2018 Travel Plans

Going back to work in January is hard, it feels like there’s nothing to look forward to, because it’s so cold and dark. I’m usually out of the house before the sun is up, and back home after it sets, so the days seem to all roll into one and everything can get a little weary. As a result I like to focus on all the little things that can pull me out of that drudgery. I talked about a lot of those things recently in my January plans post and today I want to expand on one of those. Holiday planning. Time off work is precious and I want to use mine wisely, so I’m currently trying to figure out exactly what my 2018 travel plans are. 

I’m definitely not the sort of person who has all their trips for the upcoming year booked before the New Year’s Eve bell has even tolled. But by the time mid-January tolls around I do like to have some idea about where I’m going to be travelling next. I’m planning a big trip this year, but I also want to ensure I make the most of European city breaks and UK travel.

So without further ado let’s jump straight into my 2018 travel plans.

 

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UK Based

Leeds

I’m not sure when this is going to happen, but I will definitely be heading up to visit friends in Leeds. I love these weekends in Leeds, it’s obviously good to catch up with friends, plus I get a guided tour around the best spots by someone who knows the city. Win, win!

Cambridge

After Oxford last year I’m particularly keen to visit Cambridge. I feel like I should have visited both Oxbridge universities by now, but I haven’t. Well I’ve been to the outskirts of Cambridge and seen one of the colleges, but I don’t really remember that. So 2018 is the year that this changes. I’ll wander along the Cambridge streets and go punting along the River Cam. Plus maybe I’ll become cleverer by osmosis.

Kent

Again I’m not sure where, but I do want to get back to Kent soon. I like the idea of exploring the Kent coast further, maybe Broadstairs or Margate or even back to Deal. I totally fell in love with Deal three years ago, so it would be lovely to head back there. There’s a lovely coffee shop that I would be incredibly happy to go back to asap.

Cornwall

Cornwall was on the 2017 travel plan but it didn’t actually happen. So I’ll try again this year. I’m thinking possibly for my birthday in the spring. Spring in Cornwall must be nice, right. The sea is my happy place so I love the idea of enjoying a stroll along the beach to welcome in a brand new year. I haven’t narrowed down the where in Cornwall yet. Possibly St. Ives, but also maybe not. Any ideas?

Europe

It’s easy to forget how lucky we are living in the UK. I mean we are so close to mainland Europe, it’s amazing! I managed to fit three European city breaks into my 2017 travel plans. Paris with my sisters and Mum was so lovely, the Christmas markets in Hamburg felt so Christmassy and Salzburg with all five Evanses was so special and, I think, my travel highlight for 2017. I’d really like to do something similar this year too, plus it would be fab to tick off a brand new European country or two.

Budapest, Hungary

It’s looking like the family Evans trip will be to Budapest in 2018. Still TBC but hopefully sometime in the spring we’ll be winging our way to Budapest. I’m super excited to explore Budapest, see the Danube River and of course sample some traditional Hungarian cuisine. Hello goulash!

Faro, Portugal

Portugal is always on the yearly travel plans. But while in the Algarve this year I’d like to explore Faro more. I fly into this city each year, and yet never explore it. I’m totally on-board with a few days of narrow cobbled streets, historic architecture and stopping for coffee and pastel de natas.

 

Portugal - Out and About - This and That Blog

 

Lisbon, Portugal

Another Portugal city I’d like to get to this year is Lisbon. It looks amazing, steep hills, trams and colourful buildings everywhere. It seems to be a big favourite with everyone and I am seeing blog posts about it everywhere. So 2018 is the year of actually getting there!

Another last minute city break

I’m not sure where yet, but I like the idea of checking out another city near the end of the year. Hamburg in December last year was so much fun. So I’m currently brainstorming options for a winter’s weekend away. I’d like another brand new country and a Christmas market. Perhaps somewhere in Scandanavia… Answers on a postcard please.

Further Afield

 Australia

This is obviously my big trip of the year. Details are still TBC but I am definitely going to head down under this year to visit family. I’ll definitely be heading to a Sydney suburb to visit my Nanna and my Aunt and Uncle. Then I’ll do a stop in Sydney to see friends. Then there’s Perth, which I’ve never visited before. And if I can fit it in I might try to drive the Great Ocean Road too. We’ll see how well the time stretches, but I’m hoping I can make it all work. Phew!

