personal, sunday sharing

Sunday Sharing #3

Welcome to the third edition of ‘Sunday Sharing’. These posts are all about the things I’ve been loving lately including TV, music, gaming, blogs and other interesting links. Please feel free to share what you’ve been enjoying in the comments.

Mr Robot
My partner finally persuaded me to watch one of his favourite shows and now that I’ve binged the entire first season and made a start on the second, I regret not getting into Mr Robot much sooner! It’s such a spectacularly written show and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat all the time. Rami Malek is an outstanding actor (which reminds me, I still need to see him as Freddie in Bohemian Rhapsody!)

Synopsis: Young, anti-social computer programmer Elliot works as a cybersecurity engineer during the day, but at night he is a vigilante hacker. He is recruited by the mysterious leader of an underground group of hackers to join their organization. Elliot’s task is to help bring down corporate America, including the company he is paid to protect, which presents him with a moral dilemma.

If you’re looking for an intense and mysterious thriller with an array of interesting characters, I highly recommend binging Mr Robot over the Christmas period.

‘Illidan: World of Warcraft’ by William King
I’m a little late to the party with this book in the Warcraft series, as it was the prelude to the Legion expansion from over 2 years ago. However, I’m really enjoying it so far particularly as I’m learning more about Illidan Stormrage, one of my favourite Warcraft characters, while also beginning to better understand Demon Hunters, my class of choice in WoW.

Far Cry: New Dawn

I stumbled upon Nolletra’s stunning portrait of the heroes of World of Warcraft on Twitter this week. The artists of the Warcraft community are so talented.

personal, wedding

The Reality of Wedding Planning

My partner and I have been engaged for over two years but we only starting seriously thinking about our wedding at the beginning of this year. Being quite young, and not having attended many other weddings, we didn’t really have a clue where to begin so we reached out to family and friends for help.

I began browsing Pinterest and wedding blogs for inspiration and was beginning to envisage my wedding day. My partner and I have always said that we did not want to spend thousands of pounds on our wedding – it is a day that should represent and celebrate us without having to blow the bank. With the endless wedding inspiration you can find online, planning a cheap, DIY wedding is certainly achievable and that is exactly what we set out to do.

Before I even had a chance to start researching, I felt like I lost all say in my own wedding. When you are engaged, everyone wants to have their say and wants to tell you how a wedding SHOULD be. At first, it seemed easier to just go along with what others were saying and this resulted in us losing control of our own special day.

That is, until we realised the wedding was getting bigger and bigger and shaping up to be the exact opposite of what we wanted. So much pressure was being put on us to do things a certain way and to have a traditional wedding that it even caused conflict between loved ones.

My mental health has also been affected by wedding planning and as sad as it is to say, there have been times where I’ve lost all interest in the wedding. It sounds ridiculous that something as special as a wedding could turn negative, but that was the reality for me for many months.

That’s when I decided that enough was enough – this is our special day and it should not be steered by the opinions of others. As much as we value and listen to the ideas and suggestion of others, we should be allowed to express ourselves through our wedding and be as untraditional and wacky as we’d like, regardless of whether it displeases others.

After months of going forwards and then backwards again, scrapping various ideas, and wanting to forget about it all and just elope, we’ve decided to just scale things down. We’re having a very small wedding ceremony with close family, followed by a reception in a local pub with good food and lots of beer. And quite frankly, that is all we could ever want and need.

As people always say, planning a wedding is one of the most stressful periods of your life, why should we accept that? We should be able to enjoy the entire experience and allow ourselves to be creative, and defy what society says about stressful wedding planning.

If I’ve learned anything from wedding planning, it’s that I should just be myself and feel free to go about my life in my own unique way. I hope any future brides who read this take something away from it and will not be afraid to express themselves.

All I know for sure is that if you truly love someone and want to spend the rest of your life with them, you’ll be happy regardless of what kind of wedding you have. It’s not all about the wedding day, it’s about the lifelong marriage that comes after the wedding.

