Saturday, December 24, 2011

Monday Hyde park run at Garmin Connect - Details

Hi,

Testing out the upload from my lovely Garmin watch to the bloggy blog.

What do you think, not bad eh ? This is one of my favourite runs, which I only do on a Monday lunchtime with my BB, so it's special. Ah....

Monday Hyde park run by kookygirluk at Garmin Connect - Details

Merry Christmas everyone, I'll be out there running off that big dinner on the 26th! :o)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Kai Mayfair

Despite having all (well, most) of the Christmas shopping done and wrapped, I can still feel Christmas fatigue setting in.

However, let's move on to one of the nicer aspects of Christmas today, the office lunch. We went to a restaurant called 'Kai' in Mayfair, London. It has one Michelin star and serves Chinese cuisine. I guess you would call it 'fine dining'. We went for the tasting menu, with a choice of starter, main and desert with a variety of 'amuse bouches' on the way through. Here's what I had.

1) Miso broth - A lovely heady, fragrant broth flavoured with soy and laced with tiny cubes of silken tofu. It was lovely.

2) Starter - pork and prawn wanton. This was dropped with chilli oil from a pipette at the table. It was nice and spicy and it came in a little concentrated jus which had spring onions and chilli in it.  The jus was also poured at the table, as I recall. It was a little spicy, but very yummy.

3) A palate cleanser of a little pineapple granita with popping candy(?). Lovely.

4) Main - 5-hour roasted pork belly - this was served with rice. The pork came in a lovely sauce and had an almost jelly-like, melt-in-the-mouth layer of fat. I usually abhor fat layers on meat, but I ate this. It tasted sublime. The pork itself was really like any pulled pork that you might have done yourself. I know I cook belly pork for hours at a time in soy, honey, spring onions, chinese 5 spice, for a not totally dissimilar effect. Other than that fat layer, of course. Who knows how they do that ... ???

5) Desert - Chocolate and peanuts 'done 5 ways'. Actually, this was something of a layer cake, each layer made up of various variations of chocolate and peanuts. There was some more popping candy in there too. I love that stuff! I could defnitely have eaten more of this.

6) A little selection of chef's chocolates, or petit fours, were brought to the table for our tasting pleasure. I tried another chocolate/peanut combo and also a chocolate fudge. My lunching friends also tried passion fruit marshmallow, and something with raspberry. They all looked delicious.

We paid an additional £12.00, on top of the £35 for the food, for 3 small glasses of wine which were matched to the threee main courses, respectively.

Next time, I will definintely go 'a la carte' to try specific items from the menu, but the taster menu was the perfect introduction today. I would definitely recommend this for a lazy, indulgent, yet still light lunch.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Easy Christmas Entertaining

It's only a couple of weeks before Christmas, so it's time to bring on the Christmas Entertaining.

Kicking off this weekend, we have my parents, sister, brother-in-law and my little niece and nephew along for the day on Saturday. They have a three hour car journey each way, so by the time they arrive, they will be hungry and thirsty. Of course Christmas entertaining is all about the food isn't it ?

Trouble is, I don't really feel much like cooking this weekend (Oops!), but that's only because I feel like I'm coming down with  a cold or something. My body feels exhausted and drained. But then I was thinking that I have a couple of options which don't require a lot of work.. Here's option 1:

Option 1 - Roast

Roast a great big chicken, chuck in some roast potatoes and parsnips, serve with some carrots and brussel sprouts, with some stuffing and bread sauce on the side. That's just like a Sunday roast, no ? Other than the chopping and peeling, there's really not a lot to it? It doesn't need a nursemaid to stand and stir it or watch it, so I will be able to get on with chilling with my family. We will be six adults and 2 children, so that's not massive numbers to cater for. This is also the less expensive option. Desert will be Apple pie (courtesy of Costco) served with custard, cream or ice-cream. Yumlish!

I quite like this because we can all sit round the table and serve ourselves and pull a Christmas cracker. It will be quite convivial and fun, and well, like a Christmas meal.

Option 2 - Buffet

There's not a lot of work involved in this one either really... but, to me a buffet is something you have later in the day after you have eaten something warm, and not then main foodie event.... but if I go that route this is what I will serve

Roast chicken
Sushi
Prawns with dip
Warm Pesto pasta with bacon
Mixed salad
French bread
Nibbles - Sausage Rolls/Onion bhaji

Desert will be the same. apple pie with various accompaniments

Which one would you choose??

An Update

Saturday
In the end I served Roast beef, Yorkshire puddings, Roast potatoes, Roast parsnips, carrots, sprouts, sage and onion stuffing and beef gravy. It was really yum, and went down really well with all the family. I made my easy tiramisu for desert, or there was apple pie and cream.

Sunday
I took the easy way out on Sunday and baked some pizza and garlic bread and then freshened things up with a big bowl of salad and salad dressing. We also had some chicken goujons, and stuffed, breaded mozarella sticks. It was perfect for the occasion.


Next week...

One more set of entertaining next week when my friend travels down with her hubby, 3yr old female twins and 14 yr old son. Of course, there will be myself BB and CC. What to cook that will suit us all and still give us time to chat and chill out. They will have driven for a few hours so will need a good feast before they hit the road again...

Suggestions anyone ??

Monday, December 5, 2011

Non Such Park Run

I'm on the search to better my recent 5K PB of 25:41 which  I achieved a couple of weeks ago in Banstead park run. Banstead's rather a hilly course, so I'm seriously hoping I can break the 25 minute mark, enter then 24:?? and give myself a new challenge... and of course work my way up the finisher's list. I have been told that Non such is nice and flat, so I have added that to my 'to do' list for this weekend.

I have just had a lovely 40 minute run in today's chilly weather. It was really nice to get out there instead of succumbing to the ironing pile and a cuppa. not forgetting the warmth of the indoors. I donned  a hat and gloves, but I didn't really need then. I say that now of course, had I not worn them I probably wouldn't be able to type!

On the subject of running, I am currently on the look out for some new race goals. So if any of my running friends know of a good 10K, half marathon or marathon that they would recommend then drop me a comment and let me know. Maybe we could go together ?

:o)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A French Christmas with Oysters Galore

This year, 2011, will see us celebrating Christmas in France for the second time. Last year was okaaaay. As I recall, we rose late, called family, opened gifts galore, gorged on smoked salmon and eggs, cooked a large dinner that no one wanted to eat - although, of course, we finally managed to force some down at about 6pm. Later we watched some Christmas telly on our very small TV, played card games and went to bed.

One of the best parts of the day for me, was the view out of the window. It looked like this.


Looks like something out of a magazine doesn't it? It was magical. The view is the reason we bought the house - Serious. I call the house my Labour of Love. Because it is.

We usually see our friends who also live in the village, and this year will be no different. For a while we have been threatening to do a curry cook-off, and I think that might actually happen this year, so I will shortly be packing my spices and Indian recipe books to take with me. What fun!

We always throw a nice dinner for our friends too, and for several years we have admired the wooden baskets of oysters from afar, but never cooked them. This year we thought we would get some and serve them to our friends for a starter. This is what I plan to do with them. It's funny talking about packing my recipe books, but with no access to t'interweb, what's a girl to do ? Actually, I secretly love planning my Christmas meals and packing my recipe books, something old stylee about it don't you think ? I also enjoy packing up all those lovely ingredients in anticipation of the delicious meals to come.

This is taken from my newest Christmas recipe book Celebrate Christmas

I plan to serve a 'mixed oyster platter' with a selection of oysters made according to the recipes below.  To accompany this we will drink chilled, dry (sec) bubbly blanquette. Oh yes, and let's not forget a little bit of baguette to soak up the juices. Yummies!

Oysters with bloody mary sauce

24 oysters on the half shell
3tbsp tomato juice
3tsp vodka
1tsp lemon juice
0.5tsp worcestershire sauce
1-2 drops tabasco
1 celery stick
1-2tsp snipped chives

1. Remove the oysters from their shells and set aside. Wash the shells in hot water and pat dry.

2. Combine the juices, vodka, tabasco and worcestershire sauce.

3. Cut the celery stick into julienne strips (eg v.v.thin) and place in the base of the oyster shells.

4. Top with an oyster and drizzle with the tomato mixture. Sprinkle with chopped chives.

Champagne Oysters

*I will use blanquette in place of Champagne, the grapes for which are grown in the vines that surround the village. It would probably be a criminal offence to not use blanquette.

1 French (it had to be didn't it?) shallot, finely chopped
150ml champagne, or sparkling white wine*
150g unsalted butter
2tbsp creme fraiche
2 egg yolks
500g rock salt
24 oysters on the half shell

1. Put the shallot and 125ml of the champagne blanquette in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer until reduced to 1tbsp. Strain into a heatproof bowl, discarding the shallot.

