Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #50

Happy Friday guys! For someone that’s only worked a two-day week I’m super glad to be in touching distance of the weekend. Let’s just say that two days of work after a full-on amazing New York trip plus the after effects of a transatlantic flight do not a productive Fi make! Anyway, on to my favourite things of the last seven days!

First up, New York, New York! We had an absolutely amazing trip, full of all the festive cheer, brilliantly touristy things, amazing food, all the walking and just generally all the joy. I could not have asked for a better trip and I’m now 100% in Christmas mode. Honestly, I had no idea New York would be that festive. It was insane – the decorations that were everywhere were off the charts. If you can’t wait for one of our blog posts about the trip (hopefully coming imminently) then head on over to Instagram and check out #FLEinNYC2016 for all our pictures from the trip!

This and That Blog - Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #50

Also making me happy this week, and related to New York, catch ups with good friends. Two of our friends live in the Brooklyn area so our trip was the perfect excuse to catch up with them over copious amounts of food, browsing in shops and wandering around the city. It was joyful all round. Aren’t catch ups with your favourite people, wherever you are in the world, simply the best?

In other news, we decorated the house for Christmas and it’s wonderful. We have two trees, one bauble wreath, loads of strings of fairy lights and all the festive ornaments, including a reindeer that’s been decorated with reindeer head shaped fairy lights. What a delight they are! Have you put up your decorations yet, are you enjoying the little glances of fairy lights out of the corner of your eye. Or is that just me?

This and That Blog - Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #50

Finally, we spent Wednesday morning back in Surrey walking the pup and enjoying the last few days of autumn. Oh how I’ll miss stomping through the leaves and tramping through the woods. Anyone else feeling the same way?

This and That Blog - Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #50

So tell me, what was your favourite part of the last week?

-Fi x

The Book Corner: 10 Books I Want to Read This Winter

 

In the upcoming weeks of Christmas I’m planning to read as much as possible, I want to truly relax as this year ends and allow myself to recharge my batteries for the year ahead. So once I’ve got all my shopping done and presents wrapped I’m going to curl up under a blanket with a good book and a mince pie and while away a few hours.

My current reading plans include festive reads, old favourites and new worlds to discover.

Festive Reads: These are the books that make me feel all Christmassy and happy and surrounded in a giant Christmas hug.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig – I fell in love with this one last year and I have plans to reread it before the end of the year. Both the story and the accompanying illustrations are wonderful and fill me, as the reader, with all the festive cheer. I’m also hoping that Santa Claus adds the sequel to my stocking this year.

Twas the Night Before Christmas – I don’t know who the original author of this poem is, however it’s a firm favourite on Christmas Eve to help get me into the Christmas spirit. Not that I need any help, but if I did, then this is the one.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – The only Dickens book, other than Great Expectations, that I have read. I always love the idea of reading this each Christmas, but I never get around to it. 2016 is going to be the year.

Old Favourites: for when you want the familiar worlds to wash over you like a warm comfort blanket. Or in the words of Louisa M Alcott…

Some books are so familiar that reading them is like being home again

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling – My favourite of the Potter books and one that I like to read at least once a year.

Little Woman by Louisa M. Alcott – This book, or in fact the whole series, is such a comforting read but I’ve not read it for awhile and I want to change that this month.

 

 

New Reads: these are the books that I’ve been saving to read at this time of year. The ones that are too heavy to lug around on my commute, or that I’ve received as Christmas presents, or the ones I’ve saved so that I can savour every word in one sitting.

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda – I can’t wait for this show to be in London, until that happens I will feed my Hamilton addiction by listening to the music and reading this book.

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult – I have the hardback version of this one from an event I went to at the end of November, but it’s just too heavy for my train journey. So I’m saving it for my Christmas break. Once I get into one of Picoult’s books I get engrossed and end up finishing it super fast.

Ctrl, Alt, Delete How I grew Up Online by Emma Gannon – I borrowed this from Fi yonks ago but haven’t actually gotten around to reading it. But I’ve now listened to a few of Gannon’s podcasts and so the time feels right to get reading the book.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – The second and final book in the Six of Crows series. This is on my Christmas list, and I’ve stopped myself from buying it so many times over the last few months so here’s hoping it ends up under my Christmas tree this year.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig – As mentioned above I really really hope this one makes it’s way to me this year.

What are you planning to read this festive season. Do you have any favourites that you always re-read at Christmas?

