Sunday, 17 December 2017

Thanksmas 2017! A Festive Tradition!

For 7 years we have held an annual Thanksmas gathering at some point between late November and early December. This year we held the festivities a little later in December due to other commitments but the result was the same. An evening of great food, great company and a fair amount of merriment. In some ways the later December date added a little extra Christmas sparkle to the evening.

Thanksmas, for those new to the blog, combines all the greatest things about Thanksgiving - think American food, focusing on thankfulness and then Christmas - think the roast dinner, the crackers, the festive dress.

The menu this year:
  • Turkey
  • Green bean casserole
  • Honey roasted parsnips and carrots
  • Bacon tossed sprouts
  • Corn bread + cornbread stuffing
  • Roast potatoes
  • Candied yams (sweet potatoes + marshmallows)
  • Mac & cheese
  • Chocolate tart
  • Pumpkin cheesecake

We catered for 12 friends and this year had an added extra of snow! That's right Birmingham brought the snow....for those guests leaving that night it wasn't a big deal. For those staying overnight it led to us digging out their cars the next morning! A first for Thanksmas.

The queue to take a seat in our lounge!

 If you are interested the history of our Thanksmases can be found here.....
The first Thanksmas post is here
The second Thanksmas round up is here
The third Thanksmas and first in our Birmingham home is here
The sixth annual Thanksmas details are here

And so the tradition is over for another year. I t took us three days to eat the leftovers and get the house back to normal but we loved it and can;t wait to do it all again in 2018!

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Laura's Much Requested Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Every year, at every festive event we throw or attend from November onwards, we are asked to bring one of my signature recipes - the runaway favourite dish from Thanksmases past, Green Bean Casserole. I know it's past Thanksgiving, but Christmas is still to come, which is a perfect opportunity to add this recipe to your family dinner. It is easy, delicious, and a side that we start talking about/looking forward to in like September, so for Brum Blogmas today (the brief is winter warmers, of which this definitely is one!) I thought I'd write down the recipe as I do it. Also, so I don't ever forget it, I'd be so upset!

I've done the recipe to serve 8 people, full disclosure I usually do double this, but it's because I feed like 14 people and want leftovers.

Laura's Slow Cooker Green Bean Casserole
Serves: 8
Takes 4 hours on high or 6 on low

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1/2 large onion, diced (about 1/4 cup onion needed)
1 cup sour cream
6 400 gram cans of green beans, drained
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (I use extra sharp)
1/2 cup Ritz crackers or similar, crumbled

1. Melt 2 tablespoons butter into a large pan over medium heat. Stir in flour until smooth, cook for one minute.
2. Stir in the salt, sugar, onion, sour cream. Add green beans and stir to coat. Mix in half of the cheese.

3. Transfer the mixture to your slow cooker, pack and flatten top. Crumble Ritz crackers on top to cover, you're looking for about 1 cm cover. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, to cover the crackers.

4. Put lid on slow cooker and let cook for 4 hours on high, or 6 hours on low (I usually set it up in the morning on low!)


See, it's pretty easy, but will have your friends/family coming back for seconds!

We have Thanksmas on today, cooking for 14 people (and three dogs in attendance!) - wish us luck, and leftovers, and follow our day and preparation on our Instagram Story!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

10 Reasons To Visit Oslo, Norway!

If you follow us on Instagram you may have noticed that we recently spent a long weekend in Oslo, Norway. Thanks to some friends recently departing London for Norway's capital city we had a great excuse to make a quick trip over.

It would have been quicker had Brussels Airlines managed to get a flight on time but you can fly direct from London in a few hours. We went from Birmingham to Brussels to Oslo. We certainly wouldn't recommend Brussels Airlines if you can avoid it.

November is not the recommended time to visit Oslo, according to their tourist guides.They recommend summer where you can enjoy the stunning countryside for all it's glory, not cram all your sightseeing into the few hours of light that you get at this time of year. That didn't deter us though.

View from our friends apartment
For us it was perfect. Oslo was finishing it's roll out Christmas. The markets were in full swing, the building decorated and we even got to take part in a Santa greeting parade that involved getting a bag full of fruit, nuts, an advent calendar and a candle.

Oslo was feeling festive!

We also got super lucky with the weather. Our first day was cold, crisp and sunny. The blue sky was the perfect backdrop for the days activities. And the early unset was great for pictures over the fjord.

Our second was cold, misty and an ideal day for our Thanksgiving festivities that mainly involved eating. Although a chilly evening was lovely for wrapping up warm and exploring the Vinterland market in the centre of Oslo.

The third day was a mixed bag. We started the day under clear skies but my lunchtime the sky had turned a shade of grey and we had snow flurries on and off for most of the afternoon - amazing!

So with the weather summary sounding like a lot of places in late November here's what we managed to fit in and why you should visit Oslo.....

1) It's stunning - it's Nordic for sure, with houses in all shades of colour (although mainly blue, orange and yellow) dotted around the city, there is no uniformed design but you can tell you aren't in Europe. It reminded us a lot of Reykjavik in Iceland.