2. Place the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water and whisk in the butter, one piece at a time, until thick and creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in the creme fraiche.

3. Whisk the egg yolks and remaining champagne blanquette in a separate heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water until the mixture forms ribbons when drizzled. Remove from the heat and fold into the butter mixture. Season to taste.

To serve - spread the rock salt on a tray and arrange the oysters on top. Spoon a teaspoon of the champagne (oops! I mean blanquette), mixture onto each oyster and cook under a moderate grill for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.

Finally, recipe 3.

Oysters wtih prosciuttio and balsamic vinegar

24 oysters on the half shell
2-3tbsp balsamic vinegar
6 slices proscitto, each chopped into 4 thin strips

1. Remove the oysters from their shells and set aside. Wash the shells in hot water and pat dry.

2. Replace the oysters and put them on a baking tray.

3. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the oysters and arrange a coil of prosciutto on top.

4. Season with black pepper.

5. Cooked under a hot grill for about 1 minute, or until the prosciutto is starting to crisp.

That's the appetiser prepped, now what to do for the main course ??

Bon Appetit!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Park Run and Mammoth Mattresses

Today I wanted to run a race called Iceman this is now one of a series of off-road races on army training ground, which gives a nice technical (e.g. difficult) run. But, alas it was not to be... BB had told me that our new hi-tech Mammmoth 'sports' mattress was due to arrive 'any Saturday' so I couldn't sign up for the run for the fear that we would then get an email announcing the impending arrival of said mattress. So, I did Banstead Woods parkrun instead.


As you can see from the above photo, it's a little hilly but very pretty. I always extol the virtues of the Parkrun weekly 5K race. It's free, you get a properly recorded time emailed to you, and you are running as part of a larger group, so as well as trying to beat your own best time, you can race the others in the race too, and be part of your local running community. Or, you can run at a more leisurely pace.

I ran as hard as I could, for me this was my opportunity to run a fast 5K. The ground looked a little wet this morning, so I wore my new Salomon off-road shoes. I have moreorless total confidence in them, it's like the soles of my feet are little tyres with a mega-grip when I have them on. I felt a little nauseous when the race ended, despite (or because of, perhaps..) a breakfast of one slice of toast with nutella. I have found that bananas repeat, porridge lies a little heavy, and now toast makes me gag. One day, I will find the perfect pre-race brekkie.

The other great thing about Parkrun is that you can be done in less than an hour. By 10am we were in a cafe, I was out of my gym kit, and a mocha coffee was easing the nausea nicely. Yum! We picked CC up and headed home. I already knew my result was around 25:40 something... but I was eager to look up my result from their  official timers. Within hours of running the results are up. I knew I had run a vey similar time last year, I knew there wouldn't be much in it. Imagine my surprise then when I saw that the email title was 'Congratulations - A new PB!' Wow. I thought. Excellent! Then I saw the details. I had improved on my last fastest time by 3 seconds. Yes, 3 seconds. You heard me right - that's three seconds. Actually, I was quite pleased with myself. The last time when I ran and was 3 seconds slower, the race had felt a lot more difficult and 'faster'. Which must mean my perceived effort threshold is higher right ?? Perceived effort threshold - does that even mean anything? Answers on a postcard purlease... All I know is that I ran as fast as I could.

As luck would have it, shortly after we arrived home the mattress arrived. We had toyed with the idea of a memory foam mattress, but just never got round to going out and trying and buying. Then BB mentioned the Mammoth Sport Mattress several times (and I'll be honest, I wasn't really listening..I thought he was telling me about some race in the Outer Hebrides that he might do in 2015, or something). I finally took a look at the site, read some testimonials and we placed an order. I will do a full review when I've actually had a sleep in the thing, but  from first bounces, I can report that it seems promising. The web site explains (in extremely technical terms) that the mattress is not only good for your back, but also offers enhanced temperature regulation. Surely this must mean a more comfortable sleep? It will be interesting to see how much this mattress aids my recovery after a very gruelling race, which ironically due to this mattress's delivery I did not get to do today!

I should just mentioned that I was 10th lady today and 2nd in my age group. When I arrived I did a little scan of the attendess and thought 'Crikey, a lot of blokes, not many girlies....' And I guess that explains my result. The fact there were approx 100 runners, and I was 71st puts my stats a little more squarely into perspective. My final time was 25:41 by the way. I am seriously chasing a 24: Anything from now on. Therefore, as far as I'm concerned, every second is a second closer to my goal. Despite the nausea it was a stunning morning, and I would highly recommend the parkrun to everyone, come rain or shine.

Now I'm turning in and going off to try out that new mattress..took a quick piccie earlier.. see below. zzzzzzzzzzzz.......... :o)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Planning for Christmas

I noticed on Notes from Home website that the next Carnival call is for the subject of Christmas Planning.So, how do I do it ?

I make life really difficult for myself by buying gifts for practically everyone I know. A lot of people that I talk to tell me 'Oh, we only buy for the children now', or they exclaim 'You buy gifts for your neighbours and their children'. Oh yes, practically everyone and their dog is on my list.

You know I love to cook and that extends to Christmas too. In fact, I also make my friend's Christmas cakes and puddings. It's not like a business or anything, basically I charge enough to cover my costs. It's as easy, most of the time, to make 2 or 3 cakes at the same time as one. More importantly, I have all of the equipment - super-dooper powerful KitchenAid, turntable for icing, and I did a course in cake decorating remember ? I can give them a professional looking, handmade, gorgeous cake, wrapped with cellophane and ribbons which makes a great Thank you gift for your host if you are lucky enough to NOT be cooking your own Christmas dinner. They love me for it.

My Christmas cakes and puddings were cooked last weekend. This week they had their first 'feed' - whisky for the Christmas cake and brandy for the Christmas pudding. Of course, I made one for myself. BB and CC don't like Christmas pudding, so I get to eat the lot. Ha! BB loves the Christmas Cake though.

Enough about cakes. All, most of, my Christmas cards are written now. I like them in the post (with 2nd class stamps) on December 1st.  My old university friend tells me she sets her Christmas barometer by the early arrival of my Christmas card. I think that's sweet.

I have an unusual Christmas, in that I don't actually spend it in this country. I flee to my Labour of Love in France, and this year, more than most, I cannot wait! I am so tired, I cannot wait to get there and unwind and forget all of my obligations here for a while. The downside of this is, of course, celebrating Christmas here with family and friends before leaving for France. Fitting it all in is difficult.  Basically, I do Christmas twice. A Christmas tree in England and a tree in France. I have already started stockpiling our favourite foods to take with us to France, especially as some of them we cannot get there. The spare room is filling first.

Last year Christmas dinner was a bit of a waste of time if I'm honest. We didn't eat til 6pm, I was still full of smoked salmon and eggs from brunch at 1pm. It was the first time we had used the cooker so it all took a lot longer than expected. No one really wanted to eat it.  I have already asked BB and CC about Christmas Dinner and they have already said 'No turkey' so it will be interesting to see what we end up with ! I'd be more than happy with some brie, a lump of french bread, my homemade chutney and some warmed red wine. Delish. In France they always sell a deluge of oysters, they are very popular. We have already decided that when we have our friends over for dinner in France we will serve oysters in several different ways. I'm looking forward to that.

Where was I ? Ah yes, gifts. Like I said I do buy a lot, but I would like to think I am 80% finished on gift-buying. Something that may be a little unusual is that I do not buy the gifts that BB gives to his extended family.  It's not that I'm mean or anything.. it's just that he knows them better than me, and quite frankly I'm doing everything else! I will help him with ideas, and I have already started badgering him about making a start. I will be giving my first gifts this Saturday when a friend and her family visit. They are wrapped and ready.

Now on to my favourite Christmas subject - the decorations!!! In my village house in France I go all rustic - it's all candlelights and lanterns and silver. Here, in my London city house it's more glitzy, and modern and red.  I like both. BB hates Christmas decorations, if it was up to him they would go up on Christmas Eve and come down on Boxing Day (26th December). But it's not.  I like them up by mid December at the latest. Although the way I see it once the Advent Calendar is up on December 1, the rest of the decs might as well come out ... The decs in France will go up as soon as we get there as we're getting there a little late. I bought the cutest little candles the other day. I can't wait to get them  out actually. I think I will go Santa's grotto style this year. CC is ten now so I am running out of Christmases to have a really kiddy-styleeee one.

I always make my Black forest trifle too. The recipe was one of the first I put on the blog I think. I LOVE it. Basically chocolate sponge, soaked in kirsch with morello cherries in it, and cherry jam blobbed on. Cover with cherry jelly and leave to set. Once set, cover with chocolate custard, leave to set. Just before you serve, cover with whipped double cream and grate chocolate over the top of that. It's lovely and one of my BB's favourites.

