Friday Favourites #111

Since Sunday night I’ve been feeling pretty sorry for myself. I’ve got that cold, sore throat, general illness that is currently going around, so it’s been a super quiet week for me. Which is always excellent, but I wish I hadn’t been quite so ill. All I’ve really wanted to do is sleep, but sleep has been hard because of the amount of coughing I’ve been doing in the night. Woe is me right! Anyway, I’m not going to spend all this time moaning, because in the grand scheme of things a cold, it is just a cold. It’s a nuisance but it really isn’t the end of the world. So let’s move onto the reason that you are here – it’s a Friday favourites post of course!


<> First up, before I got ill I did manage to get out for a run on Saturday. It was a lovely spring day and for the first time in a long while running was good. I definitely had a spring in my step.

<> I haven’t made it to the pool for a swim this week because illness and the inability to breathe through my nose. However, I have walked to Victoria station in the evening a couple of times. It means I’ve been able to see the daffodils that have started to flower in St James’s Park, which is definitely a Friday favourite. I love this time of year.

 

 

<> I’ve just finished reading The Friend by Dorothy Koomson and I absolutely loved it. It’s been awhile since I’ve read anything from this author but it did not disappoint. It’s a story about friends, family, secrets and it had me hooked after just a few chapters. You can see more of what I’m reading over on GoodReads here.

<> On Sunday I was down in Surrey for Mother’s Day celebrations, which was good. It’s always lovely spending time with the family and the pupster.

<> We nipped into Guildford on Sunday morning and feasted on cake at the Hummingbird Bakery. It was the perfect plan and the best way to start the day.

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<> The Guildford trip was followed by a roast dinner and catch up with friends who I hadn’t seen since Christmas.

<> With my birthday just a month away now I am starting to think about birthday presents, those to go onto my list and also ideas for buying for Fi. The joys of having a twin sister means I can still shop for the perfect gift – which is one of my favourite things to do.

So there we have them, my Friday favourites for this week. How has your week gone? Has it been a busy one?

Laura xx

Rocky Road

Some days I want an uber sophisticated dessert. One that takes a lot of skill, looks amazing and will make people go ‘wow’. And other days it’s all about something quick, easy and delicious. Today’s recipe is one for the quick and easy moments in your life. When you can’t be bothered to turn on the oven and you just want a chocolate feast. During those times rocky road is the answer. Rocky road is the simplest thing in the world to make. It’s one of those melt, break and mix it all together recipes that anyone can do.

To make this rocky road even more fantastic I’ve added in Easter treats in the form of Smarties Mini Eggs. Because if you’re baking within six weeks before Easter it is essential that all baked goods contain something Easter related. Am I right, or am I right?Previous bakes that follow this thinking include mini egg blondies, which are my favourite tray bake in existence, and the classic creme egg brownies.

Rocky Road - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Rocky Road Ingredients:

150g digestive biscuits – broken up into bitesize chunks / 180g mini marshmallows / two bags of smarties mini eggs / 150g milk chocolate – broken into chunks / 200g dark chocolate – broken into chunks / 4 tablespoons golden syrup / 150g butter / A bar of Cadbury’s Easter bunny chocolate

Rocky Road Recipe:

Melt the butter in a large pan over a low heat / once half of the butter is melted add in the chocolate chunks and the syrup / continue to melt until all the ingredients are melted and combined / remove from the heat and leave to cool – about 10 minutes.

Once it’s cooled add in the biscuits, marshmallows and mini eggs / stirring well to coat everything in the chocolate mixture / pour into a lined tin – we used a 8″ x 8″ brownie pan / top the rocky road with squares of Easter bunny chocolate / place in the fridge to cool and harden.

Once it hardens cut it into smaller pieces. We made about 24 pieces out of this. So the perfect amount for an Easter gathering or the work treats table.

So there we have it, the easiest of recipes for a delicious treat over the Easter break. Do you have a favourite rocky road recipe? What do you add to yours?