P.S.  I’ll have more wedding posts in future and I promise they will be a lot more positive! Look out for these posts if you’re also a simple, budget-savvy bride.

personal, sunday sharing

Sunday Sharing #2

Welcome to the second edition of ‘Sunday Sharing’. These posts are all about the things I’ve been loving lately including TV, music, gaming, blogs and other interesting links. Please feel free to share what you’ve been enjoying in the comments.

Although I haven’t been watching much TV this week, I’ve had a blast attending some concerts over the last few evenings.

Green Haze in Cardiff
This was the second time I went to see the UK’s number one Green Day tribute band after loving their show the first time around. As a hardcore Green Day fan, I was a bit sceptical the first time I went to one of their shows but I was really impressed. They pay tribute to my favourite band so accurately and I wouldn’t hesitate to attend one of their shows again in future for an affordable and fun punk rock night out.

Skindred in Cardiff
Following catching their energetic set at Reading Festival earlier this year, I have become quite the fan of Skindred. I love that their musical style mixes heavy metal and reggae with a bit of punk, hip hop and dancehall too. They are a rather unique band and put on a truly incredible show full of energy, love and even laughter. The Cardiff show of their That’s My Jam UK tour was even better than their Reading Festival set as the rather small Tramshed venue was a lot more intimate and personal. It was a brilliant night full of singing, dancing and great beer!

‘Jaina Proudmoore: Tides of War’ by Christie Golden
This beautifully written book in the Warcraft series takes place following the events of the Cataclysm. It focuses on Jaina Proudmoore and the events before and after Theramore’s fall. Jaina has always been my favourite Warcraft character but this book made me love her even more. It shows the strengths and weaknesses of her character and made me realise she is likely the most relatable character in Warcraft, due to her human reactions to tragedy. I urge all Warcraft fans to read this book, especially those who criticise Jaina’s character – it might just make you look at Jaina from a different perspective.

Image Credit: World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment

Diablo 3
I’ve recently started playing Diablo 3 again since it had been a ridiculously long time since I last played. I forgot just how much I adore this game. I’ve started from scratch and am playing a seasonal Demon Hunter which I’m really enjoying so far. (I’m still hopeful for Diablo 4 announcement in the near future…)

Planet Coaster
I’ve been meaning to give Planet Coaster a try for quite a while to fill the Rollercoaster Tycoon shaped void in my life.The newest game in the RCT series was not well received by critics and fans alike, whereas I’ve heard a lot of positive things about Planet Coaster. So far it seems a lot more complex than the RCT games and will take a lot of learning for sure, but I’m really enjoying the more modern take on the classic theme park tycoon genre. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in over the coming weeks.

Jerianie’s Instagram feed is always so gorgeous but I’m especially loving her photos lately from her trip to Japan. Just look how colourful and autumnal her feed is!

health, wellbeing

Why You Should Donate Blood

When I visited the blood donation clinic earlier this week, I was congratulated for making my seventh donation and couldn’t help but feel so proud of myself for this achievement.

Seven may only seem like a small figure in the bigger picture, but seven donations could save the lives of up to 21 people!

I believe awareness needs to be raised and more people should be encouraged to donate blood. Of course, some people may be unable to donate due to personal reasons or health conditions. However those who are able to should really consider doing so. I promise it’s not as scary as you may think!

The Welsh Blood Service states that the majority of people in Wales are eligible to donate, however they are struggling to meet demand from hospitals, especially due to the short shelf life of blood. In fact, in Scotland, only 3% of eligible people regularly give blood.

Throughout medical history it has been proved that blood and its byproducts have played a vital role in saving lives. The blood collected from donors is not just used for accident and emergency victims; so many other patients would not survive without blood transfusions. This includes leukemia and cancer patients, and premature babies.

NHS England reports that each year they need approximately 200,000 new donors, as some donors can no longer give blood due to changes in their health and their age.

Around half of NHS England’s current donors are over 45, so along with the blood donation services in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they are encouraging young people over the age of 17 to start giving blood regularly to ensure the future of these vital services.

The Benefits

Donating blood has benefits for both your mental and physical health. According to the Mental Health Foundation, helping others can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Improve your wellbeing
  • Help get rid of negative feelings
  • Provide a sense of belonging and reduce isolation

Regular blood donation is also known to reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attack, due to reduction of the blood’s viscosity and significantly decreases cholesterol, protecting donors against cardiovascular conditions.

