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?

Desert Island Books – Five Favourite Books

It’s no secret that Lau and I are bookworms. As children we devoured The Babysitter’s Club, Sweet Valley High, Horrible Histories, most of Roald Dahl, the Animal Ark series and pretty much any books we could get our hands on. Multiple times. So I wouldn’t be surprised if every other post on this new blogging home is book related! Rather than sharing what we’re currently reading with you, we thought we’d pick out our five favourite books. Of all-time.

Eek, not an easy task. In fact I deliberated over this for about two hours before I had my final five. So here are the five books we’d want if we were stranded on a desert island and kindles with never-ending batteries weren’t available…

First up, we have my five favourite books:

Fi / Book Number One / The Bedspread

A lovely story about two old ladies and the different way they view the world and remember their childhoods. This is a favourite of mine not just because it’s a wonderful story but because of who would read it to me. Everytime I stayed with my Grandma from aged four to twelve I’d climb into bed with her at the crack of dawn and we’d read this (and many others) together.

Fi / Book Number Two / Matilda

A cliche I know, but this book about a book obsessed little girl is one of my all-time favourite books. I must have read it hundreds of times, it never gets old. Reading this made me feel like it was fine to be obsessed with books!

Fi / Book Number Three / The Five-and-a-Half Club

This was inherited from my Dad and the day it went mouldy and had to be thrown out was one of the worst days ever. It’s about a group of children and the adventures they have during the summer holidays. From painting their clubhouse to catching frogs in jars their five-and-a-half club sounds so fun.

Fi / Book Number Four / Persuasion

I was late to the party with Jane Austen and so by the time I read Pride and Prejudice I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. If you ask me the characters are annoying and the story expected. Persuasion on the other hand was wonderful. I loved the characters, and found them all so likable. Anne Elliott was my favourite Austen character, and I could totally understand why she acted how she did with Wentworth. Plus the story was interesting and believable.

Fi / Book Number Five / Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix

It’s no secret that I love the world of Harry Potter but book five is my favourite of the series (I think). This book marks the point in the story that you begin to find out what Voldermort is really about, and how much danger our favourite trio is in. It’s also when you properly realise what’s going on outside Hogwarts and how big this fight is. I found the story so fascinating, as well as heartbreaking and gripping. Even though it’s the longest book I can whizz through it, even now, in less than a day. That’s how good it is.

five -favourite-books

Now, over to Laura for her five favourite books:

Laura / Book Number One / Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban

To be honest I wanted to add the whole series onto my list but I stopped myself. I can’t really pinpoint why this is my favourite, maybe it’s because we learn a lot more about Harry’s parents in this one. Also meeting Sirius and Remus is just wonderful, and heartbreaking all at the same time. The whole Shrieking Shack moment is brilliant and when Harry finally gets parental figures that always brings me to tears. My copy of this book is falling apart, but it still sits in pride of place on my bookshelf.

Laura / Book Number Two / Wonder

This was published quite recently and follows Auggie, a boy with a facial deformity as he starts school. I found this book absolutely fascinating and brilliant. We get to understand Auggie, and his whole family throughout the book. This books highlights the importance of who we are inside, not the outside.It’s one that I think should be compulsory reading for everyone.

Laura / Book Number Three / Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, a story

My Dad gave me this book when I was about 12. It’s a story about following your dreams and being who you want to be and it really makes you look at all of life’s possibilities. This is another book that everyone should read. The fact that my Dad thought this was something I should and needed to read is so lovely. Plus the note he included in it is also just perfect.

Laura / Book Number Four / Little Women

I have loved this story for as long as I can remember. It follows the four March sisters during the American Civil War. The tale of family life, discovering oneself and finding love is just perfect.