Laura xx

How to Spend 24 hours in Manchester

Manchester is one of those cities that I feel like I know really well, but in actuality I don’t. I mean I know it as it was ten years ago as I spent three years there at University. But Manchester as it is now is kind of a mystery to me. I know where the centre is and how to get around it easily, but I’ve not properly explored it, like you would as a tourist, for a very long time. So last year when it came to deciding on where to spend a Christmas weekend with friends Manchester was the obvious choice. And I loved every second of it. Manchester, is a really awesome city. So if you’re considering a trip there then read on for my top tips of what to do if you have 24 hours in Manchester.

24 Hours in Manchester - Out and About - This and That Blog

Explore the Northern Quarter

This is my new favourite area of the city. We stayed in a great Air bnb here and it was the most perfect base for us. It’s just ten minutes walk from the station and less than five to the main shopping centre. So it’s super easy to get to. And then it’s full of the most awesome places – from incredible food places, lovely shops and full of amazing street art. Basically there’s a photo opportunity every way you turn. An Instagrammers dream you say? We tried a couple of the food places – for lunches and brunch and loved them all. From what I’ve heard you’d be hard pressed to find a food place that wasn’t amazing in this area.

Hit the shops

Manchester city centre is like a shopping mecca. There’s every shop you could possibly want – from standard high street shops to Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls and TK Maxx. Plus the biggest Primark shop ever! We spent an afternoon popping in and out of all the shops trying not to buy everything – it was a hardship I tell you.

 

24 Hours in Manchester - Out and About - This and That Blog

Brunch at Albert Schloss

I’d heard tell of this intriguing venue via the medium of Instagram as the decor is incredible. Then I saw the menu and I was sold on visiting it. And thank goodness I did as everything about it is incredible and it totally met my crazy expectations. The decor is awesome – like a log cabin in the middle of Bavaria, but with the addition of neon lights, buttons for champagne and delicious bread and baked goods on the wooden tables ready for you to devour and drool over. And the food, it was delicious. We started our brunch with two cruffins for the four of us to share, followed by plates of avocado and eggs on toast and all the drinks. Because if you’ve not got three drinks at brunch what are you even doing?!

24 Hours in Manchester - Out and About - This and That Blog

Crazy golf

Just on the outskirts of the city centre there’s a Junkyard Golf, which has two different crazy golf courses. The holes are fashioned out of junk and lit up by neon lights, which is pretty cool. If you’ve got even a tiny streak of competitiveness you need to visit with friends. It’s such fun!

Admire the architecture

Manchester is such an awesome city – with beautiful buildings wherever you look. The city is made up of an eclectic mix of building styles, from those dating back to the industrial revolution to the gothic buildings like the cathedral. And then there’s the more recent buildings and concrete architecture – it really does make a great city to photograph (and Instagram of course)!

Go to the Christmas markets

The Manchester Christmas markets are the best in the UK and are only beaten by the German Christmas markets in actual Germany in my mind. Not only are the markets on every corner of the city, they are also full of incredible and good things. Not just crappy plastic toys or rubbish, non festive food. There’s the classic Gluewein and the huge bratwurst cooked with onions and served in crunchy baguettes. Plus they do chimney cakes and chocolate covered fruit skewers. In the non-food related category they have carved wooden Christmas decorations, beautiful glass decorations and wooden toys. It’s easy to spend a couple of hours wandering around the stalls and getting all festive. It’s the best.

So there we go, if you have 24 hours in Manchester this is my suggested itinerary – a good mix of culture, aimless wandering and organised fun, plus all the food. Yeah for lovely weekends in gorgeous UK cities.

24 Hours in Manchester - Out and About - This and That Blog

-Fi x

Friday Favourites #110

Happy Friday team, how are you all today? I’m very excited that the weekend has finally arrived. Did anyone else feel like we were never going to get to Friday? I don’t know why I felt that way as it’s not been a particularly stressful week but nevertheless it’s felt long! Anyway, onwards and upwards, to the things that have made my week excellent in today’s Friday favourites post.

<> Firstly, top of today’s Friday favourites list, we have the puppy visiting. She brought the parents with her last weekend to fix the shed door. And it meant we had a morning of cuddles and play. Including a full 40 minutes of her sat on my lap as I finished the jigsaw. She’s the dreamiest pup around.

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<> Also making me smile this week – holiday planning. This week I’ve been researching for our Australia trip and I’m so very excited about seeing family and exploring the country. It’s going to be a blast. I also booked a hotel for my friends wedding so role on May for another fun weekend.