Laura xxx

Top image credit: Robyn Budendler via Unsplash

In the Kitchen: Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cookies

This and That Blog - In the Kitchen: Terry's Chocolate Orange Cookies

Today I wanted to share with you one of my new favourite festive recipes, the first of three that’ll be on the blog this festive season, the humble Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cookie.

When it comes to festive bakes there are two components that make something festive and as long as you have one of these in your bake then you’ve cooked something in keeping with the holiday spirit! The two components are a festive flavour or a festive shape. So last year’s Christmas Pudding Crispies ticked the festive treat box as they were festive looking despite the very non-festive ingredients and these cookies tick the festive box as there’s nothing that says Christmas taste and smell-wise, apart from cinnamon or turkey and stuffing, than a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. That taste epitomises Christmas in my house.

This and That Blog - In the Kitchen: Terry's Chocolate Orange Cookies

It’s super simple, all you need is
110g unsalted butter, softened / 200g light brown sugar / 1 large free-range egg / 1 tsp vanilla extract / 165g  plain flour / Pinch of salt / 1/2 tsp baking powder / 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda / 30g cocoa powder / 175g Terry’s chocolate orange, cut into smallish chunks

and what to do…
Preheat your to 190 degrees C / 375 F / Gas mark 5. Line two large baking trays with parchment. / Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. / Add the flour, pinch of salt, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder and mix until a dough comes together. / Finally, finish by adding the chocolate chunks and mix into the dough. / Divide the mixture into balls and spread out evenly on the baking trays. / Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, until spread out and crackling on top. / Allow the cookies to cool on the trays for 5 minutes so they slightly harden before moving them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

This Terry’s Chocolate Orange Cookie recipe is from What Jessica Baked Next, we followed the recipe exactly and each time these cookies have been perfect! It makes fifteen wonderfully gooey chocolate cookies, with melt in the middle chunks of chocolate, a slight bite to the cookie and crackly tops. And the taste? It’s literally Christmas in cookie form.This recipe would also be good with a Terry’s Chocolate Orange substitute I’m sure. So white chocolate chips or without the cocoa if you want a slightly less rich cookie, basically the options are endless!

If you’re looking for other festive recipes may I suggest the following from last year’s festive baking sessions!

Chocolate Penguins / Mince Pies / Gingerbread / Melted Snowmen Biscuits / Christmas Pudding Crispies

Happy baking!

-Fi x

Life Rambles: 10 Films to Watch this Festive Season

 

Now that it’s December we can start talking about the festive season, hooray for that! I mean obviously I’ve been thinking about the festive season for ages, but now I can talk about it without everyone thinking that I’m completely crazy. I’m not even lying, when I mention it at work I get a lot of eye rolling in response!

Today I’m sharing a list of my top ten favourite films to watch at this time of year. Winter is the time of year that I watch the most films, I think it’s because I’m in hibernation mode and normally burnt out from a busy summer and autumn. Anyway my favourite thing to do once December hits is to curl up on the sofa with fluffy blankets, a mug of hot chocolate and a stack of biscuits and while away and hour or two.

One / Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas is my favourite Christmas film of all time and it’s usually the first festive film I choose to watch. I know it’s quite a recent film, but I love everything about it, the characters, the storyline, and the quirky Christmas tree shaped things all over the place, oh and Bryony the wrapping elf.

Two / Elf

Another more recent Christmas film that has become a cult classic. If you don’t like Buddy the Elf and the rest of the film then I don’t want to know you.

Three / Santa Claus

Here I’m talking about the classic film starring John Lithgow and Dudley Moore. Yes this film was released the year I was born (1985) but I’m pretty certain I have watched it every year since then. I don’t think it would feel like Christmas without it. I still get scared at exactly the same parts as I always did and I still feel full of Christmas cheer once it’s all over.

Four / Little Women

Okay so this one is incredibly sad and happy and festive so it’s a must watch. Espeically when you remember that you can spend a good thirty minutes discussing how different Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Gabriel Bryne and others look now.

Five / Hook

This is another film that I have fond memories of watching each Christmas with my family. The food fight scene is still one of my favourites and doesn’t fail to make me laugh every time. Also I always end up with the music stuck in my head.

Six / Frozen

A Disney classic as soon as it hit the cinema screens and a firm favourite of mine. The majority of this soundtrack has made its way onto my Christmas album and I am happily singing along to each song filled with the full magic of the festive season.

Seven / The Sound of Music

Another film to sing along with and another film that I watch each Christmas. This is the reason I want to go to Austria and walk the Alps and wander the cobbled streets of Salzburg.

