Cardiff, Cobbles and Calonnau

Well, what a lovely weekend it’s been…for various reasons, my birthday celebrations were brought forward by a week this year and what with a distinct lack of child free nights out since the birth of PSB (perfect second born) it was decided that a night in the Welsh capital was in order. Cue the frantic making of child care arrangements, the digging out of long forgotten “night out” clothes and shoes and the abandonment of all the usual responsibilities…for Cardiff beckoned.

For me, getting ready to go out has always been almost as pleasurable as the night out itself. I get lost in the make-up, the hair products, the heated rollers and the false eyelashes; it’s a total escape from normality, although I’m slightly out of practice, as I am with walking in sky-scraping heels on cobble stones as I found out to my detriment on Saturday night (the decision to install cobble stones within a 100 metre radius of any venue frequented by women in the evening  must have been made by a man, as any woman would have realised the potential for an expensive pair of high heels to be irreparably damaged by the offending choice of paving). I have to say, it was an extremely pleasurable evening away even if it was only a 24 hour break away from the children. To conclude…great food, great champagne and a late check-out allowed for the watching of the Australian Open final!

Speaking of “check-outs”, this brings me to my rant of the week…5* hotels (as classified by various hotel booking websites). Well , more specifically, a rant about a certain 5* hotel which shall remain nameless…but I will say that its located in the capital, in the area of the city where there’s quite a bit of water and is near the home of the Welsh Assembly. I was “fortunate” enough to stay at this hotel-which-shall-remain-nameless recently. Yes, it was a traditionally busy time, but that doesn’t make up for a number of misgivings. This is in complete contrast to my experience at The Hilton over this past weekend. So if any of you are torn over the decision with regards to which 5* Cardiff hotel to stay at, here’s a rundown of my experience:

  Hotel   which shall remain nameless but regularly frequented by Assembly Members The   Hilton Cardiff
Car Parking Left to our own devices, had to trudge from car park via muddy pathway to hotel. Parked outside, greeted by Concierge who helped with luggage and   parked the car.
Greeting A greeting of sorts by a less than helpful member of staff who   informed us on our request to dine at the hotel restaurant that evening, that   is was full…really?! Surely, you would expect a hotel of this calibre to be   factoring in hotel guests to their restaurant reservations…or is it just   me! Greeted by the Hilton “Employee of the Year” who just couldn’t do   enough to help. I happened to mention to her that we were celebrating my   birthday and within 2 minutes of arriving in our room, a plate of chocolates   emblazoned with a chocolate-piped “Happy Birthday” was delivered.
Food and Drinks No food…no room at the inn! The bar area was very nice though and we   did return at the end of the evening for a bottle of champagne rather than   face Cardiff’s madding, and increasingly rowdy, crowds. BUT, breakfast was an   altogether more chaotic affair with having to queue for a table and queue for   the buffet only to face rather a bland breakfast. Also had a nice bar area (but the same bottle of champagne came in at   around ten pounds cheaper!) Enough said…

So there we go, I hope it’s pretty obvious which hotel wins my vote…the AM’s can keep their alleged modernist opulence. (Having re-read this rant, I fear that I may come across as some kind of 5* hotel connoisseur …please be safe in the knowledge that I’m really not, it’s just that we’ve had a couple of “big” birthdays to celebrate recently: some “bigger” than others!)

Now, I would imagine that some of you lovely readers may be booking into hotels of your choosing within the next few weeks, what with V-Day approaching. Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is inescapable. I can’t say that I’m a big fan and with the Welsh equivalent, Diwrnod Santes Dwynwen, being celebrated not long before it on the 25th January, by the time it actually comes around, I’ve hit V-Day overload. Whilst I appreciate that some people may well like the plastic roses, heart confetti filled snow-globes and the other general tat that is farmed out at this time of year, I’ve been on a mission…oops, you’ll have to excuse me whilst I clear up a generous amount of apple juice that has been spilled on my freshly washed cream carpet by PFB. How two small children can create such devastation is beyond me, anyway, I digress…as I was saying, I’ve been on a mission to find some gorgeousness amongst the tat and the best thing about it, is that they’re all from Welsh companies. So here they are for your viewing pleasure (disclaimer: I possess no guilt whatsoever for featuring products from my own business, after all, if I didn’t think they were utterly lovely, I wouldn’t make them…enjoy)