<> International Women’s Day always makes me happy as it’s so wonderful to see people celebrating the incredible women in their lives. So that’s definitely making today’s happy list.

<> Is anyone else a massive fan of Disney’s Mulan? It’s one of my favourite ever Disney films and I was obsessed with the soundtrack as a kid. So you can imagine my delight when I spotted that someone has reenacted the beginning of one of the best scenes in it – the song ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You’. You can watch the short clip on Twitter here and it’s so brilliant!

<> Talking of favourite films, they’re doing a sequel to one of my other childhood faves – Mary Poppins. And the trailer was released this past weekend. Doesn’t it look so intriguing and also so true to the original. I. Cannot. Wait.

<> I restarted Friends on Netflix this week and it’s bringing me such joy. It’s been forever since I watched the really early episodes so it’s like rediscovering them all again. Such fun.

<> While I was a massive fan of the snow I’m even more excited to see some blue sky and spring sunshine this week. It’s such a welcome change. It was almost nice to few almost too warm in my winter coat. What a relief that winter is finally relinquishing it’s hold. Hooray!

<> Rounding up this week’s Friday favourites list is my upcoming Mother’s Day plans. We’re planning a day out with The Mothership that includes the Hummingbird Bakery, before heading home for one of Dad’s spectacular roast dinners. It’s going to be an excellent Sunday. Lucky me!

I hope you’ve all had an exceptional week and have a lovely long list of favourite things. What would be top?

– Fi x

Currently Watching

It’s cold and chilly, we’ve had snow-maggedon and all I want to do is stay cosy and warm inside all of the time. It’s not just me right? We’re all doing it. Cosy nights in front of the TV, soups and stews cooking on a Sunday afternoon, and a candle burning at every opportunity. That’s my life right now, and I’m fully embracing it. The good news is that with all of my cosy time I have been able to make my way through some excellent TV. And that’s what I’m sharing today; what I am currently watching.

Manhunt: Unabomber (Netflix)

I’m only two episodes into this Netflix series but I think it has enough potential to mention in this currently watching list. With a cast including Sam Worthington and Paul Bettany this is a dramatisation of the real life events of how a FBI profiler helped catch Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. If, like me, you’re a fan of Criminal Minds then this is probably right up your street.

Queer Eye (Netflix)

Did you ever watch the original series of this? I remember watching a few episodes and loving it. I’m always ready for a reality TV makeover show so when I saw that Netflix were bringing this back I was totally onboard. Each week the five gay hosts help change the life of a different person. They go in and renovate their house, update their wardrobe and inspire them with the confidence to be themselves. They’re so well-meaning and lovely and also hilarious! And the truly care about the people they’re helping. I’ve got one episode left and I’m refusing to watch it, instead I’m saving it for when I really need a pick me up. Because that is exactly what it is. A funny, lovable show that just makes me smile from ear to ear. The only thing missing is a revisit to each person. I would be so interested to see each of them 6 months later.

Peaky Blinders (Netflix and BBC)

Okay so I’m definitely late to the party on this one. Honestly I’ve lost count of the number of people who told me to watch this show. Set in 1920s Birmingham the show follows the Shelby crime family, also know as the Peaky Blinders. I’m currently watching series two and I am utterly hooked. The show is full of crime, family and historic references. I’m particularly enjoying seeing post-war England. And I find the canals fascinating too. Obviously my favourite character is Tommy, who heads up the Peaky Blinders with his brothers. But there are some strong women characters too, and I think in another life I’d have like to have known Ada and Polly.

Strike: Career of Evil (BBC)

As a fan of anything written by J. K. Rowling of course I’ve read her Strike series of books. Career of Evil is a TV adaptation of the third book in the Strike series, it’s a two-parter and has the usual dark scenes and twisted characters plus Strike and Robin running through London trying to solve the crime. It’s the perfect watch for a dark evening, and I’m always on the edge of my seat waiting to see what gruesome event is coming next. Career of Evil doesn’t disappoint. Unfortunately there are currently no more Strike books published, so I reckon we’ll have to wait a little while before this series returns.

