Wishlists: Fi’s Birthday Ideas

Despite being the grand old age of *cough* thirty one *cough* I still adore celebrating my birthday. I’m lucky to have never really experienced the sheer panic of feeling like I’m getting old and my life is racing away from me. I don’t know why, it’s just never been a thing. Which is perfect if you ask me as it means that birthdays are still a joyful experience. I really hope that never changes! This year we’re planning a couple of days away in Oxford to celebrate being another year older and I’m sure they’ll be a plethora of cake and family fun too. Yeah for birthdays. One important thing on your birthday? Presents! Who doesn’t love presents? So if anyone wants to treat me – not that you need to of course – here’s some birthday ideas for you all. YIPPEE!

Fi's Birthday List - Wishlists - This and That Blog

V&A Membership / Gym Bag / The Hate You Give / StereoWalt Disney’s Biography

Gold splat cushion / Ombre CushionLobster PJ Bottoms/ Bright Blue Bag

Last year I got the brilliant gift of membership to the V&A and I’ve loved it. I’ve used it throughout the year to see so many brilliant exhibitions without having to worry about booking. It’s been lovely to be able to be spontaneous and head to an interesting exhibit on the day – I’m not a big planner so that’s perfect!

I always, always have many books to add to my list and this year’s no different. In fact it’s almost more important as I’ve been on a bit of a self-imposed book buying ban this year. I’m a big Disney fan so would love to find out more about the man himself. As for YA there’s a lot of buzz around The Hate You Give right now and I’m dying to read it. It sounds like a really important story. Also on the YA list – books two and three of the Grisha Trilogy as I’m a big fan of book one and need to know what happens next!

As mentioned over here I’m trying to get better at going to the gym and swimming and a new sports bag is integral to this. I’ve finally settled on this Adidas version as it’s not stupidly priced (a key factor if my gym visits dwindle) and it’s big enough for everything I need to pack in there. And because a girl can never have too many bags I’ve added this gorgeous blue Joules bag to the list. I do love a pop of colour in a bag, don’t you?

Oh and lobster patterned pjs have made the list, because quite simply. I need these in my life. Like NEED them.

Fi's Birthday List - Wishlists - This and That Blog

Star Bedding / Blue Throw / Neon Pillar Candles

The other items on my list make clear my love for current obsession with my newly arranged room. These new items would make my room perfect and ensure I’m content and comfy when I snuggle up in there on a Sunday afternoon. All three of these things are from Hema – my current favourite shop – and aren’t they all lovely?

So there we go – lots of lovely birthday ideas for anyone wanting to buy me presents! Let’s hope the birthday fairies are kind to me this year!

-Fi x

Out and About: Windsor Castle Top Tips

Windsor Castle Top Tips - Out and About - This and That Blog

Last weekend we visited Windsor Castle, for the very first time. Yep you read that right. After living just 45 minutes from Windsor Castle for thirty years I’ve only just visited it. I don’t know why, it’s just never happened. Or at least not that I can remember! Surely there really should have been a school trip in there at some point. That would have been much better than the walk to the local village to visit the post office. No I’m not kidding, that was an actual school trip in year one. Anyway, if you’re thinking of visiting here are my Windsor Castle top tips!

Fi’s Windsor Castle top tips

1-Definitely book your tickets online first. This is the MOST important tip as it meant you skipped a queue of roughly sixty people for one with just three (well we did anyway). It doesn’t cost anymore and you can book the day before. Well worth remembering.

2-When you get inside head to the shop near the exit – opposite George Chapel – and get your wristband. This means you can then exit the castle, say to get lunch, and re-enter without any issue. Definitely vital, thanks to Windsor Castle top tip number four.

