Friday Favourites #65

As I’m sure you can imagine it has been an odd week in London. I’m still trying to understand everything that’s happened and in all honestly I am focusing on the heart-warming moments of bravery and sacrifice that happened on that day rather than anything else. I’ve worked near Westminster for nearly 10 years, and most weeks I walk through Westminster to Victoria train station at least a couple of times, I’m still going to do that, that’s not going to change. I still have a sense of wonder when I see those parliament buildings, and now that feeling will probably be bigger and more meaningful than ever before.

While it may seem crass or insensitive to still share this week’s favourite things, life goes on. It absolutely must go on. We are Londoners and that is what we do. So my first favourite thing is this note from Time Out London. they first shared it after Brexit and they shared it again in the aftermath of Wednesday’s events, and the sentiment still stands, it will always stand, in this city.

On Sunday I went for a run and for the first time in a long while I ended up running further than my standard 2.5 miles. I made myself take a different route and headed to Tooting Common and it was so lovely. Yes, it was hideous to start with, but the longer I went, the better I felt. It feels like I reminded myself that I love to run. Don’t get me wrong I’m nowhere near back to the place I was, but I’m feeling better about the running situation now. Which is definitely a pleasing thought which is why exercise has again made its way onto this week’s favourite things list.

Also on this week’s favourite things list is some good news that I received. Not for me, but for a friend, and it has made me so so pleased. I love it when good things happen to good people.

Finally on the list was last night’s dinner catch up with some friends. We headed to the Southbank for cocktails, Mexican food and a good old chinwag. Just what was needed I think. Plus I was treated to the most glorious sunset view as I crossed the river. Which yet again proofs that London is the best city in the world.

What has made you smile this week? Do let us both know.

Laura xx

Birthday List for 2017: Laura

It’s mid-March and therefore the time of year where I get to share my birthday list with you all. Since Christmas I’ve done very little shopping, instead I’ve been focusing on house related, DIY purchases and planning experiences or holidays. This fact means that my birthday list is mainly going to contain items that I need or those that I have been coveting for quite some time.

Birthday Wishlist 2017

1/grey backpack 2/why the hell not print 3/enthusiasm print 

4/floral bomber jacket 5/loafers 6/leopard print pumps

7/rose gold salt-water sandals 8/throw 9/brown bag 10/speckle backpack

A new backpack is a necessity right now as my current one is falling apart. Luckily there are so many backpacks available right now. I’m having issues choosing between the two bags in my list or this star backpack. Which should I go for?

The throw has been on my mind since my home wishlist back in February. I’ve been perusing the prints on Etsy since my bookshelves were finished. I’ve put a few framed prints onto these already, but I’d like some more. The two here just made me smile! The jacket and the bag are both from M&S and I spotted them on the same browsing session at the beginning of February, luckily I saw them instore the other day so I know that they are still available. Phew!

And as it’s now spring and therefore nearly summer I’ve decided to add to my Saltwater collection with these snazzy rose gold pair. Although I do like the normal gold too, so I would be happy with either. These are the comfiest sandals ever, I wore my tan pair all the time last year.

Of course a birthday list of mine is always going to include books. So far my list includes; King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard, The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed and The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shukla.

So there we have it, my birthday list for 2017. One question, how did I get so old?!

Laura xx

 

In the Kitchen: Peanut Butter Overnight Oats

As the weather gets nicer and the sunshine brighter I’ve started to reconsider my usual work day breakfast of porridge. This is for two reasons. Firstly I want to switch things up before I get bored with porridge. No one wants to get bored with porridge. That’s a simple fact. And secondly, when the weather’s warmer I am too hot when I get to work (thanks tube) to want to eat something warm. When it comes to breakfast though I need something filling, easy to transport from home and something that’s not full of sugar. Oh and also something that’s not stupidly expensive. My bank balance says that one is the most important bit. After much deliberating over all sorts, including yogurt and fruit or homemade granola I’ve settled on overnight oats.

