Recent Reads 2018, Part 4

So right now I’m in Australia having (hopefully) an excellent time and catching up with some of my all-time favourite people. That’s why this blog has been a little low on posts recently, because while I planned to get lots of posts written and scheduled in, life didn’t quite go according to plan. Work and life and, let’s not pretend otherwise, packing got in the way! Oh well, never mind. Anyway, here I am with a reading update.

 

Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson **** 4 stars

Meet Me at the Museum was an unexpected book for me. It was the work book of the month just as I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale and needed something completely different – so I picked it up. And absolutely loved it. It’s written in the form of letters between Tina in England and Anders a museum curator in Denmark. It’s a gorgeous tale of friendship, life, regret and love. I honestly could have read these letters for ever. I highly recommend you add it to your reading list.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne **** 4 stars

This book is so relatable. It’s honest and funny and brilliantly written and I was hooked from the start. The characters were intriguing and their actions sometimes flawed, but understandable. The way that social media was portrayed was so truthful and it made me think about how I use it. I will definitely be recommending this book to all my friends.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.*

The Fix by David Baldacci  *** 3 stars

I love David Baldacci books. They are the perfect detective mystery novel that I sometimes need in my life. The Fix is book three in the Amos Decker series which sees FBI detective Decker witness a random killing outside the FBI headquarters. From then on Decker and the rest of his special investigations team race to uncover what happened, and why, before something even worse happens. I really really want to pick up book four in this series now. Perhaps one for the plane journey to Australia.

Grace and Fury by Tracy Banghart **** 4 stars

Grace and Fury is set in dystopian world where women have no rights. Sisters Serina and Nomi have no choices in the world, they will either become Graces (essentially a concubine for a member of the royal family) or servants. Both have trained their whole lives to take up their roles, but when something unexpected happens things quickly take a turn, leaving both of them fighting for their lives in very different ways. The dedication at the front of this book reads “For every woman who has been told to sit down and be quiet… And who stood up anyway.” which probably gives you an indication that this is about feminism and fighting for what is right. I can’t wait to read the next in the series – be warned the ending leaves you wanting so much more.

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld **** 4 stars

This is a modern retelling of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and I should tell you right now that I am not a fan of Pride and Prejudice. Not at all. I just cannot stand the book or the characters – sorry! But I have been wanting to read Eligible for a while because I was intrigued and I wanted to try it and see. Well I’m pleased I did, because I really, really enjoyed the book.

Set in Cinncinati Liz and Jane return from New York City to their family home after their father suffers a heart attack. From then on their mother is trying to set them up with the eligible doctors from the local hospital. The characters in this are so excellent, I mean some are hideous, but it still works and they’re believable. The story has the same bare bones as Pride and Prejudice but it’s also quite different, and I liked it a lot more than the original.

The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co., #2) by Jonathan Stroud *** 3 stars

The Whispering Skull is book two in the Lockwood & Co series. Lockwood & Co is an agency specialising in psychic investigations, and this time around they’re investigating a haunted mirror.

I first started this book back in January or February and just could not get into it. It’s 450+ pages and after 100 pages I just wasn’t feeling it. So I put it down and read something else. Then after finishing Eligible I decided to give this one another go and of course I was promptly hooked. Book two has everything you want from a kids paranormal detective series – there’s ghosts and ghouls, old stories to uncover, plenty of adventure and new friends to make. I’m now trying to stop myself from buying book three and four until I clear a bit more space on my bookshelves. It’s hard though as I really want to join Lockwood, Lucy and George on their next mad mission!

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill  ***** 5 stars

When I heard that Louise O’Neill was doing a retelling of The Little Mermaid, but with a feminist twist, I knew that I wanted to read it, and I knew it would be good. What I didn’t expect was that it would be this good. I raced through this book in one sitting because I just couldn’t find a convenient place to stop. The main character (or mermaid) Gaia is struggling to understand why her mother left her, trying to meet her father’s exacting standards and dealing with a betrothal that she just doesn’t want. On her fifteenth birthday she is finally allowed to break the surface and see the world above the sea. But what happens then will change everything forever.

