Half term- pancakes, decorating and running (what else?)

On Sunday I went for a long run, again to the lakes to see the frozen water, and to see the fountain. It was due to warm up so I thought it would be my last chance. As the batch of cinnamon rolls made plenty, it meant we could have one for breakfast and one later with a cup of tea, in front of Wall-E.

Our plan for half term (Andy had the week off too) was to decorate our spare room, so there was a lot of furniture moving and prep to do before all the bits we had ordered came on the Monday.

My new vegan box arrived with some tasty looking bits

In the morning I headed out in the rain to get a run in before we started. My dad was planning on coming for a run with me the next day, so I was sorting out a route as he likes to run around a 5k.

In my memories it came up that a year ago we had been down to Southampton for the weekend. It was very stormy and windy and I remember checking the events over and over to see which ones were not cancelled, and luckily chose Netley Abbey parkrun which was still on. It brought back happy memories of running around the park, going out for breakfast after and visiting Andy’s grandma, but it also brought back bad memories of the toll bridge on the way to parkrun- it only took coins, I didn’t have many, and after not being able to get the barrier to go up I had to reverse out and go in a different one. Despite that, I am really looking forward to being able to parkrun, and to eventually tour again.

The less said about the decorating the better- we had to wash the walls (we’d previously taken most of the wallpaper down) and the glue was just oozing out of the walls- it was so gross and one of my most detested jobs.

On Tuesday, Dad drove over and we had around a 3.5 mile run together through the fields. It was really mild, and we could hear loads of birds singing, we had a good chat and it was just so enjoyable.

Then we got on with painting the ceiling and doing a base coat on the walls (some were dark green, some were brown- it was a real mess). At least it was pancake day, so we had pancakes for dinner!

I think we had a hot cross bun as elevenses, after doing some decorating.

On Wednesday it was another run first thing, and then the more enjoyable part of decorating, the actual painting. We managed the first coat in the morning, so I spent the afternoon pottering at home, doing some baking (I made the oatmeal raisin choc chip cookies from Lucy and Lentils) and doing various admin bits.

We had been watching The Investigation, which was a drama based on real events (to do with a person killed on board a home-made submarine) and we finished it that evening. One of the aspects I really liked was that you never saw the person accused of the crime- it focused on the police carrying out the investigation, and the family of the victim. So many crime shows give a lot of attention to the perpetrator (which some of them seem to seek), and I thought it was very refreshing to give them no time.

On Thursday I had another run, and it really felt like spring was close. The skies were blue, I found a heart-shaped hole in the road, and it was so mild. Crazy to think that a week ago I was totally wrapped up in so many layers.

Again our decorating was speedy, and then I made some scones as I had a virtual afternoon tea with some work friends.

Scones and tea ready, burgers for dinner later, and all ready for the virtual catch up

On Friday we had a “fake Saturday”- pancakes for breakfast and then a long walk (6.5 miles) via town. Each week we get a free drink from Caffe Nero (from Vitality) but we had not fancied going in there for a while- not this year anyway. We took masks with us in case it was quieter, as a few times we have walked past but the queue has been out of the door. We found out that you could order via click and collect, so I had to pop inside for a minute and wait for them to put it on the table by the door. It was nice to have a warm drink for the walk back home.

I did a few jobs in the garden (cutting up twigs and logs to make a little minibeast area), and then much excitement from me when a Disney parcel arrived! I could not resist these Baby Yoda pj’s, and to get free postage I’d added on a little shoulder toy. When we were in Disney we saw people walking around with them (all different characters)- they come with a little magnetic pad that you put on your shoulder under your top, and then the toy sits on top.  It’s super cute anyway!

We watched The News of The World, which had beautiful scenery- ah how I long for the days that we can go on a road trip across the USA/Canada again.

Because I’d been for a walk on Friday, it meant a run on Saturday (parkrunday!) which I’ve not had all year. It was so mild so it was good to be out in just a t-shirt. It did make me laugh as I got some new leggings which were 7/8 length but went to my ankles- short person problems! With Me Now pod has been keeping me company- their community is so positive and supportive, so it’s always a good listen on a run.