Why Give Blood?

  • Appointments are regularly available at times to suit all lifestyles (e.g. evenings and weekends) and can often be booked online.
  • You can give blood at specialised clinics or you can attend temporary bus clinics which travel around to convenient locations (You may even see one in your place of work or study).
  • The clinic staff are so friendly and encouraging; they make you feel really appreciated for your generosity.
  • Your blood is tested for HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HTLV (Human T Lymphotropic Virus) and you will be informed if any of these tests come back positive.
  • A finger prick test is also carried out before your donation to check your haemoglobin (iron) levels.
  • You will have the opportunity to find out your blood group.
  • Free tea, coffee and biscuits (Need I say more?!)

Just think of the huge difference we could all make to other people’s lives and to the NHS as a whole if everyone who is healthy and able to donate did so on a regular basis.

More Information

In order to give blood you must be in good health, over 17 years old and under 66 years old, and you must weigh at least 50kg (7 stone, 12 lbs). Every time you visit a clinic to donate, the staff will check that there are no reasons they are not able to take a donation from you for both your own safety and the safety of any patients who may receive your blood.

Your donation will take between 5 and 10 minutes, with 475ml (just under a pint) of blood taken, alongside additional small samples for testing.

Male donors can donate blood every 12 weeks while female donors must wait a minimum of 16 weeks.

Please consider helping these fantastic services by registering as a donor on their websites:

personal, sunday sharing

Sunday Sharing #1

Introducing a new series to my blog, in which I share my favourite discoveries from the past week.

These posts are all about the things I’ve been loving lately including TV, music, gaming, blogs, articles and other interesting links. Please feel free to share what you’ve been enjoying in the comments.

Daredevil Season 3
I absolutely love Daredevil, especially as it doesn’t feel like traditional Marvel. It feels more like an intense drama series. Season 3 is by far the best season so far;the writing was incredible, the acting was outstanding, and Kingpin is one of the most terrifying villains in any show. I’d recommend this show to anyone who enjoys Netflix originals, whether you’re a Marvel fan or not.

American Horror Story: Apocalypse
The eighth season of AHS recently came to a close, and despite many fans being critical of the last couple of seasons, it seemed that the writers went back to the true AHS style we all know and love with Apocalypse. Not only did we see the return of the witches from Coven, but the queen of AHS herself Jessica Lange made an appearance after leaving the series many years ago. Apocalypse has left me feeling hungry for more AHS and I can’t wait to find out what the theme of the ninth series will be.

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking
I recently finished reading this adorable little book written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. The book provides an insight into the Danish tradition of ‘hygge’ and I found it to be a delightful read for this time of year – especially while cuddled up in a blanket with candles lit nearby. I could imagine reading this book again in future when I’m in need of a little ‘pick me up’ and I’m also very tempted to try some of the traditional Danish recipes featured.

Overwatch
The newest hero Ashe, leader of the criminal Deadlock Gang, was released this week much to players’ surprise as she was very recently announced at BlizzCon. I absolutely love everything about Ashe; her abilities and play style, her look and of course her sidekick B.O.B! The release of a new hero always gets me hooked on Overwatch and as well as trying out Ashe, I’ve really been enjoying playing Competitive Deathmatch over the last few days.

If your day needs brightening, check out this hilariously cute video of a Labrador attempting to steal a smaller dog!

gaming, personal

Rediscovering my Passion for Gaming

Over the last year or so I’ve felt out of touch with the gaming community. I haven’t been playing games as often as I used to, I feel guilty if I do spend time playing games and I’m just not feeling the spark anymore.

Nothing really seems to be holding my attention like it used to, and I often feel quite critical and negative of games. I’ve become far more selective with the games I do play and feel like I have other priorities in life.

This could be down to several factors:

Being Busy
Working full-time while also planning a wedding and generally being an adult really does not leave a lot of free time for hobbies. Long gone are my teenage years where I had no looming responsibilities and could play to my heart’s content.
Even when I do get the chance to play games, I often feel guilty and can’t help but think I could be spending my time more productively. This may sound ridiculous as I should be able to pursue my hobby and take a break from day-to-day chores without feeling guilt but unfortunately my brain doesn’t see it that way sometimes.