The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer  **** 4 stars

Eve Singer, a TV reporter, covers crimes and murders in London. After covering a gruesome murder she realises that there might be a serial killer at work. And even worse that the serial killer may just be obsessed with her. This is the second book that I’ve read by this author. The other one Rubbernecker is on my list of all-time favourite books. The Beautiful Dead doesn’t disappoint. I was utterly gripped from the start, and I found myself reading this at every opportunity. The crimes are hideous, the suspense is perfectly written and the characters are intriguing and fully formed.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid *** 3 stars

In a war torn city Nadia and Saeed meet and fall in love. As the destruction of their city increases doors begin to appear all over the city that are said to transport people all over the world. Will Nadia and Saeed take a chance and step through one of the doors? If they do where will it take them and what will happen next? At just over 200 pages this was a super quick read for me. I thought it was a fascinating look at migration and the choices we make.

The Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood  *** 3 stars

Maggie wakes up in hospital to the news that her ten-year old daughter Elspeth died in the same accident that caused her coma. As Maggie tries to come to terms with this news she discovers that her husband has disappeared, she has nowhere to live and she’s now receiving letters from her dead daughter. With the help of two new friends Maggie tries to find out what really happened on the day of the accident. This was a definite page-turner for me, I absolutely raced through the book willing Maggie to uncover the truth. There are some big twists and while I did guess the main one I still enjoyed it.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.*

Private Princess by James Patterson & Rees Jones  ** 2 stars

The latest book in the Private series sees the elite investigation firm called in to help a British princess find a missing friend. From London to Brecon the team attempt to track down the missing woman. Is she in hiding, is she in danger and what secrets is the princess hiding? I’ve missed a few books in this series, so maybe that’s why I was less bothered by this book. I don’t know. It had the same suspense and cliffhanger chapter endings but it wasn’t as gripping as I was expecting. Maybe I’ve just grown out of this type of book? I guess tastes change over the years.

Phew, so there you have it, my recent reading list. It’s another 11 books for me over the last 10 weeks. Which takes me up to 40 books so far this year. So I’m pretty certain that my challenge of reading 50 books in 2018 is going to get a giant tick next to it – and pretty soon! Tune in next month for another round of my recent reads updates.

Laura xx

My Favourite Pasta Restaurant – Pastaio, London

Discovering new restaurants and bars in London is one of my favourite things. After all I live where I live so that I can enjoy this city and everything that it has to offer. And obviously because it’s me, food is a ginormous part of that. So today I’m going to share a new London find with you. After all, I promised I would do this more a few weeks back in this post. So let me introduce you to Pastaio, my new favourite pasta restaurant in London.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been trying to get to Pastaio in Soho to feast on pasta for the last couple of months. A friend of mine mentioned it back in January and ever since then we’ve been trying to arrange a Hamilton Gang meet up there. Well, last week we finally managed it and it quickly became my favourite pasta restaurant in London.

restaurant-london-pastaio

Pastaio is the perfect option for a quick supper. We only had 90 minutes, as people had other things to get to and holiday bags to pack. But we still had starters and mains and did a lot of talking without needing to rush anything. Side note: I have to admit I was very grateful to arrive home at 9pm and head straight to bed. Last week absolutely shattered me!

Anyway, back to the restaurant. It’s a small laid back place with long canteen style tables and bi-fold doors that open out onto tables on the pavement. The marble table tops were divine, honestly if I could have picked one up and taken it away with me I would have done just that.

Next is the food. The menu is small but perfectly formed (in my opinion). The pasta dishes aren’t enormous so I’d recommend getting a side or two to go alongside it. Our group of four decided to share two sides as a starter and then get our own pasta dishes, plus one extra to share. Which as I type it I realise sounds a little greedy – and maybe it was. But after seeing all the dishes while we waited we had to try a few of them. Plus at the end of it I wasn’t overly full.

London Pasta Restaurant - pastaio - Out and About - This and That Blog

As the starter part of the meal we opted for the watermelon, tomato and feta salad and a Fried mozzarella, nduja & honey sandwich. I mean when you read that on the menu of course you need to try both of these. As for mains I opted for the Cacio e Pepe bucatini, which was divine. The others opted for the wild mushrooms, garlic & olive oil tagliatelle and the malloredus pasta with a slow cooked sausage sauce. We also shared the conchigliette with courgettes and smoked ricotta between the four of us. They were all excellent but my bucatini was the best – it was the perfect al dente pasta with a cheese and pepper sauce. So simple and so so delicious.