2) The city buildings are artwork in themselves or at the least the sides are. Building sides are covered in full sized paintings of all kinds of things. Flowers, people, creatures, landscapes. There is no rhyme or reason but it makes walking around interesting.

3) There are sculptures everywhere. Oslo has two well known sculpture parks but you don't need to visit them to see sculptures. You'll find them in parks, in the street, in shopping areas, in areas you'd least expect them - they pop up everywhere!

4) It's super easy to get around. If you purchase a metro pass (90 Norwegian Krone or £9 for 24 hours) you can hop on and off every mode of transport - metro, tram, bus and boat. Yep the boat across Oslo fjord can be taken at no extra cost. And is a MUST! The city is manageable enough that you  can cover a lot of it in 24 hours.

5) Okay so the fjords deserve it's own reason. Tranquil, beautiful and a great way to see all the islands that are home to Oslo residents summer houses. You can hop on and off to explore should you wish or do we what we did and spend the hour relaxing and enjoying the view from the water. In summer you can even hire a hot tub to float across the fjord.

6) Go high! So we mentioned that it's stunning but to really appreciate the city go high. You have a couple of options - the giant ski slope that provides amazing views on a clear day or the sculpture park in the woods that allows you stroll up high enough for a great view. We were lucky enough to be on the 14th floor of a tower block so got a great view from the couch.

The opera house is shaped like a ski slope but brave it for a great view of the harbourside
7) There is no shortage of things to do in any weather. Unlike the UK, Norway treats snow like any other weather - they grit constantly at this time of year so paths are safe to walk on with the right footwear (walking boots in our case). When it started snowing as we explored the Folk Museum it added to the experience rather than becoming dangerous.

If Folk Museums aren't your thing you could see 3 real life Viking Ships at the Viking museum, head to a number of art galleries, shop in the many, many shopping centres or find your way to a sculpture park. It would also be worth checking out the Opera House - built by the fjord front and looking like a giant ski slope. Or the Acker Brigen area that straddles the canal area and is home to lots of different outdoor activities (a screen showing Christmas films when we were there).

8) Norwegians are polite, unassuming folk. They don't like talking for no reason but ask then for help and advice and they will be happy to chat - and in fluent English! Having read about the 'Norwegian way' I am convinced I must have Nordic blood.

9) They LOVE hotdogs......cinnamon buns and other delightful bakery goods

10) The Trolls. Love them or hate them Oslo has embraced the troll as a symbol of the country. We weren't personally fans but they have a certain cute appeal....or so we're told. And you can find them in shops or just hanging around anywhere touristy.

One thing to note the rumours of Norway being expensive are true. Certainly the £ isn't strong BUT nothing is more than you would pay in London. Alcohol is expensive but if you plan ahead and pick some up at airport duty free in Oslo you can drink fairly cheaply. Also eating out you will struggle to find cheap eats - unless you really like hotdogs - but if you eat in for a meal a day you can limit your spend. We spent around £200 over 3 days.

A strange final point but there is also a lack of tourist trap shops. Not something worthy of note but it's not until you want to find a souvenir that you realise how hard that is in Oslo. Unless you want a troll or something with a moose on it or an expensive Norwegian jumper. Our choice of things that said 'Oslo' on to were limited to cups and hats. The airport does have a few more things on offer if you hold your nerve and wait till then.

So there you have it. We loved it. We'd love to go back in summer. But whatever season you go we're sure you'll find plenty to entertain you.

Sunday, 3 December 2017

Day In The Life 2017!

Way back when we did a day in life video about our days in London, you can check it out here:

This year we decided to take part in Blogmas and post as many times as possible in December on a number of different topics.

The first topic was 'Day In The Life' and we thought we'd combine a Facebook post that asked us to compare our life's nowadays to a year given to us by a friend. Here's how's things have changed.....

Sarah: 2001 vs 2017
So 2001 was before I had Facebook but this is the earliest pic I could find :)

Then: VW Polo
Now: Toyota Yaris
Then: Student at Bournemouth University studying Retail Management
Now: Head of Relationship Management at Unicorn Training (eLearning & LMS provider)

Then: 18
Now: 34

Then: Single
Now: Married to the wonderful Laura

Living arrangement
Then: Sharing a hotel room as part of my student accommodation in Bournemouth
Now: A terraced house in Birmingham 

Then: None
Now: The lovely Bisbee

Was I happy?
Then: Absolutely not - I took a weekend job back in Reading so I could go home everything
Now: Absolutely, completely and utterly

Laura: 2011 vs 2017

Then: Toyota Corolla (2nd hand and super old)
Now: Toyota Yaris

Then: Receptionist at a PR firm
Now: Office Manager at a training company

Then: 23
Now: 29

Then: Dating Sarah
Now: Married to the wonderful Sarah

Living arrangement
Then: A flat in Fulham over looking the Thames
Now: A terraced house in Birmingham 

Then: None
Now: The lovely Bisbee

Was I happy?
Then: Yes
Now: Yes
enjoying our day exploring Gloucester with friends