Saturday, February 23, 2013

Human Race Events

I gave a pretty rough review here the other day after a tedious 10km race in NonSuch Park. So, credit where credit's due, it's time to big up a race that I did today (that I've done before..) by Human Race Events.

Me - with a cup of iced water
Human Race have been around for a number of years now, and BB and I have done most of their events. There's Kingston Breakfast Run, Windsor triathlon, Bananaman triathlon in Dorney, and the Tuff Man, Wild Man, Ice Man etc; events to name but a few. Today I did the Tuff Man event, and it was, well, the clue's in the name - tough !

First of all when we arrived it was snowing.. ew ! But, for once, I was organised and had taken alternative clothes so instead of the black, wicking, ASICS top that I had planned to wear, I switched it for a wicking, fleece-lined top which I knew was a lot warmer. I also started off with a hat on (well, a Buffy actually), which I took off half way round, but it stopped my ears freezing during the first half.) I clued for the loo, and chatted with a guy that was doing a sponsored event every month for the whole year with a team of friends. What a hero! It's really nice to be inspired and share race stories with fellow runners.

The race was only 8km, but it felt a lot longer due to the terrain down at Pippingford Park Estates. Thankfully, there were no loops, it was a circular course, so you never trod the same steps twice. That's my kind of race! There were hills, and at times the route led past a small stream/river.. During the race briefing the organiser mentioned that last year, some competitors had actually fallen in the water ! How on earth would they do that  .. ? I found myself wondering,  and thinking you'd have to be really, really silly to do that, no ??

Fast-forward 30-odd minutes, that terrain was serious fun, but even in my Salomon trail shoes at times I was like Bambi out there, and that's when I too ended up in the river ! I didn't actually fall in hands first, or head first, or even land on my bottom, I just misjudged where to put my foot next, and instead of standing on the mud, ended up in the water, and then I was in the mud, and then a guy was offering to 'pull' me out, and then a girl overtook me, and then I managed to scramble back onto the mud. Phew! It made me chuckle.. well I'm chuckling now, at the time I was wondering about how my frozen feet were ever going to come back to life enough for me to complete the race. I promise, races like this, make you feel *alive*.

We were pretty alone out there, there weren't very many races marshalls, although as it was a short route, and circular, you were never that far away from help. Most of those that I did see offered an encouraging word as you passed, which is most appreciated.

At the end, the kind ladymarshall asked me if I was OK and leaned down and chopped off my race tag. I think she could see that I felt a bit sick.. and a bit cold.. which I did. BB was there waiting for me, having finished the race 5 minutes before me. I was offered coconut water in a carton, and little sweatbands branded with the Coconut water logo, and there was also Iced water (hadn't I had enough ice ??) and Power Bars to choose from. The guy who served the water shared a word with me, which, again, was really nice.

I queued for my t-shirt. BB had registered us for the race, and at sign-up you specify the size that you would like, so the person looked up my number and handed me my t-shirt. How perfect is that ! After the last race that I did, I was seriously impressed. Although not totally surprised as Human Race are very good at the details, which does make a difference to the overall race experience.

We went back to the car and changed into dry clothes. Then BB said, you know you can go and get your time right now, if you want. Yes, in a tent, there is an area, where you can enter your race number into a key pad and get your race stats, your time, your Gender position, and your Overall position. Fantastic !

My stats were as follows: Time: 47:09 Overall Position: 89/130 Gender Position: 18/40 Cat position: 4 / 10

I was pleased with my time. Overall the race was a Win! Win! Win! If you feel like having a go, there's one more race left in the '... Man' series. April 6th is the TrailMan race. Check out the web site for more details.

You can also follow Human Race on twitter - @HumanRaceEvents

Friday, February 22, 2013

Half Term in Dusseldorf

I don't usually get half term off with my little CC, so when I worked a whole load of overtime at work in November and December, I asked the powers-that-be if, in return, I could take off February half term week, and they said 'Yes'.