Hopefully by now I’ve sold you on this place. But if I haven’t these next two words will do it for you. PROSECCO SLUSHY. Yes that’s right, the restaurant serves up lemon and raspberry prosecco slushies. Day, evening and week made.

Go, eat, drink and be merry! Laura xx

Friday Favourites #122

So it’s the last favourites post until after Australia. Isn’t that the most exciting thing ever? I honestly cannot wait for our trip to begin!

This Week’s Friday Favourites

<> Saturday night I got locked in a room with three friends and we had to diffuse a bomb within an hour. It was like being in a sauna as there were no windows, but despite that there were no arguments, we got out with three minutes to spare and we didn’t need any clues at all. Would highly recommend the Gravesend escape rooms if you’re that way.

<> Also if you’re in Gravesend then do go to Rico Sabor for tapas. And nachos. The pulled pork nachos were divine and the restaurant has a great atmosphere plus delicious mojitos.

<> I also went to the National Theatre this week. The play took a weird turn right near the end that I just didn’t get. But I always love a trip to this building and standing on the balcony at the interval watching the sunset was pretty perfect. Oh, and we went to Wahaca which is always amazing!

<> This time of year is all about the barbecues. So a last-minute Sunday barbecue with lovely people and two dogs is basically my dream.

<> On Tuesday I booked the last internal flight for our Australia trip, which means that aside from packing I am all set to board that plane on Thursday – hurrah.

<> I finished The Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood earlier this week and I really enjoyed it. It’s a clever thriller and, while I did guess the big twist, I would so recommend it.

<> I’ve found my new favourite restaurant in London. Pastaio is all about the pasta, I tried four different dishes and I can attest that they are all delicious. If/when I go next I would probably go for the watermelon & tomato salad and the Cacio e Pepe. Oh, and definitely try the prosecco slushy. I had two and do not regret a thing.

Have a great weekend everyone xx

May Reads

Greetings friends, and how are you all today? As we’re now in June I figured it was high time I dropped in to discuss my May reads with you all. May was a bumper month for me as I read 11 books. Yes, really! I think we can assume the two bank holiday weekends and a solo trip to Chester had something to do with that number, don’t you? So what did I think of all those books, I hear you cry? Well read on to discover all!

May Reads - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

May Reads #1: Embassy of the Dead by Will Mabbitt

This is a brilliant middle-grade caper featuring ghosts, a severed fingers and a camper van that acts as a getaway vehicle! It follows a young boy on an adventure as he stumbles into a mix up with the underworld. Before he realises it he’s best friends with a poltergeist, being guided by a centruies old ghost and fighting for his life – all without his parents finding out. Honestly, this is the sort of book that makes kids into readers. It’s just the most fun book.

May Reads #2: The Survival Game by Nicky Singer

The Survival Game follows a girl as she journeys thousands of miles from Sudan to Scotland across a world that’s been destroyed by global warming. Having lost her parents at the start of the journey she’s trying to get back to her childhood home and find her grandmother. It’s a brutal story about hope, what makes family and the devastating things we’ll do for what’s right. It’s hopeful, heartbreaking and simply incredible. I couldn’t put this book down. Definitely a must-read.

May Reads #3: The Lido by Libby Page

The Lido is such a great book and the most perfect summer read. It follows two women in the fight to save their local Lido, as they become friends you realise how important friendship, and the lido, is for lots of people. It’s a tale of community, belonging, friendship and loneliness and I adored this book. It also made me want to get to Tooting Lido more often!

May Reads #4: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

As I’d expect from a Sarah J Maas tale this book destroyed me. It was 600+ pages of absolutely enthralling story. With characters I adored, a story that had more twists than you can even count and a world that feels so real and present, despite it involving soulmates, winged faeries, horrific beasts and immortal beings. This series is truly brilliant and I devoured every page. I love how Sarah J Maas sends each of her characters on an incredible journey where your favourite characters change by the chapter and you start rooting for people you never even considered just 200 pages ago. This was Sarah J Maas at her absolute best.

