Loaded Potato Skins

Loaded Potato Skins - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Did anyone else go to TGI Friday’s as a child? It was one of my favourite places to eat out. We’d go for a special occasion and it always felt like such a treat. Anyway if you did ever go to there then you probably remember their loaded potato skins. And that’s what I’m here talking about today. As I’ve found the most fabulous recipe that manages to bring back all those marvellous tastes and flavours of my childhood. Isn’t it remarkable how food can do that, evoke a memory or feeling from the past?

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was looking for a side dish to go with leftover bean chilli for a warming Saturday night dinner. I wanted to stretch one portion of chilli into enough for two people. And I wanted minimum effort alongside maximum deliciousness. I also wanted to try something from one of my new recipe books. After flicking through some books I stumbled across the recipe for me, Smitten Kitchen’s loaded breakfast potato skins. Yes they are in the breakfast section, but that didn’t stop me. They just seemed like the perfect pairing with the bean chilli.

In the book Deb talks about these being the healthier homemade version of TGI Friday’s loaded potato skins and she is exactly right. I should know, I ordered them every time I visited! Which, of course, makes me an excellent judge of the recipe, because it has to meet my very high expectations. And I can confirm that this version from Smitten Kitchen does just that. It is just as good as the taste in my memory. Or maybe better, because they’ve got the warmth of the potato, the gooey melted cheese, salty bacon and then delicious egg too. So good!

Recipe for Smitten Kitchen’s Loaded Potato Skins (serves 2):

I made a couple of alterations to the original recipe, mainly to save time on a weeknight which is when I tend to make these.

Ingredients:

2 large baking potatoes / 4 eggs / 4 rashers of streaky bacon / spring onions / sour cream

grated cheese (we went for a very strong cheddar) / melted butter / salt and ground pepper

Method:

<> Heat the oven to 200ºC. Prick the potatoes all over with a fork and microwave until they are soft in the middle. Then bake in the oven for 20 minutes to crisp up the outsides.

<> Cool the potatoes on a rack until you can handle them without burning yourself! Meanwhile cook the bacon until crisp and then chop up.

<> Halve the potatoes and spoon out the flesh in the centre, leaving a little of the potato flesh in the skins.

<> Brush the insides and outsides with melted butter, then sprinkle with the salt. Bake upside down for 5 minutes, turn over, sprinkle cheese in the centre of the potato and bake for a further 5 minutes.

<> Crack an egg into the hollowed out space of each potato half. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and then place back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes to let the egg cook – you want the whites to be firm, but the yolk to stay loose. (I can never time this properly, but fully set baked egg still tastes good). FYI everytime I make these some of the egg white falls out of the potatoes as they just aren’t big enough. But this can still be removed from the pan and served with the potatoes – it still tastes so good.

<> Grind with black pepper, sprinkle with the cheese, bacon and spring onions and then dollop with sour cream.

 Loaded Potato Skins - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

I do feel like this is a little wasteful with all the potato that doesn’t get eaten. We made croquettes and put them into the freezer, but it’s something to think about and plan for I think. But the egg addition to this dish is an utter revelation. It works perfectly with the rest of the flavours, and adds a little something to the overall texture too.

In all reality I probably didn’t need to have the leftover chilli with the potato skins as the dish by itself just really works. I’ve made it since then without anything extra and it was just as delicious. This dish has become a firm favourite, especially when I’ve got eggs or bacon to use up.

Laura xx

Friday Favourites #107

Greetings one and all and happy Friday. Once again I am surprised that we’ve reached this day already, but also forever grateful that the week has flown by. Perhaps that should be point one on this favourite things list. What do you think? Does it count? Anyway I have had a week with minimal plans and it has been lovely. Sometimes when I have a quiet week it’s even easier to make a list of my favourite things.

<> Sunday was spent puppy sitting and it was blissful. We organised a long walk with friends local to my parents house and stamped through all the muddy puddles and woodland that we could find. Luna absolutely loved it and we tired her out so much that she spent the afternoon asleep on my feet.

<> Post dog walk we popped into Pinnock’s cafe in Ripley village. We feasted on delicious sandwiches and curled up in sofas while we nattered away about ALL the things.

 

favourite-things-Luna

 

<> The Winter Olympics. I spent my whole Saturday watching the Winter Olympics and I am now an expert on luging and team ice skating. Or at least I think I’m an expert! 

<> On Monday I took a lunchtime stroll along the river and it was lovely. It was the perfect way to clear the cobwebs away and psych myself up for the afternoon.

<> Also on Monday I made sweet potato faijtas for dinner. They are still my favourite meal.