I have by now also dug out my Christmas cook books. I now have three, the Nigella one, one my Mother bought me which is just wonderful (It is called Christmas (Cook's Encyclopedia), and one that I bought the other day which has recipes for oysters in it, so it will be coming with me to France.It is called Celebrate Christmas, it's the newest book in my Cookbook Collection, and I am loving it.

Here's pictures of all of them from Amazon.


Basically, I like to have all of the cards sent, the gifts wrapped and ready to go, the cakes delivered, and the decs up by December 1 - then I can actually really enjoy Christmas. :o)



PS> It is a dream that one year I will make a gingerbread house. The new cookbook has a recipe. None of us like gingerbread, I just like how they look.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Facing the Facts

I might as well face the fact that I am never going to find the time to write a novel, well not this month anyway. BUT I am really enjoying the way my run training is progressing at the moment.

My new Salomon trail shoes are great. You can see them here http://www.wiggle.co.uk/salomon-xa-pro-3d-ultra-shoes-ss11/ I always find that they take a little bit of time to break in, so I just ran about 4 miles in them last week. They have such an amazing grip, and as I'm quite a baby when it comes to running, and possibly slipping in mud, but Salomon's give me the confidence to go for it.

I've run 13 miles since Sunday with a day off today, so I will do a little something tomorrow. I'm trying to follow my new plan, but it's quite different to my old one. The lack of a new goal is not helping at all. Also my friend is coming tomorrow after school - we are doing a language exchange 'thing'. Basically, she teaches me and CC Mandarin and I teach her and her daughter French. All this puts a strain on my running time.

For the last few days I have been seeing adverts for the 'Marathon de Paris' in the Metro newspaper, you know how much I love all things French and I would love to do this marathon. As luck would have it BB mentioned to me just now, before he went swimming, that Runners World, are looking for five people to coach for the Paris marathon who in return will blog about it. Sounds good huh ?

I've read the small print and it sounds like my dream assignment. Even the training days are in Birmingham - my home town.. Let's face it I am looking for another marathon to complete, and I have far more chance of completing this then a novel. I'm quite excited at the thought! Is it meant to be ??

 Ooh la, la ! Bring it on !!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

National Novel Writing Month

Oh crikes, I've done it now...

First I was saying recently that I would love to write a novel over on Warren Caterson's blog butI said that l lacked imagination for a decent storyline, characters etc.

Then over on Cottage Smallholder Fiona was saying that she had signed up for National Novel Writing Month and then ohmygosh, I don't know how it happened, but I signed up as well. Damn ! How am I going to find time for that... ? More's the point, what on earth am I going to write about ???

Food for thought eh? This is going to keep me busy for a while.... (smile)

Well I shall keep you all fully appraised of my progress, you never know I might be the next J. K. Rowling.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Toffee Apple Crumble

It's that crumble time of year, and now I've mastered the Plum and Almond Crumble, it's time to move on... I had considered a plain apple crumble for tonight's dessert, but when I mentioned it to BB he pulled what can only be described as 'a face'. 'I'd rather have plum', he said glumly.

Later on I read about a Toffee Apple tart on a foodie blog, but I can't remember which blog at the moment, and then I had a thought, I could make a Toffee Apple Crumble. It has just popped into my mind that BB is not that keen on toffee, not since I bought him a bottle of Dooley's. Have any of you tried it ? It's toffee flavoured vodka, it's OKaaaay.... not my favourite I'm a Baileys girl at this time of year, or most recently an Amaretto girl.

Where was I? Oh yes, so I googled toffee apple crumble and of course a gzillion recipes came up, some called for a pre-made shop-bought toffee sauce, others called for a homemade toffee sauce layered over the apples, which are also precooked in butter. What is this? I thought to myself. I don't want to buy in toffee sauce just for the recipe, and I don't want to have to make a separate sauce. Crumble is supposed to be easy for goodness sake! So, I decided I am going to do an all-in-one toffee and apple mix. Basically, apples, cream and the darkest sugar and it can all caramelize and become toffee-appley together, topped this time with an oaty crumbly top layer.

I haven't made this yet. I have everything but the cream. Come back for a photo and some step-by-step instructions very soon. I can almost taste it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A new exercise challenge

I am so lucky that my BB encourages me with my running so much. If it wasn't for him, I would probably run less and do less races. This weekend BB is competing in a duathlon in Hyde Park in London, so I am looking forward to supporting him.

Last night I threw down the gauntlet and really made BB laugh, when I challenged him to run Kielder marathon in 2012 and try and beat my result, whilst I would do Kielder duathlon and try and beat his. Of course, he will beat me hands down, on all fronts, but that's not what it's about is it ? My life motto these days, is that if you really, really want to do something, you can. End of story. Stop bitching and whining about it, and get out there and just do it. How hard can it really be ?

To this end, this week I started training for my next marathon challenge. I know it's only three weeks since I completed a marathon, but whilst I am at my 'peak' of fitnesss (relatively) I would like to carry on with the training and run another one. Now all I need to decide is which one.. ?? I just had a quick look. I'm doing another 12 week plan,which takes me to mid-February and guess which one I just found? The London Ultra Marathon. It's pushing the marathon envelope a little further and is 50km, so 32 miles instead of 26.. It's a road race, so tough on the knees, but not so undulating.. Decision, decisions...Is it too soon to step up on the distance. If you think yes, why ??

The XC season has now begun, and I am looking foward to running through some Mud Glorious Mud. For me, this will be starting tomorrow morning when I have to find some hills and run 3 miles up and down them. This week my BB ordered me some new Solomon trail shoes as a post-marathon well done gift and I am looking forward to putting some miles in. I may complete Grim 8, or maybe an IceMan or MudMan race, all of which I have completed before.

If you know of any cool trail races, please drop me a comment and let me know.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A trip to Chinatown and Chocolate Cookies

A lovely afternoon and lunch with friends in Chinatown in London today, we ate lovely pork buns and beef noodles and prawns in a light silky rice pasta - it was delicious. For desert I tasted a sesame flavoured gelatinous ball with an aniseed flavour inside. Interesting dessert, but not for me - neither in terms of texture nor taste. All of this was washed down with Chinese tea. Lovely!

Now we're back home and about to bake chocolate cookies for the office. I promised a co-worker that I would bring some in to ease the pain of putting up the Halloween decorations and basically to stop everyone from scoffing the Halloween candy !!!

I am following a recipe from across the pond, from one of my favourite foodie bloggers - The Brown Eyed Baker - only one criticism though BEB and that's that I don't, off the top off my head, know what the converted temperature for 325 degrees is, but I did find a handy conversion here:

http://www.easypeasy.com/guides/article.php?article=269

I also don't know what constitutes a 'stick' of butter - here they come in blocks of 250gr, but I did find it here: http://www.traditionaloven.com/conversions_of_measures/butter_converter.html
Dontcha just love google ? It's 170gr by the way..

CC just said she doesn't like it when I go on blogspot. I just said to her 'Does it make your tummy hurt when I go on blogspot' and she gave a resounded 'Yes'. I got that from the book that I read many years ago called 'I don't know how she does it' which has suddenly become very popular due to the recent release of the new film of the same name. Anyway, in the book every time the busy mom talks to her boss or someone else that the daughter feels threatens her time with her precious mommy she says 'It makes my tummy hurt when you do that mommy'.. Too funny.

Now I know my measures let me grab my camera and get on with some baking !

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure, the recipe can be found here, and as I copied it exactly I am not going to repeat it ..


If you don't have chocolate chips, just use chocolate chunks and then chop each chunk into four pieces. Use a sharp knife and press down with your hands keeping your fingers out of the way as my little CC is here.#


Here CC is measuring out vanilla extract.



Yummy chopped chocolate!

Adding the flour.

I like BEB's method of placing the cookie dough, here goes, measure out a quarter of a cup of dough, using a quarter of a cup measure, then twist the ball like you are wringing something out (does anyone actually wring anything out anymore ? I am wondering...) into two equal parts, then place the two jagged edge side by side facing up, and place on the tray. You can, kind of, see what I mean if you look at the bottom left cookie blob on the photo above.

Last photo ...


Ok, there they are, the done deal. Not the best looking batch of cookies in the world, but certainly not the worst either. BEB advises that to achieve a chewy cookie they are taken from the oven when still soft in the middle and, as long as they are kept on the baking tray to cool, they will continue to cook and firm up a little, whilst still retainng the lovely chewiness, that I find so difficult, usually my cookies are crunchy, not gooey.