May Reads #5: The One Thing by Gary Keller

This is a management book, which I read with our work book group. So not something I’d normally pick up and while I didn’t love it. I did find some things in it useful. There were snippets of good ideas in there and things that I want to put into place in my working life to ensure I get to where I want too. But this was definitely too long-winded of a book. It could have been one chapter and I’d still have got the same thing out of it!

May Reads #6: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

I read this book in a day, so it’s safe to say that I loved it! It’s about the aftermath of a school shooting and it focuses on the five teen survivors dealing with that day, discovering what really happened and moving on with their lives. It’s a fascinating look at how people deal with tragic events and how someone is considered a hero or not. Obviously it’s a little stressful at times, seeing as it’s about a school shooting, but it is sensitively told and not sensationalised at all, I honestly would recommend this book to everyone.

May Reads - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

May Reads #7: The Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull by Pamela Butchart

I haven’t read a lot of Enid Blyton’s original Secret Seven books and I’m not really sure why – I was more of a Mallory Towers fan as a child! But we’re publishing this new story at work so I thought it was high time I read it. And I loved it! Seven year old me would have loved it even more! It’s such fun and a really good caper. It made me laugh and I really wished I was investigating the case of the mystery skull with the team. And not just because of the good snack options!

May Reads #8: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

To be honest this one took me a while to get into, but at about 100 pages in I was hooked. It’s about a women and her teen daughter who move to a new town and rent a house from the ‘perfect’ family with four teenagers. The families lives, especially the kids’, become intertwined and then complicated when everyone takes different sides in adoption case as a wealthy couple want to adopt the little girl, despite the mother wanting her baby back. It’s a brilliant look at what makes a family and a mother and what we’ll do for those we love. It was fascinating book and it went off in a way I really didn’t expect!

May Reads #9: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood

If you love Cornwall, Great Expectations or comforting reads then this is the book for you. It’s a coming-of-age tale set in 1920s Cornwall and follows a young farmer’s daughter who befriends the mysterious and rich siblings from a big house on a private island. Over the summer she basically moves in with them and experiences their glamorous world of dazzling parties. As the summer draws to an end she realises that things will have to change as she must think about her future and what she really wants. It’s wonderful and I adored every page.

May Reads #10: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Imagine a world where women can only say 100 words a day and if they go over that number then they’re shocked by electrical currents by the watch-like counter they’re forced to wear. Women are also forced to stay in the home and look after their families and only same sex couples and marriages are allowed. Anyone flouting the rules is sent to a concentration or work camp or eventually executed. That’s the concept of Vox.

It’s a really interesting look at how we could possibly get to that point in our society and also how everyone would react. Would you go into this willingly if you considered the other options? Or would you fight and resist, even if secretly? I loved this concept, but sadly felt it didn’t quite hook me in as much as I’d have expected. Having said that I think it is a special and very timely book and well worth a read. I’ve found myself thinking about it even weeks later!

May Reads #11: Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

This is the first of a quartet of teen books that focus on the teen lives of well known superheroes. So we start with Wonder Woman and then there’s Batman, Catwoman and finally Superman. It follows Diana as she rescues a human, which causes the world to be doomed (quite literally). So in order to solve the problem she travels to New York and then Greece with her new friend Alia. Together, and with a band of friends and family, they must save the world and face the ultimate test together. It’s a really interesting concept and I was completely gripped. It was quite fun to see Diana as a teen having to deal with a modern world, and not just a war-torn Europe. If you’re a fan of superheroes, Leigh Bardugo or just YA books, you’re in for a real treat!

So there we go, that’s my May reads update done! And I read a quite a lot of very brilliant books! What did you read in May and what would you recommend to everyone?

-Fi x

Aubergine and Red Lentil Curry

Greetings team and how are you all today? I’m doing pretty great I think, I mean it’s a weekend so what’s not to love? It’s been a while since we shared a recipe with you all, so today I’m to share a recent addition to our cooking repertoire – an aubergine and red lentil curry. It’s once incredibly dish of veggie goodness, that’s delicious, plus simple to make and not to mention super-cheap as well. Basically the trifecta of a brilliant recipe, am I right, or am I right?