Writing this all down makes me realise that it’s going to be a busy year of travelling. Here’s hoping that’s true. I mean I haven’t booked anything yet, so this plan could go completely differently!

Have you visited any of these places? Do you have any tips of where to go and what to see? Do send them my way. And tell me, what are your travel plans for the year ahead? Do you have long haul flights planned or are you looking to explore a little closer to home this year?

Laura xx

Friday Favourites #103

Readers I am still deep in January blues. I don’t know what it is about 2018 but I just cannot shake them off. I seem to be constantly tired and all I want to do is sleep, eat and read books. Which is fine, I am letting myself do all of those things. However it would be nice of some of the new year excitement could return just for a little bit. I suppose a Friday Favourites post is the perfect thing to combat the January blues, as it’s an opportunity to highlight the good things in the week. So here goes.

lumiere-london

<> We had leftover rice from the weekend so we made egg fried rice with that and the rest of the leftovers. It was delicious, and so easy. Why has no one told me this before?

<> Next up this week is London Lumiere. A stunning light show that is happening all across London. There are art installations around the city, and it’s all free. Last night Fi and I wandered through The Southbank and Waterloo and Westminster and Victoria highlights and it was magical. I’ve missed it every other year so I wasn’t completely sure what to expect. Well, I was in awe. If you’re in London this week do try and check them out.

<> On another food related note I treated myself to a new cookbook in December, Smitten Kitchen Everyday, and this week I made the loaded potato skins from it. They were delicious, like the TGI Friday’s ones, but with less of the grease and more flavour. I’m already planning when to make them again.

<> My sisters and I have been talking about Sunday lunch at The Mere Scribbler for ages. The drinks menu is extensive and the food looks mouthwatering on Instagram. So it was only a matter of time before we got there to sample it all ourselves. We met for Sunday lunch this week and we weren’t disappointed. We caught up on things, with one eye on the football match and another on the numerous dogs dotted around the establishment. Ideal Sunday in my opinion!

language-of-thorns

<> So I’ve read two books so far this week, The Mitford Murders, which was fascinating and full of intrigue, and The Language of Thorns, which I loved. This is a beautiful book, it feels like a real keepsake. The stories inside it are full of folklore and mythology and it is a magical read. I also like the nod to well-known fairytales and stories. From The Little Mermaid to The Nutcracker and Hansel and Gretel. 

<> I’ve been reading a lot, so I’ve not really had time for podcasts, but when I do have time I will always always listen to the Cate in the Kitchen podcast. If anyone is looking for a foodie podcast then this one is for you. Her eating through the decades episode was fascinating and I have all the thoughts after the vegan episode. Be sure to check it out.

How have you found this week? I hope you had lots of lovely things things to help you through it. Have a fabulous weekend. Laura x

 

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup

One of my favourite things to do at the moment is to get cooking, be it quick and simple dishes at nice or new, more complicated dishes at the weekend. It’s all part of our January plan to take things slow and be kind to ourselves. Because let’s be honest cooking yummy, healthy food from scratch is nothing if not relaxing. While I love cooking tried and tested recipes, I’ve been trying to do new recipes on a weekend, when I’ve got a bit more time and a bit less pressure. Just in case things go wrong. Which is exactly what happened with today’s yummy sweet potato and chickpea soup.

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

This soup recipe actually started as a curry recipe and then it went wrong! The plan was to cook this lovely Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry from Hungry, Healthy, Happy’s blog for when we had friends round. But lo and behold the sauce wouldn’t work (I blame our slow cooker) and we were left with a watery sauce and too soft sweet potato. So cue a last-minute Indian order. But because the curry tasted incredible and was just lacking something texture wise we decided to turn it into a soup.

BEST. IDEA. EVER.

This soup is delicious. We’ve ate it for two meals in a row and I’ve already added it to next week’s meal plan. It’s just that good. So if you’re a soup fan or just trying to eat more healthily this January then this is the recipe for you. So easy. And so delicious.

Happy cooking and eating!

