Saturday, 29 June 2013

Happy 2nd anniversary!

It was mine and Neil's 2nd anniversary last week. Time flies! We celebrated on the Friday evening by going to Frankie and Benny's for a scrumptious three course dinner... look out for a separate blog post on that. We also did some shopping in Penarth, McArthur Glen (Bridgend) and Cardiff over the course of the weekend, had a coffee and hot chocolate in Costa, watched a lot of Inbetweeners and ate a calzone in Bella Italia on the Saturday evening. In case you didn't already know, we share a mutual love of food. I don't think I could actually be in a relationship with someone who didn't love food. Sad but true.



I wore my new dress for the occasion! I'm so pale...


We always buy each other little gifts and cards for our anniversaries, but we don't go too over the top. It's more about spending time together (and eating out) than about buying extravagant gifts. I bought a 'man tin' for Neil and filled it with nuts, chocolate and an Elmo air freshener for his car. These gifts might seem slightly random but they were inspired by some of our 'in' jokes! I also made him some chocolate brownies, which you can read about in an earlier blog post

Neil drew the short straw when it came to the timing of our anniversary as he only bought me my birthday gifts a few weeks ago. However, he still managed to buy me the perfect presents and I've used them several times already. 




Disney pyjamas and a massive Yankee candle!


I can confirm that I'm currently burning the Yankee candle in my living room and it smells goooood. Happy anniversary to me!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Ten Disney questions

I spotted these Disney questions on Amy's blog and knew immediately that I just had to feature them on my own blog. It would have been rude not to, especially when you take my insatiable love for all things Disney into account.


1. A scene in in any Disney movie you wish you could experience.

I always wanted to stand on Pride Rock in the opening scene of the Lion King with Mufasa, Sarabi, Simba, Rafiki and Zazu. I would also like to take part in every High School Musical scene ever made.


2. An unforgettable experience moment you've had at the Parks.

Definitely the spectacular night show at the Magic Kingdom in Florida's Walt Disney World. From the breathtaking fireworks to the glittering parade to Tinkerbell's graceful descent from Cinderella's castle, it was all totally unforgettable.


3. What non-Disney song(s) reminds you or brings back memories of Disney and/or the Parks?

That's a difficult one... they don't play non-Disney music at the parks, for obvious reasons! I was listening to One Direction a lot just before I went to Florida last year, so the songs on their first album always remind me of packing for my holiday.


4. When was the first time you went to a Disney Park?

April 2012 :) I was 24 but felt like a big kid! You're never too old.


5. If you could choose any of the characters to be your best friend, who would you choose?

Thumper (Bambi) and Mr Pricklepants (Toy Story 3). Two of my favourite Disney characters!


6. Who are your favourite Disney princesses?

Sleeping Beauty, Belle and Rapunzel. I mostly want their pretty hair and dresses.


7. Name a scene/moment in a Disney movie that never fails to make you cry.

Mufasa's death in the Lion King! I also have a lump in my throat at the end of Toy Story 3 every time, and also have the sniffles when Tod's mother dies in The Fox and the Hound. I always cry in Dumbo too when he's separated from his mother... let's face it, I cry in most Disney films.


8. What is the first Disney movie you remember seeing?

Hmmm... either Jungle Book, Bambi or Dumbo. These three films are synonymous with my very early childhood, so I have no idea which one I saw first.


9. What is your favourite Disney movie?

I couldn't possibly choose just one favourite! The Lion King, Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, The Fox and the Hound, 101 Dalmatians, Toy Story 3 and Tangled are all up there.


10. Share a video or image that shows your love of Disney.


I think this photo of my teddies sums it up! 
A few more have been added since this photo was taken...