<> I ordered my first OddBox over the weekend. It’s due to arrive on Friday night/Saturday morning and I cannot wait to see what we get. It’s a weekly or fortnightly fruit and veg box, made up of wonky produce that big shops won’t take. And the best thing? It’s all produce from the UK. Isn’t that amazing?

 

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<> Also Pancake Day. I can’t possibly talk about my favourite things from the week without mentioning this excellent day. We had a little pancake party on Tuesday and then pancakes again on Wednesday because we made too much batter. But if you can’t have pancakes on Valentine’s day then what is the actual point of life? Seriously though I do not have pancakes enough, this needs to change asap.

<> Has anyone else watched the new McCain advert yet? It’s wonderful. Also there’s a dog right at the end •insert heart emoji here*.

How has your week been? What has made you happy this week?

Laura xx

 

Simple Ways to Save Money

Simple Ways to Save Money - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

It’s the age-old thing isn’t it, wanting to experience, see and do all the things but not having a job that pays for you to do everything on your list? Oh and don’t even think about trying to save at the same time as having a life. No that’s definitely not possible. Don’t be crazy! I’m not sure they will ever be a time where I’m comfortable with money and don’t have to think about bigger purchases. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scrimping and saving every month but there are definitely times where I wish that I could book another holiday or not have to justify buying the more expensive of two coats on ASOS. In the hope that one day I’ll be able to do that I’ve been trying to focus on simple ways to save money. Things that don’t feel hard or like I’m depriving myself but that allow me to slowly save for something I want – be it a holiday, a small treat or that lovely coat online.

So as we’re a couple of months into a new year and I’ve been doing this simple things for a while now I thought I’d share them with you, just in case you’re in the need for them too. And if you have some of your own simple ways to save money, that really work, please do share them with me. I’d be forever grateful.

Simple ways to save money

Reducing those shop bought coffees.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, last summer it would not have been unusual for me to buy two coffees a day, especially on a work day. One on the way to work and one when I hit that mid-afternoon slump. As you can imagine that adds up quite quickly if you’re averaging £2.50 a coffee and doing that every day (goodbye £100 a month!). So I’ve been trying to make coffee at home most mornings and switching that mid-afternoon coffee for a peppermint tea from the office supplies instead. And yes, sometimes I do slip up. But generally I’m spending £50 less a month on coffee and that’s definitely a good thing!

No impulse buys.

This has been a harder nut to crack than the coffee one, as I’m the queen of a last-minute ASOS order, or a mini splurge in Oliver Bonas. But I’ve been trying. And it’s certainly helped that when I have done this impulse buys, like the £100 ASOS order from mid-January, it’s not actually been that successful. And I’ve ended up sending most things back straightaway. I think in the last order I only kept the New Balance trainers, which I needed and knew would fit as they’re the same size as my old ones. But other than that everything went back.

Enjoying the simple things.

This philosophy has been key to our 2018 so far, as Lau discussed over here. It’s all about being kinder to ourselves and taking time to enjoy the simple things. Like baking or spending the afternoon reading or taking the dog for a walk. This means that we’re less inclined to head out on a shopping trip on a Saturday or book expensive meals out. Granted it helps that the weather is dreadful right now, and I’m sure things will change when adventures can happen in the sun. But it’s definitely been a money-saving philosophy so far this year!

Making breakfast and lunch at home 80% of the time.

It’s an obvious one I know, but it has to be on the list as it really works! If I buy breakfast and lunch during a work day it comes to around £7.50. And that’s just for a pot of porridge and a sandwich and crisps from Pret, so not exactly a huge extravagant feast. But if I make it at home I can have peanut butter overnight oats with a banana fro breakfast. And then yummy leftovers, like last week’s pulled pork and rice or chicken wraps, for lunch for no extra money. Granted I had to buy the ingredients in my weekly shop. But you can get a whole bag of porridge oats, a pint of milk, yogurt and peanut butter and a bunch of bananas for less than the cost of two breakfast porridge pots from Leon and the ingredients will be enough for at least ten breakfasts. So it’s a no brainer surely!

Reshopping my wardrobe.

Full disclaimer I really need to do this one again, as it’s been a few months since I put this one into practice, but I promise you reshopping your wardrobe really works. It’s so simple too! Just get out all your clothes, a section at a time, and try everything on again. Yes you’ll find items that don’t fit or you don’t like anymore, but I guarantee you’ll also find items you’d forgotten about or that can be worn with different items than you previously thought. Last time I did this I rediscovered two jumpers and a dress that can be worn on its own or as a layer with a plethora of tshirts and jumpers. It was a revelation!

My book buying ban.

I’ve written about my book buying ban recently, and it’s not ridiculous to say that this has saved me at least £40 this year so far. It’s been good to shop my bookcase, visit the library and use Netgalley properly this year. and I’ve read some brilliant books as a result. So definitely worth keeping it up.