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup: The Ingredients

2 onions, peeled and diced | 3 garlic cloves, crushed | 2 tbsp diced fresh ginger | 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced | 240g tinned chickpeas | 400ml light coconut milk | 2 tbsp mild curry powder | 200ml vegetable stock | 120ml pasatta | fresh chopped coriander | salt and black pepper

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Soup: The Recipe

* Heat some oil in a frying pan and fry the onion, garlic and ginger until soft (about four minutes)

* Remove the onion, garlic and ginger from the pan and add to the slow cooker. Then add the rest of the ingredients

* Cook for 3 hours on high. The sweet potato should be soft when you turn off the slow cooker

* Use a hand blender to blitz the soup to the required consistency. You can add some yogurt at this point to reduce the chilli heat and thin the soup a little

* Eat, ideally with warm crusty bread

Serves six.

My January Plans

January is definitely not my most favourite time of the year. The excitement and magic of Christmas is all boxed up and it’s cold and dark. Yes, I love the fresh air and blue skies, but they don’t last long each day. Both my brain and body find it hard to do anything at this time of year, unless it’s sleeping or snuggling under blankets. For me January is a time for looking after myself with long walks, lazy Sundays and baking. Most other animals hibernate, but alas apparently we humans cannot do that. But what we can do is go slow and look after ourselves. So that’s exactly what my January plans entail:

A spot of baking – Baking to me, is utterly relaxing. The following of the recipe, the stirring of the mixture, the dancing around the kitchen to the radio while clearing up. It’s like therapy, it just makes for a happier me. Plus there’s the licking of the bowl too!

Roast dinners – is there anything more warming? My January plans include making my own, tucking into my parents epic version and eating out at the local pub too.

Cozying up with a pile of blankets and a good book – When the world gets a little too much then it’s time to make a nest of blankets and settle in with a good book.

Hot chocolate piled with marshmallows – Sometimes coffee doesn’t cut it. For those times only a decadent hot chocolate will do. Smooth and creamy and piled high with melting marshmallows.

Countryside walks with the dog – A winter walk is one of my favourite things. It’s a chance to get out into nature and blow those cobwebs away. It’s a bonus if you can get a bounding dog to join you too.

Freshly baked bread and homemade soup – It wouldn’t be winter without a feast of homemade bread and soup. I made my first batch of soup last weekend (a spicy chickpea and sweet potato) and I’m planning to make some bread this coming weekend. My January plans will include as much of both of these as possible.

Holiday planning – It wouldn’t be January without planning for the months ahead. And time exploring new places is key to a happy me.

Brunch – I’m keen to continue to explore my local area, and with that comes the local brunch places. Good food, good company and all the coffee. Bliss.

Tackling a jigsaw or two – Jigsaws are my new obsession. I’m on my second of 2018, and thoroughly enjoying myself.

Sunday morning runs – but I won’t make myself guilty if I don’t go for a run. Life is too short for that, so I will only run when I want to run.

Shakshuka - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Lie-ins – My January plans definitely include lie-ins. I don’t yet have many weekend plans, so I’m hoping that I can use at least one day a weekend to have a slower start. Either by sleeping later, or at least if I’m awake not getting up straight away. 

A soak in the bath – Is there anything more dreamy that a long soak in the bath? Nope I don’t think so. Especially not after a long run at the weekends. It’s a good excuse to crank up the hot water and indulge in a lot of bubbles. I just wish I had a rolltop bath. Can you imagine?

Crossword puzzles – I love completing crossword puzzles. There’s something so satisfying about completing one. I do the general knowledge version, but I’d like to get better at the cryptic kind. I sometimes ‘help’ my Dad with the cryptic one and get so excited if I manage to get an answer. Which is usually after he’s broken the clue down for me – so I’ve a way to go yet! 

Listening to the radio – I’m finding Classic FM particularly relaxing right now.

Bowls of popcorn and a good film – Possible the perfect Saturday night in. A classic film and a giant bowl of popcorn. I’m talking the homemade kind where you pop the kernels yourself and then smother them in syrup, before adding a bag of M&Ms and mixing the whole lot together.

What are your January plans this year?

Laura xx

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #102

Greetings friends and happy Saturday! And yes that does mean my Friday favourites post is a day late. Please forgive me. The first full work week of 2018 has been full on. There’s been much stress and lots of must-dos. And frankly that coupled with some dreadful commutes and a general feeling of exhaustion has ruined me this week. I have no excuse other than life being full on.

But I hope your week has been better and less hectic? Do you feel like you’re finally back into the swing of things now? I’m hopeful that come Monday I’ll be back to being productive and awake and, you know, a generally well-functioning human. We shall see! Until then though let’s dive into my Friday Favourites list for the week.