Hopefully a few more people will answer these questions... send me your links if you do! :)

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

My latest baking venture: Chocolate brownies

After having lots of baking items for my birthday, I decided to make some chocolate brownies last weekend as a surprise for my boyfriend. I've been meaning to do some baking for a while as I haven't made anything since my Valentine shortbread, and our second anniversary gave me the perfect opportunity. Neil bought me the Mary Berry 100 Cakes and Bakes book for my birthday, so I stole the chocolate brownie recipe from there. You can buy the book here, and the recipe is on page 55. I had to adapt the quantities in the recipe slightly as I used a smaller baking tray, but the brownies turned out absolutely perfectly.



The finished product!


Ingredients

For a 30 x 23 x 4cm baking tray:

275g butter (softened)
375g caster sugar
4 large eggs
75g cocoa powder
100g self-raising flour
100g plain chocolate chips

The tray I used was approximately a third smaller than the one stated above, so I decreased the proportions accordingly.


Method

The method really couldn't be simpler!

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan 160C/gas 4.
2. Cut a rectangle of non-stick baking parchment to the fit the base and sides of the tin. Grease the tin and line it with the paper.
3. Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a hand-held electric mixer until evenly blended. This gave me a great chance to use the mixer I received for my birthday! The mixing process was absolutely effortless with this little beauty.


4. Try not to eat too much of the mixture, and try not to splash any of it on the cable, worktop and items nearby. I failed miserably on this step on all counts... I'm sure Mary Berry is much more disciplined than I am. 
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, then spread the mixture gently to the corners of the tin and level the surface with the back of a spatula. 
6. Bake for 40-45 minutes until the brownies have a crusty top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes clean. Cover loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes if the mixture is browning too much. 40 minutes was long enough for my brownies, but it will depend on your oven and the size of the tin you've used.


The top was pretty crumbly as you can see, but still delicious!


This was definitely my most successful baking venture so far. The brownies were perfectly moist, and the top  didn't crust too much. They smelt absolutely heavenly, and I had to take some into work to make sure I didn't eat the whole lot myself! The chocolate chips I used were amazing too, which proves that it's definitely worth splashing out on a more expensive bag rather than buying the cheaper brand. I learnt this lesson when I made my chocolate chip shortbread

What shall I make next? Suggestions/recipes would be very welcome!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Frantic about Florida #5

Welcome to the fifth post in my Frantic about Florida series! I've decided to publish these posts on an approximately fortnightly basis leading up to my holiday just to make sure I cover (nearly) everything.

Just in case you missed the first four posts...

Frantic about Florida #1
Frantic about Florida #2
Frantic about Florida #3
Frantic about Florida #4

So here are some more things I'm looking forward to...


1. Epcot's World Showcase



Authentic representations of eleven different countries from around the world


2. Disney refillable cup!


This cup costs 15 dollars and can be refilled for the entire length 
of your stay at any Disney resort. Bargain!


3. Hollywood Studios' Tower of Terror


I screamed like an absolute girl


4. Sea lions at Sea World


Poser!


5. Eating at the Hard Rock Cafe

My amazing fajitas from the biggest Hard Rock Cafe in the world


Look out for #6 in a fortnight's time!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Restaurant review: Bellini's

I know this is yet another review of a chain restaurant, but I promise that it's a really really good chain restaurant. I don't go to Bellini's very often as it's on the pricey side for me, but I rave about the food when I do happen to go there. I visited the Bellini's restaurant in Cardiff Bay a few weeks ago as my friend had a voucher for £10 off, and I love a good bargain.

Whenever I go to Bellini's, I always have their Spaghetti Bolognese. This might sound dull, but it's the best bolognese I've ever tasted and I can never bring myself to eat anything else there just in case it doesn't live up to my high expectations. However, I do experience some food envy when I see others eating a calzone... I might try one of those next.



Spaghetti Bolognese


The portions are massive, so I usually just order a main course with no starter or dessert. The service is always quick and polite, no complaints there! Last time I visited, our main meals were brought out within ten minutes of placing our order. 

The bolognese is £11.95 which is pretty expensive. Bellini's is at the top end of the chain restaurant price range (in Cardiff Bay and St David's 2), but it's worth it for an occasional treat. 