So, did it work ?? Well, kind of.. I often read about cookie dough going in the fridge before it is baked. I think I would refrigerate this next time as the dough got sticky and melty quite quickly especially a you have to roll it in your hands. I also had to dig the dough out of my cup measure too, which didn't help, heat wise.

Usually, I would flip my cookies straight onto a cooling tray, thereby freeing up my baking tray. Can't do that with this recipe! See my last photo if you want to see what I mean. This meant that I was juggling baking trays, these are pretty large cookies so you don't get many to a  sheet. Soemthing to bear in mind.

Lastly, I sprayed the trays with oil, and used baking parchment on another tray. Actually, the baking parchment is more like wax paper, and was therefore not greaseproof, so I have since had a 'merry game' trying to get the cookies off that paper. One of which ended up in a goeey mess.... the others, well, although they were greased, were a real *pain* to get off the tray, because they were stuck. I guess that was because they were left to finish 'cooking' on the tray.

Well, that's all, gotta get to bed.  Special thanks to my little CC to helping me with these.

Night, night and happy half/mid-term to all those that are enjoying their holidays.

28 October 2011 - An update

These cookies went down a storm at work today. They are far better the day after baking, and tasted just like shop bought chewy cookies. The chocolate chips harden up nicely. I will definitely follow this recipe again, all of those little tips make the recipe really work. A real ten out of ten - and I don't often say that.



Sunday, October 23, 2011

Plum and Almond Crumble - Take 2

As promised I went and bought Amaretto liqueur and amaretti biscuits to try another take on the plum and almond crumble with some almondy flavours coming through. I guess I wanted it to taste like of almonds, like a bakewell tart tastes of almonds and I suppose I could have used almond essence or flavouring to achieve this, but the stubborn Taurean best came out in me, and I just didn't want to.

The camera was working again, so I even managed to take some photographs.

Here's the ingredients, see below for the recipe. It's a crumble, so it's pretty straightforward. :o) First, preheat the oven to 200 deg.

1 packet crumble mix (or make your own)
2-3 tablespoons of amaretto liqueur
4 or 5 amaretti biscuits (crushed with a rolling pain)
Plenty of plums to fill your dish (approx 3 per person)
2-3 tbsp Caster sugar

Method

1. Stone and half or quarter the plums (depending how big they are)
2. Measure out the amaretti liqueur and drizzle over the waiting plums. You may want to add a little water too to water down the almondy flavour.
3. Scatter a scant layer of caster sugar over the plums, so now you should have almondy, sugary liquidy loveliness.
4. Take your amaretti biscuits, mine were in individual packets, and crush them (still in their packets, to contain an almond explosion in the kitchen) and then tip them over the plums.


A piccie of an amaretti biccie
5. Add the crumble mix over the amaretti biscuits. 6. Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the crumble topping, it should look something like this.


7. Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. You will know it is done when the plum juices are rising and the crumble is lightly browned.
8. Allow to cool slightly and serve with cream, custard or ice cream.

A perfect autumn pudding.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Plum Crumble and other stuff ...

It's only a week since I completed Kielder marathon, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Yet again, I've been trying to write here all week and time, like a runaway train, has escaped me. Even now, it's 10:10pm and my bed is calling but first, this post.

I've been trying top make plum crumble all week too, and finally succeeded today. I fancied making a plum crumble, flavoured with almond, as that is a great flavour combination, but how to add the almond ? Here is what I did. Please excuse the lack of a photo, the camera has suddenly decided to cease working, which is annoying as I've had a 'I wanna take a photo' kind of weekend.

Ingredients

Enough plums to cover the base of your dish, I used about 10
Sugar to sprinkle
A little water
Marzipan, 50g or so
Crumble mix (sshhhhh), small packet of
Ground almonds, 2-3 tbsp

Method.
Preheat the oven to 200 deg.
1. Quarter the plums, removing and discarding the plum stones as you go.
2. Layer the plum quarters in your dish
3. Sprinkle the plums with a little water. This creates a little extra 'jus' as the plums warm and yield their juices.
4. Sprinke a couple of spoonfuls of caster sugar over the plums (to taste), if the plums are sweet use less sugar.
5. Pick some marzipan from the block of marzipan, and roll it into small balls, and dot them around the sugary plums.
6. Sprinkle the marzipan and plums with ground almonds, to layer that almond flavour.
7. Tip the crumble mix over the fruit and grouns almonds.
8. Sprinkle with a litle sugar to help the top caramelize.

Bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, by which time the juices will be purpley bubbling, and the top slightly brown. Allow to cool a little, and serve with icecream, cream or custard.

A perfect Autumn warmer.

A postcript to this is that the crumble tasted not one jot of almond, and so was a little disappointing. I will try the leftovers tomorrow and see if there is a hint of almond anywhere at all in the dish.

So, to enhance the almondy flavour thing - next time I make this, I am going to do this:

1. Replace the water above with the equivalent amount of amaretto. An almondy flavour liquer - yum!
2. Replace the ground almonds with amaretti biscuits, which incidentally are made using ground almonds and amaretto liqueur. If I was making my own crumble mix I would definitely add the biscuits to the crumble mix too.

This intensified almondy flavour I am hoping will come through once the crumble is cooked. I'm looking forward to trying the variation - just as soon as I can buy the ingredients.:o)

On a totally different subject, after a week of rest, I am ready to start training for my next marathon. This time I want a flat one. One problem I am having is finding advice on running a marathon, or training for a marathon, after having just completed one. I guess most people aren't mad enough to do one so soon a are they ? Am I supposed to taper ? Start from square one? Do more speed work ? If anyone has any advice on training soon after a marathon I'd be glad to hear it. I think I would have been able to run about 3 days after the race, and I did just a paltry 2 miles this week, on Thursday which was 5 days after my marathon. I'm looking forward to getting back into it properly next week.

One other thing that made this an amazing week, my little CC passed both of her 11+ exams for two different grammar schools. We're out of catchment for one school, but in catchment for the other, so I am sleeping a little easier with those 2 passes in the bag. Phew!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kielder Marathon 2011 - or should that be Kieldaaaggghh

I did it. I managed 26 miles of the ups and downs of Kielder. My time was 4:50 - granted, that's quite a long time. My stats are: 142nd woman, and 778th out of 1100 odd. The weather was absolute pants. The run started in drizzle, continued in drizzle, an odd spot of sunsine around mile 18-20 and torrential rain to welcome those coming in at about 5:20. Those poor souls, how I felt for them !

Here's a photo of me, BB and CC. BB did the Run, Bike, Run. (duathlon) on Saturday and CC did the 2km run on Sunday. So, we've all got the t-shirts. Cute!

I am pleased to report that I ran about 95% of the course, and overtook many walkers (no disrespect to the walkers, it was a hard course). There came a point, around mile 22 onwards, when it was just as painful to run as it was to walk, so I ran to get there quicker.

I also realised that if I did this off funky-chicken thing with my arms I went faster up the hills - whatever gets you there quickest, right ? My thanks must go to my SIS (Science in Sport) gels for fuelling me through the miles, without the 9 or so of those that I took I am sure I would not have made it round with such 'ease'. Of course, the ample water at the aid stations also helped those gels slide down.

The only downside of my race was the nausea that set in at mile 20, which fortunately was just that. This wasn't something that I could have predicted, as I only trained to 15 miles, and I've only ever run 16 miles before. It was something I was aware of that could happen though.. At the finish, I was dragged off to the medical tent because I looked 'pale'. After about 5 minutes when the blood had returned to my cheeks, I was able to go in search of my BB and CC. By now, I was getting seriously cold and fortunately I was given the old tinfoil blanket that we've all seen people draped in. Boy, do those work ! It was like being wrapped in an electric blanket. Bliss !

The aftermath goes thus, after the race, I fell into a hot bath and went to bed at 8pm, exhausted. We travelled back to London from Northumbria yesterday so I spent Monday in the car, and today it was back to school/work and life as usual.

If I really, really had to run today, I could. But I won't. It has to be said that the nutrition, and the training paid off, and I am now seeking my next marathon, albeit a flat one next time, methinks...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Things to Cook soon

Semolina - is semolina actually nice ??

Homemade rice pudding

Meringues

Blackberry Jumble (I need an excuse to go Blackberry picking)

Paella

Croissants / Danish Pastries (maple and pecan anyone ?) (Never made these - what a challenge!)

Chutney

Christmas Pudding

Mincemeat (for Mince Pies of course)

Christmas Cake

Once the marathon is over next weekend I will make a start !

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ironing and Clutter and Stuff

When Ella from Notes from Home made a call this week for her Friday Carnival to be about clutter, I nearly fell off my chair laughing.