I’ve made overnight oats in the past and love them. Although we generally had them with ridiculous ingredients – like almond milk, agave syrup and cacao nibs. Don’t get me wrong, it tasted great, but it doesn’t really tick the cheap part of my new breakfast routine. So the new plan is to include more sensible ingredients to flavour the overnight oats. Namely peanut butter. Because peanut butter is the best. Fact!

And the verdict? These new overnight oats are amazing and so so so yummy. I genuinely could eat them everyday of the week without getting bored. Which is the current plan. Read on to find out how to make your very own peanut butter overnight oats. You won’t regret it and your tummy will be better for it!

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Ingredients (serves three)

1 cup rolled oats / 1 cup milk / 
yogurt / 3 tbsps peanut butter

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Toppings

banana / berries / raisins / basically whatever you fancy!

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: Method

  1. Bung everything in a bowl and mix together
  2. Ensure the oats are covered completely in milk so they’ll soak up the liquid
  3. Cover the bowl with cling film and place in the fridge overnight
  4. Then all you have to do is portion it out into your tupperware each morning (along with your topping) and you’re set!

Have you ever made overnight oats? What’s your topping of choice?

-Fi x

Out & About: Little Venice, London

So today’s the day that I admit that I’ve lived in London for about 7 years and yet, until last month, I had never visited Little Venice. I don’t even know how this happened. I’ve always wanted to explore the canals of London, but I’ve never actually made that happen. Until this year finally.

A few weeks ago Fi and I were making plans to meet up with a friend for lunch and London wanderings. We finally settled on meeting at Paddington Station as this was the final destination of our friend’s train. From there making a decision was relatively easy as a wander to Little Venice was the most logical option. After fueling up with a delicious lunch right next to Paddington Basin we headed along the canal path towards Little Venice.

 

 

In all honesty I didn’t know what to expect of the Little Venice area and I guess that’s a good thing. As for me no expectations normally lead to good expectations. Which was exactly the case here.

 

 

The walk is nice and leisurely and mostly flat with paths along the whole side of the river. There was some parts that were quite narrow and we helpfully got stuck behind a big group of people, but we made ourselves slow down. We were meant to be having a chilled out Sunday walk, not a weekday march around London.

 

 

There are wonderful views along the whole route, with colourful houses, cute houseboats and glorious tree-lined paths. I wandered this route in February on a beautiful bright, but cold winter day. So as I write this post I can’t help but think how these views may have changed now. Are the trees now heavy with blossom or are there daffodils sprouting along the route? I think I’m going to have to plan another trip there to see.

 

-Laura xx

 

 

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #64

Whoop, happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week so far and have awesome plans for the weekend. I’m heading down to Windsor Castle for the day and then I will be alternating between Netflix on the sofa and reading on my bed. The pretty perfect plan if you ask. But enough about my weekend plans. Let’s get down to the real reason we’re here, my Friday favourites list. It’s been a pretty awesome week so there are lots of lovely things to talk about today.

First up on the Friday favourites list is the sunshine. The blue sky, sunshiny starts and the warmth this week have all been wonderful. I’d forgotten how nice Spring feels. That sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it? But what I mean is I don’t have an issue with Winter and never really have a desire for Spring to arrive asap. Mainly because it means the year is flying by. But now that Spring is arriving I’m quite enjoying it and I’m realising how nice it is when it’s warmer and only a light jacket is needed.

Also on the list for this week’s Friday favourites post is having the house to myself. Lau’s been back at the parents’ for a few days, puppy sitting the lucky thing, so I’ve been left to my own devices. And it’s been nice. Not that Lau’s annoying to live with, far from it. But having no one else there is quite nice. I’ve been able to leave the dishes for a few days, put mushrooms in everything I cook, watched whatever I’ve fancied (West Wing again obvs) and I’ve even spent an evening lazing in bed reading rather doing anything else (namely the washing up and proper cooking). It’s a nice change.