I even wore my apricot t-shirt- as it says “it’s still parkrunday” I feel a bit strange wearing it on non-Saturday runs. When I got home, Andy made me a cup of tea (Red Velvet- hooray for B&B seasonal blends) and I had vegan croissants for breakfast. The day was then spent pottering, doing bits in the garden and making a cake decoration for my niece (more on that next week).

I didn’t sleep too well (I’d had some work that came in over the weekend that was going to affect the coming week and I just could not stop thinking about it), but in the morning I felt OK so headed out for a run. I was initially going to do an out and back along Cole Green Way (a cycle/path) but it was so busy with loads of cyclists (in large groups too- one group of about 20) so when I got to the turnaround point, I was fairly close to Panshanger park, so I decided to run the rest of the way there and come home through the park. There were people out, but the paths are wide (and lots of it is fields) so it was easier to keep the space.

After breakfast I painted the skirting boards, did a bit more work and then watched Mary Poppins as a final end of half term treat. We enjoyed the final mince pies- I think them lasting until the middle of February is pretty good going!

Do you prefer Easter or Christmas food? Or another celebration entirely! 

Another snowy week and chasing sunrises

It is so much lighter in the mornings and evenings now- this last week it has been really noticeable.

I was very surprised on Monday morning to see more snow- after my winter run on Sunday it had sleeted a bit, but nothing had settled for very long. The pavements and even the side roads were covered, but as it was still fairly fresh it was not slippery, just absolutely freezing.

Of course matcha time, more snow, the red kites and dinner by the fire.

I am getting into the swing of online teaching although I had a lot of training sessions to get through which made fitting in everything else a bit of a challenge. It’s been good to have dedicated mini breaks in the day (eg a 10 min break mid-morning to make some matcha) to make myself look away from the screen and move about a bit. There is often one red kite flying outside the window, and I caught it being worried by the crows, and later in the week saw two flying together. No matter how many times I see them (and it’s pretty much every day) I am still amazed by their size and colours. It snowed more in the day, so we treated ourselves to the wood burner and had an easy pasta dinner so we could eat in the living room.

On Tuesday the pavements were icy in places so I did a very slow 4 miles.

I was sooooo cold when I got home, and then had more training sessions so was more sedentary than usual by the end of the working day. I’ve still been doing a short yoga session, but I felt the need for a longer one, so carried on with the Yoga with Adriene from 2020 (I got about half way through I think)- a 40 min session that was really helpful.

We’d been watching It’s a Sin and finished it that evening. I thought it was an amazing piece of TV, so hard to watch but so well written. I did really want some writing at the end to say how things have moved on since then (eg how there are medicines that can help, whether the protests did anything etc).

My B&B tea club arrived with the cutest postcard ever (Sugar and Sloth- they have an Etsy shop filled with cute drawings), and I ended up in bed with a hot water bottle, reading my more light-hearted book after the heavy going TV.

On Wednesday the snow was still there! So much of the woods were flooded, and the colder weather had meant it had frozen solid- very strange seeing frozen forests like that. The pavements were OK in places but slippery in others so again, a cautious run.

I made myself a toasted sandwich (peanut butter, banana) as something warm at lunch time, and to keep me going through another training session (they all seemed to come at once!). I also got the exciting news that my parents had been given their first covid vaccine- I actually got a bit teary when I saw their message. I know that they won’t even be a bit protected for a bit, and obviously need their second dose for it to be properly effective, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Wednesday night is yoga night, and I was really looking forward to it again. We have been doing a yoga nidra session at the end (you just lay on your mat with a cushion, blanket etc, and listen to the teacher)- I usually drift in and out a bit, but I properly fell asleep 3 times in those 30 minutes! Even though school has been going from home, I was still as tired as I would have been after a normal half term!

Thursday was yet another frosty and icy run, but it was so light in the morning too. We had the wood burner on again in the evening and started watching The Pembrokeshire Murders, which was interesting (based on a true story, with a bit of a Broadchurch vibe).