You see, since CC started training for her 11+ (and yes, I do mean training), and then I started training for  my marathon (its in about ten days now-eek!), and in between all that we replaced all of the windows in the house, and whilst we are away for my marathon, the whole house will be painted, necessitating a lot of pre-painting house maintenance - you can see that there will not be much time for organising clutter. Did I mention I work 32 hours a week with a 2hr daily commute ? When am I supposed to organise ? In my sleep ? I'm laughing to myself right now because I am thinking about the new film with Sarah Jessica-Parker (that I plan to see on Friday), where she cannot sleep and you see her writing her mental lists along the walls, as she goes through all of the items on her 'to-do' list. I guess I'm a bit like that.

You know what, I don't have a problem with clutter per se, but I do have a problem  with firstly, not being able to find things, and secondly, with things being clean (relatively). I think we all have different tolerance levels in these areas. I have one friend with two children whose home, through my eyes, is like a show home. It is lovely, but I know that we could not live like that. Likewise, she could not sit and type as I am now in eye-shot of the biggest pile or ironing that I think I have ever seen. No joke.

Which links in nicely with the cleaning/ironing/clutter thing. The reason the ironing pile is SO large, well it's not a high priority to be honest, also I would rather have clean ironing waiting to  done than dirty clothes festering away all week. I know some people have a 'wash day' where they wash, dry, iron, put away all in one day, but I could not have dirty clothes around for a week. I just couldn't. We also get through a lot of clothes with work clothes, casual clothes, running clothes, yoga clothes, swimming towels. I would be drowning under it all in no time. It's not like I don't iron, it's just that at the moment it barely makes a dent... Ho hum... My mother-in-law used to do my ironing, mainly to occupy her time after my father-in-law, the love of her life, passed away, but I'm a control freak and shipping my clothes to her house was a real pain. I was so ungrateful, but grateful at the same time. My work tops were OCD-origami-folded when I'm a hang-it-up freak, so sometimes 'ironed' clothes would have to go straight back on the ironing pile to be re-ironed at a later date. Or, items would be ironed not inside out, leaving iron marks on them, which I could not then wear to work. Straight back in the washng machine with them! In the end, I would filter out my clothes, and just send BB's and CC's because I felt so guilty about the origami folding and the iron marks and the wasting of someone else's time. It was a relief if I'm honest when MIL said she didn't want to iron any more. First, my guilt was gone, and most importantly it meant MIL was finding new friends.

I mentioned earlier that I have a problem with not being able to find things, it drives me crazy trying to find things, so I do believe that everything should have it's place. I know some people that have pared their homes to nothing, got rid of possesssions and books and trinkets, and clutter, but I like my things and my books, and I don't want to get rid of them. BB likes his running and triathlon magazines, and his bikes (we have quite a few bikes, CC has 3 alone, and now BB wants a new mountain bike!) but generally I know where most things are most of the time, which works for me.

One tip I can offer, which I don't yet practise, but I will do when I next organise my linen cupboard(!) is from a friend who is mega-organized with an immaculate home, she folds her bedding sets and places them in one of the pillow cases, then when she comes to make a bed she just has to pull out the pillow case and everything she needs is neatly folded inside. No crazily searching for matching pillow cases and the like, and that sounds good to me.

Some of you may know that we have a lovely house in France (well, it will be lovely one day), and I am trying to not let that get cluttered and so far winning the big fight. This does mean though that whenever I return from there, I start a new 'Things to take to France' pile, and then there's my 'Things I plan to eBay pile'. My house sounds like a nightmare doesn't it. It's not as bad as it sounds.

My final tip dear friends is do not procrastinate, if you have decided to declutter or get rid of something then do not procrastinate over it, sell it, recycle it, bin it and get rid of it.

Keep the things you love, and love the things you have.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Friday club - Finding time to blog

This week's Friday Carnival from Notes from home is all about finding time to blog and how one manages the life/bloggy balance. Of course this piece was supposed to be submitted to Notes from home on Friday before noon and now it's Saturday at 7.30. There's another deadline biting the dust - let's face it, I'd make a really sh*t journalist wouldn't I!

To put things in perspective, and I guess to answer the question put in the Friday Carnival, let's have little look at what I've been doing since Friday when this was due in.

0530 - Rise and shi--iinne !

0700- 1300 - Work - I'm a computer analyst. I did contemplate going out for a Thai lunch with a team that are visiting, but as I knew I had a lot on, I declined the lovely offer - and I really like Thai food too...Shame.

1300-1400 - Travel home on train, lunch is a wrap (a la Boots) eaten on train. All the better to be ready for...

1400 - 1730 Reached home and started loading tip rubbish into the car. This consisted of such items as my old herb box which was rotting, another veg box that was rotting, a very large rose bush that I had cut down previously (Owch, those thorns!), other garden waste. All of this was sitting in the drive situated between mine and my neighbour's house ..I have a Kia Sedona MPV, and it was full. All the big, burly men at the tip and not one offered to help. Ho hum.

Straight from the tip, yes, covered in dust, which I brushed off it's off to the bi-weekly shop to the supermarket. Fun.

1730- Got home, the fridge was getting embarrassingly grubby, so I emptied it and cleaned it before putting the shopping away. Fortunately, little CC had ballet after school, so she was being taken to the home of another mom after school, and was not due home until 1830. Next week it will be my turn to do the ballet run.

1830 - Shopping finally away and CC home, showed Chrissy my lovely new windows and chatted a while.
1845 - Sent CC to get changed for swimming, briefly discussed her day/dancing/homework/letters home etc.

1900 - 1915 BB home. BB and CC leave for swimming

1915 - Dinner for one - Fresh pasta which takes one minute to boil with some broccoli and grated cheese. Quite nice actually.

1930 - 2030 Changed to go to cinema with neighbour. We watched a hilarious new film and had a catch up on life in general.We always have a little chat in the car when we get back. Sweet.

2320 - Home and bed.

I don't think I need to even talk about today in great detail, yesterday was bad enough. suffice to say it has involved tutors, mothers-in-law, paint choosing and garage painting and ironing. I'm so pooped I can actually barely write. You can only imagine how much I am looking forward to my 2hr run tomorrow. Actually, truth be told I am looking forward to it, but only because I bought the new Adele CD today which BB is going to copy to my i-pod before tomorrow. That, and the fact that I only have to run for 2 hours :o)

So there was I these last few days, thinking in between all this how fun it would be explaining my blog/life balance, and how ironic it was that I couldn't actually even get it done on time. Typical ! Then I was going to email Ella and ask her, plead and beg, and see if she wouldn't mind maybe adding my post as an addendum to her list.

Then I saw on Ella's 'call for submissions' that instead of Friday, the call for submissions had been delayed to the weekend 'due to household illness'. I hope no one is seriously ill and send good wishes for a speedy recovery. And I can't help thinking how fate has meant my submission will now be included, and we are all just trying to balance it out and do our best.

Just finally I wanted to say that I love writing, I love reading, too and I love writing my blog, and even though I've only got a couple of followers, and I don't get that many hits, writing the blog has a huge impact on my life. I love writing, there's no way I could give it up. I think the blog means more to me than I have previously realised. I just wish I had more time to write more and further develop the blog. So many ideas and so little time..




.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Should I gain weight in marathon training ?

I weigh more now than before I started my marathon training about ten weeks ago. Considering I now run 4 times a week and do yoga twice a week, and once a week I even cycle to yoga - how is it then that the scales are 3 to 4 pounds heavier ??

Well, it could be that my diet consists of chocolate brownies, preceded by pizza all washed down with a couple of glasses of white.. (I ran out of red ..) Really, I'm not that bad diet-wise but yes, I do have a fondness for wine and pizza and chocolate, but I also eat cereal, bananas, fruit - ah, yes I quite like the odd bit of cheese too.

All that said though, it is certainly true that I am less of a wobble than ten weeks ago and my arms are nicely toned, I am building thighs of steel and my tum seems more toned too.

Just three minutes until I leave for yoga, when BB gets home. He and CC are swimming tonight for South London Harriers triathlon club, so it's a late night all round.

I can only hope that when the training is finished I will trim down weight-wise, although oddly I look better than before...

Explain that one !!

An update:

It's now November, the marathon was last month. I think the weight gain I mentioned above was something of a tipping point, because just before the marathon, literally the week before, my body became a lot leaner than ever before. It is still quite lean now. I had taken my measurements (arms, tum, thighs, waist, hips, calves) etc in May this year, and I re-measured just before the marathon. I had lost centimetres in all areas, just 1 or 2 in every area, except for, wait for it, yes, you guessed it, my calves, which I think grew by one centimeter.