Windsor Castle Top Tips - Out and About - This and That Blog

3-We deliberated not getting the free audio tour as we assumed there’d be information at various parts of the castle. There wasn’t. The audio tour is vital. Unless all you want to do it look at everything and guess what it’s for or browse the three shops…

4-One of the surprising things about the castle is that there’s no cafe in there. I didn’t even think to check and simply assumed we’d be able to get an afternoon tea in their or at least a drink. But no there isn’t one. And to be honest? I kind of like that. The Castle just focuses on informing you about it’s amazing history and not about selling you overpriced sandwiches. It makes it feel like you’re stepping in to a home rather than visiting the latest tourist attraction.

Windsor Castle Top Tips - Out and About - This and That Blog

5-Make sure you go when the State Rooms are open. That’s the most fascinating part of the trip and where you’ll spend most of the time. I’d have been very disappointed to go when that wasn’t open for visitors. The State Rooms are beautiful and full of so much history. What’s also fascinating are the facts related to the fire that tore through the castle in 1992. The story of restoring the castle after the fire was a highlight too.

6-Make sure you make time to wander round the town of Windsor while you’re there. We had a couple of wanders around the little cafes and down the steep hill and it was all so picturesque. See the picture above if you don’t believe me. And they do a mean cream tea too!

7-The final thing on my Windsor Castle top tips list? Make sure you have change for the car park. Or even better get the train there. We stupidly assumed there would be a car park for the castle and didn’t even think to check online beforehand. Maybe tip eight should be to research before you go? Anyway we had no change, so cue us arriving and having to drive round the town for forty minutes to find one that would allow card payments. Although spoiler: you can’t assume that’ll actually work. Our machine broke and we ended up having to find £20 in cash at the end of our visit anyway. So yes, trains are the way forward.

So there you go, my Windsor Castle top tips. You’re welcome! Now that I’ve been I am firmly of the opinion that everyone has to go. It’s just such an interesting day out.

Windsor Castle Top Tips - Out and About - This and That Blog

Also it wasn’t that busy, considering we headed over on a Saturday. I’m sure that’s to do with the self-guided aspect of it so you can be as speedy or as dawdling as you want to be. Always my favourite thing! I’m sure you won’t be surprised to know that I’m the one that stops and listens to/reads every little thing so I know everything. Lau loves that part of my personality. Not!

Have you ever visited Windsor Castle? What did you think of it and what would be your top tips?

-Fi x

Life Rambles: Favourite Podcasts Right Now

I’m a big fan of writing a blog post that involves a list of my favourite things. I think the reason for this is that I like how neatly everything chunks up into pieces, and how structured my page looks when I do that. Previous favourite things posts have included; 10 books I want to read this winter, London brunch spots, and my personal favourite, breakfasts to impress. Following along on this them is today’s post of  current favourite podcasts.

Over the last few months I have been getting more and more into podcasts. I’ve always had the odd episode on my phone but I’ve never been that good at actually listening to them. But after obsessing over Serial, series 1 I got into the habit of listening more and now I listen to podcasts all the time. When I’m out running, or in the bath, or on my way to work with no space on the train to read.

So if you’re new to podcasts, or are obsessed but need a few new ones to add to your playlist, here are my current five favourite podcasts.

 

favourite podcasts The West Wing Weekly

The West Wing Weekly

The West Wing Weekly, or TWWW as it’s known, is an episode by episode discussion of The West Wing TV show by Joshua Malina and Hrishi Hirway. The pair relive each episode, discussing the plots and behind the scenes facts all without giving away any spoilers to future episodes. They’re also regularly joined by cast members who share their own stories from their time on The West Wing. If you’re a fan of the seven series show then I’d highly recommend. I bet it’ll be on your list of favourite podcasts pretty soon too.

Desert Island Discs

A BBC Radio programme that was created back in 1942, this show sees current host Kirsty Young ask guests to share which eight records they would take with them to a desert island. With each record the guest explains why this has been chosen, and invariably gives us a look into their life. If I had to pick my favourite episodes then they would probably be Caitlin Moran, David Beckham and Judi Dench. Oh and the one with Tom Hanks as that one got me through last year’s BUPA 10k race.

Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon

Okay so I only listened to this, because Fi kept telling me that I’d like it. And as is always the way, she was right. Damn her! Emma Gannon is a blogger and author who interviews different guests for her podcast. She’s got a really lovely way of interviewing and as you listen is sounds like you’re eavesdropping on two friends having a chat. I’ve really enjoyed her chats with Grace Victory, Scarlett Curtis, Lena Dunham and Nimko Ali.

Accused: The Unsolved Murder of Elizabeth Andes

This one was suggested to me, after someone (I can’t remember who) found out how much I enjoyed Serial, series 1. Accused looks at the murder of Beth Andes in Ohio back in 1978. Her boyfriend was found innocent by two juries and this show looks at the investigation in 1978. I’ve got two episodes left of this, and I’ve been enjoying it so far, what I like is that the focus is on the evidence, it’s not about trying to prove someone innocent or guilty. Instead it’s looking at what happened in the days after the murder.

This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio show in the US and is also the show behind Serial. Each week the team share a different story which means you can totally dip in and out of episodes. I’ve just finished listening to 360: Switched at Birth which was just jaw dropping to listen to. Then there’s 607: Didn’t We Solve This One? which made me so angry. 559:Captain’s Log is the first one I listened to, and a good introduction into the podcast.

So there you have them, my current favourite podcasts. What do you think? Do you listen to any of these? Would you recommend any others?

– Laura xx

 

Friday Favourites #65

As I’m sure you can imagine it has been an odd week in London. I’m still trying to understand everything that’s happened and in all honestly I am focusing on the heart-warming moments of bravery and sacrifice that happened on that day rather than anything else. I’ve worked near Westminster for nearly 10 years, and most weeks I walk through Westminster to Victoria train station at least a couple of times, I’m still going to do that, that’s not going to change. I still have a sense of wonder when I see those parliament buildings, and now that feeling will probably be bigger and more meaningful than ever before.

While it may seem crass or insensitive to still share this week’s favourite things, life goes on. It absolutely must go on. We are Londoners and that is what we do. So my first favourite thing is this note from Time Out London. they first shared it after Brexit and they shared it again in the aftermath of Wednesday’s events, and the sentiment still stands, it will always stand, in this city.

On Sunday I went for a run and for the first time in a long while I ended up running further than my standard 2.5 miles. I made myself take a different route and headed to Tooting Common and it was so lovely. Yes, it was hideous to start with, but the longer I went, the better I felt. It feels like I reminded myself that I love to run. Don’t get me wrong I’m nowhere near back to the place I was, but I’m feeling better about the running situation now. Which is definitely a pleasing thought which is why exercise has again made its way onto this week’s favourite things list.

Also on this week’s favourite things list is some good news that I received. Not for me, but for a friend, and it has made me so so pleased. I love it when good things happen to good people.

this week's favourite things - westminster views at twilight

Finally on the list was last night’s dinner catch up with some friends. We headed to the Southbank for cocktails, Mexican food and a good old chinwag. Just what was needed I think. Plus I was treated to the most glorious sunset view as I crossed the river. Which yet again proofs that London is the best city in the world.

What has made you smile this week? Do let us both know.

Laura xx

Birthday List for 2017: Laura

It’s mid-March and therefore the time of year where I get to share my birthday list with you all. Since Christmas I’ve done very little shopping, instead I’ve been focusing on house related, DIY purchases and planning experiences or holidays. This fact means that my birthday list is mainly going to contain items that I need or those that I have been coveting for quite some time.

Birthday Wishlist 2017

1/grey backpack 2/why the hell not print 3/enthusiasm print 

4/floral bomber jacket 5/loafers 6/leopard print pumps

7/rose gold salt-water sandals 8/throw 9/brown bag 10/speckle backpack

A new backpack is a necessity right now as my current one is falling apart. Luckily there are so many backpacks available right now. I’m having issues choosing between the two bags in my list or this star backpack. Which should I go for?