Last weekend definitely makes an appearance on the list of good things. Actually it could take up three or four spaces quite easily, it was just that good! We had a friend to stay and in our 20 hours together we did so many awesome things. There was all the nattering, cocktails at the Booking Office, Cinnabons for a midnight feast and sharing platters of Chinese food from the best spot in Chinatown. That was followed up by an epic brunch at The River House Cafe, a cultural trip to the V&A for the Lockwood Kipling exhibit and coffee, coffee and more coffee. What a truly epic weekend. Even last-minute, super-speedy catch-ups with friends are awesome.

The final item to make it on to the Friday Favourites post is the arrival of my new bed and mattress. I’ve been meaning to spend my Christmas money on a new bed for ages and just couldn’t make a choice. Finally after much deliberation I settled on this grey beauty from Time4Sleep and a brand new mattress from Amazon. A new bed means it’s essential to rethink the layout of the room, right? So after four hours of bed dismantling, bed building and furniture moving I have a new look bedroom. And I love it! The new layout has made such a difference and I’ve since spent hours chilling out in there. Normally I’m only in my room pre and post sleep, so this is making a nice change. It’s just all super comfy. I love it!

So tell me, how’s your week been? What’s made number one on your Friday favourites list?

-Fi x

Wishlists: Sportswear Must-Haves

Recently I’ve been relatively good about not buying anything for myself unless it’s on the approved ‘house update must buys’ list. So that’s meant minimal book buying (just three this year – that’s a big deal for me), no new clothes since January – unheard of for me and no buying random tatt in Tiger. I fear this is all about to change as I have severe lust for so much lovely exercise clothing. There’s just so much nice sportswear out there right now. Not to mention accessories that I really, really want to buy. So today’s post is all about my current sportswear must-haves.

Before I dive straight in to all the new things I want let’s just pause on the following sentence

Four runs and ten half hour sessions on the stationary bike.

That, right there, is the extent of my exercise regime so far in 2017. It’s a big rubbish isn’t it? I don’t know what happened and how this came to pass. A big reason is my lack of willpower, obvs. And the cold weather. Possibly the biggest factor is that I didn’t sign up for the Surrey Half Marathon this March. I’ve completed that race for the last three years and the training plan for it means that I would normally be exercising five or six days each week. But I genuinely have been meaning to do more exercise each week and now it’s March and I’ve not. Where has time disappeared too?

But that has to change and this week I’m back on the exercise wagon. I have grand plans of doing at least three session of exercise, either running, swimming or the stationary bike, each week from now on. Something that’ll help me achieve this? New exercise stuff, naturally. And that’s where my lovely list of sportswear must-haves comes in. Surely treating myself to lovely things will make me want to wear them more and therefore get me to the gym more often. Right?

sportswear must-haves - wishlists - This and That Blog

So what’s first up on the sportswear must-haves list? Well I’m in severe need for new running leggings, especially ones with a decent sized pocket at the back. My favourites are the blue palm tree ones from Sweaty Betty, but the £80 price tag is putting me off somewhat… So I’ll probably settle on one of the other pairs all of which are lovely. Top wise I want to go for something more interesting – hence the pink, patterned and gold lettering options. So nice!

All self-respecting gym person needs a fantastic bag and these two are beautiful. I can’t choose between the rucksack or holdall versions as they’re both equally nice and suitably practical. They also both have special pockets for wet costumes or trainers – necessary, right? And surely a nice new sports bra and a fancy schmancy new water bottle is a must. Surely with so many lovely new sporty things I’ll make it to the gym multiple times a week. Won’t I?