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1. Kate Hamilton Hunter Vintage Heart Rose Necklace, £28.50, available at http://www.medi-gifts.com

2. Vintage Love Bird Wedding Cake, price on request, http://www.littleblackhen.com

3. Caru Ti love you soap, £4.50, available at http://www.adrahome.com

4. Modern Welsh Love Spoon, £9.95 each or £17.95 a pair, available at http://www.adrahome.com

5. Small Welsh Love Heart, £8.50, available at http://www.medi-gifts.com

6. Gingham Fabric Roses, £10.00, available at http://www.calonogi.co.uk

7. Clay Love Token Magnets, £6.50, available at http://www.calonogi.co.uk

8. Love Heart Cushions, £25.00, available at www.calonogi.co.uk

9. “Cariad” Silver Pendant, £45.00, available at www.adrahome.com

I have to finish with a quick shout out to the absolutely amazing initiative that is Little Angels Cakes. I can’t sum it up better than they have themselves on their facebook  page, so here you go…

“Little Angels Cakes is no ordinary cake page, we are suppliers of free beautiful cakes using cake makers across the UK to make cakes for children with life threatening conditions and their siblings.”

So take a look at the amazing work that this not-for-profit organisation does by following this link www.facebook.com/LittleAngelsCakes (and I’m sure they’d appreciate a few more “likes” on their page!) Well done ladies x

So there we go, that’s quite enough from me on this rainy, windy Monday evening.

Over and out…

Sink or Swim?

So I’ve made it past the first post…here’s the second instalment for your reading pleasure.

Now, for the last eighteen months, PFB (Perfect First Born) has been partaking in swimming lessons. He seems to have progressed remarkably quickly given his mother’s aquatic ineptitude. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t drown, but we’re definitely not talking Olympic medals. There are many qualities and skills that PFB possesses that I take direct credit for: his unyielding negotiating skills, his unwavering ability to get out of doing anything he doesn’t want to do and his expensive tastes are obviously directly derived from the maternal side of the gene pool, but as I watched PFB swimming in lanes to get his 200 metre badge, my first thought was “He definitely doesn’t get that from me!”

So obviously, when it comes to PSB (Perfect Second Born), I want to make sure that he also gets the same opportunity to develop his swimming ability. Cue lots of googling to find the warmest swimming pool in a 50 mile radius of the house (yes, I really would be willing to drive that far to find a pool at a comparable temperature to my bath water).  We’ve now been twice, today being the second time and I’m pleased to report that it was altogether a far more pleasant experience than the toddler-fighting, forced nursery-rhyme-singing, sweat inducing visit that was last week. It was difficult. PSB just didn’t get why he had to wear a special swimming nappy emblazoned with Winnie the Pooh rather than his usual Sesame Street characters: he must really dislike Winnie the Pooh. He also took an instant dislike to the floral swim shorts, spending the majority of our time in the water trying to remove them. I then walked the perimeter of the pool at least ten times singing his favourite nursery rhymes to try and calm him down, singing louder and louder to drown out his vocal protestations before I finally gave in (not least to avoid the disapproving glances from the other parents, but then that could have been a reaction to my repeated singing of “Mi welais Jac y Do”). But on a more positive note, not once did PSB try to remove his swim nappy today (I chose a Finding Nemo design, so that could’ve been why).

In my first instalment, I excitedly told you about the arrival of my new crafting supplies, photoCAH3H690so I thought it only right that I show you the spoils of my purchases. This was a bit of a leap into the unknown as my crafting has been limited to the realms of fabric up until this point, so polymer clay was slightly scary in an exciting kind of way. I was actually surprised at how relaxing it turned out to be. It was a refreshing change to be working with something so tactile and silent…ah, the silence. No constant whirring and vibration of a sewing machine (which I’m sure was at least partly responsible for the demise of some of my tropical fish, their tank being situated in very close proximity to my workspace, but that’s another story which I may enlighten you with at some point).  So, here are the results, let me know what you think.