And then it was Friday, and nearly half term. As I left home, it looked as if the trees were on fire because the sun was coming up. I just kept on stopping to take photos- the sky was so many amazing colours, and it was just such a happy run! Spring is  around the corner, half term was ahead of me, I was happy to be out running, and yes it was freezing cold but I was wrapped up warm and just loving the views.

The day ended with a bit more yoga, a shower, face mask and hair mask, and then prepping cinnamon rolls for weekend breakfasts and snacks. I used a new to me recipe from Domestic Gothess which involved something called the tangzhong method (basically making a bit of a roux with flour and milk before making the dough)- a bit more effort but they turned out amazingly soft and fluffy.

So delicious. After breakfast on Saturday we headed on a walk to the lakes (where part of the lakes were frozen solid) and then into the town centre to see the fountain, which had partially frozen. It was something I would expect to see in Iceland, not in the UK. It was pretty spectacular.

Our pond had also frozen over but not quite as dramatic as the fountain!

In the evening we wasted hours of our lives watching Greenland- thinking it would be a sort of good fun “let’s save the world” movie, but in reality it was just terrible and predictable and fair enough the special effects were OK, but the main(adult) characters were not even likeable and you just didn’t even want them to be saved.  At least we had the final of The Masked Singer to look forward to after!

Have you seen anything good on TV lately? Or watched any good films?

How have you coped in the cold weather? I prefer cold and sunny to rainy and grey, but the icy pavements are not so good.

Virtual Winter Run 2021

A few years ago I did the London Winter run with some friends from my running club. It was totally freezing, but a good enjoyable run through the centre of London. Before Christmas I’d been sent an email about signing up to the virtual event, and then of course forgot about it.

Luckily they sent some emails out, and the plan was for everyone to run a 10k on Sunday 7th February. You were also encouraged to fundraise for Cancer Research UK, which I was very happy to do (link here if you fancy donating) – all these charities are losing out at the moment due to no actual events going on.

Bib on my vest, pancakes, tea and mince pie from the weekend too

I decided to use the Festive 5 route (which is two laps close to the town centre) and add on a bit more, as that would make it feel like a race. I even pinned my number onto my top the night before- It’s approaching a year since I did an actual race so it was quite nice to have this little ritual once again. I did forget to paint my nails though (never mind, I had gloves on anyway).

On my way there (around 2 miles for a nice warm up) this fox crossed the path in front of my and stood looking at me for ages.

It was sleeting the entire time, sometimes quite hard and other times more gently. When I got to the “start”, I took my jacket off and put on some music (I was going to have a different playlist, but it turned out that my Run Disney playlist was the only one actually downloaded on my phone)- I thought music would be better than a podcast to make me feel more like I was in a race.

I had some very apt songs (mainly from Frozen and Frozen 2) and the opposite (“What time is it? Summer time” from HSM being the most opposite to where I was!), but the music helped to keep me going in the horrible weather. As I neared the end I noticed I was on course to come in under an hour, so I put on a bit of a spurt and just managed it, with a 10k time of 59:52. I’ll take that! I have not run fast for ages- to put it in context, half of this was also a (not)parkrun pb for me!

I messaged Andy to say I was heading back, put my jacket back on and then ran back in the sleet. As I arrived home, Andy was making us a hot chocolate each in the velvetiser- this was the perfect post- race drink to warm me up.

I even got to “meet” a penguin! 

I couldn’t pose with a medal because they aren’t being sent out until after the race, which I think is a little shame. After a shower and breakfast I was still pretty chilly, so sat on the sofa under a blanket and watched Frozen 2. It went perfectly with the weather and the overall theme of the day.

I really enjoyed the event. The fact that it was happening on the same day gave it a more cohesive feel, and although the weather was freezing, it was good to feel that I was raising money while getting out there. I didn’t take part in the virtual London marathon, but I did enjoy being out running that day and seeing people wearing their numbers, and so it felt a bit like that.

Have you taken part in any virtual event?

