely loved it, my mother had the garlic mushrooms and said it was perfectly balanced, not too heavy and a great start to the meal and my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed his lamb ragu. Happy faces all round so far.

For mains my parents shared the treacle and mustard braised short ribs and I have to say, despite not being to my taste, they looked and smelled (much to my surprise) fantastic. The presentation really was spot on throughout, you can tell this is something Arbennig pride themselves with and they do it all without compromising portion sizes or flavour. The ribs were full of flavour, cooked perfectly with the meat easing off the bone and totally delicious, according to my parents. My father just wanted more! It’s worth mentioning here that the care taken in Arbennig to source their ingredients from local, fresh and often family-run suppliers really shines through in the quality of their dishes, these ribs being no exception.

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The braised short ribs

My boyfriend and I opted for the roasted cod loin where the quality of the fish was also very noticeable, heightening the overall dish which was so bloody tasty we’d have it again any time. The ingredients complimented each other perfectly in every way, the zing of the lemon purée marrying with the fresh fish yet contrasting with the scorched baby gem. It’s such a good feeling knowing that you’re supporting local suppliers, within a local family-run business and the meals taste all the better for it. I love that supporting local is such a big thing in Cardiff and long may it continue if these are the results!

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Roasted cod loin & Israeli cous cous etc.

Several glasses of wine and many comments on how fantastic everything was later, it was time for dessert. Again, all three of them on the set menu were chosen between us: my mother’s blood orange, biscuit crumble and almond meringue combo was another perfectly balanced combination, the meringue (my favourite) was just crumbly enough without breaking apart too easily and tasted incredible. My father’s rhubarb and almond tart was also impressive looking, well-balanced in flavour & texture and very satisfying. But the star of the show for me was the warm chocolate fondant with honeycomb and sorbet… Oh. My. God.

I’ve seen many a fondant go horribly wrong on Masterchef but, from that, I’ve got a good enough idea of what they’re supposed to be like; this was absolute perfection let me tell you. Held its own on the plate just until you dipped your spoon in to gently tear it apart and then out came the oozing, gooey, warm and gorgeous chocolate. I’m a huge chocoholic anyway and honeycomb is one of my favourite things to pair with it, so I can honestly say this is a serious contender for my favourite dessert ever. Perhaps even taking the top spot. The sorbet was the cherry on top, presenting that brilliant contrast between warm and cool, sponge and smooth and just all-round awesome-ness. I’d have it again tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that… (Except I’ve given up chocolate for lent ☹ *cries*)

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The work of art that was the chocolate fondant…

The service at Arbennig was just as fantastic as the food, too. The staff were very attentive, seeing to our every need or request, happily explaining anything we asked about and were genuinely interested in how much we were enjoying our experience. The place was a little chilly when we first arrived but warmed up when the other tables started filling up (and once our wine had kicked in). All in all, everything was perfectly balanced, very well flavoured and prepared and presented to a high standard. I can’t recommend it enough and can’t wait to go back to try the normal menu; by which I just mean not a set menu, as the restaurant menu itself changes weekly in line with what’s fresh and in season – isn’t that brilliant? Exactly how things should be, not to mention always keeping it interesting. Have you tried Arbennig yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Note: this post was not sponsored, we paid for our meal in full and all views are my own.

Getting Saucy in the kitchen with Saucy Affair

Saucy Affair Raw Sauces are new and coming to the UK market. I was fortunate enough to be invited to try their sauces for review, so the following post is kindly sponsored by themselves (however the opinions are my own).

So, what are these ‘raw sauces’? The idea is that they’re simply blended fruit, veggies and herbs, no nonsense, making it easy to cook up something healthy in the kitchen with their ‘just coat and cook’ slogan. Admittedly, it is as simple as that. Upon checking I was also informed that due to these natural ingredients all sauces are vegan friendly, gluten & wheat free, lactose and nut free too. However, the only potentially questionable ingredient is guar/xanthan gum as there is some debate over the fact that although both are derived from natural substances, they have to be processed in some way to make the gum; thus questioning their classification as ‘raw’… But, from what I can gather, despite being largely indigestible neither tend to have negative impacts on the human gut unless consumed in large quantities, and I can only assume that the gum is there just as a preservative. So personally, I’m willing to overlook it (it’s already in so many things, including many dairy products) but if you’d rather stay paleo maybe skip this one out.

