Dreaming of Days in Portugal

Later this week I will be in Portugal and I just can’t wait. I need a holiday. Right. Now. Obviously at the moment this is all I can think about so I thought I’d channel some of that excitement and shape it into a Travel Tuesday post for you lovely people to read. Portugal really is one of my favourite places to be. I think it’s because I know it so well so it’s become a second home and I can instantly relax.

The Algarve is just stunning, long sandy beaches, orange cliffs, nature reserves and bright white buildings. But aside from that I’m looking forward to…

…Sunshine

…Patio Time

…Holiday Reading

…Beach Walks

…Sandbanks Salads

…Salty Sea Swims

…Bananagram Championships

…Barbecues

…Mammoth Games Nights

…Hot Tub Time

 

 

It really seems like this holiday has been a long time coming, and I guess it has. I had a week off work in April but other than that it’s just been the odd day here and there and suddenly we’re halfway through September! And I’m just really feeling it right now. You know that exhausted feeling that just goes right to your bones? That is it. That’s where I am right now and that is why this break is so so welcome. It’s only 9 days but these are 9 enormously needed days of relaxation. It’s also a slight calm before the storm moment too as once I get back my life will be picking up full steam ahead. Not that this is a problem and not that I’m complaining, I love my life and I’ve got some exciting things coming up, which should mean exciting blog posts too (obvs). But right now I need a break and thank god I have Portugal for that.

Right, so I’ve got that off my chest! What holiday plans does everyone else have for the rest of the year? Or are you planning next year’s trips already?

As always don’t forget to check out all the other posts in this Travel Tuesday link up.

Travel Tuesday

Non Boring Pork Chops

Yes possibly one of the most uninspiring blog post titles ever, but it made sense to me!

So confession time, I’ve never really been a fan of pork chops. I don’t know why but whenever someone suggests chops I’m a bit non-committal and uninterested and yet when they’re on my plate I devour them with lashings of apple sauce and accompanied by veg and potatoes. There’s just something about the initial discussions about eating pork chops that makes me think they’re bland and boring. So recently when we gained a couple of fat pork chops from the parental units I started with my moaning about pork chops being boring and how we had to make sure we went for something unusual and nice this time. {God I must be a joy to live with!}

Thankfully Lau is nice and humours me, so a Google search or two later she had found the most amazing sounding (and super easy) recipe for us to try. The original recipe was a one pot roast pork chops with fennel and potatoes one from Good Food and we made a few amends to make it into the below dish – yummy!

So here’s what we did to make a non boring, bland or dull dinner a couple of weeks ago. There’s a possibility that I may have eaten enough for four human beings…

To make scrumptious dinner for two you will need:

  • Two Pork Chops
  • Eight Slices of Pepperoni
  • Two Baking Potatoes
  • One Sweet Potato
  • Handful of Spinach
  • Handful of Tomatoes
  • One Pepper (any colour)
  • A Leek
  • Mushrooms
  • Two Garlic Cloves
  • Two tsps of Thyme
  • One tbsp of Tomato Puree
  • 300ml of Chicken Stock

Start by cutting each potato or sweet potato into eight wedges. Cut the mushrooms and leeks into slices and the peppers into wedges too. Bung them all into a deep roasting dish with the thyme and garlic.

Make up the stock and mix the tomato puree into it. Add the liquid to the roasting dish full of veg and mix it all together.

Cover with foil and cook on 200 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature by 20 degrees.

Remove the foil and add the pork chops (nestle them in between the veggies), pepperoni and spinach and pop back in the oven 20 minutes until the pork is fully cooked.

Serve and enjoy!

So tell me, what are your non-boring pork chop recipes? I need a few more so that I don’e eat this recipe ALL THE TIME!

 

Getting Crafty: Embroidery

I like to think I’m quite a crafty, hands on person. I mean I can knit more than a scarf, I can sew on a button, thread and use a sewing machine (the threading part is immensely tricky FYI) and I’m quite a good baker. But there’s one craft that I’d like to get better at and embrace more, and that’s embroidery, cross-stitch to be specific.

For as long as I can remember my Mum has embroidered. From family trees to Christmas decorations, quotations and wedding samplers, you name it my Mum can create it. She even creates her own patterns for the pictures that she wants to create with her needle. No pattern for a palaeontology kit? No worries, she can draw it and then recreate on the canvas – yes seriously! It’s an amazing skill and one that really fascinates me.