Use up all your leftovers.

By this I don’t just mean as lunches during the week, I  mean using every part of all your food. So don’t throw away day old bread, those black bananas or the leftover pasta sauce. Use it for the next night’s meal or freeze it. We’ve done that recently and used bananas for banana bread, made breadcrumbs with our day old bread and added the pasta sauce to chilli. We’ve also made an effort to make stuff from scratch – so no buying pasta sauce or passatta and making our own pizzas rather that falling down the Domino’s hole as per usual. I’s crazy how much you can do with random bits of food. Go on try it, you’ll surprise yourself I’m sure!

So there you go, some simple ways to save money. Tell me, do you do any of these already or are there any top tips you can send my way?

-Fi

Recent Reads 2018, Part 1

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Hello everyone and welcome to the first recent reads post of 2018. What! So we’re only a month and a half into the year and already it’s been a great year for reading. You’ll know from previous natterings over the last few weeks that I have utterly embraced reading this year. I mean I embrace it every year. But for January especially I was very much about taking things slowly and surrounding myself with happy things. Happy things that included curling up with all the blankets and a coffee and devouring a book. And because of these sorts of moments I have read eleven books as week six of 2018 draws to a close. Most of which I am excited to share with you. Before we jump into that I should mentions that I’ve introduced a star system into my review posts. It’s out of five, so it matches my GoodReads account and this way you can see straightaway what I think of the book, rather than having to read all my ramblings!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman **** 4 stars

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read Coraline, it’s an utterly enchanting read. Coraline wanders into an other version of her house. Complete with other parents and other neighbours. In the real world her parents have gone missing so she must venture into the other house to save them and three other lost souls. I adored this book and raced through it in a day. It feels like a modern day fairytale where good triumphs over evil. I love the sentiment about bravery through the book, and I think it’s a really important idea for children to learn. If you’ve not read it then I highly recommend you hunt down a copy. I’m also adding the film version of this to my Films to Watch list.

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon * 1 star

I’ve heard so many good things about this book so I was eagerly anticipating reading it.The book begins with a woman going missing from a quiet avenue. What follows is a look at the occupants from the avenue through the eyes of two children; Grace and Tilly, who are searching for God, in the hopes that once they find Him, they will find the missing Mrs Creasy. Unfortunately, as is always the way when there’s a highly acclaimed book, I did not enjoy it. Which is so disappointing! I kept waiting for something to happen, and it just didn’t. I felt like there was such potential with this book, but I don’t feel like it reached it.

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo ***** 5 stars

After disappointment with the book above I really needed The Language of Thorns to be a good read.

This is a collection of folk tales from Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. Now while I’ve not read her Grisha series I have read Crooked Kingdom and Six of Crows, which touches on the Grishaverse so I have a tiny bit of understanding about the world that Bardugo has created. However I don’t think this is necessarily needed. At the end of the day it’s a collection of stories filled with legends, folklore and mythology. And it’s a magical read. There’s a nod to well-known fairytales and stories like The Little Mermaid, The Nutcracker and Hansel and Gretel. The six stories are all illustrated and the cover is so incredibly detailed. It’s an utterly beautiful book and it feels like a real keepsake. So all in all it was exactly what I needed, and was the perfect read for a winter’s day.

 

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The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes **** 4 stars

In the Mitford Murders we follow Louise who, while trying to find her way out of poverty and danger in London, lands a job as a nurserymaid at the Mitford house. She soon become a confidante of young Nancy Mitford and the pair embark on an investigation to find the murderer of nurse Florence Nightingale Shore. I really really liked this book, they mystery was gripping, the characters were enjoyable and I enjoyed the post-war setting. What’s absolutely fascinating about this story is that in real-life Florence Nightingale Shore was murdered, and her death is still unsolved. I’m intrigued to see how this series progresses.

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven ***** 5 stars

The Exact Opposite of Okay follows Izzy, a schoolgirl who is thrown into the public eye after a one night stand with a politician’s son. We follow the story through the eyes of Izzy as she writes blog posts about the happenings in her town. What follows is an insightful look into the double standards that exist in society today. There are some fabulous characters in the book and the relationships between Izzy and her teacher and best friend, Ajita, are really lovely to see. I absolutely flew through this book, and would have loved for the story to continue further. It is a thoughtful commentary about sexism and white male privilege in society today and I would highly recommend it.

