Out and About: Deal Castle

Whilst in Kent celebrating turning the big 3-0 we not only enjoyed discovering the glorious Deal cottages, we also had fun exploring Deal castle. Deal Castle is fairly prominent and obvious as you drive into Deal from Dover and is just across the road from the beach and the choppy sea beyond. Now owned and looked after by the English Heritage, Deal Castle was originally built on the orders of Henry VIII as one of a chain of coastal forts protecting against invasion.

Deal Castle - Out and About - This and That Blog

For a small fee you can wander through the entirety of the castle, from the store rooms and kitchens to the residences and down to the cannon rooms. But my favourite bit was walking around the top of the battlements. you could really get a sense of what it would have been like to man the cannons as you looked out to sea for an impending attack. I really liked the fact that English Heritage haven’t spent a fortune reenacting everything and putting furniture in all the rooms. It works much better when things are left simply, so you can imagine what it would have been like.

Deal Castle - Out and About - This and That Blog

There are of course tons of interesting facts about Deal but the two that really stood out for me are that Deal Castle was the first stop for Anne of Cleeves after her long journey across Europe to marry Henry VIII. Also the castle is shaped like a Tudor Rose, when viewed from above. It’s got a central fortress which is surrounded by two sets of six semicircular ramparts. I really find it hard to imagine that this was by chance – surely it had to be part of the architect’s plan?

Deal Castle - Out and About - This and That Blog

In the Kitchen: Orange and Polenta Cake

So let’s talk about cake, isn’t it just the best? Sometimes it’s so good that I’ll eat multiple slices instead of dinner. Best idea ever, can you beat a day that involves the consumption of half a cake? No. No you cannot. Anyway, I’ve made a huge number of cakes in my lifetime – fruit based, chocolate focused, plain and even vegetable ones – but something I’ve never tried before is a polenta cake. Polenta is one of those food items that I’ve never really had apart from once or twice at a restaurant. It’s always intrigued me but I’ve always been a bit reticent about eating or cooking with it. I suppose it’s the worry it’ll be disgusting, so why waste time or money on it?

However on bank holiday Monday I thought it was time to embrace polenta, after all bank holiday’s are made for cake and I figured polenta would be quite safe this way and not a waste of time and effort. After all cake makes everything work and taste perfect, right? So after a bit of a google I settled on an orange and polenta cake, as it sounded ideal for the spring time weather we had been experiencing.

Orange Polenta Cake - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

To make the cake you will need:

  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 140g polenta
  • 200g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • zest and juice of 2 oranges (save 100ml of juice for glaze)
  • For the glaze: 100g caster sugar and 100ml of orange juice

It takes about fifteen minutes to combine all the ingredients the right way and to turn it into a cake, simply follow the eight points below…

  1. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. add the eggs and mix until combined
  3. Add all the dry ingredients and the zest and the orange juice (minus the amount for the glaze) and mix together
  4. Line your round cake tin and pour the mixture in
  5. Pop in the oven for 45 minutes at 160oC/gas 3
  6. Meanwhile make the glaze by combining the orange juice and golden caster sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer for 5 mins then remove from the heat allowing to cool.
  7. Remove from the oven when a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean
  8. Once the cake is cooled drizzle with the orange glaze.

The resulting cake is so delicious, not only is it light and moist, it also really tastes fresh and delicious. It really, really is, so so good! Tell me, have you ever made a polenta cake. What kind did you go for and what did you think of it? Yummy?

The Book Corner: Recent Purchases

For the last couple of months I’ve been having such trouble getting into a book. Normally I can read two books a week easily, but since mid-March I’ve only read five books, I just don’t know what is wrong with me! You’d think that with my current reading issues I’d have stopped buying books. After all I can’t keep adding to the TBR pile if I’m not removing some from the pile by actually reading! But no, my brain is not working like that. The proof? The below piles of books, which are the books I’ve bought since moving home in the middle of march. So less than two months have passed and I’ve somehow got fifteen new books and one new recipe book (but that doesn’t count). What in the hell? How did that happen?

Recent Purchases - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

In my defence I’ve not bought all of them. I got given The Girl on the Train for my birthday and had A French Affair already, it was just in storage. As for The Bright Places, this is a proof copy given to me by a friend. So I’ve only bought nine books. That’s a little bit better, right?