First up we have cooking yummy stuff! I’ve seen a lot of people on my Instagram feed taking part in #CookJan. I think it’s a great idea and while I haven’t signed up for it per se, I am trying to cook more in January. I just won’t beat myself up when I do a fish and chip shop trip (or two) this month. So on that them this week has been about cooking lovely food from scratch. We’ve had homemade soup (recipe coming soon I promise), chicken pilaf in the slow cooker, veggie chilli, banana bread and homemade breakfasts and lunches every day this week, bar Friday lunch. I’m pretty pleased with myself and have definitely enjoyed yummy, veg packed dishes.

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On that yummy food note, I went out for brunch last Sunday and had the most perfect concoction of ham hock hash browns with spinach, poached egg and sausage gravy. It was incredible. If you’re ever near Foxlow in Balham you must head in. You won’t be disappointed, the food is delicious.

Also making the Friday favourites list this week we have the delights of a good book. I’ve read two books this week, both of which I’d highly recommend, not least the incredibly State of Sorrow, the brilliant new book from Melinda Salisbury. This is a tale of political intrigue, secrets, families and grief and I adored every page. Definitely check it out when it’s released later this year.

iday Favourites #102 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Also making me happy this week? The return of How to Get Away with Murder, gin with friends, board game marathons, cinema trips with friends, peanut M&M’s (can’t be beaten, can they), falling down a YouTube hole and treating myself. Oh and the opposite of treating myself? Sending back a huge ASOS order as nothing was perfect. Just think of the money I’ve saved!

I know that at the beginning of this post I moaned about some terrible commutes this week. But really they haven’t all been that bad and even when they have, like when I got chucked a tube stop or two early, it’s still been okay. As I’ve been faced with either a lovely wintry walk, a new view of London or the excuse to treat myself to a coffee on the longer commute. So I really shouldn’t complain.

iday Favourites #102 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

The final thing on my Friday Favourites list is me, right now. I’m sitting on my bed alternating between lots of little tasks. Like organising my life, reading my book, blogging, updating my bullet journal, doing life admin and perusing the January sales. Quite a lovely way to spend a Saturday if you ask me. Especially as I’m snuggled up in my new Cath Kidston PJ bottoms as I type. It’s most certainly the little things that make a big difference!

So there we go, my Friday favourites post is finally up, a day late but no less full of lovely things. Tell me, what would make your happy things list this week?

-Fi x

The Book Corner: December Reads Update

So here we are, my final bookish update of 2017, my December reads. I’m not sure if I told you my December reads plans but I decided to read exclusively Christmas books in December. I love Christmas so I thought it would be good idea to envelope myself in Christmas from the get go. Plus it means I’ve been able to get through a whole stack of festive reads that would otherwise be sat on my shelf for another year! And the result? So much fun! I highly recommend it if you’ve got a plethora of Christmassy books on your TBR pile. It definitely got me in the festive mood sooner. Granted I slipped in a couple of non-Christmas reads, but you know what I’m not to annoyed at myself. No one’s perfect after all!

December Reads Update - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

Before we dive into my book reviews let’s discuss 2017 one last time. According to Goodreads I read 84 books, but that doesn’t include the mountain of work books I read too – so well done me. It was also a really good reading year in terms of what I read. I can only think of a handful of books that I didn’t love in 2017, which is always a good thing. Plus my decision to never read the same genre twice in a row worked so well and ensured I didn’t get stuck in a reading rut. So before we move into tracking, and chatting about, 2018s reads let’s dive into my December reads update post…

So what did I think of them all?

December Reads #1 – The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

Over recent months I’ve been trying to read more of Agatha Christie’s brilliant books as I’ve not read nearly enough of them. To my shame. So of course Christmas deserves a festive crime and I loved this short story so much. Such a quick read and a simple tale but I loved it nonetheless. And of course I had no idea who did it and why, so Agatha Christie fooled me again!

December Reads #2 – My True Love Gave to Me by various authors

This is the first of two short story collections on my December reads list and I loved it. I’ve had this book on my TBR pile since last Christmas so it was kinda nice to crack it open at long last. This collection included stories from Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, Jenny Han, Holly Black, Laini Taylor and David Levithan.