The throw has been on my mind since my home wishlist back in February. I’ve been perusing the prints on Etsy since my bookshelves were finished. I’ve put a few framed prints onto these already, but I’d like some more. The two here just made me smile! The jacket and the bag are both from M&S and I spotted them on the same browsing session at the beginning of February, luckily I saw them instore the other day so I know that they are still available. Phew!

And as it’s now spring and therefore nearly summer I’ve decided to add to my Saltwater collection with these snazzy rose gold pair. Although I do like the normal gold too, so I would be happy with either. These are the comfiest sandals ever, I wore my tan pair all the time last year.

Of course a birthday list of mine is always going to include books. So far my list includes; King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard, The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed and The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla.

So there we have it, my birthday list for 2017. One question, how did I get so old?!

Laura xx

 

In the Kitchen: Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

As the weather gets nicer and the sunshine brighter I’ve started to reconsider my usual work day breakfast of porridge. This is for two reasons. Firstly I want to switch things up before I get bored with porridge. No one wants to get bored with porridge. That’s a simple fact. And secondly, when the weather’s warmer I am too hot when I get to work (thanks tube) to want to eat something warm. When it comes to breakfast though I need something filling, easy to transport from home and something that’s not full of sugar. Oh and also something that’s not stupidly expensive. My bank balance says that one is the most important bit. After much deliberating over all sorts, including yogurt and fruit or homemade granola I’ve settled on overnight oats.

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

I’ve made overnight oats in the past and love them. Although we generally had them with ridiculous ingredients – like almond milk, agave syrup and cacao nibs. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted great, but it doesn’t really tick the cheap part of my new breakfast routine. So the new plan is to include more sensible ingredients to flavour the overnight oats. Namely peanut butter. Because peanut butter is the best. Fact!

And the verdict? These new overnight oats are amazing and so so so yummy. I genuinely could eat them everyday of the week without getting bored. Which is the current plan. Read on to find out how to make your very own peanut butter overnight oats. You won’t regret it and your tummy will be better for it!

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Ingredients (serves three)

1 cup rolled oats / 1 cup milk / 
yogurt / 3 tbsps peanut butter

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Toppings

banana / berries / raisins / basically whatever you fancy!

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Method

  1. Bung everything in a bowl and mix together
  2. Ensure the oats are covered completely in milk so they’ll soak up the liquid
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge overnight
  4. Then all you have to do is portion it out into your tupperware each morning (along with your topping) and you’re set!

Have you ever made overnight oats? What’s your topping of choice?

-Fi x

Out & About: Little Venice, London

Little Venice, London

So today’s the day that I admit that I’ve lived in London for about 7 years and yet, until last month, I had never visited Little Venice. I don’t even know how this happened. I’ve always wanted to explore the canals of London, but I’ve never actually made that happen. Until this year finally.

A few weeks ago Fi and I were making plans to meet up with a friend for lunch and London wanderings. We finally settled on meeting at Paddington Station as this was the final destination of our friend’s train. From there making a decision was relatively easy as a wander to Little Venice was the most logical option. After fuelling up with a delicious lunch right next to Paddington Basin we headed along the canal path towards Little Venice.

 

Little Venice London

 

In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect of the Little Venice area and I guess that’s a good thing. As for me no expectations normally lead to good expectations. Which was exactly the case here.

 

Little Venice views

 

The walk is nice and leisurely and mostly flat with paths along the whole side of the river. There was some parts that were quite narrow and we helpfully got stuck behind a big group of people, but we made ourselves slow down. We were meant to be having a chilled out Sunday walk, not a weekday march around London.

 

House boat in Little Venice, London

 

There are wonderful views along the whole route, with colourful houses, cute houseboats and glorious tree-lined paths. I wandered this route in February on a beautiful bright, but cold winter day. So as I write this post I can’t help but think how these views may have changed now. Are the trees now heavy with blossom or are there daffodils sprouting along the route? I think I’m going to have to plan another trip there to see.