Mental Health
Unfortunately most of us will suffer from poor mental health at some point in our lives, with Mind reporting that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year. Those who do suffer know how frustrating it can be to feel demotivated and lose interest in your hobbies and passions. When you simply cannot work out why you feel this way, it can incredibly difficult to fight it and fall back in love with your hobbies again.

Feeling Overwhelmed
After many years of impulse purchases during the Steam sales, my backlog of games has been continually growing and is now in the hundreds. With such a huge backlog to tackle, it seems impossible to decide where to even start. I spend a lot of time contemplating before feeling overwhelmed and jumping back into the same games I’ve been playing for years.

I’m on a mission to reignite my passion for games. I want to feel excited about games again, whether that be shiny new triple A releases, hidden gems from indie developers or the old classics.

Gaming can often be used to escape from the stresses of everyday life and I cannot wait to get stuck into the endless immersive worlds while growing to know and love the characters once again.

I want to play an active part in the online gaming community, to feel positive about gaming events and even attend some (such as Gamescom, which I used to attend annually). I also want to rebuild relationships with friends and meet new people to play with.

Let’s be honest, video games are the most special form of media due to the endless worlds and possibilities to uncover. Gamers are some of the most creative people with excellent problem-solving skills and mental flexibility. Gaming can also build on our social skills as we make memories and let new friendships bloom online.

I know I have it in me. I’m a gamer at heart and I refuse to give up on my hobby so easily. It has become clear that I’ll need to make some changes to reignite my passion.

That is where I hope this blog will help. I want to write about games and share my experiences with like-minded gamers, in an attempt to rediscover my passion.

My Plan

  • Launch a gaming backlog series on my blog (coming soon)
  • Stream some of my gaming sessions on Twitch
  • Play more multiplayer games with friends (because playing a multiplayer game solo is not quite the same thing!)
  • Broaden my genres and choices of games
  • Experience gaming on different platforms
gaming, warcraft

The Future of Warcraft?

BlizzCon 2018 took place last weekend and now that I’ve had a few days to digest the news, I wanted to share some thoughts about the future of the Warcraft franchise.

For those who may not know, I’m a huge Warcraft fan having invested nine years of my life into World of Warcraft. It was a huge part of my teenage years and in some ways an escape from the real word when I faced tough times. I’ve made so many friends and memories – it’s so much more than just a game for me. I love the lore, the characters but most of all I love the community. And I’m not an anomaly, there are many more just like me who are so passionate about Warcraft. That’s why when the tides start to turn and we disagree with the direction the game is going, you will always hear our voices.

At the recent BlizzCon, there was a noticeable focus on Classic World of Warcraft, which is due next summer and promises to whisk veteran players back to the “good old days” of 2004. Having only been playing since 2009 myself, Classic WoW doesn’t particularly interest me quite as much as others in the community. However I understand the excitement around the re-release of Classic era WoW, with so many wanting to experience the nostalgia.

At BlizzCon, Blizzard announced that those with an active WoW subscription would be able to play Classic. This opens up Classic to a lot of new players, some who, like myself, may not have actually been around in 2004. I believe by including Classic in the main WoW subscription, Blizzard are really pushing players towards the re-release and in some ways, I wonder if maybe they think this is a suitable solution to the current problems faced in the community.

It is clear to see in the gaming media that the latest World of Warcraft expansion Battle for Azeroth has not been very well received. Released in August 2018 following the successfully Legion expansion, Battle for Azeroth had a lot to live up to. Although the expansion includes gorgeous new landscapes, new allied races to play and a selection of brand new features such as Warfronts and Island Expeditions, it just isn’t up to player’s expectations.

Many have pinned this down to the lack of response to feedback during beta testing. Thousands of players descended into the closed beta ahead of the release and spent a lot of time reporting bugs and issues to the developers. However it seems that community feedback was somewhat glossed over, much to players’ disappointment. After all we are the ones putting so much of our precious time and money into this game. We are passionate and want the game to be as perfect as we can possibly imagine.