The other thing I’m hoping that will help with that? Buying a new set of mini toiletries to use post swim or exercise class. There’s something about miniature sized items in a fancy new gym bag that give me hope that I’ll drag myself to the local sports center more often. I suppose we’ll have to watch this space to see if that is the case or not…

-Fi x

In the Kitchen: Carbonara Cake

Carbonara is one of my favourite go-to pasta dishes. Obviously it is delicious and super-simple to make, but the real reason I make it so often? I always have the ingredients in the cupboard. If we ever run out of essentials like eggs, bacon, mushrooms and pasta then I don’t want to live in that world. And no, I’m not exaggerating. carbonara is king. But you know what I’d never heard of until recently and which has forever changed by carbonara loving life? The existence of a carbonara cake.

Yes that is a thing. A real, actual – not to mention delicious -thing. What is it I hear you say. It’s essentially a pasta bake that tastes like carbonara and which can be sliced like a pie. As in you get a triangular slice of carbonara pie that is an amazing solid mass of loveliness. I bet you like the sound of a carbonara cake now, don’t you?
Oh and bonus – it’s super simple to make. Because, duh, life’s too short for recipe faffing and slaving over a hot stove. Throwing everything in and baking it is the way forward.

So behold the carbonara cake recipe. This recipe is courtesy of that loveable chap Jamie Oliver, although we did make a few small amends.


Carbonara Cake – Ingredients

half a pack of chestnut mushrooms / eight rashers of bacon / 300g of spaghetti / three eggs / 250ml double cream / black pepper / 10g parmesan / 90g extra-strong cheddar

Carbonara Cake – Recipe

Lightly oil a loose bottomed cake tin (approx 20cm in diameter)
Sprinkle the parmesan into the cake tin so it sticks to the oil
Fry your mushrooms and bacon, then cut the bacon into chunks
Cook your pasta and then drain
Throw the cream, eggs, cheddar cheese, bacon and mushrooms into a large mixing bowl and mix well
Add the cooked spaghetti and mix thoroughly
Tip all the ingredients into the loose bottomed tin
Bake in the over for 35 minutes on 140℃
Slice into segments and enjoy with salad


See, I told you it was easy! And what makes the carbonara cake even better? It is almost better the next day as a leftovers lunch. The flavours have strengthened and it perfectly keeps its shape. Just perfect for a mid-week lunch that’s more interesting than a soggy sandwich. And I don’t know about you but having pasta lunch fills me up for the rest of the day and results in minimal snacking.

Tell me, are you intrigued enough by the idea of a carbonara cake to give it a whirl? I think you’ll love it. Plus you could definitely throw in ham if that’s what you had in the fridge, or you could bung in spinach or broccoli or even artichoke hearts as well. The possibilities are endless!

-Fi x

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #63

Oops! So Friday Favourites #63 is just a tad late. Normally I’d be totally organised and have this written and scheduled by Thursday night. But this week I knew that I had the day off on Friday, so I decided to leave any writing until then. It’s currently 1pm and I’m only just thinking about getting this done. I’m on the sofa with some silly US TV programme on in the background and the temptation of the biscuit tin. Someone stop me!

First up on the Friday favourites #63 list are the bookshelves in my living room and bedroom. We finally finished painting these last week so over the weekend we spent a good few hours organising everything. It feels so good to actually unpack everything and get rid of all the piles. The alcoves in our house are lovely and deep which means that there is plenty of space on the shelves for all the books, pictures and other bits and bobs.

Also at the weekend I nipped back to Surrey for the day on Sunday. There was board games, dog walks, wine, a roast chicken, puppy cuddles and Mario Kart on the Wii before a tediously long train journey back to London. Someone tell me this one thing, why are trains on a Sunday so useless?

This week it finally feels that spring has sprung. On Thursday morning I opted for an iced coffee instead of my normal hot filter coffee because the weather just called for it. There was a moment holding my coffee, walking through the park, with the sun shining when I broke into a smile as I realised that spring was finally here. I’m so excited for this new season to begin.