*I received this book from the publisher via netgalley.*

Clean by Juno Dawson **** 4 stars

Clean takes a look at the the world of rehab and explores themes of addiction, gender identity, eating disorders and mental health. The story is told through the eyes of Lexi, the daughter of a Russian hotel magnate whose brother checks her into a secret island facility to begin 70 days of detox and rehabilitation. It’s a fascinating read and one that I would highly recommend. Dawson has managed to weave together a mix of very different characters into a fascinating story of friendship, love and discovering who you are.

*I received this book from the publisher via netgalley.*

Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris *** 3 stars

I was a big fan of Before I Go to Sleep so I was excited to pick up the latest B. A. Paris book. In her new book Paris introduces us to Finn. Ten years ago Finn’s girlfriend Layla went missing in France and she’s not been seen since. Finn is newly engaged to Layla’s sister and suddenly strange things start to happen, mysterious email and parcels containing something that only Layla, her sister and boyfriend would recognise. Who is sending these things and why now? What really happened all those years ago?

If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers then this is the book for you as there are twists and turns aplenty. It’s not perfect, and there were moments that had me questioning why certain characters were acting in a particular way, but it’s definitely gripping. I did guess the ending, but it’s still a good one, and you know what I’m like, I pride myself on figuring out the twists!

 

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Hellbent by Gregg Hurwitz **** 4 stars

Book three in the Evan Smoke, Orphan X series is here and it’s everything you would expect. It’s a classic spy thriller with the twists, turns and fighting that was present in the first two books. Smoke is still fighting Van Sciver. Trying to stay away from Mia and Peter and still helping those with nowhere else to turn. What’s different about Hellbent is the personal twist that that book takes. From the opening few pages I found myself rooting for the main character in a completely new way. Without giving too much away I think this event, the addition of another new character and the revelation of who is pulling the strings turned this book into something different and gave it something more than the usual spy thrillers available. Sometimes after a few books a series like this can get a little tired, but I’m not seeing that with Orphan X yet. I can’t wait until book four.

*I received this book from the publisher via netgalley.*

Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed *** 3 stars

The final book on my recent reads list is the wonderful Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed.

I’d heard a lot of good things about this book, so when I saw it was available to request from NetGalley I crossed my fingers that I would get an early copy. Thankfully I did and was soon engrossed. It’s a wonderful look at a different perspective and I like that the book builds slowly, rather than jumping straight in. This allowed me to get to know the characters and anticipate their reactions. I think this is the first book I’ve read that had a main character who is Muslim, which is ridiculous. It’s made me realise that I should do more to find books that look at other perspectives, and show me other ideas and worlds other than my own, or those that I hear about all the time.

*I received this book from the publisher via netgalley.*

A Spoonful of Murder by Robin Stevens (Murder Most Unladylike #6) ***** 5 stars

Book six in this wonderful series came out on Thursday, and I finished it on Saturday afternoon. It was exactly the read I needed in my feeling sorry for myself state. Spoiler I am really bad at being ill, so while I’ve been fighting a cold these past few weeks I have been particularly grumpy. But this book has soon snapped me out of that.

I love love love the world of Daisy and Hazel and when I learned that book six would be taking us to Hazel’s family in Hong Kong I was particularly excited. A Spoonful of Murder has the same fascinating characters, excellent plotting and vivid worlds of the rest of the series but with the addition of a brand new country and culture to explore. I totally want to visit Hong Kong now and experience it myself. I’m also exceedingly happy with myself as I managed to figure out the mystery, normally I’m totally stumped, I think that means that at 32 I am finally getting cleverer. Yay for me!

So you may have noticed that I said I’d finished eleven books this year, but only shown ten above. That’s because I included Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix as my final book of 2017. Basically I underestimate how long it would take me to read that one. I’d forgotten just how busy my Christmas and New Year was going to be!

Also I had quite a few titles from Netgalley in this round of recent reads. I made a flurry of requests at the start of the year and I’ve been making my way through them. But I am looking forward to putting my Kindle down and picking up a physical book for my next read.

What are you reading? Any recommendations for me? Laura xx

Friday Favourites #106

Greetings lovely people and how are you this Friday morning? I’ve had the most marvelous week, it’s been super full on but lovely nonetheless. Although I’m very pleased it’s Friday and almost the weekend. What a delight that is. So enough waffle, let’s dive into this week’s favourites!

<> First up we have lots of lovely friend catch ups. There was an ex colleagues work drinks this week as well as another Hamilton jaunt with friends. So cue all the nattering and chattering with my lovely friends. What a delight that was! Also on a second viewing of Hamilton I can report that it’s still INCREDIBLE, you really must make sure you go and watch it.