The first three I bought were The Secret Garden, The Wrong Boy and Brideshead Revisited and that was purely because I needed them for the May edition of A Blogging Good Read over on Alex’s blog. So those three were found in Waterstones and charity shops and I’ve read them all – so not a waste of a purchase at all. If you’re interested in my thoughts on those three books, then head to A Blogging Good Read for a full update on my thoughts. (Spoiler: I adored one, loathed another and grew to love the third.)

As for the other books in the above pile? Well Elizabeth is Missing was spotted in a charity shop, so couldn’t be ignored, especially as I’ve heard such good things. The Perfect Match and A French Affair were picked up in a particularly bad reading moment as Jane Green and Katie Fforde are two authors whose books I can’t fail to get into immediately. The Seven Sisters and The Escape were on a supermarket deal, so who could say no? and The Little Prince is a book I’ve meant to read for years and years.

Recent Purchases - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

And what about this pile I hear you cry. Well last week I popped into Waterstones to spend a £10 birthday voucher on a notebook. Ten minutes later and I’d bought my notebook (the beautiful gold dotty one above) plus another notebook and four books. Oops. I maintain they’re all essential but really I don’t know how it happened. I think I’m just a sucker for a deal and couldn’t say not to books that I’ve been wanting for ages. I’ve only heard good things about Five Children on the Western Front and The Year of the Rat, although I feat that the first one is going to have me sobbing. As for Kolymsky Heights this was on recommendation from the Waterstones bookseller. Apparently it’s a brilliant read, and as a real fan of thrillers how could I ignore such advice?

So there we have it my TBR has now got 12 more books on it. Here’s hoping that I get back in the reading mood soon, hey? What have you been reading, anything that’s a must to be added to the pile?

– Fi x

Out and About: The Bluebell Woods

There’s an area near to where I grew up that as kids we crowned the Bluebell Woods. As in the spring those gorgeous blue flowers would pop up out of nowhere and take over the woods. It was stunning. It was incredible how one week you’d visit the usual green woods and the next you’d see a blanket of blue. It was always a little bit magical and was one of my favourite times of the year. So when we saw the bluebells had made their yearly appearance I was super-keen  to go exploring in the woods again.

Bluebell Woods - Out and About - This and That Blog Bluebell Woods - Out and About - This and That Blog Bluebell Woods - Out and About - This and That Blog

So this Sunday we headed into the Surrey Hills for a walk through the woods. After all there has to be some perks to being back at home during the 2015 house saga, right?! Thankfully we were still in time to properly appreciate the glorious swathes of blue flowers and it was truly marvelous to just stop and stare at them in all their glory.

Bluebell Woods - Out and About - This and That Blog Bluebell Woods - Out and About - This and That Blog Bluebell Woods - Out and About - This and That Blog

Now the pictures sprinkled through this post really don’t do the Bluebell Woods justice, but hopefully you get the idea. And if you’re ever in Surrey around this time of year do make sure you visit them. Just pop on over the hill from Shere and you can’t miss them.

So tell me, do you have any similar things you remember from childhood that you’ve recently rediscovered?

– Fi x

In the Kitchen: Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

It’s quite possible that cookies are my favourite thing ever. The crispy outside giving way to the soft chewy centre? That’s HEAVEN right there. There’s a Ben’s Cookies in Covent Garden and occasionally my work bestie and I will meander on up at lunchtime and treat ourselves to a cookie to get us through a manic afternoon. These cookies are divine, but at about £2.00 each they are more than slightly expensive. Which is why I’ve been looking for a cookie recipe that may be able to recreate the goodness that exists at Ben’s. Now Fi posted a cookie recipe the other day, so I know I could have just adapted hers, but I haven’t done that. Purely because I wanted to find a fail safe cookie recipe all by myself.

Cookie Recipe - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Today’s recipe is one that I found online here and amended a bit – mainly because I had no idea what baking soda was and why you needed to add it to hot water. Seriously if you’ve got baking powder and bicarbonate of soda (neither of which need to be mixed with hot water) why do you need baking soda too? Anyway, enough of me complaining about America baking ingredients. Here’s the recipe and the delicious cookies that it makes.