As with all short story collections there were definitely some that I preferred to others, in fact one story I didn’t even finish. But I adored the majority of them, particularly those by Rainbow Rowell, Matt de la Pena and David Levithan. It was also good to be introduced to some new, to me, authors like Holly Black and Laini Taylor. I really must check out their other books. If you’re looking for some lovely heart-warming festive tales then this is the perfect read. It also goes perfectly with a blanket and hot chocolate!

December Reads #3 – Top Elf by Caleb Zane Huett

This book is pitched as Elf meets The Hunger Games as the search for a new Santa begins. Anyone in the North Pole is eligible to compete, and so begins a series of trials pitting elf against Claus, friend against foe. This is a hilarious read and I can imagine it being read every year by kids of all ages. At parts it felt slightly rushed and in other parts it needed more explanation but as a festive read this really did tick all the boxes. I might have to gift it to my god-daughter next year – I’m sure she’d love it!

December Reads #4 – Murder on Christmas Eve by various authors

The second of the story collections, Murder on Christmas Eve, was possibly my favourite. As it contained mostly unknown (to me) writers and crime stories. Who doesn’t love a bit of a whodunnit to puzzle over? There was definitely two stand out stories in the collection, although they were all good. My first favourite involved a cat helping to catch a murderer, while the second was a crime involving snow, footprints and a hedge. If you’re a murder mystery fan then this is definitely a must read next Christmas. I think I read it in just two sittings – that’s how good it is!

December Reads #5 – Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen and Tony Ross

Two legends of the children’s book world teamed up to create a new version of A Christmas Carol and it did not disappoint. This version is about a young boy who is staring as Scrooge in his school play and whose father also happens to be a little bit work obsessed. So much so that he leaves part way through the performance to sort out an issue at work. The father’s then ‘visited’ by three different people (friends/colleagues/memories) to remind him of the importance of family – thus mirroring the original Dickens story. The father’s journey is interspersed with snippets of the play and it makes for a really good introduction to the story for kids. Or a good reminder if you’ve not read the Dickens classic for a while, just like me!

December Reads #6 – How Do you Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne

I was lent a proof copy of Holly Bourne’s newest book, not out until later this year, just before Christmas and couldn’t help but read it straightaway. It’s her first foray into adult books and it most certainly didn’t disappoint. I expect this book to be a huge success when it’s released. It tells the story of Tori who is a guru in the world of self-help books having written a bestseller that has inspired millions, plus she’s in a relationship with the love of her life. So you’d think she’d be perfectly happy, right? But no, all her friends are getting married and having kids but her partner refuse to entertain the idea of marriage and babies. Tori has to decide if that’s enough for her or whether she needs more. This book is so perfectly written and unflinchingly honest. Not to mention hilarious. Holly Bourne really has hit the nail on the head when it comes to being a 30-year old and dealing with society’s expectations. It’s superb.

December Reads #7 – The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

This is book two in Matt Haig’s Christmas series and I’ve been waiting a whole year to read this, having read A Boy Called Christmas last year and loved every page. It’s set in Dickensian London where we meet a little orphan girl, Amelia. Amelia lives in an orphanage and no longer believes in Father Christmas. The horror! Meanwhile in the North Pole rampaging trolls are destroying the town and the lack of children believing in Santa threatens to destroy Christmas. Yes really! Can Santa save Amelia and can Amelia in turn help Santa save Christmas or will they leave things too late… This really is a brilliant series, and perfect for Christmas fans aged 8 – 80. And Chris Mould’s illustrations are out-of-this-world good. There’s so many funny things happening in each picture. I love them!

So there we have it, my final reads of 2017 – a whole host of excellent festive books! How was your December reading? Anything lovely and festive that I need to add to my festive TBR list for next December?

-Fi x

 

In the Kitchen: Sweet Potato Fajitas

Good morning chums! How are we all today? I feel like I’m finally getting into the swing of things for 2018, perhaps it’s because it’s the weekend! Is it just me or are the first few days of the new year hard-work? Why can’t we go back to lazy late December days?! So for our first 2018 in the kitchen post I’m sharing a little recipe post with you all. If you’re looking for a  quick supper that is super easy, delicious and packed full of veggies then today’s vegetarian fajitas recipe is just what you need. These fajitas use sweet potato as the main ingredients rather than meat and it’s a game-changer. Like seriously, I don’t even notice that there’s no meat involved.