Doughnuts, matcha and the big garden birdwatch

As a treat for reaching the end of January- usually a long month but 2021 seems to take the biscuit- we ordered a box of vegan doughnuts from Crosstown. It was a box of 6, so we shared each one (half with tea in the afternoon, and half after dinner) on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

They were so delicious- a lime and coconut filled one, peanut butter and blackcurrant jam filled one, chocolate honeycomb filled and a chai spice filled one, plus glazed chocolate and vanilla. The chai spice or pb&j would take a lot of beating.

Reading a real book and not a kindle- and yes I’m still using my Disney Christmas blanket!

On Saturday I’ve been having a day off running and we’ve gone on a long walk together as our “leaving the house once a day” token. The weather was not very nice (sleet and rain alternating) and for some reason, even though I’ve worn my boots before, they rubbed my feet raw and they were so sore by the end. I’d got some bagels and Nush cream cheese which is just the best, so at least I had a nice lunch to look forward to once I’d hobbled home.

There was so much ice around on Sunday morning I had to change routes- I ran to Panshanger but would usually cut through a park, but the park had flooded and then the flood had frozen, and it was just an ice rink with no way around.

I decided to do the birdwatch on Sunday as the weather was better and I thought more birds would be out, so after breakfast and a shower I moved the armchair right by the patio door and set myself up, listening to a podcast while I looked outside. I saw a few birds but not as many as normal (eg sometimes I see around 6 goldfinches together, but I only saw 2). It was a relaxing way to spend an hour and very good to not be looking at a screen. Now the evenings are a bit lighter and the birds are out a bit more, hopefully I’ll see more of them.

For out afternoon movie we watched The Dig which was really good, then we had a roast dinner (nut roast etc) before watching a live podcast.

The week that followed was fairly standard, but at least at long last we are in a new month and spring feels a little closer. A run each morning for me, and matcha mid-morning. We bought a new flavour to try (Honey Bunny- vegan honey flavoured matcha) which is really good. Andy is getting very good at frothing it! We found a stollen in the breadbin (as you do) so had that in the evenings.

I ordered a top from Magic Moon club and it came this week. Plus a beautiful sunrise on my run, and a lunch of a wrap filled with apple, chutney and violife.

Cook Vegan lasagne for a treat dinner- it’s so tasty with pine nuts in the topping

One morning it was super misty and my hair was soaked when I got home from all of the fog! It was very pretty, especially when you could see the moon. It’s been so good to get home in the light- I tend to leave at around 6.45, so I still need my light on then, but depending on the weather I can turn it off pretty soon, and definitely by the time I get home.

A little moan- I run past a bus stop, and the people queue across the pavement instead of parallel to it- the verge is very steep so I am having to scramble up the slippery muddy bank to give the queue a wide berth, whereas if they all queued on one side of the pavement I would be OK to give them space but not have to slip up the bank.

Another lovely sunrise, more matcha which was very much needed after a power cut as I was 5 minutes into a live lesson with my class!! and a face mask to chill out on Friday evening.

I had ordered a new running watch- my current one is OK but has a scratch on the screen now, and sometimes does not seem as accurate with the steps tracking. Anyway, we get a discount with Vitality, but in fact the watch was cheaper on Wiggle so I ordered one from there. It took a while to set up, but it now seems to add my runs via the wifi (I have no idea) instead of bluetooth?

I’ve had a good Friday evening routine the last few weeks- this week was mental health week, so we had a little colleague catch up via a meet after everyone had finished their live sessions. I then finished up work, did a bit of yoga and then had a face mask, had a shower and did a hair mask in the shower, and then put on comfy clothes ready for a pot of tea and some TV. We watched Baby Done, which was quite a funny film with Rose Matafeo, and a good way to end a week/ start the weekend (did make me want to go to New Zealand and go back to Canada though…).

How has February started for you? Do you like matcha? Do you get many birds in your garden? Do you have a bell on your cat if you have a cat?

How did Veganuary go?

This January I officially signed up for Veganuary (going vegan for January)- you were sent an email each day with tips and recipes, and could join a facebook group (which was far more supportive than another vegan group that I had joined previously). I thought I’d put my thoughts on the month into one post.