There are 6 sauce sensations to choose from: Teriyaki Malarkey, Cucumber Blunder, Smokey Cokey, Fiery Fiasco, Beetroot Cahoot and Tarragon Shenanigan. Each comes with recommended flavours and ingredients to pair with such as white fish, goats cheese, sausages etc. including several of their own recipes on the website. I chose to do a few of theirs and a few of my own in order to be a bit creative. Here’s what I found!

Teriyaki Malarkey

For this I used their Tofu stir fry recipe which was tasty, satisfying and very easy to do. All done in about 15 mins so really good for a quick, simple dinner and this sauce worked really well with both the stir fry and the tofu; all in all, I’d recommend and repeat this recipe. Tofu isn’t something we usually go for but I even got my boyfriend to like it for a change!

Cucumber Blunder

This one I did my usual trick of just chucking things together in a pan to see how it goes; I did follow their advice from the sea bream recipe and fried my cod fillets in the sauce on a medium-high heat, also throwing in some chopped peppers and green beans. I fried all this for 5-8 mins (by the end the cod broke apart into chunks but I don’t mind as long as it’s tasty) and served with creamy mash potato, which is my own secret recipe. It wasn’t very photogenic as you can see above but the sauce complimented the ingredients well without overpowering and the whole dish tasted delicious. Another thumbs up from me.

Smokey Cokey

A smoky BBQ-style sauce, I had this as a packed lunch stirred into pasta with chunks of Quorn sausages and some veggies in the mix. Some grated cheese on top would’ve been the icing on the cake to be honest but this sauce provided a good, smoky flavour without feeling too ‘meaty’ as I sometimes find with BBQ flavoured foods. I can imagine this sauce would go well with chicken wings (key word being imagine) though I wish I’d tried the mac ‘n’ cheese recipe on their website too, maybe next time.

Fiery Fiasco

Burrito bowls have been one of my favourite things to make recently for a quick, tasty dinner and easy meal prep for the following day’s lunch – you may have guessed from my Instagram. This time I used the Fiery Fiasco sauce instead of frying the onion & peppers in fajita seasoning, served with coconut rice and a dollop of mayo – recipe below. Take note of the two chilli rating on this sauce though, it gave a bit more kick than I was expecting! I really enjoyed this dish and the sauce worked well, but personally I don’t think I’d use it again as it was just a little bit hotter than I’d usually make. Perhaps if I tried their seafood fiesta recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

  • 3 Quorn sausages
  • 1 tin chickpeas
  • 1 tin black beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 peppers, chopped
  • (1 medium clove of garlic, crushed – if doing with normal fajita seasoning)
  • Coconut oil
  • Basmati rice ~130g or 1 mug-full (also works with brown but that takes longer, or can substitute for cauliflower rice)

Method:

Boil a kettle. Heat a couple of teaspoons of coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat; once melted add in the rice and stir around so that the oil coats it. Add boiled water and reduce to medium-low, simmering for around 10 mins* until rice is fluffy and most or all of the water is absorbed. (Remember to stir occasionally to avoid any sticking to the pan, but the coconut oil should help with this anyway).

Meanwhile, cook the Quorn sausages to your preference (I like to grill them on our panini press), this should take around 10 mins so *try to time it the same as the rice.

Whilst the rice & sausages are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and fry until softened. Then add chopped peppers and fry until onion starts to turn golden.

Drain the chickpeas and black beans and add to the pan. Fry off for about a minute then pour in the bottle of Fiery Fiasco sauce and stir to mix. If your pan has a lid, put the lid on and let it simmer and reduce for around 5 mins. Keep an eye on it and keep intermittently stirring.