 

-Laura xx

 

 

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #64

Whoop, happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week so far and have awesome plans for the weekend. I’m heading down to Windsor Castle for the day and then I will be alternating between Netflix on the sofa and reading on my bed. The pretty perfect plan if you ask. But enough about my weekend plans. Let’s get down to the real reason we’re here, my Friday favourites list. It’s been a pretty awesome week so there are lots of lovely things to talk about today.

First up on the Friday favourites list is the sunshine. The blue sky, sunshiny starts and the warmth this week have all been wonderful. I’d forgotten how nice Spring feels. That sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it? But what I mean is I don’t have an issue with Winter and never really have a desire for Spring to arrive asap. Mainly because it means the year is flying by. But now that Spring is arriving I’m quite enjoying it and I’m realising how nice it is when it’s warmer and only a light jacket is needed.

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Also on the list for this week’s Friday favourites post is having the house to myself. Lau’s been back at the parents’ for a few days, puppy sitting the lucky thing, so I’ve been left to my own devices. And it’s been nice. Not that Lau’s annoying to live with, far from it. But having no one else there is quite nice. I’ve been able to leave the dishes for a few days, put mushrooms in everything I cook, watched whatever I’ve fancied (West Wing again obvs) and I’ve even spent an evening lazing in bed reading rather doing anything else (namely the washing up and proper cooking). It’s a nice change.

Last weekend definitely makes an appearance on the list of good things. Actually it could take up three or four spaces quite easily, it was just that good! We had a friend to stay and in our 20 hours together we did so many awesome things. There was all the nattering, cocktails at the Booking Office, Cinnabons for a midnight feast and sharing platters of Chinese food from the best spot in Chinatown. That was followed up by an epic brunch at The River House Cafe, a cultural trip to the V&A for the Lockwood Kipling exhibit and coffee, coffee and more coffee. What a truly epic weekend. Even last-minute, super-speedy catch-ups with friends are awesome.

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

The final item to make it on to the Friday Favourites post is the arrival of my new bed and mattress. I’ve been meaning to spend my Christmas money on a new bed for ages and just couldn’t make a choice. Finally after much deliberation I settled on this grey beauty from Time4Sleep and a brand new mattress from Amazon. A new bed means it’s essential to rethink the layout of the room, right? So after four hours of bed dismantling, bed building and furniture moving I have a new look bedroom. And I love it! The new layout has made such a difference and I’ve since spent hours chilling out in there. Normally I’m only in my room pre and post sleep, so this is making a nice change. It’s just all super comfy. I love it!

So tell me, how’s your week been? What’s made number one on your Friday favourites list?

-Fi x

Wishlists: Sportswear Must-Haves

Recently I’ve been relatively good about not buying anything for myself unless it’s on the approved ‘house update must buys’ list. So that’s meant minimal book buying (just three this year – that’s a big deal for me), no new clothes since January – unheard of for me and no buying random tatt in Tiger. I fear this is all about to change as I have severe lust for so much lovely exercise clothing. There’s just so much nice sportswear out there right now. Not to mention accessories that I really, really want to buy. So today’s post is all about my current sportswear must-haves.

Before I dive straight in to all the new things I want let’s just pause on the following sentence

Four runs and ten half hour sessions on the stationary bike.

That, right there, is the extent of my exercise regime so far in 2017. It’s a big rubbish isn’t it? I don’t know what happened and how this came to pass. A big reason is my lack of willpower, obvs. And the cold weather. Possibly the biggest factor is that I didn’t sign up for the Surrey Half Marathon this March. I’ve completed that race for the last three years and the training plan for it means that I would normally be exercising five or six days each week. But I genuinely have been meaning to do more exercise each week and now it’s March and I’ve not. Where has time disappeared too?