Vegetarian-Sweet-Potato-Fajitas

 

We have this meal once every couple of weeks as it satisfies our fajitas cravings without us having to remember to get meat out of the freezer or stand and stir while everything cooks. Yes, I’m totally a lazy cook, especially on weekday evenings. And this recipe couldn’t be easier, basically everything does it’s own thing in the oven while you get on with something else. Plus it’s got that fabulous make-your-own part to it. I love meals where you put lots of bits on the table and then everyone dives in and creates their own plate.

Ingredients: Serves two

one large sweet potato / four flour tortillas / one pepper / one onion / a big handful of cherry tomatoes / two giant mushrooms / two tablespoons olive oil / half teaspoon paprika / half teaspoon cumin / half teaspoon cayenne pepper / one garlic clove – crushed

Recipe:

in a small bowl mix together the olive oil, garlic and spices together / slice the sweet potato into batons or wedges and place in a large bowl / stir the spice mix through the potato pieces / spread these out onto a baking sheet and place in a preheated oven at 200C for thirty minutes / next slice up the remaining vegetables / once the thirty minutes are up place the remaining veg into the oven and cook for a further 20 minutes / heat the tortillas as per the packet instructions / serve with grated cheese, guacamole, salsa and soured cream and create your fajitas just how you like them!

See super simple and oh so delicious. Honestly, the real star of these is the the sweet potato, which just works really really well in the fajitas. Plus you can add as many other vegetables as you want. We tend to cook a load of vegetables up and then each pick and choose which ones we roll up into fajitas. Then we have leftover filling which works really well for lunch the next day with a load of salad or a bowl of couscous. 

It’s also worth mentioning that if you pick your ingredients correctly (i.e the wraps), and think about what toppings you add to the fajitas then this meal can also be vegan. So if you’re taking part in vegan January then this recipe is one to add to your meal list.

What are your favourite quick and easy meals right now? And do you have a favourite fajitas recipe, either meat-free or not? Please share if you do…

Laura xx

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #101

101 Friday favourite posts. What!? How did that happen. It feels quite poetic that the first one of these in 2018 should be number 101. It’s quite a tidy way to start the year, don’t you think?

<> First up on this week’s list is the New Year. We’re only five days into it so it cannot be ignored. I’ve said it a couple of times but I love the potential of a new year. So while I hate the idea of celebrating big on New Year’s Eve, I do like the clean slate that New Year’s day brings. I spent the first of January wandering in the park, organising things and cooking a delicious dinner. Pretty much the perfect day.

<> As part of my organisational day above I’ve now set up my new bullet journal. Hurrah! I’ve been bullet journaling for over 18 months now so I’ve got a good grasp on how I want to set things up and what I want to get from it. It’s the first ever diary system that I’ve used consistently and I think that’s probably because it’s so adaptable and easy to make your own.

 

A post shared by Laura Evans (@lau_evs) on


<> Next up on the Friday’s favourites list is a book, Coraline by Neil Gaiman. This is my second read of 2018, and it’s a gorgeous book. My copy is the special anniversary edition which has glorious illustrations from Chris Riddell at the start of each chapter. Just the perfect introduction into what is to come over the next few pages. I fell completely and utterly in love with this story, which feels like a modern day fairytale where good triumphs over evil.

<> Earlier this week I booked in a Thursday cinema trip to watch the latest Pitch Perfect film. And I loved it. It’s the perfect mix of silly, heart-warming and funny to keep me happy. It is exactly the type of film I needed on my first week back to work. Plus the music is always good in these films. The last song was my favourite I think and the film is a nice ending to a good film series.

<> Over the last week I’ve been reigniting my love for jigsaw puzzles. After starting one with my Mum back in Surrey, I really got the bug for the challenge. So on my return to London I promptly got started with one on my kitchen table. It’s the perfect de-stress from work, and I’m very much enjoying sitting there into the evening trying to find the right piece to finish off my harbour scene puzzle.

 

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<> I’ve been listening to the radio a lot this week. I’ve taken to having it on in the background if I’m in the kitchen, so it’s been on pretty much all the time as I conquer my jigsaw. The radio channel of choice right now is Classic FM, which I find incredibly soothing. I’m also realising that I know a lot more classical music that I thought possible. So thanks to the parents and grandparents for that.