How to Get Away with Murder (Sky Living & Netflix)

American writer and producer Shonda Rhimes is responsible for some of my favourite TV shows. From Grey’s Anatomy to Scandal and Private Practice I am obsessed with anything that she creates. But right now How to Get Away with Murder is at the top of the list. It’s a slick drama starring Viola Davis as a law professor who mentors five law students. The fourth and final series is currently airing on Sky (Netflix has a couple of the other series if you need to catch up) and it has me utterly hooked. The characters, the storylines, the flashbacks, it all just works really well. I’m on tenterhooks waiting to see what happens next for Annalise Keating. Also there’s a crossover episode with Scandal coming up, which I cannot wait to watch!

So there you have it, what I’m currently watching. What shows are you obsessed with at the moment? What should I be watching and what should I be steering clear off. Please do share.

Laura

 

* Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The Book Corner: January Reading Update

Seeing as we’re now in March (HOW?!) I thought it was high time I shared a bookish post with you all as it’s been a long time! I’ve had a really good reading year so far in 2018, so there’s really no reason not to have shared my bookish thoughts with you sooner. I blame my laziness! Please forgive me! And read on for my January reading update.

January Reading Update - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage – Philip Pullman

First up, the latest book from the genius mind that is Philip Pullman. I was surprised that I really enjoyed this book, not that I didn’t expect it to be good. More that I didn’t necessarily feel like I needed this book in my life. I was happy with where the original trilogy had ended. But it really was lovely to delve back into the magical world that Pullman’s created. It felt like revisiting an old friend while at the same time being introduced to new and intriguing characters. I can’t wait to see where the story goes. My only bug bear? Not a lot happened and it did feel a bit like setting the scene for book two, enjoyable scene setting, but scene setting nonetheless.

Twister – Juliette Forrest

Twister is a brilliant middle-grade read and it there’s any sense in the world this will be a classic in years to come. It follows a young girl, Twister, who’s father has gone missing and who comes into posession of a magical necklace as she searches for him. The magical necklace is being sought by a dark, evil power, who may have had something to do with her father’s disappearance. The book is so magical and a complete page-turner – I defy you not to love it. And Twister, the main character who I wound up adoring. She’s got such heart and she’s an interesting mix of Scout and Dorothy.

State of Sorrow – Melinda Salisbury

I was a massive fan of Melinda’s original series, The Sin Eater’s Daughter, so I had a lot of expectations with this book. And Melinda’s book smashed through every single one. It’s simply that incredible. She’s created the most wonderfully realised and richly imagined world and written a character, Sorrow, that I love more than Twylla, the protagonist in The Sin Eater’s Daughter. Sorrow was born just after her brother died and as such she’s grown up essentially parentless and as the unofficial ruler of the Court of Tears. She’s an uneasy ruler and wishes she could do anything but rule. And then her dead brother is found seemingly alive. Will she move aside to allow him his supposed rightful place on the throne or will she  fight him to become leader when that’s the last thing she’s ever wanted?

This really is a great read and I was kept on tenterhooks all the way through – could I trust this person?, what was that person’s motivation?, what would happen next? It really is an incredible read.

Dark Matter – Blake Crouch

When Jason wakes up in a strange lab surrounded by people he’s never met he realises things have gone strange in a big way. And then he returns home and discovers he no longer has a wive and a teenage son. His whole life has changed. But is the world he’s in now the right one, or is that the world he remembers? And how does he find out what the hell is going on? Thus begins a twisty mind-blowing thriller that considers the paths not taken and the lengths we’ll go to to return to the life that we remember.

In truth this book lost me at times. All the talk of the multiverse and dark matter got a bit too much now and again but as a page-turning thriller I was hooked. It really is unputdownable, which is impressive considering the scientific nature of big chunks of it. I defy you not to be hooked within a couple of chapters of this book.

The Surface Breaks – Louise O’Neill

This retelling of The Little Mermaid by feminist writer Louise O’Neill is a masterclass in incredible storytelling. Every page is perfection. Under the sea we’re introduced to a world of female mermaids who have to endure immeasurable pain and sacrifice in order to please men. They’re at the mercy of their fathers and husbands and have no say in what their lives are like. Here we’re introduced to Gaia, a mermaid who has just turned 17 and has been allowed up to the surface for the first time. There she meets a handsome boy who she saves from death and begins to fall for. She longs to join him on land, but will he give her everything she wants or will she have to sacrifice too much for life above the sea?