I asked my Mum to create something for my new Goddaughter’s Christening the other month and after seeing the gorgeous finished product (above) I had an urge to get creating myself. I remember doing the odd bit of cross stitch when I was younger and I actually still have a sewing box that my Nanna gave me when I was about 8. But I actually haven’t picked up a needle and thread for ages. I think this is something that I want to change and writing this post is the first step in that – hopefully when I stumble across this post in a year or two’s time I will have just finished a cross-stitch creation!

Laura xxx

Running in London Town

Hands down one of the best ways to see and explore London Town is by running all over it and I love nothing more than heading out on to the Southbank for a run. Followed swiftly by a brunch of course! You get to see so much and if you choose the right time to go (Sunday morning, but don’t spread it around!) it’ll be virtually empty. So you’ll have the city to yourself, which is an amazing thing.

My usual run of just over an hour takes me past the Oxo Tower, the Tate Britain, The Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s, the Thames, a great stretch of the Southbank, the square mile, Covent Garden, Temple, Trafalgar Square, Westminster and the Eye. So I think you’ll agree it’s a great way of ticking off the key sites in London!

So have you ever used running as a way of sightseeing in your city or another one? Make sure you check out the other Travel Tuesday posts on Bonnie’s blog too!

 

Travel Tuesday

Summer Fun Times

Even though I don’t go on my summer holiday for another two weeks it’s pretty clear from what’s going on outside that the summer is drawing to a close for another year. Rather than getting morose about this fact I’m instead focusing on the good things. After all autumn is one of the best seasons around, plus I had such an epic summer that I can just look back on that to make myself smile. Laura and I have curated our top moments from the summer. So here goes.

A weekend in Chester – we had glorious weather for our first trip to Chester last month and it was a great weekend full of good friends, lovely family and lots of laughter. Bliss. Recap on that weekend by checking out our Exploring Chester post.

Beautiful Chester

Lazy park afternoons – with the wonder that is Friday Summer Hours (a publishing industry perk) we were able to make the most of chilling in the park most Friday afternoons and a good few Sundays too. Does anything beat a picnic in the park?

Discovering Iced Americano’s – all the coffee and none of the calories. It’s definitely love. Although iced latte’s are still pretty awesome too. Especially when there’s a striped straw involved!

Exploring London in the sunshine – London is awesome, but she looks even better when the sun is shining. So from the Books about Town book bench trails to exploring the Globe and from Crystal Palace Park fun to enjoying the Southbank the summer has led to a lot of great explorations in London, which has been wonderful.

A few of London’s book benches

Being outside – be it for a walk to work or an early morning run the summer sun has made getting out and about much easier over the last few weeks. If only the light would continue, but still keep the cooler weather. That would be perfect!

Sunny skies

Chilling out at the parentals – As much as I love London town I also appreciate the calmer weekends spent at the parentals chilling out in the garden with no noise apart from the twittering of birds and nattering of my family. Bliss.

A weekend away to Amsterdam – It may have rained for two thirds of this trip (yes seriously) but we still had an amazing time in Amsterdam. There’s something about going away with people who know you so well and who like to do the same things that you do – it just makes everything so much better. We took in museums, canal wandering and boating and of course pancakes. Perfect. I just wished we could have stayed for longer. Maybe next time.

Up in the clouds

What about you lovely lot? Any favourite parts of your summer. Places you went, people you saw?

Fi xx

Smores Cheesecake Squares

It’s no secret that here at This & That we LOVE the sweet stuff. Cake, biscuits, pastries, tarts. You name it either Fi or I (or both of us) will undoubtedly like it and eat it. We are always always on the look out for more recipes to try, so when Fi stumbled across a recipe in the below Jamie’s Magazine called Smores Cheesecake Squares we just knew that this had to be made at some point. Soon. Very soon. I have a thing about cheesecake by the way, I love love love it. I will always choose cheesecake if it’s on the menu and I still dream about the Junior’s vanilla and chocolate brownie cheesecake that I stumbled upon in New York. Plus Fi is obsessed with marshmallows which makes this recipe the perfect thing for us to make together. Also who else wants to make the cake on the front – YUM!