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

<> This week I was feeling a little sad about all the lovely new books being published that I really, really need to read, but couldn’t because of my silly new year’s resolution. When lo and behold two lovely things happened. Firstly a book I preordered in November, The Hazel Wood, arrived and Lau, being the lovely human she is, brought home two books from work – the new Murder Most Unladylike book and a book about Batman. So I now have three lovely new books that I was desperate to read and without breaking my reading ban. Hooray. That’s definitely making it on to the favourites list!

<> In other bookish news I headed to the Dorchester this week for the launch of a very special book, Nevermoor. It’s one I’m lucky enough to work on and it was lovely to celebrate it in style on Tuesday. Plus there were the most incredible lamb canapes. So yummy!

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

<> As per usual sweet treats are making it on to the favourites list, and this time it’s some mini egg blondies that I baked at the weekend. With my favourite Easter treat now back in the shops I had no choice but to make them. God they were delicious!

<> As you know I’m a brilliant fan of brunch, so of course a Saturday brunch has to make it on to the favourites list. We headed to our local pub to sit in their tea rooms with the puppy and nattering away over yummy food. I went for the veggie breakfast, which is my standard choice and it was obviously delicious. I paired it with a kale and apple smoothie and it was basically my best decision.

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

<> Last weekend was also brilliant thanks to the most epic of Sunday roasts. This delight below was my Sunday afternoon meal, well shared with one other person and it was incredible. there was three types of meats, crunchy roasties, parsnips, cauliflower cheese, bread sauce and the biggest of all the Yorkshire puddings ever. I can promise you that it was even more delicious than it looks.

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

<> The final thing on today’s favourites list is the gorgeous weather we’ve had this week. I’ve loved the bright winter sunshine, the crisp chill in the air and the cloudless skies. It really is gorgeous isn’t it, even if it’s super chilly at the same time!

What would be on your list team?

-Fi x

Out and About: Top Tips for Visiting Salzburg

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Okay, so my trip to Salzburg was way back in May of 2017, so 9 months ago, but I noticed this post half written in my drafts the other day and decided that I wanted to finish it and share it with the world. Right now I’m planning a trip to Budapest and it has reminded me just how useful these sort of posts are for travel planning. So I figure if I can share my top tips for visiting Salzburg today, then someone else might benefit from reading it tomorrow.

In case you missed it last year, I fell hopelessly and utterly in love with Salzburg. So I highly recommend you book at trip there as soon as you possibly can. If you want to know what awaits you then hop on over to this ginormously long post detailing what I got up to on the trip.

Right then, let’s get down to business, here are my top tips for visiting Salzburg:

Salzburg Card

If you’re planning on seeing the sites of Salzburg then a Salzburg Card is a must. Hence why it sits at number one in my top tips list. The card gives you free entry to a number of different attractions in Salzburg. These include Mozart’s Birthplace, Hellbrunn Palace & Trick Fountains, Salzburg Museum and the Museum of Modern Art. You also get free travel on buses, the funicular to the fortress and the cable car up to Untersberg, plus there’s plenty of discounts of other attractions too. At just over $30 for a 48 hour pass it’s a cost effective way of seeing Salzburg.

The Sound of Music

If you are a Sound of Music fan and you are visiting Salzburg to see the sights from the film then I would recommend doing your own tour. Yes, you can pay to do a bus tour with a group of randomers where you watch the film as you drive to each location. But you can also see most of the sights yourself, quite easily. Hellbrun Palace houses the Von Trapp summer house, Mirabell Gardens has the fountains, and the trolls and the arches and the steps from Do, Re, Mi. So with a little bit of research you can easily organise your own tour. That’s what we did and it was perfect.

 

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Supermarket opening hours

So it turns out that Salzburg shops don’t keep to the same opening hours as London shops. Which is actually quite obvious when you think about it. But we didn’t think about it. All the local shops around our apartment closed by 6pm on a Saturday. Which is a nightmare if you’re planning a night in, have your food, but still need to do a drinks run. We luckily found a tiny Mexican fast food shop to pick up beer and soft drinks, but it wasn’t quite what we had planned. Also the local shops were all shut on Sunday. Which was fine, as we realised this on Saturday night and were able to find a bigger supermarket that wasn’t too far away. The shops in the centre of Salzburg, had better opening hours but it’s still something to bear in mind. And I know this is pretty obvious, but my family don’t think of these things, until it’s too late, so I thought it was worth mentioning here!

Lunch from the market

Obviously the city is full of restaurants, and of course you’ll want to visit some of these for traditional Austrian fare. From schnitzel to goulash and strudel, there are so many tempting treats. But eating at restaurants doesn’t always lead to authentic food, nor does it help when travelling on a budget. Which is where shopping locally comes in. Salzburg’s daily Grünmarkt in University Square is food heaven, which means it’s the perfect spot to pick up all of the food snacks. From fruit and vegetables to freshly baked bread, Austrian cheeses, meats and pretzels you are definitely spoilt for choice. Alongside treats for a picnic lunch we also shopped at the market for a weekend dinner, cooking a delicious meal of pasta with a huge side salad all from ingredients at the market.