Context- I’ve been vegetarian since I was about 13, and pretty much didn’t eat meat for a few years before then- I was super fussy and just used to leave it. (My mum finally let me be vegetarian after I did a project for school about it to prove that you could get your nutrients still). I knew a few people who were quite militant veggies (one school friend had a mum who threw red paint in McDonalds to symbolise the bloodshed…) and I never wanted to be like that- this is for me but I am not trying to persuade anyone else. Andy does eat meat occasionally, and that’s his choice and it’s fine. This is just my thoughts and what is right for me.

So I am coming at Veganuary from my perspective. As a child I didn’t want to eat meat once I found out that it was dead- the idea just freaked me out. I also never liked the taste or smell, so people asking about missing bacon and things like that just didn’t apply because I didn’t like it. When I was really little I’d have to “hide” the meat taste with sauces. I was quite strict (compared to other veggies I knew)- I would only eat vegetarian cheese because I didn’t want the rennet, I wouldn’t eat gelatin and so on. The hardest thing was being given things that people thought were vegetarian- eg veggie afternoon teas containing salmon (and no, if you eat fish, you are not a vegetarian, you are a pescatarian and don’t say otherwise because it confuses everyone), or tomato soup with beef stock.

For years I’ve not had dairy milk, I’ve had a mixture of almond, oat and soya,  because to me when I thought about milk, and what it’s for (eg to fatten up calves- even adult cows don’t drink it, so why do adult humans?)it just seemed stranger the most I thought of it, and at the end of 2019 I started having vegan cheese.  I don’t eat a lot of cheese anyway- I might sprinkle some on top of pasta or have cheese and piccalilli on crackers at Christmas, so again that was an easy swap.

I’ve still had milk if it’s present in things, and if my mum gave me eggs from her hens I would bake with them, but I’ve been very close to vegan for a long time.

I’m adding all this in to show my perspective, because for me it wasn’t a huge change.

I was glad I did a bit of prep- for example the Christmas cake that I made this year were vegan (and everyone loved them as normal- I honestly think that compared to the amount of dried fruit in a cake, the eggs and butter would make up such a small percentage that it’s an easy swap).

I did get a lot of chocolates from my class for Christmas, and most of them were not vegan. Andy did tell me to eat them in December before Veganuary started, but when I thought about it, I didn’t like the idea of it, so ended up sorting them into two bowls- one for me and one for Andy (still working through them now!).

We’d had a vegan Christmas dinner from Cook (butternut squash stacks with roasted potatoes and gravy, and then we added veg and stuffing), and ordered a few other bits too.  I’ve also found a few new (to me) websites- my favourite being A Virtual Vegan– so many delicious recipes on there and all we have tried so far have been excellent.

I was given Happy Vegan by Fearne Cotton for my birthday last year, and so lots of recipes have come from that book too.

A veggie burger has often been a Saturday meal of choice, and taken to the next level with Leon Love burger sauce which happens to be vegan.


In the week this is easy- I have porridge / overnight oats usually and I make it with soya or almond milk anyway, so no changes there. At the weekend we sometimes have a brunch-style breakfast, and in fact these were easy to swap. No Gail’s croissants (not that I had been near a bakery for months) but Sainsbury’s and Ocado stock vegan croissants which are really tasty. I’ve made a vegan version of baked French Toast from A Virtual Vegan (AVV), as well as pancakes from the Happy Vegan book. I’ve not made it for a while but the babka I’d made a few times is vegan anyway, so lots of options for us.

Lunches and snacks:

Well, Crosstown Doughnuts do a vegan box, so we treated ourselves as an end of January treat! Nush cream cheese (made from almonds) is my absolute fave, so that on a bagel is so good. But usually it’s standard hummus and carrot sticks and oat cakes, so again, no changes there and all very easy.

I signed up to a subscription box which had some really good snacks- that NOMO caramel chocolate was gorgeous (made with rice milk in the chocolate), and I love anything salt and vinegar flavoured.