<> Lastly on this first favourites list of 2018 is food. Slow cooker food to be exact. We’ve had a couple of slow cooker meals over the last seven days {vegetable lasagna and chicken pilaf), which is one of the perks of having time off work. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of cooking this way. It’s so easy and the house smells divine for hours! We’re planning to try this recipe for tomorrow’s games night with friends.

How has this first week of January been for you? Have you settled quickly back into work, or are you feeling the strain of 2018 already?

Laura xx

Life Rambles: My Hopes for 2018

Happy New Year! Is everyone excited for 2018? I certainly am. I mean I’m totally missing the Christmas fun, but there’s something wonderful about the potential that a new year can bring. I’m not a new year resolutions type of person, but I do like the idea of thinking about hopes for the year ahead. I like thinking about what may happen with my year, without having to worry about any guilt that would come with setting a resolution. Last year I wrote about my Hopes for 2017, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to review those before sharing a few hopes for 2018.

 

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My hopes from 2017 – reviewed

Attend a Park Run. I’m clearly off to a good start because this one didn’t happen! There’s absolutely no reason why I didn’t make it to a Park Run. However, I did complete my fourth Half Marathon so my running in 2017 was still on good form. Plus I embraced running home from work which I really really liked, and I managed to do quite a bit of running along the river, so I’m pleased with that. So while it would have been nice to do a Park Run, I’m happy with how my running went in 2017.

Time to do Nothing. In 2017 I hoped that I would be able to give myself some weekends with zero plans. This became a habit midway through 2016, and I found it really helped me to relax. I haven’t checked exactly how many weekends I gave myself but I do know that I consciously allowed myself room to breathe. This is pretty much a habit now, and not something that I have to tell myself to do. So thank you 2017 for that.

Explore my City. This is an obvious one. I wanted to make the most of living in London and do more than just commute through the city. I also wanted to explore more locally too. Well, I think I managed both of those. I’ve investigated the second-hand bookshop nearby, and I’ve tried a couple of new pubs too. Plus there have been nights at the theatre, playing crazy golf in the city and wandering along the canals of London, which I hadn’t previously visited. Oh and I’ve explored nearby Morden Hall Park a couple of times too.

Read 50 Books. I love reading and I spend 40 minutes each day commuting so a reading challenge is a pretty obvious one for me. One of my hopes for 2017 was to read 50 books, and actually I read 61. I made more of an effort on my commute to put my phone away and bury my nose in a book, and it paid off. A few of my favourite reads in 2017 were The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson, Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, Arrowood by Mick Finlay, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, The Guggenheim Mystery by Robin Stevens, The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla, The Nowhere Man by Gregg Hurwitz and Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

hopes-of-2018

Make House Progress. I knew we weren’t going to get everything done in 2017, as a good chunk of money would be needed, but we made good progress. We’ve now got shelves up in two rooms(my bedroom and our living room), the fireplace has been removed and we now have a clean space to work with. We’ve also painted most of our back room, and completed the painting in the living room and bathroom. So it’s been a productive one this year. Oh and we’ve sorted out our garden – we’ve got some plants in the bed and I started growing tomatoes too. 

Wake up Earlier. A further hope for 2017 was to wake up earlier and make the most of it. Now while I’ve not done a 6am wake up everyday, I have averaged two days a week with a 6am swim. Not perfect, but not bad either. 

More Time with my Favourite People. So this one definitely happened. Looking back 2017 was jam-packed with family and friends time. We explored new places, but also just got together for drinks or dinner or lazy weekends in London or Surrey or Leeds. Blissful. 

I’m happy with how my hopes for 2017 worked out. I wasn’t actively working on doing any of these which I think is what helped. No pressure always helps because if there’s one thing I know, it’s that I don’t deal well with pressure.

My hopes for 2018

Read 50 books. I think I could probably up this goal but I don’t want to put any pressure on myself. Plus I want to complete my reread of Harry Potter this year and both Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows are quite lengthy. Once again I’ll be tracking this over on GoodReads so stop by there if you are interest. 

Blog Stuff. We had a huge blog mishap in 2017 when Photobucket started charging to host images. This has meant we have had to transfer our photo hosting somewhere else. Which means going through all old blog posts and updating the images. We’ve also been correcting the SEO on those old posts at the same time. As you can imagine this is taking a while, mainly because I’m more focused on new content rather than correcting the old stuff. Anyway, I’d hope that this would be fixed at some point during 2018. 