 

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Walk, walk, walk

Again this is a top tip for the majority of European cities. Not only is walking around a city totally free it also gives you a unique view of the area. I always find it easier to get my bearings if I walk around a city. It’s much easier to make sense of a place when you walk the streets, instead of sticking your head into a bus or metro map. In Salzburg we stayed a little out of the city, so each day we walked along the river into the main area. It was a stunning way to start and end the day, surrounded by joggers and cyclists and commuters. Salzburg itself feels like a warren of streets, with gorgeous buildings and hidden hideaways around every corner. The other thing to remember when walking is to keep looking up. There’s always something new to see from stunning vistas, like the one above, to intricate building details and colourful shutters high above the cobbled streets.

Salzburg Airport

One final top tip before I go, and it’s about the airport. So it turns out Salzburg airport is tiny, and there is nothing there! Once you are through security it’s just a long collection of departure gates. So with that in mind don’t do what we did, and get there early, planning to waste an hour in departures. If you do you’ll end up in a long queue at the coffee shop or searching for seats along with 150 other people.

 

So there you have them, my top tips for visiting Salzburg. Have you been to Salzburg, would you add anything else? Are you going to Salzburg soon? And if so do you need a tour guide??!

Friday Favourites #105

It’s currently Thursday night and I’m wrapped in a blanket, on the sofa, trying to decide what to put on Netflix. The Good Wife has gone, so I’m looking for a brand new series that I haven’t watched. Suggestions on a postcard please. But not Friends, I’ve never been one to re-watch that over and over again. From the previous few sentences I think you can understand that my February is going pretty much the same way as my January. I figure as long as the cold winter weather persists I will continue to live a slower life (if you don’t know what I’m talking about then take a look at My January Plans post). I’m enjoying it, so why change anything?

So onto why we are here, it’s time to share my Friday Favourites for this week. As always this week has been super long but the last days of January/first couple of days of February have definitely been good ones.

<> First up I finally watched The Post. It’s a true story about the The Washington Post and it’s attempt to report on a thirty year government cover up. This is apparently the first film with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks playing opposite each other (can you believe it?) and it is perfect. I can’t believe they’ve not been in anything together before now, they are my favourites. The film seemed to end rather abruptly, but maybe that is because I was so gripped by it. Either way, I highly recommend.

<> Probably my favourite way to spend a Sunday is back in Surrey with the rest of Family Evans. With a lazy start, a long rambling dog walk and then reading in front of the fire while the roast dinner cooks. Blissful. So you can imagine how pleased I was that this was how my latest Sunday panned out.

 

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<> How blue is the sky at the moment? Okay it might be super chilly, but the blue skies of London are 100 percent making that better. It feels like spring is on the way. Hurrah!

<> Wednesday night saw a trip to the theatre. Some friends and I were making the most of the cheaper tickets that are available in January and February so we’d booked tickets to 42nd Street. Now I was definitely not a fan of the story line at all but the tap dancing was breathtaking.

<> For a pre-theatre meal some of our party headed to Shake Shack for a quick burger and fries. Man, I love their crinkled fries. Plus they always make sure their bacon is nice and crispy. So that’s a gold star from me.

 

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<> This lunchtime I discovered that the Leon vegan Christmas wrap is back and available in all its delicious glory. It’s been renamed Vegan Wrapsody and it’s just as delicious as it was during the festive version. The combination of sweet potato falafel, stuffing and cranberry orange sauce is perfect. My mouth is watering at the thought.

<> And a final favourite for this week is Will & Grace. I am obsessed with the new series, and I’m realising just how much I missed the series in the ten years that it has been off our screens. If you’ve not managed to catch up on the latest series then I highly recommend you do.

So that’s it for this week. What about you? What are your favourites for this week?

Laura xx

2018 Reading Resolution

My 2018 Reading Resolution - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

As we’re coming towards the end of January it seems sensible to take stock of how I’m doing with my 2018 reading resolution. Or more accurately, my one resolution for the whole year(!). The plan with this reading resolution was to curb my book buying habit. I own over 100 books that I’ve yet to read – across my Kindle and my bookshelf – and yes I still seem to find new books to buy. Probably four or five a month, minimum. Plus I have a lot of friends at other publishing companies who send me lovely books too. All of this means that I have a serious book problem and no real way of getting out of it. So something has to give, and that’s the buying part of the equation.