Laura / Book Number Five / Of Mice and Men

I studied this Steinbeck novel for GCSE English and have loved it ever since. It was utterly gripping, so much so that I speed read it during my lessons so that I would get to the end as soon as possible. I just needed to know what happened to Lenny and George. I’ve only read it once since because I still find it so heartbreaking to read. I think knowing what’s to come make the whole thing even worse!

Hopefully this has given you a good insight into our minds. I always think that seeing someone’s bookshelf is an awesome way of understanding and getting to know that person.

What about you, what are your five favourite books of all-time?

– Fi xx

PS if you want to know more about the books that we like then checkout our Goodreads accounts here and here.

Dreaming of an Autumn Wardrobe

So I don’t know about anyone else, but I for one am very pleased that the seasons seem to be changing – I am ready and raring to go with Autumn. Don’t get me wrong I love the summer sun, but autumn is the season I was made for. I love the chill in the air, snuggling up, the darker evenings and not sweltering on the tube. I’ve always preferred being cold and getting warm than being too hot – I can never cool down once I’m too warm.
So with the arrival of cooler weather my mind has of course turned to new clothes. After all it’s the perfect excuse to buy some new bits and pieces, such as these…
Autumn Wants
Clockwise from top left corner
Now there’s no way I can let myself buy all of the above – especially not four pairs of shoes (shoe fetish anyone?) but I’m certainly going to treat myself to a couple of bits to complete my wardrobe. Top of the list are the heeled brogues as they’ll go with skirts, dresses and jeans and cope with the changeable weather. As for the skinny jeans and flat boots, definitely a must with all the jumpers I have in my wardrobe. As well as a shoe fetish the above collage has shown me that I also have an obsession with animals on knitwear.
It’s times like this that make it clear that Fi and I are twins. After seeing her Autumn wishlist above I realised that I would happily own, and wear, each,and every item! Which means that if she gets any of these new wardrobe additions then I can borrow them for myself! My current Autumn picks are below – I say current as this is bound to change as soon as I click publish!
Autumn wants
Clockwise from top left corner
For me Autumn is all about comfort, which basically means a dress, tights and boots or a jumper, skirt/jeans and boots. That’s it. Nothing more is needed after that. This autumn I really don’t want to do a lot of shopping as I have other things that I need to be buying. But it would be good to get a couple more dresses and skirts to go with my already enormous collection of jumpers and cardigans.
So tell us, what are you most looking forward to adding to your wardrobe this autumn? Is there anything that’s a must have Autumn essential?
Lau & Fi xx

Out & About: Five Favourites on London’s Southbank

Happy Tuesday lovely people! Here in the UK we’ve just had a bank holiday so it’s especially hard going back to work today. Luckily there’s a Travel Tuesday link up to help us along the way. Let’s be honest, if I can’t go on a world trip then visiting places while sitting at my desk is the next best thing.

It’s funny isn’t it, but I always forget to talk about where I live. I don’t know why, but Fi and I both seem to automatically write about trips further afield instead of nearby places. Which is pretty silly as I love reading about places that people live near. You get such great advice from people that actually live in a city. So in the spirit of talking about where I live I’m going to share with you my five favourite places to visit on London’s Southbank. The Southbank is an area on the south bank of the River Thames. From Westminster Bridge all the way down to Gabriel’s Wharf. Which is filled with art, theatres, eateries and shops.

Southbank-National

Temporary space at The National Theatre

The National Theatre

The National Theatre is probably my favourite place in London. I love a trip to the theatre and this place has amazing productions all year round. They are the people behind the hit shows War Horse, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and One Man, Two Guvnors.