Eight / Miracle on 34th Street

The Mara Wilson one obviously. The bit at the end with the dollar bill – it gets me everytime.

Nine / Harry Potter Marathon

So technically this is all 8 films, but it almost counts as one if you watch them all back to back one weekend. It’s entirely achievable and so worth it. Thinking about it we might have to make it 9 films next year and add Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to the list.

Ten / It’s a Wonderful Life

Watch this one on Christmas Eve once you’ve finish playing board games but before you go to bed and dream of reindeer on the rooftop. Make sure you’ve got hot chocolate, mince pies or star shaped shortbread, and a box of tissues.

What films are your favourites for this time of year?

Laura xx

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #49

Wow! What a week it has been. You know the term ‘one of those weeks’? Well this has definitely been one of those. Probably the biggest one of those in a while. But it’s all okay, because it’s starting to look up. So without further ado here’s my favourite things of the week.

This weekend I had absolutely no plans. Like ZERO plans and it was amazing. I got up early both days and was super productive all round. There was house tidying and reorganisation, garden clearouts and plenty of baking. I made a batch of bacon and cheddar muffins, cooked my favourite slow cooker meal and also helped Fi make some chocolate orange cookies (recipe coming soon, I promise). It was so fun.

Also this weekend I went running twice. Considering my last run was three weeks (or more ago) this is a great achievement. Plus one run didn’t have any walking breaks, so I’m pretty pleased with myself at that.

Tuesday morning saw me wake up super early in order to head into London town. I meet up with some friends for a pre-work breakfast at The Breakfast Club in Soho. We met at 8am, which allowed me to walk down Oxford Street as the sun was rising and take pictures of the Christmas lights without hundreds of people walking through my photo – it’s the little things like this that make my day. If you haven’t been to The Breakfast Club then I highly recommend it. The restaurant itself is decorated in fun and quirky ways, and they have great music playing – I’m talking 90s classics. Plus the food is delicious. I can highly recommend the BEC which is a bacon, egg and cheese roll. Simple, but perfect.

On Wednesday I had tickets to Amadeus at The National Theatre. It’s no secret that I adore this place, and that I try to watch as many plays here as possible. Back when I was booking this I probably wouldn’t have chosen this week if I’d have been able to know how crazy busy and tired my future self would have been this week, but obviously I don’t have the gift of future seeing. So I had to go see this play. But I’m so pleased I did as it was excellent. A wonderful cast, wonderful musicians and imaginative set and the music and the acting was phenomenal. If you can get tickets then I implore you to go and see it! Also don’t you just love the coloured lights on the theatre? FYI this isn’t a Christmas thing, it changes colour all year round.

Finally this week I have been able to properly start my Christmas shopping. Hooray! So much fun. I love thinking about what to get people and wandering around the shops looking for things. Although I do need to stop myself for buying presents for me while I’m shopping for others! It’s a good habit to have, but a bad one according to my bank account!

I hope everyone else has had a lovely week and if not, at least it’s almost over. Onto the next one!

Laura

Life Rambles: A Christmas Bucket List

It’s finally here, the most wonderful time of year, hooray! And even better? It’s now socially acceptable to be celebrating it, because apparently it’s not allowed to be a ‘thing’ until the end of November. Who are these people who make you feel like you can’t be festive until then? I don’t like these people.

This and That Blog - Life Rambles: A Christmas Bucket List

Anyway as it’s my favourite time of the year there are loads of things that I like to do to celebrate properly, whether it’s a tradition or something new just for this year, and so here’s that list. My festive bucket list for the Christmas season. I really hope I’m lucky enough to be able to tick everything off this year!

  • Buy a new Christmas decoration
  • Spend an afternoon watching festive films
  • Wear Christmas jumpers as much as possible
  • Bake mince pies
  • Enjoy fish and chips on Christmas Eve
  • Get as many Starbucks red cups and festive drinks as possible
  • Bake gingerbread men
  • Put up fairy lights in every room
  • Make a Christmas gift for someone
  • Take frosty afternoon walks as the sunsets
  • Wander the streets of London looking at all the gorgeous Christmas windows
  • Decorate the house while bellowing out Christmas carols
  • Burn a Christmas advent candle each evening
  • Sip hot chocolate whilst playing board games in front of the log fire
  • Scoff homemade mince pies
  • Write Christmas cards while watching Elf
  • Read Little Women

What would be on your festive bucket list?