This delicious aubergine and red lentil curry was introduced to us by the glorious people at Oddbox, when they delivered a recent box that contained an aubergine. I’m not going to lie, I love that the box comes with two or three recipes that vary depending on what’s in the box – it’s super helpful! Anyway we’ve since made this a couple of times and its true love. So hopefully you all love it too. Shall we dive straight in?

Aubergine and Red Lentil Curry - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Aubergine and Red Lentil Curry Ingredients:

1 chopped onion / 2 crushed garlic cloves / 2 tbsp curry powder / 1 dices aubergine / 175g red lentils (dry) / 600ml vegetable stock / 100ml coconut milk

How to make your Aubergine and Red Lentil Curry:

1. Cook the onion and garlic until soft in a saucepan

2. Add the curry powder and cook for another minute

3. Add the aubergine, stock and lentils to the saucepan and bring to the boil

4. Once everything’s boiling turn it down and simmer everything for 30 minutes. Make sure you stir regularly

5. Add coconut milk and chopped coriander

6. Serve with rice or mini naan

So there we go, I told you it was the simplest curry recipe around, didn’t I? Also, another bonus (they just keep coming, don’t they?) it’s really good cold as lunch the next day. Just in case that’s your kind of thing!

Tell me, do you have any veggie curry recipes that you can suggest to me? I want to keep growing my repertoire of yummy veggie dishes if I can!

-Fi x

 

Friday Favourites #121

Guys it’s finally the weekend – we’ll done us for making it! Talking of the glorious weekend, that’s definitely point one of today’s Friday favourites post – the most excellent of weekend plans! I’m headed off to Kent with some of my friends and I can’t wait. Roll on lovely catch ups and all the food. What weekends are made for, am I right?

Also making the Friday favourites list we have a Tuesday night escape room hour of fun. I’d forgotten how much I enjoy these puzzle rooms. I’m sure it’s my ultra competitive nature that makes it so! Anyway on Tuesday we managed to escape from an Egyptian themed room and I enjoyed every second!

Is anyone here a Grey’s Anatomy fan? I’m a massive fan and I have to say that this week’s episode was all kinds of delightful. No spoilers from me, don’t worry, but it was a brilliant finale episode.

This week started with a lovely long weekend which was three days of utter joy – at least if you’re me! I didn’t get up to much but that’s what made it such a spectacular weekend. Read more about it over on my bank holiday update post from earlier in the week. But i’ll be honest the delicious doughnut certainly places on the Friday favourites list.

Bank Holiday Update - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

 

Rounding up the Friday favourites list is something that’ll make this list for the next four weeks or so: more Australia planning! With less than two weeks to go I’m knee deep in planning and starting to get so excited. I am so ready for this holiday right now!

So there we go, a quick Friday favourites post for you all. I hope your week was equally awesome – what would make your happy list?

Recent London Eats

Today I wanted to talk through some new (to me) foodie places in London that I’ve been to in the last couple of months that I need to share. Hence the title Recent London eats. London is choc-a-block with fantastic coffee shops and eateries, but sometimes it’s hard to see them through the numerous Starbucks and Pizza Express’. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely a Starbucks fan. I’m a “grande filter with room for milk” girl most days or a “skinny cap” if I’m treating myself (AKA it’s a Friday). But sometimes you want something a little different, and on those days you should definitely check out the following London places.

Doughnut Time

To start with let’s discuss doughnuts because there seems to have been a massive influx of doughnut shops in London recently. Not that I’m complaining as it’s led to the wonder that is Doughnut Time emigrating from Australia to London. With six branches including ones on Shoreditch and Shaftesbury Avenue you shouldn’t have to venture too far to find one of these delicious rings of dough. The doughnuts are colourful and topped with numerous things. From Twix bars to Percy Pigs – there are flavours to suit everyone. Plus, they’ve got vegan versions and quirky names like Stranger Rings and Egg Sheeran.
recent-eats-doughnut-time

Abuelo

Abuelo is an Australia meets South America coffee shop just near Covent Garden. The coffee is delicious, the fresh cakes look, and taste, amazing and the people are so friendly. It’s a small, but perfectly formed, shop. All the furniture, and the massive fireplace on one wall, are made from Australian New South Wales spotted gum trees so it feels like a small piece of Australia in the city.