CC and I flew off on Saturday with easyJet from London Gatwick to Dusseldorf. We checked in and ate pancakes at a rather extortionate £9.00 for three pancakes at one of the airport eateries, which I thought was rather expensive... We didn't even eat three between us. They did not taste good.We waited an age for the gate to be announced, which was no bad thing as it meant we were able to buy Twilight Breaking Dawn Part II - the book which CC has wanted to get for the longest time.

The fllight was uneventful. We landed and caught the Skytrain to Dusseldorf main train station (Dusseldorf Hauptbahnhof) and from there we caught a train direct to Gutersloh. The journey was about 2 hours long and the train was busy as there was a football match at Dortmund.

The next few days we spent relaxing, we also went to the museum in Munster, which is next to the 'All weather' (Alles Wetter) zoo, I'm sure it would have been more fun in the sunshine though, rather than the freezing February temperatures.

On our last day CC and I caught the train back to Dusseldorf main train station and having paid 4 euros to leave our bags at the station, we hopped on the underground (U-bahn) 3 stops  to the AltStadt, we walked along to the Rhine and took a photo and then walked along to Konig Strasse, with all the lovely designer stores. It was lots of fun. Unfortunately, we couldn't buy anything as we were already at our baggage limit, but we had fun all the same.

I saw that the station was signposted just a kilometer away, so I knew we could walk there rather than take the tube. Typically though, like most main train stations it was surrounded by an active red-light district. Not the best place to walk through with your 11 yr old.. so if you read this, don't walk to the station, jump back on the U-bahn instead.. save yourself having to explain what a 'sex shop' is...

Soon enough we were in the Duty free store, stocking up on Milka chocolate to take back for friends and family. We arrived back at Gatwick, caught the Gatwick Express to East Croydon and jumped in a cab home.

All in all, it was such an easy journey. The people were friendly enough. If you are contemplating travelling alone in Europe with your child, I would highly recommend it. I'm very much looking forward to my next European trip with my little CC. We're already eyeing up Rome and Prague !

Have you travelled alone abroad with your child ?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A day in the life of a Total Greek Yoghurt

When the lovely people at Total Greek Yoghurt kindly sent me some yoghurts to try out for my blog, I didn't just want to say that they tasted 'nice', blah, blah, blah... I thought it would be better to explain their 'journey', and see how they really fit into a 'standard', active family's lifestyle.

So, here we go.. they were delivered on Wednesday evening - 6th Feb - which incidentally is exactly a week ago, practically to the hour! Here are my family's yoghurty discoveries, listed in order of consumption.

Yoghurt 1 - Award-winnning Blueberry 0% Fat Free Total Greek Yoghurt - 10;00pm (6th Feb)

BB and CC swim three times per week, and  they always come back hungry. 'Can I have one of those yoghurts ?', asked BB. 'Sure, you can' was my reply .. ' ....but you have to tell me what you think of it'. The next time I looked up it was gone. 'Well ?' I asked.. 'Niiiiiiiiice' was his reply. So that wasn't a very good start was it !! I just grilled him again and he whispered... '...actually I prefer the Raspberry and Pomegranate.' I have to admit he's very much a Raspberry lover. Fair enough..

The Blueberry yoghurt is so lovely, it actually won this award!
Yoghurt 2 -Strawberry 0% Fat Free Total Greek Yoghurt - 07:00 (7th Feb)

I have an early start in central London. I'm on the train at 0600, and in the office by 0700. Breakfast is at my desk, or not at all. As BB arrived back from swimming, he found me chopping apricots and walnuts and pouring oats into little plastic boxes. I knew exactly what I would be having for breakfast. The Times' Robert Crampton calls it an 'ugly' breakfast, and yes, it doesn't look too pretty, but oh my, it was delicious.

I up-ended my yoghurt and strawberry mix into a bowl and sprinkled with oats, apricots, walnuts and seeds.
All I can say is, try it. You won't be disappointed and it kept me feeling full all morning. This is great because it meant I wasn't reaching for the Office 'cookie stash'. Well, not until a little later than usual anyway... tee hee.