This is genuinely spellbinding storytelling and I devoured it in a day. It’s such a timely book and the most brilliant way of retelling a classic tale that we all think we know from the Disney film. It’s equal parts rage-inducing and thought-provoking. You’ll adore it.

January Reading Update - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge

I’d heard a lot about this book before I added it to my bookshelf and everything people have said about it is 100% true. It’s rage-inducing and eye-opeing and incredibly informative. I learnt so much and realised I need to do so much better. I thought I was aware of the realities of race in this country, but it turns out I was pretty clueless. In her book Reni talks through our country’s history with race and how structural racism became so established in this country. From a history fan standpoint it’s incredible interesting, even as you’re sitting there getting angrier and angrier at every point. This is certainly a must-read for all.

The Wicked Cometh – Laura Carlin

I’d heard only good things about The Wicked Cometh, and then when I saw the beautiful cover I knew this was a book I needed! And it did not disappoint. This is a beautifully written mystery novel set in grimy Dickensian 1830s London. It delves into a world of murder and grave robbing so rife in that era while also being a love story for two lost soles. The descriptions are so detailed you can’t help but be in that time period. Although I could have done without some of the really gruesome descriptions if I’m honest! I found my self second guessing everything and everyone apart from Hester and Rebekah – two brilliant heroines that I rooted for from page one. Here’s hoping book two is on its way soon…

*This book was sent to me via the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Moonrise – Sarah Crossan

This is a heartbreaking tale about a teenager whose brother is on death row, with his execution date fast approaching. It’s a beautifully written tale, and equal parts hopeful and soul-destroying, as it asks big questions about forgiveness, love and the realities of live. Sarah Crossan’s writing draws you in straightaway and you can’t help but root for Joe and his brother Ed, despite Ed’s crimes. She also has this brilliant way of making you feel all the emotions as you race through the book in one sitting. Her writing is that good. I genuinely feel that Moonrise is an essential read for all as it raises so many vital questions about the legal system and life in general and it does so so beautifully.

The Girl in The Tower – Katherine Arden

The first book in the Winternight series, The Bear and the Nightingale, was one of my favourite books of 2017 so it’s safe to say I had high expectations with book two in the series, The Girl in the Tower. Thankfully it did not disappoint. I raced through it in two days and loved every page. It’s just as dark, atmospheric and full of twisty plot as I wanted. And the descriptions, they are so vivid, you feel like you’re in deepest, darkest, coldest Russia. As for the characters, I adore everything about feisty Vasya and was angry, happy and scared along with her. Finally I love the Russian folklore that’s woven through every chapter. This book is a special historical fiction novel and deserves to be lauded as it has been. Simply put it is so so good.

* This book was sent to me via the publisher on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

My final January read was Neverworld Wake, a psychological thriller about a bunch of teenagers who are stuck in the Neverworld Wake – an alternate reality that keeps resetting. The only way out? To uncover the secrets surrounding the death, a year earlier, of one of their friends. Will they work together to get out of the world they’re stuck in or will they fall apart? Will they be honest with one another? And will they realise the lengths people will go to to hide the truth from themselves.

This is a real page-turner and a book that I didn’t imagine would go the way that it did. It’s twisty and full of flawed characters and keeps you guessing until the end.

So there we have it, my ten January reads. I brilliant mix of teen and fantasy reads, suspense novels and eye-opening essays. Basically, something for everyone. and all really good books. Tell me, what have you read so far this year that you would recommend I read next – just one suggestion though. My TBR is too big for many more books!

-Fi x

Friday Favourites #109

Hello all, how are we all this week?? Have you been visited by the beast from the east or Storm Emma? Both have been playing havoc in the UK. I also can’t quite believe that we are in March, how did that happen? Since when has the time flown this quickly? I swear we only just had Christmas! Please tell me I’m not the only one that feels this way. Anyway, enough of my complaining, this is meant to be a post about my favourite things from this week.