Suddenly it was a good few weeks later (okay months as this is the April issue of the magazine) and coming up to the final bank holiday of the Summer (sad, sad times) and we still hadn’t tried to create the smores goodness. Luckily there were plans in the diary for an Evans family catch up in St Albans. Not only is this good because duh it’s a family catch up, but also because baking would be needed. As Fi and I were both around one afternoon we decided to bake together and yes, you’ve guessed it, it was time to give smores cheesecake squares a go.

CAKE

Ingredients – 

  • 125g butter, melted
  • 250g digestive biscuits, crushed
  • 150g caster sugar
  • Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 250 g of 70% dark chocolate
  • 450g cream cheese
  • 250g sour cream
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 300g marshmallows, chopped

What to do – 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4. Line a 24 x 30cm tin with lightly greased foil.
  2. Add the crumbed biscuits, 1 tablespoon of sugar, the cinnamon and butter to a bowl and combine. Press into the lined tin.
  3. Bake for about 10-12 minutes, until golden, before removing and allowing to cool.
  4. Reduce the oven temp to 170C/gas 3.
  5. Melt the chocolate and set aside.
  6. Beat together the cream cheese, sour cream and remaining sugar until smooth. Then stir in the cocoa and vanilla.
  7. Whisk the eggs into the slightly cooled chocolate, then add to the cream cheese mix. Pour over the biscuit base and smooth out.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until set, but so that the middle still wobbles slightly if shaken.
  9. Scatter the marshmallows on top of the cheesecake and put back in the oven for 2-3 minutes, just enough time to melt the marshmallows slightly. [You’re then meant to caramelise the marshmallows with a blow torch, but as we don’t have one of those, we ignored this bit.]
  10. Once the cake has cooled, take it out of the tin and put it in the fridge. We left them overnight to set properly before slicing them up and transporting it to St Albans.

cake cross-section

The only changes we made to the recipe was to use fewer marshmallows – about 200g. Plus we bought mini marshmallows to save on the chopping time (we are geniuses). But that’s it.

Next time I think I’ll make the base a bit thicker and the chocolate cheesecake layer a tad thinner, as the ratio wasn’t perfect – but that’s just my opinion. There were no actual complaints on the day.

Laura xx

Like a Girl

Greetings blog readers and how are you today? I stumbled across the following #LikeaGirl video a while back and I’ve been thinking about it ever since, so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you on this today. After all if I’m thinking about this video a month clearly later it needs discussing properly.

I love this video so much. It’s such a good idea to stop and think about what the words we use mean. I am one of the people who has used ‘Like a Girl’ in a derogatory way in the past – about myself and others – without even giving it a second thought. It’s just a phrase that I’ve heard loads and I didn’t even stop and think what I was really saying. What I’ve really been doing by using that phrase is saying that it was bad to be like a girl. When did I think that was okay to say?

Surely as a woman I should have been one of the people standing up and saying  yes I do run like a girl because I am one and I’m not going to be even slightly ashamed about that. I can also read, walk, jump, swim, shout, sing and dance like a girl. And for that I’m lucky, grateful, happy, pleased. Because that is who I am. I am a strong woman. I get to give my all to everything I do and shouldn’t be putting myself down over how I do something.

How did this become something that was okay to do and why did I ever think it would be okay to use that line as a bad thing? I hope that in the future I pause for a second before saying anything like this again as that’s not the person I want to be and I certainly don’t want anyone to ever think that running/singing/boxing/dancing/walking like they do is wrong. It’s not. It’s who they are and it’s there right to be who they are in all their awesomeness.  so well done to Always for making me stop and think. And here’s to all the hundreds and thousands of girls out there who have had their confidence knocked. Never forget that you are awesome, unique, wonderful and strong. Never be embarrassed to do things #likeagirl as being a girl embodies all of those things.

What about you, what are you proud of doing #likeagirl?

Crystal Palace – Travel Tuesday

Following on from last week’s plans to share more local travel tips today I wanted to talk about another new London discovery. Crystal Palace. Before a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t been to Crystal Palace for years, it’s actually where my parents had their first house, but the only Crystal Palace I’ve been to is to watch Crystal Palace football team. But that’s in nearby Selhurst Park rather than actually in Crystal Palace itself – odd, I know!