-Fi x

Life Rambles: 2017 Bullet Journal Plans

This and That Blog - Life Rambles: 2017 Bullet Journal Plan

For the last six months or so I’ve been using a bullet journal to track all the things in my life and I’ve found it super-useful and also enjoyable. There’s something very appealing about the little dots and different colours and all the charts and it definitely keeps me more organised. So when it comes to my 2017 diary I’ll be using a bullet journal again, I just need to decide what to amend and what to keep the same from 2016. I’ve already shared on here my favourite bullet journal pages and my weekly bullet journal layout, so I’m sure by now you’re au fait with how I’ve been using the bullet journal already so let’s dive straight into my bullet journal plans for 2017.

This and That Blog - Life Rambles: 2017 Bullet Journal Plans

Monthly Layout / Memories / Weekly Plan

First up I want to amend my monthly page, to look like the page above, my month normally takes up the whole page but actually this smaller calendar with a to do list is much nicer. Plus I can add some tick boxes to the to do list for when tasks are done, which will be very satisfying! I’m also keen on a memories page at the end of each month, it’ll be a lovely way of rounding things up each month, although it’s unlikely to be as pretty as this one though! I’m also toying with the idea of mixing up my weekly layout. Whilst I love my current one, I’m not sure if running the days of the week on one page and the other items on a different one is a better idea, I think it looks quite nice like this…hm decisions decisions…

This and That Blog - Life Rambles: 2017 Bullet Journal Plans

 Week ViewBucket List / Daily To Do Lists

Talking of my weekly plan I like the idea at the top above, which shows the daily steps and hours slept (I basically only drink water and coffee so water’s not something that needs to be tracked) in one chart for the week. That’s a nice easy way of tracking and visually it’ll look quite good. Also in a weekly planning way I like the bottom left picture where tasks are split across the days rather than in one task list, splitting it out daily feels more manageable, don’t you think? Finally I want to add a bucket list for the year, a list of things that I want to do in the next 12 months. I bet there’s a million things I could add to this list, but I think I’ll limit it to twenty!

So there we have it, those are my 2017 bullet journal plans. Are you planning any changes in your diary or journal for the new year?

-Fi x

In the Kitchen: Bacon & Cheddar Breakfast Muffins

 

A month or so ago I talked about the breakfast recipes that I make when I want to impress people. I picked my 5 favourites and shared all the details over here, well today I’ve got a new recipe to add to the list, these cheese and bacon savoury muffins, which are delicious.

Okay, they’re probably not the one for lazy weekend brunches where you want to impress your visitors, but they are ideal for weekdays when you have no time. I tend to make a batch of these at the weekend and then take them with me to work to eat at my desk. So instead of the shop bought pastry, I’m chomping away on my homemade muffin instead. Either take a couple for your breakfast or pair one with two easy peeler satsumas, they go exceedingly well together. Also hooray that it’s winter and satsumas are the fruit of the season.

 

 

Ingredients:

260g plain flour / 35g light brown sugar  / 1tbsp baking powder / 60g extra mature cheddar / 3 spring onions chopped / 8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped in rough pieces / half a pint of milk / 113g butter, melted and cooled / 2 eggs 

What to do:

mix together the flour, sugar and the baking powder, then add the spring onions, bacon and cheese and mix thoroughly / Add the wet ingredients (butter, milk & eggs) to a new bowl and whisk together / mix the wet ingredients into the other bowl and then spoon into muffin cases / bake for 20 mins at 200°C.

I actually added mushrooms to half of these muffins as my sister is a fan. Just wash, slice and fry some button mushrooms, I used 8 for 8 muffins, then mix them in with rest of the ingredients before spooning into muffin cases. If like me you can’t stand mushrooms, just fill half the cases with normal mix before adding the mushrooms to the bowl of batter and filling the remaining cases.

Now I’m off to eat another one of these and catch up on Designated Survivor on Netflix. I hope you’re having an equally fantastic Sunday.

Laura xx

p.s. I found this recipe via Pinterest but now can’t find the original recipe. But mine is adapted a little and UK-ified.

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #48

It’s Friday again, hooray! This week has been both long and super-speedy, weird, but generally it’s been a good one. Phew, it’s about time there was a week full of just good things, right?

So what’s been so good about this week? Well first up I got a haircut and I love it. For some reason I wait forever to get a haircut, I’m talking a year…, even though when I actually get round to it I adore it and promise myself I won’t leave it so long next time. What an idiot I am. Anyway my hair is now swingy and shiny and swishy and generally so much better. I loved the feeling of brushing my hair today and realising I had five inches less to brush. Whoop!