But that has to change and this week I’m back on the exercise wagon. I have grand plans of doing at least three session of exercise, either running, swimming or the stationary bike, each week from now on. Something that’ll help me achieve this? New exercise stuff, naturally. And that’s where my lovely list of sportswear must-haves comes in. Surely treating myself to lovely things will make me want to wear them more and therefore get me to the gym more often. Right?

sportswear must-haves - wishlists - This and That Blog

So what’s first up on the sportswear must-haves list? Well I’m in severe need for new running leggings, especially ones with a decent sized pocket at the back. My favourites are the blue palm tree ones from Sweaty Betty, but the £80 price tag is putting me off somewhat… So I’ll probably settle on one of the other pairs all of which are lovely. Top wise I want to go for something more interesting – hence the pink, patterned and gold lettering options. So nice!

All self-respecting gym person needs a fantastic bag and these two are beautiful. I can’t choose between the rucksack or holdall versions as they’re both equally nice and suitably practical. They also both have special pockets for wet costumes or trainers – necessary, right? And surely a nice new sports bra and a fancy schmancy new water bottle is a must. Surely with so many lovely new sporty things I’ll make it to the gym multiple times a week. Won’t I?

The other thing I’m hoping that will help with that? Buying a new set of mini toiletries to use post swim or exercise class. There’s something about miniature sized items in a fancy new gym bag that give me hope that I’ll drag myself to the local sports center more often. I suppose we’ll have to watch this space to see if that is the case or not…

-Fi x

In the Kitchen: Carbonara Cake

Carbonara Cake - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog
Carbonara is one of my favourite go-to pasta dishes. Obviously it is delicious and super-simple to make, but the real reason I make it so often? I always have the ingredients in the cupboard. If we ever run out of essentials like eggs, bacon, mushrooms and pasta then I don’t want to live in that world. And no, I’m not exaggerating. carbonara is king. But you know what I’d never heard of until recently and which has forever changed by carbonara loving life? The existence of a carbonara cake.

Yes that is a thing. A real, actual – not to mention delicious -thing. What is it I hear you say. It’s essentially a pasta bake that tastes like carbonara and which can be sliced like a pie. As in you get a triangular slice of carbonara pie that is an amazing solid mass of loveliness. I bet you like the sound of a carbonara cake now, don’t you?
Oh and bonus – it’s super simple to make. Because, duh, life’s too short for recipe faffing and slaving over a hot stove. Throwing everything in and baking it is the way forward.

So behold the carbonara cake recipe. This recipe is courtesy of that loveable chap Jamie Oliver, although we did make a few small amends.


Carbonara Cake – Ingredients

half a pack of chestnut mushrooms / eight rashers of bacon / 300g of spaghetti / three eggs / 250ml double cream / black pepper / 10g parmesan / 90g extra-strong cheddar

Carbonara Cake – Recipe

Lightly oil a loose bottomed cake tin (approx 20cm in diameter)
Sprinkle the parmesan into the cake tin so it sticks to the oil
Fry your mushrooms and bacon, then cut the bacon into chunks
Cook your pasta and then drain
Throw the cream, eggs, cheddar cheese, bacon and mushrooms into a large mixing bowl and mix well
Add the cooked spaghetti and mix thoroughly
Tip all the ingredients into the loose bottomed tin
Bake in the over for 35 minutes on 140℃
Slice into segments and enjoy with salad


See, I told you it was easy! And what makes the carbonara cake even better? It is almost better the next day as a leftovers lunch. The flavours have strengthened and it perfectly keeps its shape. Just perfect for a mid-week lunch that’s more interesting than a soggy sandwich. And I don’t know about you but having pasta lunch fills me up for the rest of the day and results in minimal snacking.

Tell me, are you intrigued enough by the idea of a carbonara cake to give it a whirl? I think you’ll love it. Plus you could definitely throw in ham if that’s what you had in the fridge, or you could bung in spinach or broccoli or even artichoke hearts as well. The possibilities are endless!

-Fi x