Yoghurt 3 - Honey 0% Fat Free Total Greek Yoghurt - 1600 (Thursday 7th)

CC comes home from school and seeing the yoghurts arrive the previous evening, asks 'Mum, do those yoghurts come in honey ?' 'Yes', was my reply. Why? I asked. 'Because they're the only flavour I like .... can I have one ?' CC just will NOT eat a yoghurt with pureed fruit in it. Her yoghurt has to be smooth, or she's not having yoghurt. 'Have you had anything else to eat yet?' I questioned. 'No', she said ..'OK then, you can have one'. Later, I asked her what she thought.. 'It was a little bit sickly'...Yoghurt and honey are a lovely combination, but personally, I, like CC,  usually need to 'dilute' the sweetness with some fruit or nuts, or something.

If you have two children, you could add fruit and easily split one pot between them. I should mention at this point, that infants under 12 months old should not eat honey. For your toddler or school age children, this would be a perfect, healthy post-school snack.

Yoghurt 4 - Award-winning Blueberry 0% Fat Free Total Greek Yoghurt - 0700 -  Me (Friday 8th)

I wondered how the blueberry would go with the 'ugly' mix, so I was determined to give it a go.
The blueberries were quite sweet and had a nice perfumed taste - I liked it ! It reminded me of the perfumed taste from homemade blueberry muffins - yum! Of course, this is better, because there's 0% fat, (which is a very good thing), and 100% flavour.

This lucky little yoghurt also had it's own photo shoot this morning. Just how good does the life of an award-winning Total Greek Yoghurt get ?

Yoghurt 5 - Raspberry and Pomegranate (BB - Friday 8th - 2200)

BB and CC returned from swimming with fish and chips from the local take away. We don't eat fish and chips very often, because it can be quite flavourless and quite unhealthy, in fact I can't remember the last time  we ate it - usually we eat it on the beach in Brighton. It just seems to taste nicer eaten outside, next to the sea. However, last night, the batter on the fish was crisp and thin. Lovely!

After this feast, there was no way I could eat anything else, although I did eat a tiny bit of dark chocolate. BB decided to have a 0% fat Total Greek Raspberry and Pomegranate yoghurt, and he actually dipped dark chocolate into it. Now, to me, that just sounds gross, but CC tried it, and she liked it too. It just goes to show that you never can quite tell what your Total Greek yoghurt will go with next !

Yoghurts 6,7, and 8 (Raspberry and Pomegranate (me!), Honey (CC) and Strawberry (BB) - Sunday 10 Feb - 5.30

BB and I ran 8 miles in the rain and mud on Sunday, it was really hard going and afterwards we changed and went to our favourite place for brunch: Woodcote Green Nurseries. We both had warm flatbread sandwiches, I had the ham, cheese and tomato chutney and BB, the chicken, bacon and cheese. Both served with winter coleslaw, and chunky crisps. It was just what we both needed. That saw us through to about 5pm, when I came downstairs and said I was going to have a yoghurt. I asked BB if he had eaten anything since lunch. 'Yes, I just had one of those yoghurts, the strawberry one....' 'And?' I said. 'How was it ?' Lovely and jammy he said. The jammy is a little bit like jelly.

I tipped mine into a bowl, added walnuts and mixed it until it looked like thick, glossy pink paint. 'Umm...' said CC,  'Can I try some ?'. 'Of course !' I said, albeit reluctantly. 'That's really nice, can I have one .. ?' CC asked. Was CC really going to eat a yoghurt with Strawberries in it ? Alas, no.. 'I'm going to have a honey one', she added.

And there we have it, a lovely little filling afternoon snack and another three lovely yoghurts.. gone !

The last one - boo-hoo ! - One lovely Total Greek Yoghurt 0% Fat with Honey - Feb 13 (TBD)

As I'm writing about these yoghurts, I've decided that I am going to snarfle and savour the last one later tonight ! And I am quite looking forward to it!

