Saturday, 15 April 2017

25 Before 25

Not so long ago I turned 24 but I'm obsessed with the fact that this time next year I will be a quarter of a century. When I look at the people around me who I went to school with, many of them have settled down are in stable jobs and at times I wonder if I have chosen to take my life in the 'wrong' direction. However after a little bit of thinking I know I love where I am and so I want to embrace that a bit more. 25 seems like a milestone and so in order to celebrate reaching it this year I plan to do 25 things before I turn 25. Below is my 25 before 25 list which I hope to complete and I will update the list with linked blog posts as I complete the items.

1) Attend the Hay Festival. Being a massive bookworm it seems ridiculous that I haven't attended a book festival which is pretty much on my doorstep.

2) Watch and international rugby game. I feel like rugby is in my veins thanks to my Welsh heritage and it's a shame I haven't been able to watch the boys play at home whilst the world watches.

3) Visit Thermae Bath Spa. Nothing beats a bit of pamper time and I've always wanted to visit this spa.

4) Go to Disneyland Paris. I never went to Disney as a child but I don't see why I can't go as an adult.

5) Treat my parents to dinner. They have loved and supported me all my life and this would be a small way to show my gratitude.

6) Read 100 books. I'm not even sure this is going to be possible but I'll give it shot.

7) See a West End show. I've been lucky enough to watch some shows on Broadway but I've yet to pay a visit to the West End.

8) Save £5000. I would like to have a little money saved away for a rainy day.

9) Climb Pen-y-fan. Scaling the highest peak in South Wales would be an achievement. 

10) Learn to do the splits. Because why not - it's good to be flexible in life.

11) Go 30 days without fast food. I am a bit of a fast food junkie so maybe this would help me kick the habit.

12) Learn to surf. This has been on my list for years so it's time I pluck up the courage and do it. 

13) Complete a scrapbook. A really lovely way to document the special moments in your life and I would like to appreciate my days a little more.

14) Fly in a hot air balloon. What an amazing experience this would be!

15) Donate my hair to charity. It's all for a good cause.

16) Knit a scarf. This one could end disastrously.

17) Become vegetarian for 30 days. My best friend is a vegetarian and I've always been interested to see if I'm capable of doing it.

18) Make 1000 lucky stars and give them to someone special. So that someone knows that I would give them a lot of my time.

19) Take up meditation. Yoga really wasn't for me but maybe some mindfulness meditation will be.

20) Grow a chilli plant. Testing out whether I inherited my Nan's green fingers.

21) Learn a foreign language. I'm not sure which one yet - potentially Arabic or Spanish.

22) Go for afternoon tea. I think this would be a good way to spend the afternoon.

23) Take a cooking class. Like a one off course to gain some skills.

24) Own a pair of Louboutin shoes. I love my shoes and if I'm honest I would be ecstatic to own a pair of these.

25) Keep a journal. I really want to appreciate the days in my life more so it would be helpful to actually keep an account of them.

25 things to achieve before I turn 25. They may not all happen but I'm going to give it my best shot and I hope you enjoy taking the journey with me. Do you have a list of things want to do?

Friday, 31 March 2017


*I was sent this book by Netgalley in return for an honest review. This does not affect my opinions on this book. 

Title: Windfall
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Series: N/A
Service: Netgalley
Release Date: 04/05/2017
Pages: 320
Format: Kindle PDF


Buy || Twitter || Goodreads

Goodreads blurbAlice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. 

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. 

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

A contemporary book set in Chicago with a trio of, mostly, lovable teens who strike lucky and win the lottery. However money can be both a blessing and a curse and it isn't long until they all begin to feel the strain.  The synopsis of this book really pulled me in and I am relieved to say that it did not disappoint me. 

Jennifer E. Smith has done a wonderful job of creating characters that you can both love and feel irritated by. The development of Alice, Teddy and Leo throughout, not only the lottery win but other challenges they faced, felt believable and left me wanting to know more about each of their stories. 

Although romance is a key player in the plot what I loved most about Windfall is how it did not become the only thing that was focused on. It is a book that focuses on familial love as much as it does romantic love and each of the main characters begin their own journey of self discovery that leads them to understand themselves better. This was essential to moving the plot and was interspersed seamlessly from start to finish. 

The book is set over 6 months however the pacing did not feel rushed and allowed me to get into the story well enough to see how things panned out over this course of time. An emotional rollercoaster that had me both chuckling and tugging at my heart strings. 

I fully recommend Windfall to anyone who wants a contemporary novel about luck, love and finding yourself.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Taste Of Summer - Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

With dark and cold days still upon us, the craving for summer has begun. Summer can be summed up in a couple of things and for me one of those is definitely pineapple. Think pina coladas and dole whips! Pineapple upside down cake brings a taste of summer as well as being a hearty winter comfort food that can be topped with custard to see you through the last of the dark days.