So my day off today is also going onto my Friday favourites #63 list. I had holiday days to use up and I needed to get my loft boarded so that was today’s plan. Apart from a lot of banging and sawing my day has been pretty relaxed. I’ve been for a run and I’ve got baking plans for this afternoon. Plus my dinner is going into the slow cooker soon and I’m pretty excited about that. It’s my favourite chicken pilaf and the smell will be haunting me for the next 4 hours or so!

So there you have it, Friday Favourites #63. The little thins that have made my week. What about you, what has got you through the last seven days. And what are your plans for this coming weekend?

Laura x

The Book Corner: February Reading Update

Hello team! How are you all today? Here’s hoping your week is going amazingly! I’ve finally gotten round to writing my February reading update, despite the fact we’re well into March. Oops! Let’s pretend I was so busy reading and that’s why I’m late updating you all. It had nothing to do with a Gilmore Girls marathon, honest…

February saw me reading six brilliant books, three teen reads, two thrillers and one brilliant beach read. So a lovely mix of titles this month. I’m really pleased I decided to alternate the genres of books I read this year as it’s ensured I’ve not got stuck in a rut and have read a good mix of books. In fact I think I’ve already read more books aimed at adults this year than I did last year.

February Reading Update #1 – Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

To be honest I didn’t love this book, don’t get me wrong I really enjoyed it and I’d definitely reread it. But it wasn’t a book I adored, which I assumed I would as I LOVED Six of Crows, the first book in the series. I think I just felt like it was going through the motions at times. Having said that it was a good story, I loved being back in that world and I adored seeing favourite characters again. So this is a four star (out of five) book and not the five star book I’d anticipated.

February Reading Update #2 – Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney**

This book was super twisty, honestly I don’t think I’ve read anything as twisty and full of surprises as this before. It was also really well written and the characters were fascinating – I also loved that they were all complicated and lacking in likability. All of these things meant I absolutely raced through this book. However I think the twists went too far at times. I’m all for twists and surprises, but this book felt like it had two or three too many and it would have been a far better book if the twists would have been spread across three books and not packed into one.

February Reading Update #3 – Show Stopper by Hayley Barker*

Show Stopper  is the tale of a young girl, Hoshiko, who is forced to perform as a trapeze artist in a deadly circus. The ringmaster is truly evil and makes the kids perform deadly acts night after night. All for the entertainment of the ruling class. When Ben, one of the ruling class kids, goes to the circus, and sees Hoshiko perform, he realises that maybe the world needs to change. Maybe the country his mother is helping to rule isn’t good and what’s being done at the circus and across the world isn’t right. But can he, with the help of Hoskiko, find the courage to act and rebel against this cruel world?

This book is AMAZING! I adored it and raced through it. Each chapter is told from different perspective, Ben or Hoshiko, and the chapters are short so it’s easy to read a whole chunk of the book without even noticing. The circus performances are perfectly described, so much so that you feel like you’re there watching these deadly acts. The world is brilliantly realised and you’re invested in these characters within the first two pages. I defy you not to love this book.

February Reading Update #4- Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell has also been my go-to author when I’ve been in a reading rut or need the book equivalent of a big hug. Her books are just perfect. They’re easy reads, have interesting characters with unusual backstories and are set in the most beautiful parts of the UK. If you’ve not read her books you must, pick one up next time you’re feeling down or are headed on holiday. Thankfully Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay was no different to Jill’s other books and I adored it. It was just what I needed and I could read it again and again.

February Reading Update #5 – Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G Thompson

What can I say about Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee? Well firstly it’s unputdownable. Seriously I read this in two days, it hooked me in from page one. It’s the disturbing tale of two girls who go missing when their 10 and 12, many years later one of the girls returns home but won’t talk about where she’s been and where the other girl is. Are you intrigued yet? It’s a brilliant teen thriller that will have you guessing from start to finish. It’s definitely got echoes of Room thanks to the subject matter, the love portrayed between the characters and heartbreaking nature of it. You must read it.