So, if you do find yourself putting on  a little weight, stick with your nutrition and training plan and reassess later. Don't suddenly start changing your plan, because if you start eating too little, then you could find that you start to lack the energy to train, just as you are increasing your mileage.

Although I watch what I eat to a certain extent, as my training stepped up, I quite literally started to see my food as fuel, and I really needed to make sure the tank stayed full, even if it meant eating more than usual. If you're in the middle of a training plan, I would recommend ignoring the numbers on the scales for now (to a certain degree, of course), keep with the training, and listen to your body.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Emma's wedding cake



When my best friend Emma asked me to make her wedding cake earlier this year, I took a sharp intake of breath. Sure, I like making a cake, and OK, I've done a cake decorating course, and I know I've had a cake stall and made numerous Christmas cakes for my work friends for the last few years... BUT.. this was a wedding cake, for the mosts important day of Emma's life and would be on view by lots and lots of people.

After a few months, I persuaded Emma that I should make a croquembouche ( a French style wedding cake made of a pyramid of profiteroles all stuck together with teeth-cracking caramel ), which she could also serve to her guests as dessert. Was I absolutely mad ? Things hit a new level when I realised that I couldn't actually build the thing until the big day. To add to the pressure, CC was bridesmaid and we were driving the bridesmaids from Emma's new home to the wedding and back again to the reception.

Of course, I was petrified then that the croquembouche wasn't going to work, so just in case I made the little cake above. Emma wanted a cake for her new hubby James that she could take home and share with her family.

The cake consisted of 2 heart shaped cakes on heart-shaped cake boards. I filled the vanilla sponge cakes with  raspberry jam and iced them with ivory icing. I then sprayed them with an ivory lustre dust. They were decorated with an ivory satin ribbon around the base and I then stuck love heart sweets around the bottom edge.

The top tier was the same, except I filtered out all of the white loveheart sweets. Emma totally did not want a Bride and Groom cake topper, so I bought a silver love heart sweet imprinted with 'I love you' to go on the top.

I was really pleased with the final result, and although the croquembouche turned out to be amazing too, and went down fantastically well, I can't help but think that this cake with three tiers would have looked fabulous too. Next time (next time ????) I really must be more brave. :o)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Latest addition to my cookbook collection

You know me and my cookbooks by now - I love them all... and I just got a new one for my collection at the weekend.

CC and I have really been enjoying the TV show called The Great British Bake Off which is currently airing on BBC2, so when I saw the book on the shelf at WHSmith I just had to have a flick through. When you have as many baking books as I have it is difficult to find a book with original recipes, or recipes that I haven't tried before, but I was pleasantly surprised. I bought the book for the bargain price of £8.00 as I had a WHSmith 20% off voucher. Usually said vouchers end up in the bin,  but this one was lurking in my purse, so I got lucky there. I love a bargain.

This is what the book looks like:


Having a quick flick through, when/if I ever have the time I would like to make these:

Pg 21 - Mary's Coffee and Walnut Battenberg - a classic battenberg with a twist.

Pg 34 - Speckled Mocha Cake

Pg 53 - Double Chocolate Marbled Loaf Cake

Pg 60 - Mary's Brandy Snaps

Pg 64 - Almond Tuiles

Pg 97 - Mint Chocolate Macaroons

Pg 98 - Florentines

Pg 135 - Rum Babas

Pg 140 - Sticky Buns

Pg 162 - Spicy Chicken Pasties

Pg 173 - Three Cheese and Spinach Pie

Pg 174 - Mushroom and Gorgonzola Twists

Pg 204 - Tarte Tatin

Pg 240 - Paul's Iced Fingers

Pg 272 - Hot Lemon Curd Souffle

Pg 298 - Pannetone

Quite a lot there, isn't there ! Whilst these recipes sound delicious, they are all a little further out of my comfort zone than I would usually venture (says she who recently made a Croquembouche for a wedding party to serve 100-ha!). I'm not a pastry chef or someone who makes bread often. So I am looking forward to the 'technical challenge' as they call it on the show.


What cookbooks have you invested in lately, and more importantly, have you cooked anything from it yet ?




Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Friday Club

I came across this blog called Notes From Home and they have a cute thing called The Friday Club where you write about a certain subject once a week. It's meant for your child and this week it's called Things I want you to know about your Father you have to basically write 5 things for your child about their father.

So, this is for CC about my BB, her Dad...

1) Your Dad was not always a runner and triathlete! When we met he was a keen footballer, but that is it.

2) The relationship you have with your Dad is super-special. I am not as close to my Dad as you are to yours, and he is not as close to his other two daughters as he is to you.

3) Your Dad's favourite colour is blue.

4) Your Dad's favourite meal is lobster thermidor, but no one has ever made it for him.

5) Your Dad has kept all the little things you make him.

You also know he's my favourite person - as well as you. Go BB !

PS> Anyone reading this who does not usually read my blog: BB=Biscuit Boy and CC=Cupcake

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Run As you Feel

.. that's what it said for my four miles jog-a-rooney today. So, I ran like I was bursting for the loo, dog-tired with still-aching legs from Sunday, and wanting to go home. I'm not sure that's quite what the plan meant !

Even worse, I was supposed to do this run last night but never got round to it after going through a maths paper with CC and entertaining the window fitters with coffee and cookies, as one must... it got to 7pm and I hadn't even thought of dinner.

You may, dear reader, think I have given up cooking and photography altogether, but no, this past week I have made banana bread, chocolate brownies, and yes, I know it's a little early, but I have even made two Christmas puddings. Get me ! I've just had no time to post about any of it..

Tonight sees CC and BB going to their usual Wednesday evening swimming club. This now coincides with my yoga class, which means I will be cycling to and from the class, which is about 2 miles away/ Hey ! Couldn't I have just done that instead of the 4 mile run..????.  I am just hoping I won't be tooooo relaxed to cycle home.

Not a minute to spare then is there ? We have non-verbal reasoning to go through tonight, homework and reading to do, preparing for work and here I sit typing in my heart-rate monitor. Time to get on !!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

To Do List

What is it about a list? It's just so satisfying to get things out of your brain and on to a piece of paper isn't it ?

Well it is for me, otherwise those things can eat your brain as they go round and round.

The good news is folks, I got to the yoga class this morning. I was the only person there so I got a one-to-one lesson with Viv, the teacher. I managed to get some much needed leg stretches done which was the aim, so mission accompished there. I left feeling really relaxed, which made for a nice start to Saturday morning.
It has to be said that yoga is a great form of cross training for a runner. All that stretching and breathing control and relaxation. I definitely recommend it, and it's not easy. Well, I guess it's as difficult as you want it to be. Viv was great today when she said 'Work with your spirit, rather than your ego on this one'. Loved that. Over time yoga will greatly improve your flexibility.  Viv reminded me that I had not been to her class since March, and believe me I could feel it in the overall stiffness in my body. So, for the next month at least I will be going twice a week, as part of my 'marathon training'. That's one item off the 'To-Do list' and onto the 'Doing' list. Yippee!!

So what else is on that list? Well CC is back at school next week and usually at some point in the holidays I will go though the paperwork the school, or the dance club, or the swimming club has sent and have a cull ready for the new academic year.  It's a chance to fill my diary with school holiday dates for the next year, figure out when dance school starts etc. I haven't got round to this one yet so it's next on the list.

Tomorrow is my fifteen mile training run. I''m not looking forward to that. This afternoon I went for a 5 mile run as it told me to on my training plan. I didn't really feel like it, but it was OK, I took it easy in anticipation of the 15 tomorrow. I did 8.6km in 52:30. You know the more I look at my times for various training runs, the more I realise my marathon time is going to be really crappy. Does that matter ? Also, I am surprised that my training plan only ever gets to 15 miles and no higher. BB tells me that this is because it is a 12-week plan....

All I am thinking is how the hell am I going to cope with the other 11 miles ? If I only had to add 5 miles then OK, maybe 6 miles, that's only 10K right? But 11 miles ! So, if tomorrow takes 3 hours - how long is 26 miles going to take. Am I really looking at a 4hours+ marathon. In addition, Kielder is tough terrain, it's hilly.

Worst of all ? I just don't think I can face running more than 4 hours non stop.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Keep on running...

This marathon training is HARD work. Remind me why I signed up again ?? Last night BB didn't get home until 8pm which meant I couldn't go and do my 8 mile run until 8pm, which meant I didn't get home until 9.15pm, which meant we ate dinner at 9.45 and I ended up in bed at midnight ! With a 5.30 get up this morning I'm pretty shattered now. But at least I got the run done, which is one more tick on the training plan.