  • 4 oz butter
  • 4 oz caster sugar
  • 4 oz self raising flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • Light muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 can of pineapple chunks
  • 100ml of pineapple juice from the can
  • GlacĂ© cherries

One of the other reasons I like making these cakes is because I usually have most of the ingredients at home and end up only needing to buy the pineapple chunks and cherries.

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C and grease cupcake tin. Sprinkle some muscovado sugar at the bottom of each well before placing a glacĂ© cherry in the middle and pineapple chunks around the cherry. 
  2. Place the caster sugar and butter into a bowl and cream together. Add both eggs and whisk to get a smooth mixture.
  3. Next, sift in flour a small amount at a time and also add small amounts of the pineapple juice whilst whisking. Add the vanilla extract and continue to whisk. You should be left with a smooth creamy mixture at the end.
  4. Divide the mixture between the wells equally (I use an ice cream scoop) and place in the over until the begin to brown on top. In the larger tin I used it took approximately 25 minutes.
  5. Remove from the over and wait to cool before removing them from the tin. 
  6. Top with hot custard and enjoy!
Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I usually make this in a large cake tin but found that it making them as cupcakes meant no arguments about who got a larger slice! Let me know if you try out this recipe and what you think.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

BOOK CLUB: Our Chemical Hearts

During Christmas I entered a Twitter competition run by Hot Key Books and won a copy of Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland.

Our Chemical Hearts is set in a high school and follows Henry Page's senior year. He dreams of getting into college and becoming editor of the school newspaper and getting Mr Hotchkiss to give him a break. However all of that becomes a little skewed when Grace Town transfers into school. Grace is weird - she looks gaunt and ill and dresses in boys clothes but her writing ability precedes her and she has been asked to be joint editor with Henry this year. And so begins a year where love seems more prominent in Henry's life than ever. 

I quite enjoyed this novel - told from Henry's point of view the narrative is fast paced and witty. It also seems more realistic than most novels I have read where all the students have interaction and it isn't segregated strictly into cliques. Henry's friends and family also fall into the novel as supportive characters who want the best for him and Lola and Sadie in particular help him to strike balance into his life. 

On the other hand there were things that I couldn't gel with throughout this book. Grace's character was one that, despite what she had been through, I could not sympathise with. I feel like we barely got to know her as we only ever get Henry's perception of her and so we only ever hear good bits about her. Any 'bad Grace days' and brushed over so when she admits to Henry about her past (although it is easy to guess what has happened) you are left feeling a bit flat. Henry also started to grate on me a little bit with his obsessive need to be with Grace, it didn't feel healthy and left me a little uncomfortable sometimes. 

Krystal Sutherland's writing doesn't disappoint though. Her deep prose on the absolution of sin have stuck with me even though I have finished the novel and I look forward to her next book.

Overall I would say Our Chemical Hearts is a story of first loves, heartbreak and the survival of both that is told through characters you will both love and be frustrated by but nevertheless that doesn't detract from the story. 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Introducing Z - 50 Facts About Me

I set up this blog in October 2015 in hopes of finding a place to express myself as I finish my PhD. I’m happy with my little place on the internet but I’ve realised that I’ve never really introduced myself to you all. Here are 50 facts about me that you probably didn’t know!
  1. I’m currently in the last year of my PhD but I’m not 100% certain what I want to do next
  2. I used to have hair down to my hips but cut it short when I was 13
  3. I have one younger sister who you can find over at ‘A Cup Of Sai’
  4. My favourite animal is the hippo and I have various cuddly versions
  5. My favourite colour is teal
  6. I can play violin, viola and piano
  7. I have never smoked or drank alcohol and I don’t think I ever will
  8. I am an avid reader and you can check me out on goodreads
  9. I was always told off in school because I wouldn’t stop talking and nothing much has changed if I’m honest
  10.  I am absolutely in love with Colin Firth. I’m not entirely sure what it is but I’m not going to fight it
  11.  I have a massive fear of spiders. I freeze as soon as I see one
  12.  My star sign is Aquarius and I think it fits me perfectly
  13.  My favourite number is 13
  14.  I believe in Karma – what you put into the universe is what you will get out
  15.  I’m a Muslim
  16.  I cry easily – watching a film with me can be a nightmare
  17.  I love piercings. I currently have my lobes, helix and nose done but I would love to get more
  18.  I write a lot of spoken word poetry and I might start sharing some soon
  19.  I am 5’2 and have actually had people tell me they hadn’t seen me after walking into me
  20.  I adore Thai food
  21.  When I get hungry I start to take it out on people around me
  22.  I am a dog person so never apologise if your dog comes up to me looking for attention
  23.  It took me four attempts to pass my driving test
  24.  I will eat any dessert as long as it contains chocolate
  25.  The idea of the deep sea really freaks me out. We have no idea what can survive down in those depths
  26.  I volunteer with cancer patients
  27.  I suffer quite badly from anxiety
  28.  I have never broken a bone which is surprising considering how clumsy I can be
  29.  I don’t know how to ride a bike and I feel I’m too old to learn now
  30.  I can’t imagine living anywhere that doesn’t have a coastline
  31.  As far as I know, I’m not allergic to anything
  32.  Warm coffee gives me a headache but I can drink cold coffee by the bucket
  33.  I share my birthday with John Travolta
  34.  I am a huge fan of musicals and visited Broadway twice when I went to New York
  35.  I’m not sure whether I want children or not
  36.  I don’t usually carry a bag when I go out. I just stick my purse and phone in my pockets
  37.  I’ve only ever been to two concerts – The Script and Beyonce
  38.  I am definitely a winter person
  39.  I love to sing in the shower and in the car at the top of my lungs
  40.  My favourite subject in school was science which worked out pretty well as I am a scientist now
  41.  I believe in ghosts
  42.  I have a good relationship with my parents and would be lost without them
  43.  I would love to travel across the world and I’m happy that I’ve started ticking places off my list
  44.  The sorting hat placed me in Slytherin and I’m proud of my house
  45.  I could eat a whole box of Cadbury’s Fingers if left unsupervised
  46.  I love Christmas time
  47.  If you are funny I will probably like you
  48.  I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day and I’m not sure I see the point in it
  49.  I am actually terrible at maths and get Sai to do calculations for me when out shopping
  50.  It’s my dream to give a TED talk one day
Now you know a little more about the person behind this blog. Don't be shy - pop by on twitter and come and have a chat!