MoLavender Shortbreadving swiftly from crafting to cookery…some of you will be well aware that I’ve been putting a considerable amount of effort into perfecting my lavender shortbread. I’ve tried all manner of tweaks to my recipe but I think I’ve got as close to perfection as I’m ever going to get and I’ve also run out of willing taste testers to whom copious batches of shortbread have been dispatched (even the local school staff room has been in receipt of a jar or two!) On making the discovery that infusing caster sugar with the lavender flowers was the way to go, I now have to be extremely careful that PSB doesn’t take it upon himself to open the containers of infused sugar that I have in the cupboards: I just can’t deal with a repeat of the “pickle incident”, “pasta-sauce-disaster” or “long-grain-rice-gate” all of which required clean up on an industrial scale.

Now, some of you will know that I’ve spent the last few months on a mission of epic proportions.  This mission is not some glamorous MI6, James Bond style, international intelligence gathering operation, oh no, it’s quite simple really: I need to find out what is making me ill. “That’s hardly a mission” I hear you say, but believe me, it’s turned into a feat more difficult than a six year old trying to solve a rubiks cube without taking all the stickers off (we all did it…didn’t we?). Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details, but having had six months of Consultant appointments, some pretty scary discoveries and to this point, no firm way forward, I have to make light of the situation, otherwise I think I will just spontaneously combust out of frustration. So being somewhat of an expert on hospitals in this area and having seen a myriad of different Consultants, some amiable and patient, others downright rude, a friend suggested that I am now qualified enough to start professionally reviewing the hospitals of South Wales to kill the time that I actually spend sitting in them. I thought I’d begin with a short questionnaire:

Question 1: Do you feel it is appropriate to wear a shirt unbuttoned so low that your chest hair is visible?

Question 2: Do you think that wearing pink sparkly ballerina pumps with a bow on the front makes you look like you’re twelve years old? Do you feel this inspires confidence in your patients?

Question 3: Do you actually feel that your artistic skills are of a standard good enough to clearly illustrate the body parts in question and their current state? If yes, please use this blank sheet of paper to draw an anatomically correct representation of the organ/system in question (if you intend to draw a few blobs connected by some lines, intersected by some squiggles, please skip to the next question)

Don’t get me wrong, some of the doctors that I’ve seen have been quite simply great, but how much fun would this be? I could be commissioned to do a UK wide review of the NHS…I think I’ll go and pitch my proposition to a few Health Boards…

My “purchase of loveliness” this week has been courtesy of Radiance Lighting. I wanted some fairy lights to spruce up the kitchen, but wantedphotoCA1YHOFP something a bit different. During my search, I came up with a lot of the same type of thing and couldn’t find anything that would look “just right”. That was until I came across www.radiancelighting.co.uk. Their range of lighting suits me down to the ground and I was spoilt for choice in terms of fairy lights, although their complete range is the epitome of gorgeousness. I settled on these paper heart lights…not too “bling” but just enough “ooh”. They look great around the kitchen window and I’m already looking for other potential fairy light areas around the house as I have my eye on the Cabbage Rose lights. And, I LOVE the Peapod and Radish lights…perhaps I’ll get a set of these when I get my first paycheque from that NHS review…

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The first of many…hopefully!

So I’ve made the break into the up-until-now undiscovered world of blogging…well, for me it’s been ‘undiscovered’ in any case! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read plenty of them, I just haven’t made the leap into actually writing one. Before I started to write, I asked myself the question, what’s it going to be about? I spent quite a bit of time trying to settle on a theme but I just couldn’t narrow it down to even a vaguely interrelated subject matter. So here it is: Me and my life (with a couple of children and a business thrown into the mix just for fun).

It’s been quite an eventful week here at HQ as my PFB (perfect first born: as opposed to my PSB, perfect second born – well, you can’t discriminate!) turned six years old. Cue the frantic opening of gifts, preceded by the frantic buying of gifts, the cupcake making marathon – see below, the ‘special’ birthday tea and the birthday party…and what a birthday party it turned out to be with the original party cancelled by the venue at short notice due to snow and me having to arrange another party with two hours notice or face the wrath of a tantrum-ridden PFB! So it’s been a very busy, slightly manic week for me and a very enjoyable week for PFB.