February Reading Update #6 – The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

I was the biggest fan of B. A Paris’ first book, the brilliant Behind Closed Doors, so couldn’t wait to get my hands on book two. And it didn’t disappoint at all. It’s a brilliantly written thriller with the most appalling characters. The story slowly twists and turns until you don’t know who you can trust. I found this one more of a thriller as you didn’t know who was evil in the tale, unlike in Behind Closed Doors where it was clear from the off. I basically read a third of this from behind my hands as I was worried about what was going to happen. A sign of a good book if you ask me!

So there we have it, that’s February’s reading update done! Another good reading month under my belt. If I keep reading like this I’ll smash through my 2017 goal of 52 way before the end of the year. Whoop! Check back next month for the next 2017 reading update and don’t forget to read last month’s post too. There were some brilliant books in there too!

What are you reading right now? What’s your favourite read of the year so far?

-Fi x

* I work at Scholastic, who publish Show Stopper, so this book was completely free for me. But my thoughts on this book are entirely my own.

**I was gifted Sometimes I Lie  by the publisher (super kind of them) but these thoughts are all mine!

In the Kitchen: Five Quick Week Night Meals

As much as I love cooking, I have to admit that the last thing I want to do after work is attempt a new, long or complicated recipe. Instead I want something quick and easy but also delicious. Admittedly sometimes I’ll just have beans on toast or a baked potato but most of the time I stick to my favourite week night meals. These are the handful of recipes that I have in my arsenal, which are based on store cupboard ingredients, are easy to make and taste delicious. Basically the trifecta for week night meals.

Chicken & Kale Stir Fry

This is a relatively new discovery and one that I think I’ve made at least four times in the last 2 months. Which I think is as good a recommendation as any. It takes just 25 minutes to make and is basically made from store cupboard and fridge ingredients. Normally I pick up the kale on my way home from work and then get cooking. I love this with noodles, but it works just as well with rice or even a pile of warm naan bread. Yum, I’m hungry already!

Chicken Satay

I’ve been making this chicken satay for the last four or so years and it never ever gets boring. Hence it’s inclusion on this list of favourite quick week night meals. The peanut satay sauce is utterly divine and tastes just like the kind you can get at any good Thai restaurant. When making this we tend to use a whole can of coconut milk instead of the required 100ml and make extra sauce (obviously we multiply the other sauce ingredients too). The sauce keeps well in the freezer and allows this meal to be super speedy at a later date.

Spinach & Chickpea Curry

This Spinach and Chickpea Curry is one of Fi’s go-to recipes and I’m so pleased that’s the case. It means I get to eat this curry all the time without actually having to do any of the work – hooray for me! I still amazes me how delicious something as simple as tomatoes, chickpeas, spinach, onions and a few spices can be. But I’m so pleased that the combination exists and that they all work so well together. I love to eat this with just flatbread and a generous dollop of mango chutney. Perfect!

Sticky Chinese Ginger Chicken

Next on the quick week night meals list is another quick easy Asian dish that goes perfectly with noodles. Noodles are one of my all time favourite things. I could eat them everyday and not get bored. This was actually a topic of conversation a couple of weeks ago at Wagamama’s in Croydon. Yes, I have great conversation topics, didn’t you know! The sauce in this sticky ginger chicken recipe really soaks into the chicken and tastes so good. It’s also an easy one to throw any veg into.

Homemade Pizza

The final easy week night meal is homemade pizza. You’re probably confused about this one being on the list as making pizza dough is quite a long process. Well here’s why it makes it for me, preparation. You see I like to make a batch of pizza dough at a weekend and then freeze individual bases. This means that on a weekday the base just needs to come out of the freezer and be topped with the toppings before going straight into the oven to reappear 30 minutes later as a piece of pizza heaven.

So there we have it, my top 5 quick and easy week night meals, that save me from eating the same meal, or cereal, every night of the week. What are you go-to recipes on week nights? Do you have a few favourites like me or do you like being more adventurous with week night meals?

Laura xx