By this point, the rice and sausages should be done, or nearly there. Remove the sausages from the heat and put onto a plate to cool for a few minutes. Drain the rice in a sieve to remove any leftover moisture and allow to steam a little.

Next, chop the sausages using kitchen scissors and stir the chunks into the sauce, which should now have thickened and be ready to go; remove it from the heat whilst doing this.

Serve with the coconut rice and a dollop of mayo or yoghurt and enjoy!

Beetroot Cahoot

This is another one I decided to make my own recipe with; there’s a little note on this sauce saying that it can be enjoyed cold as a ketchup, which gave me the idea of pizza, substituting the usual passata for Beetroot Cahoot. Seeing as it was #Veganuary at the time, I also decided to branch out and try a cauliflower base (taken from letscookvegan.videos), so this whole recipe can be vegan (and gluten free) if you skip the goats’ cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole cauliflower (or cauli rice)
  • 2 tbs Olive oil
  • 1 tsp Sea salt
  • ½ cup oat flour (made from grinding GF oats in a nutribullet/food processor)
  • ½ cup GF self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • Sprinkle of thyme
  • Sprinkle of smoked paprika
  • Toppings of choice (chopped peppers, sweetcorn, goats’ cheese)

Method:

Preheat the oven to around 200 degrees C. Chop the cauliflower into florets and use a blender or processor to turn into rice. Blanch the cauli rice in hot water then drain into a sieve, shaking as much moisture out as possible before shocking with cold water and transferring to a clean tea towel or nut milk bag, if you have one. Twist and ring out the bag/tea towel until the water is pressed out, then empty into a mixing bowl.

Add all ingredients and mix well with your hands to form a dough. Next, either line a baking tray (circular if possible) with baking paper or grease the tray with olive oil. Form the crust onto the sheet/tray, gently pushing about with your fingers and palms to fill the tray.

Bake for 20-30 mins, keeping an eye on it. The video I used says to overbake it, which I would’ve done had I not been in a rush and so would recommend for next time.

Once it’s browning nicely, take it out and spread the Beetroot Cahoot sauce over the base, using the back of a spoon. Add your toppings of choice and put back in the oven for around 5 mins.

When the toppings look done, take out and enjoy! Be careful because this base is very crumbly – or at least mine was; if yours works like the video it should be fine. This worked well as a combination, the base was really nice and the goats’ cheese really complimented the sauce, however the slight kick of horseradish was not to my liking so I wouldn’t choose this one again. My boyfriend liked it though so each to their own.

Tarragon Shenanigan

I originally had another website recipe I was going to adapt for this one, using the basis of the aubergine bake but swapping out the aubergine for butternut squash and the feta cheese for halloumi. Sadly though, for various reasons, I didn’t manage to cook with this one before its expiry date so I’m unable to give a full review. It did sound delicious and I truly am gutted because I hate to waste anything, yet had I realised sooner that the sauces are actually suitable for freezing I would’ve done that to ensure full usage. My apologies here, guys. I will be looking to try it out when it becomes available in stores out of curiosity.

All in all, I enjoyed cooking with these sauces as a change from my usual routine. I don’t actually tend to use bottled sauces often and prefer to create my own, but as these are formed of humble, natural ingredients I made the exception. My personal favourites and those I would choose to buy in stores were the Teriyaki Malarkey and the Smokey Cokey; the first because the tofu stir fry was absolutely delicious and the second because I’d love to try it with mac ‘n’ cheese. I’d also have the Cucumber Blunder again to try with sea bass and roasted potatoes, so my advice to you is to have a browse on the website for some recipe ideas and pick up one or two bottles when you see them in stores and on supermarket shelves (which should be very soon!).

Have you tried any of these yourself? If not, which are you looking forward to trying? I’d love to know if you try one of the recipes above!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Special thanks to Saucy Affair for sponsoring this post with their tasty samples.