There was no running today it was a 'day of rest' - ha! Tomorrow is 5 miles which will be Ok, and then Sunday up to 15 miles, which is my longest run so far in my training - eek. Whilst I am noticing that my body is becoming a little more lean through the running, I am also noticing that my knees hurt. On the mental list of things to do this weekend is order a new pair of trainers. To save time shopping and trying on, and reduce risk of the trainers being 'wrong'. I will simply buy by mail order a known and loved brand and make/model. 

I usually run in Mizuno Wave trainers and I usually buy them from http://www.sportsshoes.com/

These are looking pretty promising, and a reasonable price too, although there are more expensive Mizunos on there too. Sometimes, the motto 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' rings true, and this is one of those times.

So, if the knee pain is due to a lack of cushioning the new trainers will resolve that. My ankles are achy too, especially first thing in the morning... Tomorrow morning I am going to a yoga class, I am hoping that a good stretch will help with the ankles. I am also being really stupid about stretching after my runs and not doing much or any really. Considering I already have tights calves I am asking for trouble with the rest of my training and the race itself if I don't keep my muscles warm and stretched out.

Whilst I am loving collecting all the new kit - my ShockAbsorber bra is the best! The day is looming on the horizon, so if anyone has any last minute hints and tips, I would be grateful !




Monday, August 29, 2011

New kit - Garmin GPS-Heart rate monitor watch

I'm so excited !  Check out my new GPS / Heart-rate monitor watch thingy below. Why did I buy this, and more importantly, do I need it ? Well, lucky me, it was a gift from my BB to help me in my marathon training.  BB is very supportive, not just in my coaching, but making sure I get out there when maybe I don't feel like training, making sure I do the things that sometimes we forget like nutrition and stretching, which are both pretty important concepts if you are thinking of running a marathon.


As part of my marathon training  I had to run 13 miles on Sunday- yesterday. Whilst I had a rough idea of my route, I could not be exactly sure of the distance, but I could with my new watch ! It worked perfectly, I was a little worried that my routes through the woods would make me lose the GPS signal, but I didn't. The signal held strong all the way. The watch also gave me the 'time per km'  (e.g. it showed 6:02 or 5:57) meaning I was running 1km in 6:02 or 5:57 (depending on whether I was going uphill or not, I guess) Great ! I didn't use the heart rate monitor yesterday, but I will next time. When you stop the timer you can then save all of the data to the watch.

When I got home I plugged the watch in and went to the Garmin Communicator plugin website, and created my account and downloaded my data. There I had a nice graphical view of my km split times. It also showed the height of the hills I had run (750ft or so) and I was able to save and name my map. Not bad eh?

It's definitely too early to write a full review of the product, but so far, so good. Tomorrow I have a 5 mile training run, so I will definitely be using it again tomorrow - this time with the heart rate monitor.

Check out the Amazon link below, which is where this was bought. We chose the 'Next Day Delivery' option, or should I say BB did, and Bingo ! It turned up on time.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Moody Moo-ey

Sometimes I'm described as  moody, I prefer the term serious. Ha! I guess I don't mean to be moody and mostly I don't know I'm doing it. Mainly it's because I forgot to eat, and then I'll realise that I'm irritable because I'm hungry. This is a bit of a standing joke at home because even CC will say 'Mom, when did you last eat?' if she notices I'm a little short. Of course, this is met with even shorter shrift, when I reply 'No, I'm not hungry! Do your homework/piano practise/room/guinea pigs* (* Delete as appropriate). Other times it's because I've been up since 5.15am, had no down time all day and I'm just plain tired, and I expect myself to be able to keep going non-stop.

So, I thought I'd write a little whinge list of reasons to be merry and reasons to be a moody-mooey and we can see how we get on ...

Mooey

1) Work - Being an entrepeneurial, creative soul it sucks if at work this creativity is stifled. I am also enthusiastic about stuff and a do-er, and whilst I know all this has to be managed when it is my creativity or enthusiasm being managed, well you might as well sit me in an empty, dark room because that is how it leaves me... Dead and dull, boring, doldrums.. not good.

2) Did an 8-mile tun tonight, on concrete. Not a fun route and has made me tired, and my knees ache.

3) The double glazing project started today. Yes, the whole house is upside down and covered in dust, and yes I still went to work today, and yes, I'm still going to work tomorrow and the next day. Enough said.

4) My dodgy guts. I've given up wheat. Today is day 3, I don't miss wheat at all. Trouble is, my guts haven't improved either.. How long do I give it? Another week, a month ?? What do I eliminate next ? A gut problem expert I am not !

5) Too much Brie and red wine on holiday has made the scale swing out of my favour just a little too far this time.

6. CC's 11+ training is still hanging around... only 4 weeks til the exams. I can't wait for it to be over, she has worked so hard. Seriously worried about what happens next with that.. probably too much so... but then that's what moms do, no ?

7) Despite rejoining the gym it is highly unlikely that I will get there any time before September..

8) You guessed it, I didn't eat yet.

Merry

1. The new windows are  beautiful, and the company doing them are fantastic. Highly recommended. Only 2-3 more days and they will all be finished - and then we can move house.

2. The veggies and rice and no alcohol means the scales are going down already. Yippee!

3. All of this running is making me feel very fit and I can see quite a difference in the toned-ness (is that a word?) of my upper arms and thighs - still a little jelly-like though...

4) At least I did re-join the gym at work - finally.

5) A three day weekend is coming up.

I could probably add to both of these lists all night, but the veggie stir fry is calling - yum! :o)

By the way, if you fancy a laugh read Warren Caterson's blog http://tablefortwocookbooks.blogspot.com/ His latest post really made me laugh tonight - and that has to be a good thing !

Monday, August 22, 2011

We're Back - on with the Marathon Training

We arrived home last night after a (thankfully) uneventful very long journey home. By the way, if anyone is debating whether to put their car on the Eurotunnel for the Dover-Calais crossing, rather than take the ferrry then I would very highly recommend it. Having taken the ferry for the last five years, after experiencing Eurotunnel, it will be the Eurotunnel for me from now on. For sure speed alone, there is no hanging around like you have to boarding and disembarking from the ferry. If you time it right, you can roll up to the train and cross the channel and be in Calais within an hour. The last time we took the ferry, admittedly we timed it badly, but it took us about six hours (no joke!) to do the crossing with all the flaffing around and delays and arriving too early for the crossing. It was hideous. You have been warned!

On Saturday, continuing with my marathon training, I went for a 13 miile run. In the hills of Limoux this means you're running up mountains-twisting, winding, steep mountain roads. It was hard. I left in the relative cool of 0830 in the morning, and took with me in my hydration pack 2l of orange juice and water mix (a personal hydration favourite) and a gel. It was a SIS (Science in Sport) gel with added caffeine. My current favourite, and, at the moment, my gel of choice for my marathon. Believe me I needed it.

Biscuit Boy and Cupcake came looking for me after I had been goine for 3 hours. Bless them. I saw the car approaching just as I was turning my last corner and about 400m from the house. They had with them cold water, which I drank although I was only 400m from the house. I can run a flat half marathon in about 2 hours ( Gosport half marathon last year, as I recall) so taking 3 hours give you some idea of the effect on the body of the heat and the hills. I had drank all 2l of my fluids and had my gel and yet I still didn't need to pass water, which gives you an idea of the level of dehydration. By the time I got back at 11.30 it was really hot and the sun was beating down. The cold water, followed by a cold shower went down well. Amazingly by the end of the afternoon my legs did not ache at all and I felt absolutely fine. Like I hadn't run, even.

Today, BB and I ran in Hyde Park. Our lunch time 4 miler, it felt quite fast and went well. Tomorrow is a rest day and Wednesday I will run 8 miles and then 13 on Saturday or Sunday. I need to find a half marathon race, but BB tells me there aren't any so I guess I will race myself, which is fine.

I must quickly mention that on the way home in the car yesterday I ran Dean Karnazes book Ultra Marathon Man - Confessions of an all-night runner.

Check out his web site here: http://www.ultramarathonman.com/flash/ It makes my marathon quite literally look like a walk in the park. The book has given me the inspiration I needed, to know that I can have a good race, if I train well and, well, if I really want it enough.

So, bring on the training ! I LOVE it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Basking in the sun

We finally escaped to Labour of Love and the lovely Limoux. The sun is shining to the extent that it's 30 degrees and over and that's in the shade. We don't have an internet connection in the village, so CC and I are in Limoux McDonalds taking advantage of their wi-fi connection while BB is back at the house tiling CC's little shower room. Good progress is being made.

I so haven't had chance to blog lately. Whilst BB has been busy working on the house, CC and I have been cramming for her 11+. Cramming is the wrong word though, because if you don't know the formula you will not pass. It's been plenty of practising of verbal reasoning, maths and comprehension. And you thought I was on holiday? Ha.