Secondly I’ve been enjoying the train strikes this week. I know that makes me a weirdo, because who enjoys a two-day strike that means you have to leave the house at 6.30 for a 40 minute bus journey? But I’ve enjoyed it this week as it has meant that I’ve been super-productive. On both days of the train strike I was in London by 7.30, two hours before I had to start work. This meant I could answer all my personal emails and do all the admin jobs I’d neglected for two weeks on one day and on the other I headed to the nearest Starbucks for coffee and bullet journal planning. Just perfect!

This and That Blog Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #48

At the weekend I had a magical festive weekend with three of my favourites in Leicester, which was glorious. There was much nattering, far too much shopping and lots of fun festivities. Plus we saw Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and on a second viewing it was almost better than viewing one! The team behind that film and the Queen J.K. Rowling have done a marvelous job on this film. It’s simply perfect.

This and That Blog Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #48

Another reason why the train strike was good? It gave me more time with the most brilliant book – 80 minutes on a bus each day means I was able to read loads of my current book Heir of Fire by Sarah J Maas. I am addicted to this series and loving every moment of book three. It’s starting to move in an interesting direction so being able to be engrossed in it for 40 minutes at a time is a joy. And also means I’m 450 pages into this 550 page tome in less than a week – whoop!

This and That Blog Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #48

My final lovely thing from the week? Having a lovely Sunday afternoon and evening at home with the family and the puppy. There was a proper fire, my first roast dinner of the year (with yorkshire puddings and everything) and lots of puppy cuddles. It was perfect. I love Autumn back at the parentals it’s really rather wonderful in all its cosiness.

So tell me, how’s your week been and what were your highlights?

-Fi x

In the Kitchen: Chicken Pilaf

At this time of year Sundays have taken on a new tradition in my house,  if I’m not out and about and visiting people, then they tend to be my productive, cosy, homebody day where I don’t leave the house at all, but I get all of the things done. Everything from cleaning, running, napping, reading, Christmas present planning, blog post writing and baking. So basically all the life admin that I haven’t gotten around to doing throughout the week. And do you know what? I really really like it, I like knowing that I have a productive day planned for Sunday, it means that Saturday can selfishly be all about me.

Alongside this productive day I always make dinner in the slow cooker. Fi got a slow cooker at the end of winter last year, so this Autumn is the first opportunity to actually get cooking in it, and it’s a revelation. I adore how simple and easy it is to create a delicious meal with minimal effort. Plus the house smells amazing for the 3 hours that it cooks away.


photo credit: pepe nero via Unsplash

 

So that’s the point of this post, to share a slow cooker recipe with you. This chicken pilaf is a firm favourite in the house that gets made quite often, one, because it’s delicious and two because we always have all of the ingredients in the house.

What you need: Serves 4

2tsp vegetable oil / 6 skinless & boneless chicken thighs cut into chunks / 2 tsp ground coriander / 1 tsp ground cumin / 1 onion, sliced / 1 red pepper, deseeded & chopped / 2 crushed garlic cloves / 225g basmati rice / 450ml hot chicken stock / 2 bay leaves / pinch of saffron threads soaked in 100ml of water / 400g can of chickpeas drained & rinsed / 60g sultanas 

What to do:

Preheat the slow cooker / heat half the oil in a large pan and cook the chicken, cumin and coriander for 10 mins, then remove from the heat and set aside / reduce the heat, add the rest of the oil, then the onion, red pepper and garlic until soft (about 10 mins). 

Stir in the rice and coat each grain / add the rice vegetables and chicken to the slow cooker / pour in the stock, the saffron strands with their water and the bay leaves / stir in the chickpeas / cover with the lid and cook on auto low for 3 hours / add the sultanas 30 minutes from the end.

The recipe suggests stirring halfway through, but I ended up stirring every 30 minutes as it let me keep an eye on how it was cooking, you’ll soon notice when the water starts to disappear and the rice looks to be cooked

No judging but it may have been so delicious that I ate 2 portions for dinner rather than saving one for Monday’s lunch. #sorrynotsorry

Do you use a slow cooker? If the answer is yes then what recipes do you swear by? Please send them my way, as I’m really keen to make some new recipes.

Laura xxx

In case you are interested this recipe is from this Slow Cooking book wth just a couple of ingredients amends.