Tasty Tapas at Cathedral 73

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always found it hard to share. Fortunately, not when it comes to tapas. Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Cathedral 73 to try out their new tapas taster menu, following management changes back in November; I was informed that some of the options have been designed as sharers so brought a friend along for the ride.

We arrived not quite sure what to expect but were greeted kindly on arrival with some very nice Bloody Mary’s and took a moment to enjoy the décor around the place; funky, chic and interesting without seeming tacky, this place has truly been decorated to a high standard. It was a very warm welcome from both the staff and the establishment; it was so nice to walk into a hotel lobby and not shudder at the excessive use of air-con! Before the food began, we were treated to a tour around some of their unoccupied rooms: the bridal suite, a one-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom apartment.

The Bridal suite is spread over two floors and is cosy yet very comfortable, with extra little luxurious touches such as a stand-alone bath within the lounge area itself to soak in bubbles and watch your favourite TV… Or just enjoy the freedom of a separate bathroom to send your partner off to rather than let them interrupt your relaxation time! The apartments are more focused towards business guests for long stays, who may prefer to keep to themselves and cook rather than eat in the restaurant each night. They are, however, also suitable for couples or even small families, each containing a small but functional kitchen area (I say small, about the same as my own one-bed flat kitchen to be fair), lounge area with TV, and bedroom with generously-sized ensuite. I’d happily live in one of these if it were an option! Overall we were very pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of the rooms in Cathedral 73, all with a very professional finish, and it’s now definitely on my radar should we or any relatives ever need a place to stay in the centre. Grand tour over, it was high time for a bite to eat.

On our table waiting for us were some delicious garlic breads to whet our appetite and keep us ticking over whilst the food was being freshly prepared. Needless to say; they were gone in a flash. First came some well-presented faggot balls atop mushy peas and sporting a single parsnip crisp, which although I couldn’t eat I was told were hot but tasty. My veggie option was a thick slice of goat’s cheese atop a leafy salad, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and a zesty jus. I thoroughly enjoyed and the cheese slice was just the right size so that I still had room for more, as goat’s cheese can sometimes be too filling as a starter.

Fish pie then came in cute little pans and tasted and smelled delicious, yet their handles were very hot to the touch so approach with caution when trying to scoop out onto a side plate. The individual components were also cut into small chunks for ease of consumption, which actually felt like a really nice touch. There was then a cottage pie for the meat-eaters, which again looked and smelled very good, yet at this point we began to think that ‘small plates’ may have been a better description than tapas as we were beginning to get very full. My alternative was a porcini mushroom wellington, which is not something I would usually go for as I’m not keen on the mushroom texture but the jus was delicious and the pastry was perfect, all together a very satisfying dish actually.

Finally, full to the brim we just managed to squeeze in some Welsh rarebit with a poached egg on top to finish. The egg was perfectly runny and as my first taste of rarebit it was delicious. I would definitely go for it again!

All in all, it was a really good evening with generous hosts, a lovely venue and very tasty (very filling) food. Despite unfortunately not catching the details of the full menu or prices, I would very much like to return for dinner some time (I did eye up their Valentine’s menu but haven’t decided yet) as well as try out some of their cocktails; plans were mentioned to expand their gin collection in the near future, starting with an event tomorrow evening (Friday 26th) that I sadly can’t go to, but I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled for more.

Have you been to Cathedral 73? What did you think?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

5 things to remind yourself of this Christmas

The festive season brings forth all kinds of emotions; excitement, anticipation (constipation if you’re not careful), stress, sadness, depression, love. It can be easy to get bogged down in any one of these, whether it’s the run up to the big day stressing over whether you’ve got every last present right, the wishing a loved one was with you, wishing you had more loved ones (dark, but for some this is a sad reality), or even get so caught up in the excitement of it all that you forget to appreciate the smaller details, casually overlooking something that should actually be crucially important. The most important thing, however, is to make the best of what you have and be sure to appreciate it. Really appreciate it.