<> First up I made this curry on Monday. I wanted to use up the last of the cabbage and Jerusalem artichokes from our OddBox and found it online. And unsurprisingly it was really good. I substituted some of the potatoes for the artichokes and ended up having to substitute some of the seeds for ground spices but I don’t think that made much difference to the taste. Now I need to try more of Meera Sodha’s recipes.

<> I also bought myself a new backpack. It’s soft leather and grey and has all the pockets which makes it perfect for carrying everything to work in, plus it was an utter bargain from T K Maxx.

 

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<> Over the weekend I had my uni pals visiting London and we had an excellent time. We explored South Kensington and then had a chilled out evening watching Queer Eye episodes. It was exactly what we all needed.

<> We also found time to visit Doughnut Time on Shaftesbury Avenue and admire all of the doughnuts. Let me tell you, making a decision on which one to choose was very very hard. I ended up with the Stranger Rings 2.0. A ring doughnut covered in Oreo crumbs and Nutella drizzle. It was delicious, but huge. It took me the whole weekend to finish it!

<> Sunday morning meant Dishoom for brunch. It’s become a tradition for our London weekends, to end there on Sunday morning before everyone departs on their different trains. I opted for an egg and bacon naan. Obviously.

 

 

<> Obviously this week we’ve had snow. And lots of it. I’ve never seen London so covered in snow, it’s unbelievable. And quite pretty. Although it has been a tad irritating in terms of getting to work. But I can deal with that as long as I can view the blankets of snow from my office window.

<> Last night I met up with some of the publishing gang for a cinema trip to see Lady Bird. It was a good film, but I think slightly overhyped as it didn’t meet my high expectations.

So there we have them a few of my favourite things from the week. Tonight I’m looking forward to a evening in on the sofa with a bowl of pasta and the latest episodes of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. As far as weekend plans go I’m hoping that my Sunday brunch plans are still a go, so fingers crossed the snow doesn’t interfere with them. We will see. What about you lovely lot? Have you got snow? And what does your weekend look like?

Laura xx

Thoughts on Being Greener

thoughts-on-being-greener

There’s been a lot of talk over the last couple of months about saving the environment, cutting down on plastic and generally treating the world better. I like it. We should be thinking, talking and doing better. So I wanted to write about that today, but it’s a slightly different post because while I could share a post about what I’m doing about being greener, I think that we all know what we need to be doing. And I don’t want to share a post that everyone else is also writing. Yes, okay I may have a slightly different take on it, but in reality the list is the same; use a bamboo toothbrush, recycle more/better/properly, no single use plastics (or at least less of it), buy (and use) a reusable water bottle and reusable coffee mug, etc. So rather than a what I’m doing to be greener post I’m going to be sharing a few things that I’ve noticed now that I am thinking more about the environment and how what I do impacts it.

*I keep saying do better, because I know that there are still further improvements I can make. I’m not perfect, I don’t think anyone is, so this is an ongoing evolution for me.*

Thoughts on Being Greener

<> I don’t actually need a cappuccino everyday. It turns out that homemade cafetière coffee is just as good. I still feel awake and also less full from all that milk. Plus my Contigo coffee mug keeps my coffee hot until 10:30am. So I can slowly drink it for my first couple of hours at work without worrying about getting distracted and returning to a cold cup of coffee.

<> I’m drinking more water at work. I drink a lot of water at home – we have four glass bottles in our fridge filled with tap water that are used on rotation – but at work I don’t drink as much. But now that I’ve invested in a reusable bottle I am filling it up more often at work, and drinking the whole thing each time.

<> I’m spending less. Because I’m now bringing coffee from home 2/3 days a week and because I always have water with me I am definitely spending less on coffee from Starbucks.

<> Vegetables wrapped in plastic. The other day I refused to buy courgettes because they were wrapped in plastic. As much as I wanted them I couldn’t find any that were loose and ready for me to buy. Sometimes I don’t want or need four courgettes, so why can’t I but one or two? And even if I do want four, I don’t need them to be covered in plastic.

<> My bag is so heavy now! Taking my bottle of water and coffee mug to work most days is quite an effort. Luckily I have a backpack so I’m not ruining my shoulders, but still it’s worth mentioning as I didn’t think about that when I decided to be more environmentally friendly.