If you visit Bellini's during the week, you'll usually be seated immediately. However, if you visit on a Saturday evening, there can be a longer wait as it's such a popular restaurant. I would suggest that you book a table if you're really keen to eat there over the weekend so that you don't have to wait around. Although the food will be worth the wait, no one likes waiting to be seated on an empty stomach. 

What do other people think of Bellini's? Are there any other dishes I should try in order to deviate from my standard Spaghetti Bolognese?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Never underestimate the importance of proofreading...

I'm well aware that other people might not be as obsessed with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation as I am. However, everyone should realise that they need to have a basic grasp of the language when publishing anything which will be read by other people.

I do a lot of proofreading in my spare time and always have done. I often proofread documents for friends, and have also been considering doing some freelance proofreading. I also proofread menus, leaflets, posters and so on when I'm out and about... it's some kind of compulsion. I know it's not the most exciting skill I could possess, but I do think it's a pretty essential one.

The language you use is a massive part of your brand, whether that brand is your personal brand or your organisation's brand. In my opinion, your brand is tarnished if your work is littered with typos, punctuation errors and glaring grammatical mistakes. I will actually think twice about using a company if their website or signage is full of errors. Similarly, I'm put off blog posts which haven't been proofed properly. It only takes ten minutes to read through that blog post, web page or the new sign for the front of your store, so why are there so many errors out there? I understand that some people don't pay much attention to detail, but it always shocks me when massive companies quite clearly haven't appointed a proofreader, or when people have obviously just scanned over that brand new sign or new web page then paid for it without making sure that it's absolutely right.


My top five peeves:

1. People who add an apostrophe when they're referring to the plural form of various nouns. Examples: CD's, menu's, potato's. Sometimes you just don't need an apostrophe! Why would you need one in this example, when you've been taught that the apostrophe is only used to indicate possession or a missing letter? COME ON!

2. People who use 'loose' instead of 'lose'. Example: 'I need to loose weight.' Aaaaargh. It actually hurts my eyes.

3. The use of 'would of' instead of 'would have', or 'could of' instead of 'could have'. In which universe was this ever correct? This error is creeping into more and more blog posts... beware!

4. People who add an apostrophe at the end of 'its'. Example: 'The cat couldn't believe its' luck.' There is never ever an apostrophe at the end of 'its'! Either use 'its' without an apostrophe (which would be correct in the example above), or 'it's' instead of 'it is'. If everyone could obey this rule, my blood pressure would probably come down to a normal level.

5. People who can't use a semi colon correctly. The poor semi colon is very much abused and is often used instead of a comma, rather than reserving it for pauses which need more strength than a comma but don't quite merit a full stop. If in doubt, just don't use it!


Any other avid proofreaders out there? Please bear in mind that I've proofed this blog post VERY carefully to avoid any embarrassment!

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Birthday girl!

You all probably know by now that it was my birthday a few weeks ago. I've written blog posts on what I got up to when I celebrated my birthday over several different days (Oakwood, Villa Napoli and Harvester), but thought I'd also write a post on my birthday presents. I had so many lovely presents, and I think the birthday gifts provide a great insight into what kinds of things I enjoy and appreciate.

I really was touched by all the gifts I received, and I've photographed most of them below. You can also see my new outfits for Duffy the Disney Bear from Neil and Neil's parents in a previous post. In addition, I'd like to say a big thank you to my parents and the girls from work (Rhian, Edwina, Ceri and Jen) for giving me money towards my Florida theme park tickets. I'll take lots of photographs in September so that people can see how much use I make out of those tickets!

So here's a quick snapshot of the rest of the presents I received... apologies in advance for the photo-heavy post!




Home made carrot cake from Neil. Yummers!



Lovely Superdry hoodie from Neil. I've had my eye on this for ages!