TV adverts this time of year come out in brute force making us feel guilty, gluttonous and regretful that not everyone is fortunate enough to have a warm meal and people to share it with. The killers for me are the RSPCA adverts and this year’s WWF elephant adverts which remind us that despite recent (absurd) political changes, animals are in fact sentient beings and deserve just as much love as we humans do. With all this going on, it’s important to remember a few things in order to make the most of our own Christmases:

1. You can’t donate to everyone

Personally I find this one hard to swallow but it depends on your own individual beliefs and/or situation. I always feel plagued with guilt from all the emotional adverts and charity cases exposed to us at Christmas but it’s important to remember that whilst you may be more fortunate than many, you can’t give everything away. Yes, by all means give to any and as many charities as you practically can (also not forgetting street singers and musicians because often they’re doing it for a great local cause as well as a bit of fun), but don’t feel bad that you can’t give to everyone because you simply can’t. It’s not practical nor sensible. Just give to whatever causes you can or wish to, be kind and let that be enough.

Side note: if you’d really like to do more, have a sort through your wardrobe and donate jumpers, gloves, thick socks that you perhaps don’t need any more to a homeless charity or individual. Food banks always need extra supplies too – it’s not all about giving money.

2. Write down or organise your gifts

This is important if you’re buying on a budget. Make a list of everyone’s gifts (or dig out the original one you wrote months ago when you swore you’d finally get organised this year) and do your best to tick them off as you go along. This way, you can be sure you’ve got everything (and ‘enough‘) without panic-buying unnecessary things last minute and costing yourself a bloody fortune. If you do this in advance too it can really help spread the cost out over time – bearing in mind many of us have a long wait ’til January’s pay cheque…

3. Don’t be afraid to buy presents early

Basically, buy things when you see them and don’t be afraid to be that person that starts buying Christmas presents in September, because that was me this year and I have absolutely no regrets. As stated earlier, this is cost beneficial and there’s almost nothing worse than going back to buy something you’d seen before and it’s gone. Just, don’t take the risk.

4. Edible/intangible presents are as good as anything

It’s not a cop-out, it’s actually much more likely to be useful if you don’t have anything specific in mind. Moreover, this is immaterial and so can reduce your Christmas waste. A lot of restaurants now have vouchers available in-store or online so treating someone to a free date night could actually be much nicer than a typical box of ‘smellies’ all in single-use plastic bottles, covered in plastic packaging, tested on animals and that will probably take them until next Christmas to use up – if at all.

Alternatively, buy them an experience such as cinema vouchers, zip-lining, wine tasting, spa treatments, whatever their bag. You could even use the Christmas markets to pick up the chutney, cheeses and nibbles for the big day so that you know it’s going to be used and not wasted or forgotten (I do this for my parents, works a treat). As I said, this not only reduces waste in terms of packaging and excessive amounts of wrapping paper (there’s all sorts online about more sustainable ways of gift wrapping) but can also be more beneficial to the recipient anyway (unless you’re an insanely good gift-giver). Not to criticise anyone’s gift-giving abilities, merely a planet-friendly suggestion with everyone’s best interests at heart.

5. Let go and relax!

Whether it’s easing up on your time-managed schedule to make sure you fit everyone in, or taking a care-free approach to (and simply accepting) the serious amount of calories to be consumed; please, please just relax and enjoy the ride. Both are equally as important as each other. I’m a terrible culprit for the first as I’m usually only at home for a few days over the festive season and I like to have my annual traditions, stressing out a bit when the agenda changes. It’s so important, however, to just embrace those changes and enjoy everyone’s company, making the most of everything on your to-do list without worrying about meeting self-inflicted time deadlines.