<> Let’s talk plastic straws. Isn’t it ridiculous how easily these are given out at bars and restaurants? And even in coffee shops. I purposely avoid plastic straws, but I still get given them at certain times. It will be interesting to see if this will change soon. Will drinking establishments move to paper straws, or at least hand them out less? I know Starbucks have started this, but I hope they remove plastic ones altogether and that other places come on board soon.

<> I have reservations about recycling. Now this may sound weird considering what this post is about, but let me explain. I think recycling is great and I believe it needs to be done more. But sometimes I see the bins being collected and the rubbish bags are thrown into the same rubbish truck as recycling boxes. It makes me wonder if all the rubbish sorting is actually pointless. Are we spending time washing out tin cans and juice cartons only for the recycling efforts to go to waste right at the end of the process? I’m not sure. Whatever the answer is I will keep being greener and making these changes, but it is concerning.

So there we are, those are my thoughts on being greener. What do you think? Are you trying to do your bit for the environment? What have you noticed, what are you thinking about the trend at the moment?

Laura xx

Photo credit – Photo by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash

Friday Favourites #108

Greetings friends, and how are you this very chilly Friday? I for one have had an awesome week, despite the weird weather. Has anyone else felt like we’ve had two very different seasons this week. There were a couple of days at the weekend when I almost felt like spring was here. I only needed a light scarf and managed to carry my coat for longer than I wore it. And then yesterday happened and we’ve been plunged back into winter. With temperatures barely going above 4 degrees. I am so not here for such disparity, especially as I thought spring had arrived. Anyway, on a more positive note let’s discuss the things that have made my week lovely, onwards to the Friday favourites list!

Friday Favourites 108 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

<> First up this week we’ve been enjoying our very first Oddbox and I’m converted. We pay just under £10 every fortnight for the delivery of a box full of odd-shaped fruit and veg that’s either been rejected by supermarkets or is surplus to requirements. It was delivered in the early hours to a designated safe place in our garden and we awoke to a box full of cabbage, apples, tomatoes, salad leaves, Jerusalem artichokes and pears. And everything we’ve eaten so far has been so delicious, you can really tell that the produce is grown relatively locally and delivered asap so it’s nice and fresh.

<> Number two on today’s Friday Favourites list is my weekend plans, which are excellent. That’s because it’s the first of our regular besties catch ups, this time in London. We have plans for pizza and Harry Potter inspired cocktails tonight, followed by London exploring accompanied by all the food tomorrow before brunch and a final natter on Sunday. I can’t wait! Catching up with these three ladies is always a great weekend and November, the date of our last catch up, was far too long ago.

<> We had a random mid-week family dinner this week at the Loch Fyne local to my parents and it was so lovely. It made a change to go out for a random dinner for no reason whatsoever. And as ever the food at Loch Fyne was off the charts good.

<> I know it’s been cold recently, but one weather related change that I’ve really enjoyed has been the lighter evenings and morning. It’s made such a difference to actually see some daylight for a change. I always forget how much of a difference it makes to actually be outside in the light during the working week. Definitely a worthy addition to this week’s Friday favourites post!

Friday Favourites 108 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

<> Has anyone else been mildly obsessed with the Winter Olympics over the last couple of weeks? I’ve loved every second of it! We’ve made it a habit to watch the coverage at 7pm every night when we’ve been in and Saturday mornings have become Olympic day where we sit on the sofa for as long as possible watching all of that day’s action. I think the luge and ski racing has been my favourite. They’re such fun to watch and when we won gold and bronze last weekend I was beside myself with excitement. Lord knows what I’ll do on Sunday when there’s no sport to watch.

<> And the final thing making today’s Friday favourites post is a long overdue catch up with one of my uni pals over the weekend. We caught up for lunch and a very leisurely shopping trip in Reading and it was just the nicest. We set the world to rights over delicious bowls of pasta (thanks Jamie’s Italian) before buying all the lovely things. I was relatively restrained and only got three things, some Lush bath bombs, this gorgeous grey blazer and a new pair of my favourite M&S jeans. I mean at £22.50 for the best fitting jeans in the history of the world how could I say no?

Friday Favourites 108 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Tell me, how’s your week been? What’s been the best part of it, apart from the fact that it’s nearly the weekend of course!

-Fi x

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