We do sometimes buy biscuits, but happily lotus biscuits, bourbons and Bournville fingers are all vegan (and Oreo’s I think?) so when I get them I’ll just need to check.


Most of my dinners were vegan anyway, but we have tried lots of new recipes which I’ve really enjoyed. This is the braised red cabbage from AVV, and was super tasty with some veggie sausages. Some of the ready-made products we had to be careful with- eg sometimes if we have wraps we might add in some quorn pieces, but some are veggie and some are vegan.

Green pasta, nut roast, beans on toast, lentil bolognaise 

Of course good old beans on toast (plus marmite and a little grated violife cheese) is vegan. Andy makes an excellent lentil bolognaise (from Happy Vegan), and this green pasta is from that book too (lots of spinach, basil, miso, tahini and other things blended up).

There is a delicious tofu recipe in the Happy Vegan book (a peanut and ginger sauce) which we often have, and we’ve had things like veggie chilli or bean stews. Cook did a vegan lasagne which we ordered alongside the Christmas bits, and it was super tasty so I think we would treat ourselves to it again. I think it was about £7 for one that served 2, but compared to going out to eat, or even the time to make all the layers etc, it was good for a treat.

After enjoying the Cook Christmas lunch, we bought a few nut  roasts and have been enjoying our version of a roast on a Sunday- the cranberry and  pecan one has been our favourite so far.

My mum made us vegan caramel shortbread which was really good

We used to buy a katsu sauce but Ocado stopped stocking it. We bought Leon Katsu ready meals to have one day, and they were nice but we thought we’d have a go. Andy bought some katsu paste and then luckily checked the label- he is so good at checking for milk and eggs, but it ended up having chicken in it! Luckily he noticed before he started cooking so he had it on his own one evening!

What has been hard?

Being at home has made it much easier, versus being at work and having to avoid the staffroom biscuits (not that we can have “shared” food at the moment anyway). Of course there isn’t any being away for the weekend, so no worries about finding a vegan option in a café or restaurant. We also used to keep a few tins of tomato soup in the cupboard, for a nice lunch or easy dinner, but it has milk in it. We’ve now found replacement tins (so many of them were fresh soups but we wanted something for the cupboard that would last longer).

I’ve missed honey, especially if I’ve had a sore throat. I did get some “honea” as a replacement which is pretty good on crumpets still. It’s also in a few cereal bars, and in the delicious sticky chai from Bird&Blend, so I think I might use the things I have that contain honey, but not buy any more.

Toiletries have been the main thing that I’ve had to consider more closely- since the autumn I’ve had vegan toothpaste (isn’t it a bit gross that not all toothpaste is vegan?), and signed up to Smol for washing and dishwasher tabs (again, isn’t it weird that some fabric softener contains animal fat? I was veggie for years and had no idea).  As I use Tropic for skincare, that’s all vegan so that was OK, and Lush/ Maui for haircare which is vegan (the ones I use are), Eden perfume is vegan so that’s fine too,  but I need to check shower gels because they aren’t all.

As someone who is quite fussy, I actually feel I have been more confident to try new foods. I think I have always been a bit worried about being accidently given something that contained animal products, whereas now I might not like something if I try it, but the idea of it is fine, if that makes sense. Also, so many veggie things are eggy or cheesy, and I don’t like either of those things, whereas now they are off the table it’s so much easier to choose a recipe or food.

Overall I am really pleased that I signed up, and I am going to aim to continue with it going forwards.  I really liked the emails because they were not pushy or shocking (I’ve read some veggie/vegan info that likes to show you pictures of chickens being slaughtered and so on- I don’t want to look at that and would imagine it would make people who eat meat more defensive about it?). They had links to lots of good recipes, and information about health (vitamins and so on), as well as positive things like the amount of CO2 saved by avoiding dairy. As I mentioned at the start, the facebook group was super supportive, with people asking to help with recipes, replacements for certain dishes and info on things beyond vegan food (Brooks running shoes are vegan, but not all brands are due to the glue etc.).

Would you consider signing up for something like that? Are you adventurous with food or do you stick to the same few meals?