IMG_6563Secondly, Christmas calories don’t count. I know, it sounds ridiculous and is completely untrue, but what I mean is that restricting yourself on a day we Brits have centred around indulging to the absolute max is just not going to give you joy. Eat that chocolate, those few extra mince pies; crack open that new bottle of booze now & not later because at the end of the day Christmas only happens once a year. Is the January workout going to hurt? Yes. Without a shadow of a doubt. But, once it’s done, it’s done and it’s pointless wasting time regretting anything consumed over the festive period because it’s not healthy to never take a break. (This last point is as much aimed at me as it is you because I’ve conveniently forgotten how to gym lately and it hurts, but no point worrying this side of the big day – what good is that really going to do?!).

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So, there you go. I hope this is useful for at least a few of you, to be honest it’s more of a note-to-self. But I wrote it because I know it can be easy to lose perspective over Christmas of what’s actually important, which is not how many gifts under the tree are yours to unwrap or getting upset over things you can’t control, but doing what makes you happy and appreciating what and who you do have.

Nadolig Llawen pawb; Merry Christmas one and all

Charles xx

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My fabulous first year!

So today my blog is officially a year old – time flies! It’s definitely been a learning curve and I’m still learning new things all the time with plenty more still yet to come. However, I thought I’d write a quick little update on what I’ve learned in my first year, so here goes…

It is a hobby, but it’s a lot more time-consuming than you may first realise.

Social media is a huge part of our lives these days, for better for worse, and it’s where many of our main influencers now come from. With this in mind, it’s a hugely important part of promoting yourself and gaining recognition as a blogger and widening your audience. Yes, some people are much better at taking the typical ‘instagrammable’ photos than others especially if they have a fancy camera, but you can still do a lot with the photos you do take just by trying different angles and edits/effects. Either way, this takes time; I’ve found that working full time in something unrelated can make it hard to juggle everything so the fact you can save things as drafts and schedule posts nowadays is an absolute life-saver – it’s basically a part-time job! Although it does depend on how seriously you want to take it and at the end of the day, I’ve gathered you get out what you put in.

Also, twitter is a huge part of engagement and networking with other bloggers, restaurants and influencers so when the twitter convo strikes up it’s important not to be late to the party if at all possible. I’ve also realised there’s no need to be afraid to talk to people you recognise from twitter or Instagram, this is how you make meaningful connections and even friendships and therefore gain supporters for your blog and vice versa. It also means that if you both go to the same event or go out together, you both come away with useful material.

Don’t be afraid to do things on your own.

File_000 (73)For me this wasn’t really an issue anyway as I enjoy meeting and speaking to new people and don’t find social situations too awkward, but it links in with the above in that it’s important to physically talk to others you recognise from or have connected with in the blogosphere as this is how you make friendships and good connections and may just lead you onto opportunities you wouldn’t have otherwise known about (such as the fabulous Cardiff Gin Club, for example!).

Read other peoples’ blogs and take interest.

This, again links back to making friends and connections but also, as a new and developing blogger it was really useful reading other popular blogs to get a sense of how everyone portrays their own individual style and also how other bloggers have designed their websites, whether there’s anything you like about theirs that you can work into yours somehow. I’m yet to do a review and rehaul of my page but it’s something I’ll be considering over the next few months so watch this space… Plus, reading other peoples blogs can give you ideas for new posts of your own, give you great insight into some of the places on your to-eat list you perhaps haven’t quite got around to yet, or even just give you something to talk about next time you see them.

Finally, there are no hard and fast rules. Yes, engagement and all the PR side of things is important and if you’re dead set on posting three times daily then you’re doing very well for yourself, however it’s different for everyone. Just remember that comparing yourself to others never did anyone any good – true in many aspects of life. As I said, it starts as a hobby at the end of the day and if you start stressing yourself out over it all (as I have done many a time and probably still will) then you’re in danger of losing the funFile_000 (72) and why you started it in the first place.

For me, it’s a creative outlet where I don’t usually get one in my day job. Also happens to give me a perfect excuse to eat out a lot. However through this I’ve met some lovely people and eaten some fantastic food and I really look forward to seeing where else I can go with it all.

 

Happy Anniversary to me!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*the cover photo is a personalised olive wood cheese board my boyfriend was lovely enough to buy me!