225g soft butter
220g white sugar
170g brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
420g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
milk chocolate chips

Cookie Recipe - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

– Preheat the over to 175C
– Cream together the butter and both sugars
– Beat in the two eggs and the vanilla extract
– Add the baking soda and flour and stir with a spoon
– Mix in the chocolate chips
– Place heaped tablespoons of the mixture onto a floured baking tray and flatten slightly. These do spread during baking so make sure to leave space around them. I went with 6 per tray and made 15 in total.
– Bake for 15 minutes. The timing will vary depending on how thick your cookies are.

Laura xx

Thought of the Day: Planning

Planning - Thought of the Day - This and That Blog

As often as I try to live my live by this quote it doesn’t always happen. It’s not that I don’t 100% believe it and haven’t seen the result of planning myself but sometimes it’s easier to put things off until another day. And then you’re too late and you end up just winging and hoping for the best. But I definitely need to start getting better at this planning malarkey as I know it makes sense and with all the things I’ve got coming up in the next few months I think it’s certainly sensible. So from now on it’s more about planning and less about procrastination. Let’s see how that goes, shall we?

In the Kitchen: Homemade Pizza

Now that I’m back at the parentals it means I don’t actually have to think about cooking. If I’m in then my parents are more than happy to include both me in their meal plans. Which is totally great. However it does make me feel incredible guilty and also a little bit lazy. I try to be as helpful as possible by chopping vegetables, setting the table and cleaning up afterwards to stop this but it doesn’t really work. Instead what I try to do now is cook at least one meal a week for everyone, that and trying to do a food shop – but that’s a little bit harder. This way I can feel like I’m at least pulling my weight a little bit. One of the first things I offered to make was homemade pizza. The reason for this was simple:

1. I love making pizza dough – there’s something about the kneading.
2. Neither of the parentals has ever had my homemade pizza. Travesty!
3. The village my parents live in is so completely in the middle of nowhere that the nearest Domino’s or Papa John’s shops refuse to deliver…
4. …And sometimes pizza is a necessity.

Homemade Pizza - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

So here’s my super simple homemade pizza recipe, which makes four individual pizzas.

For the dough:
500g strong white bread flour
1 sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp salt
2tbsp oil
360ml tepid water

For the topping:
Passata sauce
Mozzarella cheese

1. Mix the yeast with the water and add the oil.
2. Put the salt and flour into a large mixing bowl.
3. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients. Mix together to form a dough.
4. Turn out onto the work surface. The dough can be quite sticky at this point so make sure you sprinkle flour on the surface.
5. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it’s stretchy and smooth.
6. Place into an oiled bowl and cover with cling film and leave to rise for 90 mins in a warm place. We like to leave this in the fridge overnight instead, so we always make it the night before we need it.
7. Once risen divide the dough into four pieces (or into however many pizzas you want to make) and start to flatten out.
8. Place on your baking trays and add your toppings. Start with spreading the passata on the dough. Next top with anything and everything before tearing the cheese into pieces and adding on top.
9. Bake for about 20 minutes at 220C. Although this depends on how crispy you want your base to be.

Laura xx

Out and About: Travel Bucket List

This month I’ve decided to take part in Belinda’s Blog Every Day in May prompt. I won’t be doing every day, after all I’ve already missed the first two days!, but I will be joining in when the prompt is particularly appealing. I like the idea of writing when I get inspired by one of the prompts and it’ll also be a great way of discovering new bloggers. Why not join in too? Today’s prompt is to share your travel bucket list, which I had to join in with as I’ve currently got a severe case of wanderlust.