Travel Plans. I’m hoping to get to Australia this year. I really really like to visit my Nanna and the rest of our family out there. As well as two friends. I’m hopeful that I might get this booked before the end of January. If I do I will be so happy. I’m also thinking about a trip to Cornwall in 2018. I haven’t been there since I was a child, so I hope that I can make it work this year. I figure with a long haul Australia flight, the rest of my travelling will need to be more local, so it’s the perfect opportunity to check out Cornwall. Also, I should be able to fit a Portugal trip in too.

Spend Less and Save More. A pretty obvious one, but in order to do Australia and some of our house plans I will need to get on top of money this year. I’m hoping I can curb my random spending and save instead.

Attend a Park Run. So I’m moving this one from 2017 straight onto my hopes for 2018 list. I’ve not got any big races planned, so surely, surely I can make at least one Park Run this year.

Swimming Plans. Something that was totally unexpected in 2017 was just how much time I would spend swimming. For the majority of 2017 I made it to the pool twice a week, and I loved it. Yes, it means a 6am start. But there’s something energizing about an early morning swim. Plus it’s good to get a workout done before work. I honestly feel like those early starts set me up for the day. So I hope that this habit will continue. 

What are your hopes for 2018. Do you make resolutions? Or are they just not for you?

Laura xx

Image Credit: Photo by Jan Kahánek on Unsplash

Life Rambles: 2017 Gratitude List

For some inexplicable reason we’ve made it to the final day of 2017. Where on earth did that year go to? I swear I blinked and twelve months just happened! Anyway, as it’s the end of the year, I thought it was worthwhile pausing to take stock on the good things in 2017. Let’s be honest 2017 was a bitch of a year for many, many reasons but it’s never a good idea to focus on the bad. So here’s a list of the 52 things that made my 2017 incredible. I give you my 2017 gratitude list!

My 2017 gratitude list

1. My family

2. Our gorgeous puppy Luna, who gives the best hugs

3. My lovely friends

4. The Christmas markets in Hamburg

5. Nailing the bullet journaling

6. Cocktails with friends

7. Finally removing that fireplace

8. All the board game nights with friends

9. Listening to my god-daughter critiquing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as she read it for the first time

10. McDonald’s deliveries via UberEats

11. Exploring the UK with family and friends, including Haworth, Oxford, Manchester, Ryde, Dorset, London and more

12. A lovely new bed and snugly new mattress

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

13. Twinkly fairy lights

14. Meeting new babies, celebrating anniversaries and weddings

15. A family trip to Salzburg

16. A brilliant new job

17. Banana pancakes

18. Stripey t-shirts

19. Discovering new authors and devouring new books

20. Coffee

21. Beautiful London buildings

22. M&S’ Gluten Free tomato pasta

23. Completing the Royal Parks Half Marathon

24. Devouring Gilmore Girls

25. Gin

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

26. Touristing at Windsor Castle and Bletchley Park

27. Disney films after a long, tiring day

28. A very relaxing week in Portugal

29. Baking, cooking and eating

30. Afternoons spent reading in bed

31. Dishoom brunches

32. Our built-in teal bookshelves

33. Sharing snapshots of my life on Instagram and Insta stories

34. Hysterical laughter in the shadow of a twinkling Eiffel Tower

35. Sweet potato fries

36. Dog walks

How a Puppy Changed Me - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

37. Hot coffee in pjs on the sofa

38. Marathons of many Netflix shows

39. Slow cooker recipes

40. Duvet Days

41. Early morning swims

42. Blasting out the Hamilton soundtrack

43. Making the most of our Picturehouse Central membership

44. Listening to the West Wing Weekly podcast

45. Finally trying Duck and Waffle

46. Lazy mornings snuggled in bed and ignoring the outside

47. Theater trips

48. My purple Saltwaters

49. Sand between my toes

50. My current obsession with sultana and cinnamon overnight oats

51. Sunny afternoons in the garden

52. Afternoon tea and long overdue catch ups

So there we go, the 52 things that have my 2017 gratitude list. I’d say looking at this it’s been a pretty awesome year. What about you, how’s yours been and what were your highlights?

-Fi x