So first of here’s a little history on Crystal Palace Park…

It is located in Crystal Palace which is in south-east London. The area is actually named after The Crystal Palace, a steel and glass building which was built in London’s Hyde Park to house the Great Exhibiton in 1851. The Crystal Palace was later moved from Hyde Park and relocated to form the centerpiece of the park, but was destroyed by fire in 1936.

Despite this Crystal Palace Park still contains the National Sports Centre, a maze, lakes, full scale model dinosaurs, a children’s park, a cafe and a concert venue.

pretty flowers and the Crystal Palace tower

 

The Italian Terraces

In the maze

The maze dates back to 1870, but more recently is has been adopted by the UK Girl Guides, to become the Centenary maze. Apparently at a Boy’s Scout rally in the park in 1909 a group of girls approached Robert Baden Powell and demanded a similar movement for girls. The Girl Guides was created the following year. To mark the centenary of the Girl Guiding movement Bromley Council and the Girl Guides got together to restore the maze and commissioned artwork for the centre piece along with roundels to find within the maze. 

One of the commisioned roundels

Maze Crystal Palace ParkThe center of the maze (and my feet)

Crystal Palace ParkWalking through the park

 

Dinosaurs Crystal Palace Park

Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs, Crystal Palace Park

More dinosaurs

A centre of the maze selfie

So there you have it. Just a few highlights from Crystal Palace Park.

Lau xx

PS. Don’t forget to checkout the other #TravelTuesday posts.

Travel Tuesday

Hello Autumn!

Yesterday morning as I was jogging around Clapham Common I came upon the most wondrous site: conkers and fallen leaves! EEK, guys you know what this means right? Yes, the best season EVER is about to kick off. Hooray for Autumn.

There’s nothing quite like the three months that starts with September; the air is cooler and crisper and generally happy things appear. I can’t be the only one that thinks like this right? Well just in case you aren’t as in to Autumn as I am, I thought I’d share a list of things I’m most excited for autumn to bring. That can’t fail to make you get on board with this brilliant season. So here goes…

Crunching and stamping in the leaves

New boots to wear to death with skinny jeans

Starbucks red cups

Layering up all the clothes

The perfect excuse to sit on the sofa having a marathon with the boxsets

Sunday afternoons in front of an open fire

Thick black tights and skirts

Chilly and bright early starts

Halloween sweets

Muddy walks in the wood

Wrapping up in a woolly scarf

Sleeves that are long and can be pulled down to my knuckles

A Starbucks Spiced Pumpkin Latte

Bonfire night

Knee high socks

The smell of bonfires

Getting the tea lights out

So have I got you excited and ready for Autumn, what’s your favourite thing about this season?

Life Rambles: August Favourites

This month has been epic and full of all of my favourite things.

First up on the August favourites list are the sunny days that we’ve had. They’ve allowed me to explore near and far and had me falling more in love with the UK than ever before. There have been glorious days exploring the streets of Chester, London fun times and chilled out afternoons in the park.

August-favourites-Chester

Second on the August favourites list is the rainy days that have allowed me to guiltlessly snuggle on the sofa. I’ve had time to binge watch favourite West Wing episodes, and get excited for the arrival of Autumn.

I’ve loved the car singalongs, the hours curled up with a good book and the time I’ve had to myself pounding the pavements and learning to love running again. Those last words are something I’d never thought I’d say again, so that is definitely something for the August favourites list.

August-favourites-London

Food wise August has been pretty spectacular. I rediscovered my love for roast lamb and mint all over again. Plus I created the most tasty snacks ever to exist (smores cheescake squares are coming to the blog soon I promise).

August was also responsible for lovely catch ups with old friends and cuddles with my favourite little people. And finally I discovered the wonders of polka dot trousers and the genius that is Helen Mcrory in the National’s production of Medea. Plus you brought me back the joy that is the Great British Bake Off.

August-favourites-polka-dots

Thank you August, you’ve been awesome. May September live up to the epicness you’ve set.

Today I’m linking up with Belinda at Found Love. Now what? for her Life is Good link up, so make sure you hop on over to her blog and join in or at the very least read all the other fab posts.

– Fi xx

Found Love. Now What?