Friday, 20 January 2017

2017 Blogging Goals

In 2016 I dipped my toes into the pool of blogging again. I had forgotten how much I actually enjoyed writing and being creative and now I've gotten the feel of it again I really would like to take it a bit more seriously. I've set myself some goals for 2017 that I thought I’d share with you and here’s hoping that I can reach them.

Schedule posts. I’ve been terrible for just writing a post on the spot and posting when I feel like meaning that it has been pretty sporadic. I recently bought DotCreates Ultimate Blog Planner and I’ve been using it to map out posts so hopefully I can produce some regular good quality content over 2017.

Interact with the community. It’s easy to see that the blogging community is a vibrant and social one and I’ve kind of kept to the edges of it. This year I really want to get involved more. I’m planning to take part in more chats and interact with people I see online without fear. It would just be nice to get to know you all better.

Numbers. I want to be able to grow my following and if I keep up with the first two goals I have set I am hoping this one will fall into place. Specifically I would love to get up to 500 twitter followers and 50 bloglovin followers. I would also really love to grow my instagram following as I love scrolling through pictures. It may seem small but for me it would definitely be a start!

Photography. One thing I love about blog posts are the photos people take. I have to admit that all of you are really talented when it comes to making your blog posts look amazing with photographic content. This year I would love to take more time with my photographs to help really sell my posts.

Four small goals for 2017 but three goals I hope are achievable. I want this year to be a year of learning as far as blogging is concerned so we will see how it all goes. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Lush Oxford St Haul

Whilst I was in London to catch Cursed Child I couldn't help myself and popped into Lush on Oxford Street! I spent a lot of time with Sai and George wandering around all the different floors picking and testing different things out. I managed to control myself and bought only a few things that I really loved so I thought I would share them here with you!

Lime Pastille Bath Melt (£2.00) - A bright green, shimmery bath oil that smells strongly of lime. I love Lush's bath oils as they always leave your skin feeling soft.

Snow Melt Bath Melt (£2.50) -  Less vivid than its brother by a long shot. This bath oil reminded me of a little snowball and with Christmas being around the corner I thought why not. It doesn't really have a distinctive smell but I'm hoping it might surprise me.

Karma Bubble Bar (£4.50) -   I am a fan of Lush bubble bars and I usually go for The Comforter. I've had my eye on Karma for a while so I finally picked it up. I love the deep purple and gold glitter and the smell of it reminds me of incense sticks my Mam burns at home.

Magic Coloured Bubbles (£4.95) -  Another bubble bar that had just been released the day we visited. Magic is said to turn the bath blue with red tinted bubbles (or it may be the other way around). Considering we were about to go and see Cursed Child it seemed rude not to. I can't wait to see if this actually works.

Shoot For The Stars Bath Bomb (£4.25) -  A new one for me. Aside from the fact that it smells like honey and contains coconut oil I love the colours on this bath bomb. I'm really hoping for a deep blue bath when I decide to use this.

Star Dust Bath Bomb (£2.95) - Shaped like a star and glittery white this bath bomb is always a must have for me around Christmas time. It smells of vanilla and always helps me unwind over the busy Christmas period.

Latte Lip Tint (£5.95) -  I cannot tell you how long I have wanted this lip tint. Having seen it online I could never justify just buying that and nothing else so when I saw it at Oxford Street I had to get it. It has a beautiful copper brown shine to it and helps my lips feel a little smoother on colder days as well as being a pick me up in the mornings thanks to its coffee scent.

Have you tried any of the products I've mentioned? What about any Oxford Street exclusives?