As you can see, we have eaten these yoghurts for breakfast, for dessert, as an afternoon pick-me-up, an after school snack, and a post-workout protein fix. It's the perfect, no-fat (0%) dairy product for the whole family. Next time you're out shopping give them a try, I don't think you'll be disappointed !

A special thank you to the folks at Total Greek Yoghurt for providing these products for us to try out here.

Disclaimer: All opinions provided are my own. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Non Such 10K - Sunday Feb 3 2013 - A review

A nice medal
BB and I had signed up for the Non Such 10km race after I decided I needed an incentive, e.g. a race, to get me out of the house on a cold weekend morning. It's just as well that we had a race booked, as I would never have ventured out of the house that day. The weather was freezing.

I signed up for the race without paying too much attention to the route, (I hate loops!), and without looking at who was organising the race (not that it's usually a big deal). Luckily (or not, as the case may be...) BB does check out all of that stuff, so he cheerfully informed me that a) The race consisted of 4 loops, and that yes, they were indeedy, those same loops that I do two of when I participate in the Non Such Parkrun event. And b) that the race was organised by the same organisation that received some stick for getting the distance wrong on a similar event last year - apparently..

So how did it go ?? I hated, hated, hated the loops. The park is massive, why just run around one small part of it - four times ! I could have stopped in pure anger.. I was so bored after the first two.. Just. Plain. Annoying. When I did some of the Running With David events that were held in the same park, we never looped.

I don't know if the distance was accurate. I do know that right at the end my BB was there cheering me on and I was right outside the mansion house, and I turned back to him and said 'Where's the finish ?' 'It's right there !!' he said. What was my problem ? The problem was, that the person recording the times with the stopwatch was stood in front of the miniscule sign that said 'Finish', so I couldn't actually see it. Great.

Then I walked back to the water station and grabbed some water, and walked back to the tent to queue to get my medal. BB was carrying a clear bag with a leaflet and an apple in it. 'Where's the bag from ?' I asked him. 'Oh, I got that earlier, it was given to me at the end of the race - there's no more left'. 'Oh', I said.. Not that I'm desperate for an apple and a leaflet in a bag, but I don't understand why they didn't have enough for all competitors.. Why give any out at all if you don't have enough to go round ??

I queued for the medal  and t-shirt. Both BB and I asked for a 'Medium' sized t-shirt. BB had already told me not to bother asking for 'Small' as they didn't have any. 'Medium' was fine with me. Incidentally, when BB got home and looked a little closer, he saw that he had been given 'Large'. Again, it's not a big deal. It's a free t-shirt, it's not like we're planning to wear them.

Finally, my biggest whinge about the day, is the way my medal was practically thrown at me without a second glance, a smile, or a well-done, by a man who looked like he would rather be somewhere, anywhere else, rather than handing out medals to people in the cold.  The medals are so lovely too, but it's delivery was just, plain rubbish.

Would I do this race again ? No. There are too many other better organised, better laid out and planned out races, run by friendlier people that I do not need to waste my time and money on this kind of event. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cherry and Almond Cake

One of my BB's favourite things is cake. If that's a Cherry and Almond cake, then so much the better.

It didn't take me long to find a recipe here at this excellent blog site, The English Kitchen blog.

Typically, being a 'bit' (understatement) of a food hoarder, I had all of the ingredients to hand, including marzipan and ground almonds that I had not used when making the Christmas cakes back in November. It's hard to know what to do with marzipan after Christmas, so this recipe is perfect. Actually, I lie, I didn't have the almond extract - mainly because I find the taste quite false and artificial. I don't think the cake lacked anything for not having it added..

Although we had it as a birthday cake, it would be a perfect cake for teatime. The cherries and the marzipan do make it a little sweet. Next time, I think I would use less sugar in the recipe.

Here'e the recipe reproduced from The English Kitchen blog.