So that’s where my reading resolution comes in.  I’m not allowing myself to buy any more books. At least until the TBR pile is a lot smaller. And judging by the size of it a year seems a sensible length of time… So how’s it going, I hear you cry?

Well, honestly, it’s not been too bad. I’ve stuck to it so far and haven’t bought a single new book. Hooray! Granted I did do one last book order on New Year’s Eve, which arrived in the first week of January. So that made things easier I’m sure as I got new books without buying any. But I also haven’t felt the need to buy any new books. Don’t get me wrong there have been books I’ve seen and wanted to read, but I’ve not been close to buying any books yet. I’m sure that’s because I’ve chosen such good books to read this month, maybe if I was in a reading rut things would be different!

There are five things that are helping me keep this reading resolution, which I’ve outlined below. I genuinely think I’d have failed without them!

What I’m doing to help my complete my reading resolution:

*Book vouchers are allowed. I got some vouchers for Christmas and I’m saving these up for later in the year, when the need to buy a book is present! This is still allowed as I’m not using my own money to buy the books, so technically I’m not breaking the resolutions rules. I’m already considering what I’ll spend my voucher on, at the moment it’s going on the new Sarah J Maas books as she has new books out this year and I know I’ll want them as soon as they’re published!

*Pester your friends. As mentioned above I have a lot of friends who work in publishing so I’ve been pestering them to send me their latest releases. But only when I REALLY want to read them. As otherwise that’s just adding to the TBR pile issue. And that’s been a lifesaver so far. It’s thanks to them that I’ve read the new Melinda Salisbury book, Sorrow, and Louise O’Neill’s upcoming YA, The Surface Breaks.

*Borrow books from others. I need to make more of this point as Laura has a whole shelf of books I’ve yet to read. So next time I think my bookshelves are boring or lacking anything interesting to read I’m going to head there. I think that might come in handy next month.

*Use Netgalley more. I’ve been signed up for Netgalley for ages but I’ve not actually requested anything. That’s changed this month as I’ve read two books from there. And these are books that I know I’d have bought otherwise – The Girl in the Tower and The Wicked Cometh. With Netgalley you can download certain upcoming books for a limited time, you just have to request them from the publisher. Once you’ve been accepted they send the manuscript to your Kindle. It’s that simple and a great way to read more, without any associated cost. The dream right now! You just have to review the books, and have a good social media presence.

*’Shop’ your bookshelf. This is the most important point of the whole 2018 reading resolution and the reason I was doing it in the first place. I have to shop my TBR shelves. To be fair some of my books have been on the shelf for years and I’ve forgotten about them so shopping them again will make it feel like the book is brand new. Result!

*Visit the library. This is my plan for later in the year. When things are getting very desperate in terms of wanting books. After all libraries are such a valuable part of our society and I really don’t use them enough.

So there we go, those are my life-saving ideas that are allowing me to complete my 2018 reading resolution. And yes I know it’s only been a month but I’m really quite pleased that I’ve not bought any books yet. Go me! Now does anyone want to buy me a book as a reward? That would be really lovely!

-Fi x

Friday Favourites #104

Happy Friday team! Does anyone else feel like we’re coming out of the longest week ever, I swear it’s been ten days long at least. What’s with that? Here’s hoping that once February arrives time will start to go at a normal pace. A girl can dream right? Despite it’s ridiculous length this week has been quite lovely and packed with joyful things. So let’s get discussing this favourites shall we?

<> First up this week was the one where I finally got to watch Hamilton. After two years of constantly listening to the soundtrack and a year since purchasing tickets I sat down to watch this musical extravaganza. And I loved every second. It amazingly lived up to my crazy expectations, I adored every moment. It was honestly the most astonishing thing I’ve even seen on the stage. The casting (apart from two people) was spot on, the staging was magnificent, the energy was overwhelming and it was so funny. I went from all the emotions to hilarity multiple times throughout the night and I loved it. It really was incredible to see something I’ve been so obsessed with in the flesh. The next release of tickets go on sale on Monday and I implore you to buy tickets. You won’t regret it.

 

 

<> Next up we have some more lovely music. I’ve recently rediscovered Aretha Franklin on Spotify and it’s bringing me such joy. There’s nothing better to listen to when you’re trying to get all the things done than ‘I’m Every Woman’, ‘RESPECT’ and ‘Son of a Preacher Man’. What incredible songs.

<> Also on this week’s Friday favourites post, Friends. I’ve finally started the re-watch on Netflix and it’s just so good. It’s still hilarious and there’s so many moments I’d forgotten about – at least five forgotten moments in episode one alone. I can’t wait to watch more this weekend!

