Thirsty Meeples

Board Game Cafe Thirsty Meeples Oxford Oxfordshire Food Games Card Cake Cards Fun Learning Happiness Entry 9 Double Date

If there was ever a representation of my inner geek heaven I think Thirsty Meeples could be it. They’ve got wall to wall shelving stuffed with board and card games and, if that wasn’t enough, an extensive menu to sustain you throughout your quests. It’s definitely one of my “Happy Places”.

Thirsty Meeples is a recent discovery (and addiction) of mine but I learned of its existence entirely by accident! I was despairing aloud at the lack of board game choices in shops when a kind stranger overheard and told me all about this fantastic place in Oxford where you can hire a table and choose from thousands of games. I’ve been hooked ever since!

If you decide to visit you can book a table in advance (and you need to because it’s hugely popular) and grab some friends for hours of gaming fun. Recently I went there on a double date with my partner, my old school friend and her fiancée. We’d booked our table for 6 hours and we would have happily stayed longer!

We’ve got similar tastes in games and we ended up playing Whitechapel which is all about Jack the Ripper. One of you plays Jack and the rest are detectives working together to hunt him down and stop him from killing. It was pretty intense! I successfully survived as Jack but my hands were shaking with nerves all the way through. I’m very competitive.

If the trip to Oxford is a bit far or you don’t want the expense too often this activity could easily be reproduced at home. All you need are some good friends, board games and (vast quantities of) food. You will quickly realise that I think food is the most important part of any worthwhile venture! Sadly I was unable to snap many pictures of the awesome food we had because I was too busy scoffing! Next time, perhaps!

Are you a board game fan? Are there any games you would recommend for our next trip? Please let me know.

Board Game Cafe Thirsty Meeples Oxford Oxfordshire Food Games Card Cake Cards Fun Learning Happiness Entry 9 Double Date

Sweet Treats

Sweet Treats Smarties Anti Gravity Anti-Gravity Cake Chocolate Buttercream Birthday Mum Create Bake Off Entry Seven 7 Learning Happiness

This activity combines some of the world’s best things; chocolate, creativity, messiness and taste-testing! One of my favourite people (hi, Mum!) had a birthday recently and she’s usually the cake-baker of the family so I thought she should take a break and have someone else make the effort for a change. Even better, I was able to keep my plans a secret by cooking in my partner’s kitchen so it was a total surprise for her!

I’m a big advocate of healthy eating as a way to improve your happiness and mental well-being but I also like a good dose of junk food now and again (and again and again). For my mum’s birthday I decided to treat her to something truly indulgent – an anti-gravity chocolate cake! This recipe can be found on the BBC Good Food website and is extremely easy to make though somewhat time-consuming. I didn’t even use a mixer, just a balloon whisk and some elbow-grease.

Check it out!

And the final result…

Sweet Treats Smarties Anti Gravity Anti-Gravity Cake Chocolate Buttercream Birthday Mum Create Bake Off Entry Seven 7 Learning Happiness
I’m very proud of this creation and my Mum loved it!

Pure, unadulterated, chocolatey bliss! If you’ve got a birthday coming up or know someone who deserves a treat, consider spending a little time creating something indulgent and delicious just for them. It will make you feel good to be putting your time into treating someone else and you can eat the scraps as you go along! Win-win as far as I’m concerned.

Please feel free to share your baking successes (or failures!) in the comments below and let me know what kind of food helps bring you happiness!

Festival Spirit

Barn on the Farm Festival Spirit Learning Happiness

Before the summer of 2016 I had never been to a festival. I was convinced that I’d enjoy the experience but something about the mud, the rain, and the overwhelming crowds of people was not quite enough to persuade me to make the effort in previous years. I have since decided that attitude was absurd! I like camping, love music, and can’t get enough of the kind of food you can buy from vans! Besides, I have turquoise wellingtons that match my turquoise coat and this accidental coordination makes me smile with childish glee. Where better than a festival to flaunt such a colourful combination?

I chose to let go of my concerns, embrace the festival spirit (more on their delicious cocktails shortly) and get down and dirty in the great British mud. My boyfriend invited me to join him in a glorious weekend at Barn on the Farm, an award-winning festival over in Gloucester, with a musically-inclined friend and his girlfriend, neither of whom I had met before. We met up on the Friday night and went to a local EP launch for the very talented Woolford Scott to get to know each other better and to listen to some excellent tunes. Then in the morning we started up two cars (the gentlemen were bringing a guitar and we couldn’t fit all our gear in one) and had a sat-nav competition to see which route there was quickest. Our car lost when we had to detour to purchase toothbrushes.

The two fellows in our group had been to this festival twice previously and greeted several of the volunteers they’d met before. My new partner in crime, the only other lady in this foursome, had been to other festivals in her time (though not this one). I was the solitary newbie.

It can feel intimidating doing something new when everyone around you is comfortable and familiar with the situation. But not this time. People were kind and welcoming and there were ostriches to watch and remarkable haggis and sweet chilli pizzas to scoff (don’t question it; you need this in your life). I was made to feel at ease straight away. There’s an instant friendliness about a group like this that is so rarely encountered in day-to-day life. Strangers actually talk to one another, share common interests and collaborate to make the most of the event. Anyone who struggled when putting up their tent found helping hands by their side immediately. The tent next to ours had a big Pride flag over the door and the inhabitants were loud and cheerful and warm. Wherever you looked there were people making new connections and sharing new experiences.

On the Saturday evening we joined a group of off-duty volunteers in the campsite and my musical boyfriend and his musical friend entertained us with clever harmonies. The guitar was passed around and everyone participated with enthusiasm; my particular favourite was a song which included the lines “My ovaries are exploding” and “Eat the whole damn fridge”. Even a member of the security team came over with a flashlight to brighten up the night and not, as we’d feared, to shut down the music.

Speaking of music, they have quite a lot of that at festivals! I have been to very few live performances and they stun me every time. Even though I didn’t know many of the songs the Barn on the Farm artists played the atmosphere was so exciting it didn’t matter. Besides, I can jump up and down to anything. I didn’t get a chance to see everyone but the stand-outs among those I did see were Mahalia, Hudson Taylor and Farm Band! There was so much joyful energy from the artists and their crowds that you couldn’t help but be sucked into it!

The festival had three stages and each was completely unique; one bordered by straw bales, one in the top half of a barn, one totally open to the elements right opposite a field of ostriches and surrounded by food stands! And oh, the food! I adored the food! Because Barn on the Farm is quite a small, independent festival you might think they’d be limited in terms of the food on offer. Nothing could be further from the truth! Honestly, I’d have gone there just to eat. With stone-baked pizzas, gourmet burgers, vegan and vegetarian curries, enormous full English breakfasts, authentic Greek food and unbelievable ice creams (served out of the back half of a vintage-VW-beetle-turned-freezer) no one went hungry. The Two Birds on the Farm cocktail which was served in the main bar was another favourite of mine and it packed the most delicious fruit punch!

To anyone who is hovering on the edge of a new experience but is put off by fears of it not being as good as the hype, I say go for it! It will almost certainly rain, get muddy, be too cold and too hot and push you out of your comfort zone. But if you get past all that (and enjoy a clichéd metaphor) then the sun will come out, the atmosphere will entrance you and people may even surprise you. And as long as there’s good food, you can’t really go wrong!

Barn on the Farm Festival Spirit Learning Happiness