An amazing painting of Mickey Mouse from Claire



A selection of Disney teddies from Siân, Neil and Liz



Shorts for my holiday to Florida from Neil's parents



Photo frames containing photos of the two of us in New York, from Neil



Stationery from Sarah. I love pink things and cupcakes!



DVDs from Neil, Daf and my parents



Soap & Glory miniatures from Fee, also for my holiday!



McFly's autobiography from Neil



Pretty pink flowers from Edwina



Personalised Minnie Mouse towel from Neil



Finding Nemo bag! From Neil again :)



Beautiful tulips from Phillipa



A mixer and two baking books from Neil. 
Can't wait to get baking!



Vouchers from Nicola and family, Catrin and family, and Sarah



Lots of lovely cards


I really did feel spoilt rotten and am massively grateful for everyone's kindness and thoughtfulness. As you can see, it's very obvious that pink, Florida and Disney were running themes throughout my presents. Long may this continue!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Restaurant review: Harvester

I love the Harvester. Unlimited salad bar, amazing bread rolls, delicious meaty goodness and refillable soft drinks... what's not to like? I've been to the Harvester in Cardiff Bay twice in the last few weeks, and I seriously can't get enough of the place.

Let's start with the salad bar. You're entitled to help yourself to an unlimited quantity of salad with every main meal, and it isn't just any old salad. You can choose from potato salad, coleslaw, pasta, peppers, beetroot, onions, pineapple chunks, lettuce, tomatoes, onion bits, bacon bits, raisins, croutons, and a variety of different sauces. My favourite container at the salad bar is filled with warm fresh bread rolls. They are AMAZING, and I'm always at serious risk of filling myself up with bread before my main meal arrives. I also always eat a copious amount of the crispy onion and bacon bits. I should probably note here that I always fill my salad bowl(s) with the most unhealthy options from the salad bar... no lettuce or tomatoes for me.



One of my salad bowls!


I always take about ten minutes to choose my main meal as there's such a massive variety to choose from. You can either choose a main meal, side and sauce from the front few pages of the menu, or you can choose from the All Day Earlybird options on the back cover. If you choose from the Earlybird options, you get a set sauce and side rather than choosing your own. 

I'm a big fan of the skewers, burgers and fajitas, and usually choose the chilli, ginger and spring onion sauce with chips as my side dish. There's no point even pretending to be healthy when I visit the Harvester. Why on earth would you have a jacket potato instead of chips? 

Seeing as I've visited the Harvester twice in the last few weeks, I thought I'd post photos of both my main meals from these occasions as they were both spectacular as usual:



Steak fajitas from the Earlybird menu with sour cream and chive sauce and chips



Bacon cheeseburger with chilli, ginger and spring onion sauce and chips


The prices are very reasonable at the Harvester, especially as the soft drinks are refillable and the salad bar is free of charge. For example, the steak fajitas pictured above cost £6.99 for the fajitas, sauce and chips. Bargain! 

My only minor complaint about the Harvester is that they list the calories after every item on the menu. I'm well aware that I'm consuming twice my recommended daily allowance whenever I visit the Harvester, and would prefer not to be reminded of that. At least I'm always too full for dessert! 

Does anyone else love the Harvester as much as I do? Are other people also obsessed with the bread rolls?

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Joe's Ice Cream

I briefly mentioned the beauty of Joe's Ice Cream in my Date Day post a few months ago, but thought it definitely warranted its own post as it's one of my favourite guilty pleasures. A Joe's Ice Cream Parlour has recently opened on Wellfield Road in Cardiff, much to my delight. Myself and my boyfriend would quite happily drive to Swansea just to sample some Joe's Ice Cream, so we're pretty pleased that there's now a parlour a bit closer to home. We've so far managed to avoid the temptation to visit every weekend, but I can't promise that our willpower will last throughout the summer.