What about me ? I've put a few coats of paint on the skirting in our bedroom, and a few of the door frames, I've been supervising the work CC has been doing, correcting and going over mistakes, cooking and oh ,yes, running !

I am following a marathon training plan which in this heat is not so easy.There are many hills around here, which I guess is great for the training. One night last week I ran to one village 4.5km away, and ran back and then ran to a village in the opposite direction 4.5km away, and ran back. 18km in total, by the time I got back BB and CC had practically sent out a search party I had been gone that long. Funny. Tonight I have to do one minute 'sprints' (sprint for a minute - hello ??) with a 2 mile warm and 6x 1 minute sprints with 2 minutes recovery. In 30 degree heat. Nice.

When I get chance I will put the full training plan on here. In the meantime, CC is practically dragging me out of McDo's so wherever you are I hope you are having a fun summer. Happy August ! :o)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Camping it up !

Not camping it up exactly .. just plain old camping. This weekend BB was supposed to do Fambridge middle distance triathlon, but when he got round to entering, there were no spaces left. That's a lesson learned isn't it. The funny thing was we were going to camp there the night before the race, and BB had a dry run putting the tent up in the garden before he had checked whether they were entries left. I felt so sorry for him.

As it was the end of term for Cupcake, we thought what the hell, let's go camping for the night anyway. We didn't want to go too far afield, so I managed to find this place near Lewes in East Sussex Spring Barn Farm.
It's actually a children's petting farm with a restaurant and a field where they allow camping. There are no showers on site, and only a basic toilet block (no hot water, no mirrors, no hairdryers) but as we were only there for the night we knew we would cope...

Camping is most certainly not for everyone, but you can get plenty of kit  now to make it into an enjoyable experience. We haven't been for a long time, but when we did go before, I took my parent's 6-man tent which had it's own kitchen part, bedroom part, etc. We also took a mini gas cooker and a hook-on light. In fact I quite easily made spaghetti bolognese for 4 -- well easyish. It's fair to say we don't camp like that any more, we were only there for the night this time, so we took no cooking equipment. That said, I did take my spork (knife, fork and spoon in one), a cool bag, a bottle of red wine (of course!), a carton of orange juice, 3 plastic cups, cookies, strawberries, paninis ... I'll stop there before you drop off ...

What do I enjoy most about camping? Well, you all have to pull together, you all have to put the tent up together. At this site you had to leave your car outside the field, so you pile all of your belongings into a wheelbarrow and wheel them to the tent. Kids love doing things like that and CC was no exception. I quite enjoy it myself too... Once the tent is up, your time is your own, no obligations like you have at home. We went for a long walk, and we played card games, we went out for pizza and when we got back we lay in the entrance of the tent and drank wine and looked at the stars. It was only one night, but it was real, quality family time. Priceless.

The next day (today) we went round the Petting Farm, CC is getting a little old for that now so it was okaaaaay. I'm sure younger kids would love it. We breakfasted in the restaurant, well BB and CC did - they didn't seem able to satisfy my simple request for just toast, and then they decided they would let me have just toast, but by then I had lost my appetite and politely declined.. That left a bit of a sour note for me.  Before breakfast, we sat outside at our little folding table and chairs, I had brought cans of iced coffee (thank you Starbucks!), so we drank those and had more fun playing cards. I guess what I most love about camping is being outside the whole time. It's a bit of a hippy thing too I guess, the great welly-wearing, unwashed. Funny. Camping gives me a real good feeling, I can't really explain it. It just suits me, I guess..

I can't wait for my next camping trip although I've no idea when this will be, CC made us promise that we woud camp for a few days every summer, and I'm up for that.

The weather has been glorious this weekend, so when we got back and I had unpacked I went for a long(ish) run of about 90-odd minutes. It felt good to be running in the heat, I took my hydration pack with me and thought about the forthcoming marathon.

All in all, life is good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kielder Marathon - Sunday 9 October 2011

So, it's time to get serious. That data above is the date I am signed up to complete Kielder Marathon.

It's been 11 days since my breast biopsy and with the OK from the consultant to continue my running, today I went out full of renewed energy and a spring in my step. The sun was shining, but only very briefly. Suddenly, the skies opened and the rain fell down on me for the rest of my run. I was only running to Cupcake's school and in the 11 days that I as off the running, I think I cycled the same route about 2 or 3 times. The one thing I noticed ? How much slower running is than cycling. The cycle ride takes me 15-20 minutes, whereare the run today took me 35 minutes - it's about 3  miles or so.

It was raining, and I was soaked, and I thought to myself everyone else would think why is that crazy woman running in the rain, but I' m not a fairweather runner. I quite enjoyed getting wet. Running in the rain reminds me that I am alive, and that I am lucky enough to be able-bodied and be out running. In October when I stand on the start line, am I going to say that I can't run ... because it's raining ??? Duh, of course not ! The best thing I can do is to have trained in all sorts of climates so that on the day I am not taken by surprise.

This marathon training lark has me thinking about the following :

Kit - today I tried out my new Shockabsorber running bra - it was £32.99 and worth every penny. '78% less bounce' it said on the label and I believe it. I would highly recommend it.

Nutrition - I know what to eat, but it's a question of getting it right on the day and not having tummy troubles.

Route - I need new routes to keep the training interesting

Cross-training - Swimming and yoga - I need to fit these in somewhere

If anyone has any marathon training tips I would be chuffed to receive them !

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's all about ME !!!

I was just reading my foodbuzz email and clicked on the 'Top 9', which I always enjoy a browse through. Those avocado chocolate cookies look nice, I thought. I like a nice odd recipe, and I know I have an avocado out there in the kitchen, lurking....

Here's a link to that recipe, in case it whets your appetite too. http://www.foodbuzz.com/blogs/3903799-avocado-chocolate-chip-cookies Also on that page the author mentioned 25 questions from Suzy's blog so I thought I would complete them too and give you another insight into the Kooky. :o)

Here they are:

1. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
I guess I'm like Marmite - no, not a French casserole (!) You either love me, or hate me.. but I've got to choose love, haven't I ...


2. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
See above answer. 


3. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS?
Yes

4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
Eugh. Whenever I think of luncheon meat that makes me think of processed meat, and that then makes me think of bowel cancer... I don't eat processed meat. I like roast chicken though, but I'd really rather have hummous or even better tuna mayo with red onion... I guess that wasn't really the question though was it - lol. :o)

5. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
No. My first pre-date with BB, that is the date before our 'first date' was basically me wishing him luck up a crane whilst he jumped off the crane doing his first (and only) Bungee jump. I was the only one crazy enough to go up there with him - and I don't like heights. Love eh ?? That was back in 1999. And anyway, I always worry the 'string' would break, or not be long enough and I would head-dive into concrete or something. No, no, no....

23. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Ottawa /Toronto in Canada.


I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Night-night.  Smile 
24. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU WATCHED ON TV? 
Right now, on the TV in the background, being watched by BB, is a film about Mark Cavendish and his experiences in the Tour de France. BB is so engrossed he can't even tell me what it's about.. It looks quite interesting actually.

6. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
I'm more of a Bagel bird really.. I like all sorts of cereal though, today I had a little bit of granola in a yoghurt with a chopped nectarine, so probably  granola or muesli, but I'd secretly rather be eating an onion bagel...

7. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
Sometimes, depends on the shoe, who I'm with, if I'm racing, and most importantly if I'm using lock laces. I love my lock laces.

8. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
Probably an Italian fruity gelato.
9. RED OR PINK?
Wine ? Definitely red.

10. WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO ON YOUR NEXT VACATION?
Just my second home in Limoux, France. About three weeks to that now, not that I'm counting or anything ...

11. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
Not wearing any

12. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
Some cookies and cream ice-cream - very nice. I could eat more, but I won't...
13. IF YOU WERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
Always green, always...

14. FAVORITE SMELLS?
Smells that remind me of past places, usually perfumes that I was wearing at that time..

15. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
My Mum.
16. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
Tour de France at the moment. They've just reached the Pyrenees and are starting from my second  home town of Limoux this Sunday, July 17th  - I so wish I was going to be there...

17. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
Yes, today's lot are starting to irritate a little though. Time to get them out soon.
18. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
Happy endings

19. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
That new teacher one with Cameron Diaz., it was okaaaayy.....
20. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
Dark grey Nike t-shirt with neon pink writing.
21. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
'Pardon my French' - it's all about why certain French things are that way.. like the old roundabout priority rules still applying on the Arc de Triomphe round about, so you can just drive straight on it without giving way. Those crayzee  French, eh ??

22. FAVORITE SOUND? 
Too many sounds to mention, I could mention quite a few annoying ones too - like any clicking or tapping.