8 ounces butter, at room temperature (1 cup)
8 ounces golden caster sugar (1 cup plus 2 TBS)
4 large free range eggs, beaten
8 ounces self raising flour (2 cups)
8 ounces glace cherries, chopped (1 cup)
4 ounces ground almonds (1 scant cup)
2 to 3 drops of almond extract
9 ounces marzipan (a generous 1/2 pound)
2 ounces flaked almonds (1/2 cup)
sifted icing sugar to serve (optional)


Preheat the oven to 160*C/325*F. Butter a deep 8-inch round baking tin and line the base and sides with parchment paper.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the eggs, a bit at a time, beating well after each addition. Fold in the flour one third at a time. Fold in the cherries, ground almonds and almond extract, mixing all in until evenly combined.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared tin.

Roll the marzipan into a 7 1/2 inch round. Lay this on top of the batter in the tin. Spoon the remainder of the batter over top.

Smooth over the top of the cake with the back of a spoon and then sprinkle the flaked almonds evenly over top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 hours, covering with foil after the first hour if it appears to be getting too dark. The cake is done when it shrinks away from the sides of the tin and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to finish cooling completely.


OK, back over to me ...

Here's the cake with the marzipan layer rolled out and put over half of the cake mixture:. You can see that I used a little icing sugar to roll out the marzipan.

This is the next half of the cake mixture going on top of the marzipan.

Once I smoothed over the cake mixture, I sprinkled over flaked almonds - and moved to a clean surface!

And so to the oven !

This is the finished cake. If you look close enough, you can see the marzipan layer under the yellow candle.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lemon, Almond and Yoghurt Cake

Last week ir was BB's birthday. I still had some Total Greek yoghurt to use, so after the success of my Chocolate Yoghurt cake, I thought I would make my next favourite flavour: lemon.

Despite having a shelf heavy with cookbooks, I searched online and found an excellent recipe here

This link will take you to the Woman and Home website and this wonderful recipe for Lemon, Almond and Yoghurt Cake. The great thing about this recipe, is that is makes for a really light cake. Firstly, because all of the fat is replaced with yoghurt and secondly, some of the flour is replaced with almonds. So, if you are trying to lighten the carb and fat load - this is your cake.

Incidentally, I separated my cake mix between 2 sponge tins, rather than making a large cake. I then  sandwiched the cake with a layer of lemon curd and a layer of yoghurt.

 I sweetened the yoghurt with a little icing sugar and a little vanilla.

 I also drizzled a little lemon icing over the top. However, the lemon icing was very tart, and probably not to everybody's taste. If you use lemon icing, proceed with caution ! The recipe below calls for five lemons, I used two and I found it plenty lemony.


  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 225g (8oz) caster sugar225g (8oz) Greek yoghurt                  (I also used Total)zest 3 lemons
  • 100g (4oz) blanched almonds                                                (I used ground almonds)
  • 150g (5oz) self-raising flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
for the syrup and topping
  • juice 5 lemons                                                                        (I used 1 lemon with sugar to taste)
  • 150g (5oz) granulated sugar
  • raspberries, to decorate (optional - I used lemon juice and icing sugar to make lemon icing)
you will need
  • 20cm (8in) round cake tin, oiled and bottom lined with baking parchment OR 2 sponge tins, which is what I used.


  1. Heat the oven to 170C. To make the cake, whisk the eggs and caster sugar with an electric beater for about 5 minutes in a large bowl, until the mixture is very pale and thick. In a second bowl, combine the yogurt, lemon zest and a pinch of salt.
  2. In a food processor, whizz the blanched almonds until fairly finely ground but still with some texture. In a third bowl, add the flour, baking powder and almonds, and stir until well combined.
  3. Gently stir the yogurt mixture into the eggs. Finally fold the dry flour and almond mixture in and carefully pour into the tin. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean. Cover with a square of foil 30 minutes into baking to stop it from going too brown. 
  4. Prick the cake all over with a skewer. To make the syrup, heat the lemon juice in a small pan then stir the granulated sugar into the juice. Immediately pour the syrup over the cake so the juice sinks into it and the sugar forms a crunchy layer. To decorate, place the fresh raspberries on top of the cake.

    Or sandwich your cakes together with lemon curd and vanilla flavoured yoghurt - Yum!