Chequers Sandwich Shop

So this isn’t a new place to me, but it is a lunchtime favourite that I feel is worth sharing. Especially if you’re visiting London this summer, as it’s the perfect pre-picnic stop. Located just off the Strand, Chequers is a teeny tiny shop which only really has room for three customers alongside the counter. The queue at this place is always out the door and down the street, but the service is quick and the queue moves swiftly. Selling sandwiches, salads and baked potatoes with every filling you can think of, it’s a must stop for lunchtime. My favourite is either some sort of brie panini or the chicken escalope with salad in plain white sliced bread. Oh, and if you opt for one of the speciality breads you’ll also get a free soup to go with your sandwich.
pizza-union

Pizza Union

Pizza might be my favourite meal ever. If it’s done right it can be divine. And Pizza Union is definitely done right. Located in Aldgate, King’s Cross and Spitalfields, Pizza Union is so worth a visit. You order and pay on your way in and then you find a seat on one of the many canteen style tables. It’s loud and noisy and always buzzing with people. The service is fast and within 10 minutes your buzzer will go off and you’ll be collecting your pizza from the kitchen that sits in the middle of the shop. The toppings are all excellent and one day I’m going to try the warm dough ring with Nutella.

Crosstown Doughnuts

Yes, it’s another doughnut place! But honestly I can’t discuss recent London eats without including Crosstown. Especially as there is now a shop on my walk home. Honestly, I don’t know how I stop myself from buying something here every day. The classic vanilla glaze is probably my favourite but the vegan lemon thyme comes a close second – it’s made with a beetroot dough and it’s sublime. Plus they do monthly specials which are well worth a try.
What are your favourite places to eat where you live? Do you try out new places or are you a creature of habit? You can find my favourite Streatham brunch places here if you’re ever South of the river.
Laura x

A Bank Holiday Update

Greetings team, and how are you this bank holiday evening? I hope you’ve had the most marvellous bank holiday weekend, full of lovely things! Mine really has been spectacular and so relaxed, so I thought I’d hop on over and do a bit of a bank holiday in doing words post for you all. As I love a nosy around someone else’s weekend, so I’m hoping others will feel the same way about mine!

Eating – All. The. Things. The main highlights include a sushi platter from Costco, Doughnut Time doughnuts for a post explore treat and sausage sandwiches. I feel like that’s a nice insight into my foodie weekend for you!

Reading – There’s been a lot of reading this weekend, as per on a bank holiday! Firstly I finished Wonder Woman: Warbringer, a Leigh Bardugo novel about my favourite superhero as a teen – I can highly recommend! I also spent a lot of yesterday working my way through the Sunday paper supplements, after all I need to know what’s the must visit holiday destination!

Walking – Today was spent wandering all around London nosing at all the pretty houses in Belgravia and at some of the leftover #ChelseainBloom shop dressings. It was all simply gorgeous.

Bank Holiday Update - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Cuddling – the pupster! Luna accompanied the parents up to our house on Saturday for some serious gardening and after the jobs were done I got lots of cuddles in when she fell asleep next to me. The actual dream.

Puzzling – Over the Sunday Times crossword. Again, a standard bank holiday situation.

Researching – holiday stuff. It’s just 2.5 weeks before we head to Australia so this weekend has been all about the research. I’ve been looking into the Great Ocean Road part of our trip and what our must-visit places are in Perth. I’m even more excited than I was before now!

Updating – my bullet journal as it’s so out-of-date right now. First off I haven’t even started my June pages, and June starts in just three days! Plus it turns out I’ve not updated my books page since January – eek. Considering I’ve read over 40 books this year that’s not ideal, is it?

Completing – a new jigsaw. This one was a sewing room themed one and it was super difficult, but also really enjoyable. So yeah for finishing it.

Fixing – the hideousness that was our front and back garden. I mean honestly it was a mess. But now the weeds have gone, the unkempt lawn is fixed and the waist-high weeds have been banished. It’s really made all the difference.

Brunching – Sunday called for a lovely yummy brunch at Brickwood in Streatham. There was french toast with caramelised bananas and strawberries, plus coffee and orange juice. I highly recommend such a situation!