The exterior of Cardiff Joe's Ice Cream parlour... not very glamorous


I'm a massive ice cream fan, so I've eaten a lot of it in my time. However, nothing beats Joe's vanilla ice cream. I've never even felt the need to taste their other flavours as the vanilla is so amazing. It's wonderfully creamy and leaves you wanting to eat a whole litre tub of it. Thankfully I've never succumbed to this particular temptation. 

I usually have a small tub with one or two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a wafer. However, I would strongly recommend their huge variety of sundaes and 'North Poles'. If I ever splash out and have one of these varieties, I go for the caramel sauce every time as it's rather exquisite. You can also have your choice of nuts or chocolate sprinkles. I suggest you go for the nuts if you choose the caramel sauce as they complement each other perfectly. 



A caramel North Pole!


Considering the high quality of the ice cream, the prices are very reasonable at Joe's. For example, the North Pole pictured above was less than £3 for a lot of ice cream, caramel sauce, three wafers and nuts. And there really is a LOT of ice cream in it, believe me. My only complaint about the parlour on Wellfield Road is that the seating is very limited so you usually have to eat your ice cream out on the street or in the car if you visit during a busy period. This is fine on a sunny day, but not so much fun when it's raining.

If you haven't been to a Joe's Ice Cream parlour yet, what are you waiting for? I can promise you won't regret it!



Everything else is just ice cream!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Frantic about Florida #4

This is the fourth instalment in my Frantic about Florida series, and I'm not even close to running out of ideas yet! You can read the previous instalments here (#1), here (#2), and here (#3).

So here's another five things I'm looking forward to:


Giraffes in Animal Kingdom


I love giraffes!


The Epcot ball


A truly majestic sight. Photos don't do it justice!


Ghirardelli ice cream in Downtown Disney 


I only managed to eat about half of this sundae...


Rip Ride Rockit at Universal Studios


Such a fun ride. You can even choose your own soundtrack!


Toboggan racers at Blizzard Beach


One of the few rides I wasn't afraid of at the water parks!


Has anyone else experienced these attractions and enjoyed them as much as I did? Look out for #5!

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Duffy the Disney Bear

Duffy the Disney Bear is my latest obsession, so I'm going to tell you a bit about him. Duffy is a fairly new Disney character and didn't make his TV debut until 2010. He's known as Mickey Mouse's stuffed bear (made by Minnie Mouse) who accompanied him on a long sea voyage. Duffy the Disney Bear is now sold in Disney stores in the UK, and I bought him last month. Like most things I buy, he was on offer.



Duffy in his original sailor costume


You can buy different outfits for Duffy, which is where the appeal kicks in. He's cute enough as it is, but you actually feel as if you've got several different teddies once you've got a few different outfits. This is obviously what Disney were aiming for, as they're guaranteed to sell millions of outfits every year across the world. The idea is to dress Duffy up in various outfits and take him with you wherever you go, preferably taking photographs of him in different destinations. I genuinely want to take Duffy everywhere with me now... I feel this would be frowned upon, so I think I'll just take him to Florida. People won't think I'm weird if I'm carrying a teddy around the Magic Kingdom, whereas they might look at me oddly if I rock up to a restaurant in Cardiff with a teddy bear dressed in a random outfit. 

I had four new outfits for Duffy for my birthday from my boyfriend and his parents, which I was rather ecstatic about. The outfits are all very well made, and the level of detail on them is astounding. Now that I've caught the Duffy bug, I've got my eye on a few other outfits which are only available in America at the moment. Don't be surprised if I come back from Florida in September with a suitcase full of outfits for Duffy. 

Here are Duffy's new outfits:


Duffy the Pilot



Duffy the Racer



Duffy the Toy Story Cowboy



Duffy the Pirate casually enjoying a hot chocolate in Costa



Duffy spending time with Duffy the Sorcerer's Apprentice and Shellie May 
(my boyfriend's sister's teddies)


Has anyone else caught the Duffy bug? Please leave me a link if you've done a similar post on Duffy the Disney Bear, I love seeing all his different outfits. I'm such a grown up...