Trips to the National tend to be a family affair, with Fi and I joining our parents and younger sister. Most recently we’ve watched A Small Family Business and Medea. Plus we have tickets to see Ballyturk in October. Even if you’re not watching a play it’s still worth a visit. There are two restaurants, a coffee shop and an espresso bar. As well as countless numbers of photography exhibitions and musicians taking over the foyer space throughout the year. Plus a trip to the terraces and numerous balconies are always necessary. The views from here are stunning, from Parliament and the London Eye, across to St Paul’s with the city in the distance. If you can time it for sunset you are in for a serious treat.

national-theatre-southbank

National Theatre all lit up

 The Riverfront Bar and Kitchen Restaurant

This restaurant run by Benugo, is situated underneath Waterloo Bridge. It’s the perfect place to people watch and grab dinner before taking in a film at the BFI or a play at the National. Their menu is constantly changing and there have daily specials. I can highly recommend the arancini starter and the pulled pork burger.

The Southbank Shop – I’m a huge fan of the shop at the Southbank. They have brilliant window displays and lots of quirky gifts for everyone, including that tricky person who you can never please. It’s also a great place to pick up good stocking fillers or secret Santa gifts at Christmas. They stock everything from jewelery to furniture, toys to crockery, there really is something for everyone (and lots that I’d love!).

The London Eye

The Royal Festival Hall

The Royal Festival Hall is one of the three buildings that make up The Southbank Centre, along with the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Hayward Gallery. The RFH is my favourite because of the vast variety of things going on there at any one time, from music to sculptures and knit-ins. Plus there’s a Pimm’s terrace in the summer! There’s also an excellent food market throughout the year at the back of the RFH. Brownies to die for.

People Watching

Where ever you are along the Southbank there is so much to see. The views of the river are stunning, but there’s also just the sites and people along the way. From the children playing in the water fountains and the sandy beach in the summer, to the Christmas Market, the Skylon cocktail bar, eating outside at Gabriel’s Wharf, watching the locals cycle and run along the River, people perusing the book market or the skateboarders completing tricks in the skate park under the RFH. It really is a site to behold.

used-books-market-southbank

Browsing the used book stalls

Does anyone else have a different favourite place on the Southbank, what have I missed?

And what is your favourite place near where you live?

Lau xx

 

Travel Tuesday

Delicious bites of Sweet Potato Falafel

Ooh our very first foodie post – yay for that! And what’s even more exciting is that this recipe is an update on one of my all-time favourite recipes – sweet potato falafel. I first discovered this falafel at Leon on The Strand, one of the best lunch places, around about four years ago and I was in love. These creamy sweet potato bites were amazing and as my first falafel experience it was a good ‘un. Yes my first falafel experience as back then I didn’t like chickpeas – yes I was weird. I mean really, not liking chickpeas, how is that even a thing?! Anyway I discovered this falafel and made it ALL THE TIME. It was perfect in lunches or as a quick snack dipped into perinaise.

However since that initial discovery I’ve learned to love chickpeas and I’ve had coarser-chickpea-containing falafel and so the time has come to give a new recipe a whirl – something that’s a bit coarser but still keeps the creamy taste of the sweet potatoes. So here’s what you do…

Cook three medium sweet potatoes in the over for 40 minutes until the skin is starting to peel away.

Scoop out the potato innards (should one use the word innards in a recipe post?) and pop them in a bowl with 3 tsps cumin, 3 tsps ground corriander, two cloves of garlic, the juice of half a lemon, 150g of gram or chickpea flour and two tins of chickpeas and blitz them all with a food processor until there are fewer lumps. {personally I like some of the chickpeas to stay whole, but it’s up to you}.

Put the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours or the freezer for 30 minutes until the mixture firms up

Create balls of the mixture and roll it in a plate of olive oil and then a plate of sesame seeds. Repeat until you have about 30 sweet potato falafel balls.

Put all the balls on an oiled baking tray and bake for 15  minutes at 200 degrees celsius

Serve with salad, rice or simply dip into perinaise and enjoy!

*I’ve never had these straight out of the oven but I think next time I make them I’ll try eating them warm with some sort of ratatouille mixture – I think that would make the perfect combo, or even in a warmed pitta bread with salad and mayo…ooh there are just so many options.

So, tell me, have you ever made falafel? How did it go?

Fi xx