Travel Bucket List - Out and About - This and That Blog

At the moment I’m trying to save money for the hopeful house move, so I haven’t allowed myself to book any trips apart from a trip to France for a wedding and to be honest it’s only made things worse. It’s like I want to go everywhere and am discovering all sorts of awesome places just because I’m not allowing myself to do something. Why is that always the way these things go? It’s getting to the point that I might just have to end my self-imposed holiday ban and book something to look forward to. Just something cheap mind you.
Anyway, enough waffling, today I want to talk about the one place I really really really want to head to right this minute: The USA. I’ve been a fair few times to various parts of the country – Florida, New York, Cape Cod, San Francisco, Phoenix and LA to name a few places, but I really want to go back and visit so much more…
Travel Bucket List - Out and About - This and That Blog
I want to…
  • take a trip across the country along Route 66, just stopping as and when I want to – be it for a yummy lunch or to see a specific view.
  • head south from Seattle and explore all the hidden gems down the coast
  • camp in Yosemite
  • head back to New York at Christmas and experience Central Park in the snow and in the sunshine, walk the Highwire and explore Brooklyn, see another show on Broadway and show my respect at Ground Zero.
  • experience Martha’s Vineyard in the sunshine
  • fly over the Grand Canyon
  • visit the Niagra Falls and be sprayed by the waterfall
  • experience July 4th over there again
  • travel down the Missisippi
  • visit Harry Potter Wizarding World
  • walk across the Golden Gate bridge and explore Alcatraz
  • visit Nashville and hear live music at one of the many bars
  • experience Mardi Gras
  • watch a baseball game
  • to just generally see and do everything!
One day I’ll make it. Maybe…  What about you, where do you want to go, what’s top of your bucket list?
Found Love. Now What?

Life Rambles: Treat Time

I think it’s fair to say that we’re both feeling pretty lucky and well-loved right now after a spectacularly lovely birthday in Deal and lots of lovely cards and presents. We really are surrounded by a lovely bunch of people. So today we thought we’d discuss some of the awesome treats we’ve received recently and also a few we’ve things we’ve treated ourselves to as well. Because giving yourself an extra treat on your birthday is most definitely a good thing!

Please tell me that other people do this. It can’t just be me. I think it’s a mixture of things I’d spotted pre-birthday for my list that I didn’t get and being given money and vouchers for my birthday it’s basically all about the treats right now.

First up here’s Laura’s treat list.

Treat time

Rain Jacket / Striped Top / Necklace / Heart Bookmark

14th Deadly Sin / Bird Mug / Stone Bracelet / White Deck Shoes

I love getting birthday money. It’s just perfect when there’s something you’ve been wanting to treat yourself to. I have been wanting this raincoat for ages and ages, so it was so lovely to go and buy it this month. Perfectly timed too as it looks like the spring showers are about to arrive. I also received clothes from both my sisters; a jacket and a blue striped top, which go perfectly together (totally unplanned by them) which is great as with a lot of clothing currently in storage I seem to be running out of clothes!

The storage issue is also to blame for that fact that I’ve also bought new shoes and (another) striped top. I don’t wear a lot of jewellery but what I do wear is normally quite simple. Which is why I am so pleased with the bracelet and necklace that I received this year. They are both so perfectly me. We all know that there’s nothing I like more than curling up with a good book and a cup of coffee so new books and mugs are always gratefully received. The quote on the mug is just perfect and means so much to me. Plus a Tiffany bookmark? Love it. I may have squealed at the blue box!

And now to Fi…

birthday treats

Stripey shoes / Grey and Coral Reversible Bag / Green Onyx Ring / The Girl on The Train

iPad Mini / iPad Mini case / 36 Hours in Europe and London / Necklace

I was lucky enough to receive some lovely gifts for my birthday, such as these stripey shoes and gorgeous Joules necklace from one sisterling and this brilliant travel book and stunning ring from the other sisterling. All of the accessories have barely been off me since I first got them. Simply because they go with everything! I couldn’t have chosen better myself. I also love that they make it look like I’ve made an effort when I really haven’t. Generally I’ve thrown the first clean outfit I can find on and then accessorised.

And now to the bits I’ve treated myself too… I know that’s bad of me, but what’s a girl to do when she gets birthday money and vouchers? I’ve been deliberating about buying an iPad for a while now as mine is really on its last legs. Even so this new treat one was most definitely an impulse buy, but a good one as I’ve used it loads already! And of course a shiny (expensive) iPad needs a new case so hello stripey anchor one that ticks all the boxes. And finally my last treat for a while – for obvious reasons – a new bag. There’s so much I love about this bag. The quality, size, gold tags and reversible coral and grey options. With two colour options it’s basically two bags in one. So even more cost efficient, no?

– So have you been treating yourself too, please tell us you have and make us feel lots better!