The night before PFB’s birthday, I was on the sofa, watching pre-recorded episodes of Eastenders and just enjoying the peace when I thought to myself, “What was I doing on this evening six years ago?” The last child-free evening I would have for the rest of my life should have been a celebration, perhaps incorporating some kind of momentous turn of events. Was it a momentous celebration? No. Did I take stock of how significant an evening it actually was? No. I was actually dyeing my hair in preparation for my c-section the following morning. I was concentrating on one thing and one thing only…getting my hair looking good for the post-birth photos. How things have changed…

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Now those of you who know me know that I like a challenge and don’t do things by halves so I decided to embark upon an endurance event. Now this was no ordinary endurance event. It paled the Iron Man Triathlon into insignificance and put the Three Peaks Challenge in the shade. This was a feat of fortitude, persistence and stamina…now I must admit, there were times when I felt like giving up, abandoned of all hope, but I kept at it, the possibility that PFB could potentially have a total meltdown should I fail, in the forefront of my mind. PFB was depending on me…I had to get through it.

So I soldiered on, fighting my way through clouds of icing sugar, wrestling with the ridiculously tight plastic seals of brand new bottles of food colouring and tirelessly mixing cake dough (Ive asked for a new food mixer for my birthday). Did I win the battle against the slightly too hard butter and the slightly too soft icing? Oh yes! The result, well take a look for yourself. PFB was pleased with the result as were his school friends, big sigh of relief, but I’m still scrubbing the food colouring off my hands!

The finished article

The finished article

The strangest things get me excited and this week, nothing has me more palpitatingly animated than the prospect of the postman arriving…not with my car tax disc reminder in hand, but with the delivery of my new crafty supplies. One thing I’m starting to learn is that when you order things online, you often don’t comprehend (read as: ‘get totally carried away with’) the quantity and volume of the things that you order. The poor postman nearly had a coronary walking up the path laden with my lovely parcels and packets…your efforts are much appreciated Mr Postie. And what do I plan to make with this treasure trove you may ask? Well I’m branching out and delving into the world of polymer clay. That’s as much of an insight as I’m giving you (can’t give too much away for fear of it going horribly wrong!) so watch this space.

Fabric roses

Fabric roses

I will, however, give you a glimpse of something that I have been making that’s turned out particularly well; slightly boastie I know, but I am pleased with these gorgeous fabric roses. You don’t need to be proficient at sewing to make them, as long as you can thread a needle and do a running stitch (that’s the simple in and out way of stitching didn’t you know) then you’ll be fine. What some of you may have a problem with, and I’m only saying this because I had a mahoosive problem with it, is the folding process. Now if you have a mind that works logically, you WILL be ok, but for those of you who do not, like me, it may take you 25 attempts and you still may not be able to fold the fabric correctly without looking at the instructions. How mad did I drive myself with this before it just ‘clicked’ and I could do it whilst watching the TV at the same time? It’s things like this that make me wonder whether I am completely sound of mind!

I just couldn’t write my first blog entry without blowing the trumpet of Jennie Maizels, as this week, she’s got me out of a ‘hole’.  So who is this helpful lady you may wonder: A well meaning friend? A trusty family member? A kind hearted neighbour? Nope, none of the above (although I’m quite sure she’s all three to her own friends and family!) Not only has Jennie designed shop windows for Harvey Nicholls and fantastically illustrated children’s pop up books, she is the designer and creator of ‘Clothes Plasters.’ Her iron-on, embroidered clothes plasters are a simple, effective and absolutely gorgeous way of repairing or even just decorating children’s clothes (although I’m tempted by the ‘birds’ collection myself). So yes, this week Jennie has got me out of a ‘hole,’ and a rather sizeable PFB-knee-shaped hole at that! Take a look at the range on the website www.jenniemaizels.com.So that’s it from me for this week. Better get started on my next instalment…I could get used to this blogging malarkey!

Over and out…