Bank Holiday Update - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Watching – Manhunt: Unabomber. We started this ages ago but it’s only this weekend that we’ve watched it properly – we blitzed five episodes on Saturday and Sunday and I loved it. It’s such a fascinating look at the real-life FBI search for a letter bomber who was caught thanks to linguistic evidence. Definitely a must-watch if you’re into true crime stuff.

Buying – all the things for my holiday. On Friday I ordered a striped dress and some t-shirts from M&S and today I purchased the dream lemon print cami top and a new blue ‘bung-everything-in-it’ bag for the plane. Lord knows how much other stuff will get purchased before now and the trip. Send help someone. Please!

So there we go, that’s what I’ve been up to this weekend. It’s been glorious!

-Fi x

Friday Favourites #120

Today marks 120 Friday favourite posts?! How did that happen? This week has been full of lots of wonderful things. It’s also been incredibly manic, which is pretty typical of the week before a long weekend. I’m not complaining obviously, I’m just sharing an observation! But I am of course uber excited for the bank holiday. It’s going to be excellent. I have a couple of loose plans, but nothing too strenuous planned. Which is pretty ideal to be honest. But before we all swan off to enjoy the three day weekend, let me tell you all about my week and the little things that have made it that much better.

The first item on the favourite things post is Sunday barbecues. The weather on Sunday was perfect and friends were over from New York City so I traipsed back to my parents’ house and enjoyed a lovely evening in the garden with good friends and family. We drank Pimms, ate a lot of delicious food and talked and talked. Perfect.

Also I got to see my favourite dog, the Lunabean. And I may have spent at least half an hour sat on the kitchen floor with her. Yes, we probably got in everyone’s way, but we were having too much fun to care!

The next favourite thing from the week that needs to be discussed is my Tuesday night theatre plans. A friend suggested a last minute trip to The Bridge theatre to see Nightfall. The theatre is right by Tower Bridge and it’s an excellent venue. And the play was outstanding. It centres around four characters; mother, her daughter and son and their friend. It looks at life and love and loss and the intricacies of family life. Highly recommend.

Now let’s talk food. Because would it be a favourite things post without food? I think not. Last night I made a delicious bean chilli which I ate from taco boats smothered in Nando’s perinaise sauce. Is there anything better? Nope I don’t think there is. I’m serious here though, if you’ve not tried the soft taco boats that one of the Mexican ranges (can’t remember which one) does then you need to get on that asap.

Okay, so the royal wedding happened on Saturday, but no I didn’t watch it. I did scroll through twitter looking to see who was invited and what they were wearing, but I was actually in Reading for the day on Saturday catching up with pals and generally having an excellent time.

This week I read one of the books that I got for my birthday. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. This is a modern retelling of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I should tell you right now that I am not a fan of Pride and Prejudice at all. I just cannot stand the book or the characters – sorry! But I have been wanting to read Eligible for a while because I was intrigued and I wanted to try it and see. Well I’m pleased I did, because I really, really enjoyed the book. The characters are good, I mean some are hideous but it still works. The story is the same but different and I just couldn’t put the book down.

Last on this week’s list is the ASOS 20% sale that happened earlier this week. Mainly because it enabled me to finally buy the headphones that I’ve been looking at for ages ahead of my trip to Australia.

So there we go, that’s what I’ve been up to this week. What about your week? Has it been packed full of excellent things, do let me know.

Laura x

A Weekend in Budapest

My four days in Budapest seem like a long time ago now. In actual fact it was over a month ago! I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. But I’m here now to finally share my thoughts on this Hungarian city.
To start with let me say that I didn’t know what to expect from Budapest, we booked this trip four months in advance and yet I did very little research. I maybe spent an hour browsing online to get some ideas and then asked some friends their thoughts. Which, while helpful, really wasn’t how I wanted to prepare for this Budapest trip. But that’s just the way it goes.
Luckily we had three and a half days in Budapest so we spent the first afternoon wandering around and getting our bearings, and then had a lazy first morning making plans for the rest of the time. If you’re travelling with a group of people to a new city it’s nicer to make plans once you’re there, rather than having one person dictate everything to everyone. Or at least that’s what I’m going with!
  
Rather than share everything about our trip I thought I’d highlight my favourite places. These are the parts of Budapest that I would recommend to other people if I knew that they were planning a visit.