BlizzCon 2018 also brought the news of Warcraft 3: Reforged, the re-release of one of the most acclaimed games in the original RTS Warcraft series, an announcement the community has dreamed of for many years. Similarly to the re-release of Classic WoW, it seems as though Blizzard are trying to pull older players back in and provide distractions from the current negativity in Battle for Azeroth.

I believe the announcement of Warcraft 3: Reforged hints at the possibly worrying direction Blizzard are taking the Warcraft franchise. It seems the Warcraft team are shifting focus to the past, and starting to neglect the present and possibly the future. So many players were hoping the development team would use this year’s BlizzCon to address issues and concerns players have been raising over the last few months.

The team did preview some of the Patch 8.2 content at BlizzCon, however this did very little to change player’s attitudes to Battle for Azeroth. Despite how fantastic the shiny new content looked, most players are likely to still have issues with how the content plays out when the patches is released and the current climate of negativity will continue.

I do not believe the re-releases of Classic and Warcraft 3 have the power to retain players. They will certain pull players back into the franchise but so many already lived these experiences many years ago. They may enjoy the nostalgia for a little while but they’ll eventually tire of the old games and want something fresh and exciting.

Maybe it’s not the game itself. Perhaps it’s us – the players. Maybe we are outgrowing the game and after investing so many hours over the years, it has lost its spark. Battle for Azeroth is the first expansion I’m not regularly logging in to play. After enjoying the first few weeks, I soon became less interested and logging in to complete my world quests and mission table these days feels more like a chore than a fun experience. Of course the game is not entirely to blame and perhaps I would benefit from a lengthy break, or perhaps I should try to reconnect with old friends or try to make new friends and experiences. I should make more of an effort to play the game from a different, more positive perspective.

Despite all of this, I believe Blizzard should be doing more to retain the current loyal player base. Yes, we have our critiques and we often express them through anger but this is down to our fiery passion for this game and its fantastic reputation. Older, retired players are also important to consider however Blizzard should not forget about the main game and its following. If the right decisions and changes are made in the upcoming patches, Battle for Azeroth still has the potential to be a great expansion and the future of Warcraft may look a lot more positive.

Tides of Vengeance, Battle for Azeroth’s first major content patch, arrives on December 11th for the US, and December 12th for the EU.

halloween

The History of Halloween in Wales

To celebrate Halloween and the launch of my blog, I thought it would be interesting to explore Halloween traditions and rituals from my home country.

Although Wales and the rest of the UK now celebrate Halloween in a more American fashion, with trick or treating and pumpkin carving, the history of Halloween in Wales is particularly unique.

In many rural Welsh communities, the end of autumn was a cause for celebration. Known as Nos Galan Gaeaf or “Spirit Night”, communities would gather and welcome the first day of winter, Calan Gaeaf, on the 1st November.

Women and children would dance around a fire and share a stew made from root vegetables, milk, salt and pepper. When the fire started to die out, everyone would run home as it was rumoured if they stayed out at night, ‘Yr Hwch Ddu Gwta’, a bad omen that took the form of a black pig with a headless woman would devour their souls.

It is believed this tradition was made up by parents as a way of ensuring their children would return home safely on this cold, dark night. One traditional rhyme was sung to warn children they were at risk of being eaten by the beast:

“Adref, adref, am y cyntaf’, Hwch ddu gwta a gipio’r ola’”
(Home, home, at once, The tailless black sow shall snatch the last one)

Another ritual unique to this Welsh celebration would see each person write their name on a stone and throw it into the fire. If a person’s stone was missing the next morning, it was said they would die within the next year

The popular modern day tradition of apple bobbing was prevalent during this festival. It was also said that local tailors practiced witchcraft and could bewitch anybody if they so wished.

Despite some of these dark traditions, Calan Gaeaf was very much a community gathering. A time for rural folk to overcome death and separation as a community. In some ways, Calan Gaeaf has similarities to the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos), which focuses on gatherings of family to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died and to support their spiritual journey.

In the 18th century, many of the Calan Gaeaf customs died out. However I believe it is still important to learn about the history of festivities, and the various traditions and practices that took place in different cultures, and to see how they’ve evolved over time.

Happy Halloween!