<> In more exciting news I’ve finally booked two of my 2018 trips this week. Hurrah! After discussing it for ages I’ve now booked both Budapest and Australia. Well I’ve booked the flights at least, I still need to fine tune the rest of the trip. but still, hooray for trip planning! Less happy about how few holiday days I have left for the rest of the year…

<> Talking of planning the year, I received two wedding invites this week. Eek! Two of my best university friends are getting married, in May and July respectively, and I’m so excited to celebrate with them. I’m hoping also that I’ll be able to extend both weddings into UK holidays too as they’re both outside of London. So I’ll be adding Liverpool, Chester and Wiltshire to my UK holiday list. Double yeah!

 

 

<> Last week I finally had my first Lumiere London experience. I can’t believe I’ve missed it in the past – it’s incredible. I’m already counting down the days until next year’s event.

<> I’ve caught up with some friends this week and had the loveliest of times with them. There’s nothing quite like putting the world to rights over a drink (or two) is there? I really should make this a more common occurrence!

<> This weekend I’m off to Surrey to see the family (and dog) and I’m so excited. It’s been a while since we were all together. So a good old natter over a roast dinner sounds the ideal way to spend 24 hours. And also perfect for getting me out of this ‘why is January so looooong?’ funk that I appear to be in!

So there we go my favourites list! What would be on yours?

-Fi x

How to Spend 48 Hours in Hamburg

Last December we went away for a sisters’ trip to Hamburg and had the best time! I didn’t really know what to expect from our trip as I hadn’t done a massive amount of planning or research in advance. But it turns out Hamburg is an awesome city. As such I’d highly recommend it for a weekend away, there’s plenty to do but not so much that you’ll be exhausted by having to rush around like a crazy person during your trip. Always key when planning a weekend away so close to Christmas!

Read on for my suggestion of how to spend 48 hours in Hamburg.

How to spend 48 hours in Hamburg: Have a wander

I’m a big fan of trying to get a feel for a city straightaway so if you’re anything like me the first thing you’ll want to do on arrival is wander for a few hours. That’s exactly what we did, grabbed food and went exploring. We started at the station before heading to the Rathaus, then across to the lake and into the main shopping area. Hamburg is great as it’s small enough that you can wander around it fairly easily and I felt like I’d got my bearings after only a few hours there.

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How to spend 48 hours in Hamburg: The Christmas Markets

The main impetus for the trip, apart from spending quality time together, was to finally go to a proper German Christmas market. Ever since I went to University in Manchester and discovered German Christmas markets I’ve been obsessed with going to one in Germany. Rather than in a UK city. Not that the UK ones are bad, they’re not, they’re incredible. I just knew that if they were that good over here they must be insanely good in their country of birth. We spent a lot of time at the markets. From drinking hot apple juice and mulled wine to stay warm or scoffing fried potato cakes and frites. And my absolute favourite, bratwurst for dinner followed by mini pancakes or crepes. And then there were the non-food stalls. Like the stalls selling Christmas decorations and scarves, wooden toys or candles. In short the German markets in Hamburg are incredible. I would go back again in a shot just to visit them!

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How to spend 48 hours in Hamburg: Wander the Canals

So there are canals in Hamburg. Who knew? Not me that’s for sure. Hamburg’s canal area is so reminiscent of Amsterdam, it’s crazy! If you can I’d definitely recommend wandering around the canals, there’s even one spot where you can head onto the jetty in the canal to get a better view of the surrounding buildings. Buildings which are tall and thin and in the traditional red brick. Just like you’d expect to see in Amsterdam. As we were exploring the canal area we spotted a number of really cute restaurants that I’d recommend stopping in. There’s one that was all about potatoes. Sign me up!

48 Hours in Hamburg - Out and About - This and That Blog

How to spend 48 hours in Hamburg: Visit Miniatur Wonderland

I appreciate that it sounds like I’ve lost the plot when I tell you that Hamburg’s Miniature Wonderland is a must visit. But hear me out, I beg you. You won’t regret it! Hamburg’s Miniatur Wonderland is an old converted warehouse that has the most incredible and intricate miniature world spread across its three floors. We’re talking a miniature version of Hamburg Airport that has planes taking off, thousands of metres of train line, a miniature Vegas strip, mini people celebrating their football team winning in a replica of Hamburg’s stadium. It’s honestly the most impressive thing I’ve seen. And so so life-like. I’ll share a longer post about the genius that is Miniatur Wonderland soon but just remember you must visit it. Even if it does sound a little bit weird…

48 Hours in Hamburg - Out and About - This and That Blog

So there we have it my list of things you must do if you have 48 hours in Hamburg. I hope that’s useful if you’re planning a trip and if you’ve never considered Hamburg then I implore you to consider it in December. The Christmas markets are incredible. You won’t regret it.

-Fi x