The House of Terror Museum

The House of Terror contains exhibits relating to the communist and fascist regimes of twentieth century Hungary. It’s also a memorial to the victims. The museum is housed in the same building that the secret police used during these regimes. The museum takes you through different rooms detailing what the victims of these regimes went through. I’m not going to lie, it’s a sobering visit. But I think it’s worth visiting to understand what Hungary went through in the not so distance past. I would say that the communist regime takes up a huge chunk of this museum, which while absolutely fascinating did have me questioning the unbalanced split.
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Castle Hill and Buda Castle

Buda Castle sits high on a hill on the Buda (west) side of the city, the whole area around the castle is called Castle Hill. You can take a funicular up to the castle or you can buy a ticket for a hop on hop off trolley bus that has stops going all the way up Castle Hill. This means you can jump on and off and fully discover the castle area. This is what we did. We also walked back down the hill once we’d finished as we couldn’t be bothered to wait for the bus or funicular. Castle Hill is filled with winding streets and colourful building. Along with Buda Castle there’s also the stunning Matthius Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. The views from the Bastion are stunning, you can see across the river to Pest and further afield. We spent a good two hours wandering the cobbled streets of the hill area and discovering all the marvellous things.

Margaret Island

 Margaret Island sits in the middle of the Danube River which splits Budapest in two. With Buda to the west and Pest on the East. This island has only one road so it’s pretty much closed off to cars. Instead you can only cycle or walk around the paths of the island. There’s a thermal bath complex, a ruined chapel and plenty of parkland to uncover, if you do decide to explore. We visited when they were setting up for a half marathon the next day, so some of the paths were blocked. But we did find delicious ice cream, the ruins and plenty of blossom trees. Next time I think we’ll hire bikes and explore the island even further.

Parliament

Hungary’s parliament building sits on the Pest side of the river. It’s a stunning gothic inspired white building with a red roof (the picture above!). Apparently it’s based on the British Houses of Parliament which makes sense when you compare the two. We didn’t go into the buildings but you can join guided tours to see the interiors.

City Park

City park is a giant green space in the Pest part of the city. Right next to Heroes Square it has miles of tree-lined paths, a lake, a zoo, museums and also houses the Széchenyi thermal baths. It’s the perfect place to visit on a warm day. We ate lunch in the park overlooking people rowing around the lake on our first full day.

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish quarter of the city is a warren of roads filled with eateries and pubs. It’s an excellent way to spend an evening. We ended up eating in this area on two of our three nights in the city. The area is also well known for it’s ruined bars, basically abandoned buildings or lots, that have been turned into bars. The oldest and most well-known is Szimpla Kert, which also has a Sunday market which we stumbled into on our last day. We had planned to visit the ruin bar decorated with junk on Saturday night but on our way there we stumbled across Karavan street food and ended up eating and drinking there instead. I highly recommend you give this place a visit. So much good food.

Top tips for Budapest

Now we’ve got the places out of the way here are a few other things worth mentioning.
Walk, walk, walk. It’s a great way to see the city and Budapest is actually pretty easy to get around on foot. We did over 22,000 steps each day and that was with plenty of cafe stops and a chilled out morning/afternoon nap. Also, if you’re up for it then go for a run around the city, my dad and I went for an easy 2.8 miles on Saturday morning and it was a lovely way to see the city. We headed out just after 9am when the city was still waking up. Which meant hardly any cars and no people on the streets. We ran along the river, which is my favourite thing to do, and obviously stopped for pictures along the way. My Dad got so used to waiting for me that he even started pointing out good photo opportunities!
It’s cheap. Like super cheap. For example a ticket to the House of Terrors museum is 3000 HUFs (Hungarian Florints) which is about £8. And I know that London museums are all free but £8 is a lot less than other museums I’ve visited over the years. Transport is also really cheap and you can buy batches of tram or bus tickets.
Street food. There is so much street food in Budapest. From chimney cakes on street corners to organised areas in the Jewish Quarter. The highlight for me was the langos. This is what I went for on our last night when we visited the Karavan street food area. It looks a little like a pizza with a fried bread base and then lashings of sour cream and cheese on top. It may sound a little odd but it’s absolutely delicious and definitely worth trying if you visit.
So there we have it, a very long post all about our Budapest tips. I hope that these were useful
Laura xx