So how is lockdown 3 going?

Christmas lights, early running, veggie chilli to warm up after being at work with the doors open all day when it was 3 degrees at best…

Well, I’ve enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights left up while I’ve been going on runs. We took ours down before I went back to work, but I only took my wreath off the front door this weekend.

Matcha, mince pie and ice cream, winter running buff 

I’d forgotten that I had signed up to the virtual winter run- I did it a few years back, and they had emailed out a while ago- raising money for CRUK of course which is a brilliant charity. I didn’t really pay attention but I’ve been sent a buff which is really nice, and has come in handy when I am wearing two for each run (neck and head) when it’s been so cold.

Pretty sunrises, delicious vegan chocolate and good old avocado and hummus waffles

One sunrise run that took longer as I kept stopping to take photos!

I’ve been lucky that I can work from home at the moment (moving forwards this depends on staff sickness levels and critical worker childcare places) so I’ve sorted out a routine that works well- a run first thing, working remotely with a break for matcha or tea in the morning, lunch with Andy and then powering through the afternoon. Yoga was back in the second week, and it was just so good. One reason why running suits me is because I am not very good at working out at home- if I am doing a video workout I will get distracted by things that need doing (I’ll just put that box into the recycling, then I’ll carry on…) but with a run I am outside and away from those distractions. The live yoga classes online have been great, but I have not worked out a way to continue this on other days of the week (yet…).

A misty run last Saturday, tea in my Olaf mug, my new OH buff for the 12 days of Christmas challenge and a run in the woods.

I am not used to staring at a computer screen all day, and it seems to build up so by the end of the week my eyes have been really struggling.  I am having breaks (my favourite is when I get to draw something that I’ll then photograph and add to the virtual classroom) but it’s been pretty intense. So I have now set an alarm for the end of the working day, and this is when I will do some yoga. I did this on Thursday and Friday of the week just gone, and even though I only did short videos (15- 20 mins) I felt so much better.  A chance to move my stiff shoulders and rest my eyes (for the most part, because I still have to glance at the screen to see the poses).  I felt a lot better after each session, although the first one I did spend too much time actually finding a video to do, but once I’ve got a few playlists to look at it will be easier.

Working at home has meant slightly nicer lunches too- I made myself a toastie the other day and it was sooooooooo good (violife cheese and pear chutney).

Last Sunday I had a really good run- it was super cold and frosty, and amazingly the plants had frost on only one side- totally white on one and dark brown on the other. It really looked as if they had been spray painted! I do like a run in the cold, but I do not like how sore my skin gets after- even if I warm up for a bit before getting in the shower, my skin will go bright red and be itchy for ages after.

I’ve signed up to do Veganuary (more on that in another  post) but it’s been good, and nice to have something else to focus on other than the endless cycle of bad news. We treated ourselves to some sort of takeaway ready meals- Leon Katsu (as I do like the Wagamama vegan katsu)- it was pretty tasty. Mum made us some vegan caramel shortbread too- we had ordered them some shopping online as there are a few things they can’t get from where they get their shopping from, so we drove the shopping over and received the shortbread in exchange. It was really good (even if Mum did tell me that if it was no good I could feed it to the birds- there’s confidence for you!).

Matcha, roasted red cabbage and reading my Chateau book by the fire to combat too much screen time

There is a fab website called A Virtual Vegan, and there are loads of good recipes on there- this was a red cabbage recipe which we added veggie sausages to.  I’ve been bookmarking a lot of recipes and have trialled a few,  but will go into it a bit more another time.

So, it’s going OK. I do wish I was allowed more than one outdoor exercise slot a day, as especially at the weekends I would like to have a run in the morning and then go for a walk with Andy in the afternoon. But I do know that we have to follow the rules, so I have to move things around and run more in the week so we can enjoy a long walk together at the weekend when we have time in the daylight.

How is lockdown 3 treating you? If you work from home normally, what sort of routine do you have? And if you usually work at a computer all day, how do you cope?  I am sure we had some training once and it was something like 20/20/20, which was every 20 minutes, look at something 20 m away for 20 seconds. Or something?

 

Happy New Year weekend

Over the past few years I have enjoyed doing a parkrun or double (although sensibly parkrun said early in 2020 that they would not be doing them any more) to welcome in the new year. I loved the chance to run with friends and family, and to start the new year as I mean to go on. The sense of community at a NYD parkrun is always really high, with people feeling optimistic about the year ahead and just loving getting out in the fresh air all together. This year was different what with no parkrun, but I still wanted to make my run more of an event, so I suggested to my dad that we meet at Ellenbrook fields for a run together. We arranged a time (not on the hour, just in case anyone else had the same plan) and I ran there to meet him. It was snowing a bit as I was running, which added to the festive feel.

One of the fields often has a very flooded path, but a lot of it was frozen solid which probably made it easier to pass.

As I ran into the park Dad was right there- we could not have timed it better as he had just arrived too. We ran one big lap (EF parkrun is one small and then one big lap) and then he ran back through the business park with me for a bit to make it up to the 5k distance. It was great to be running around the fields, although one part was very flooded and my foot went right into an icy puddle- I got to “enjoy” a cold wet sock for the remainder of my run.

Once home and warm I had some vegan croissants for breakfast and my biggest mug of tea. I do like that feeling of being back inside once you’ve been out on a run in the cold- it is much more satisfying and makes it feel even more cosy.

My running club have started a January challenge where we’ve been split into 2 teams (well people who wanted to join in) and we are tracking our miles in the month. Walking and running all counts, plus I think other workouts (such as yoga) will count as 1 mile, so it was good to start, and as we had a walk in the afternoon it started the year off well.

It also meant that I got these badges on Garmin Connect- I have finally learnt how to find them as well, before before I could only see them when I got a notification to click on. I did have to do a fair bit of work (which was not planned, but thanks to the Gov it meant our planned Inset day  had to change so I had to sort out what my year groups would be doing). Tea always helps with work though.

I had prepped breakfast the night before. We really love the baked French toast from the Pip and Nut recipe book, but it uses eggs so now it’s a no. This fab website called A Virtual Vegan has a recipe for a similar dish using silken tofu and coconut cream- you leave it in the fridge overnight and bake it in the morning. After breakfast we walked down to the lakes. It wasn’t that busy but I heard from people in my running club that it was rammed later on.

Matcha, Christmas tree and a delicious but not pretty dinner of noodles with peanut sauce, tofu and broccoli. 

The rest of the day was fairly chilled out and mainly spent enjoying the last day of the Christmas decorations! I’d ordered some matcha in the B&B sale and it arrived so of course I had to have it- it matched the Christmas tree perfectly.

On Sunday I had a 9 mile run (I was going to do 8, but when I got home I was at 8.5, so because of our running club challenge and it’s easier to keep track I did a little loop to make it up to 9)- it was really cold and each time I stopped my glasses would steam up!

Once home we had the other half of the baked French toast and then had to get on with the job of taking all the decorations down.

A bit more work was required for me, before some chill time reading and then watching the one off special of Taskmaster (I wanted to listen to the podcast on my way to work  so I needed to watch it first). Dinner was a nut roast with cranberries and pecans- it was sooooo tasty- veganuary off to a good start for me.

How was your new year? Do you usually do anything to celebrate?

Freedom! Enjoying the last week of the holidays and 2020 total mileage

This was the face of someone very excited to leave the house for the first time in however many days! Boxing Day and I was allowed to go outside our front door!

I didn’t head out too far (4 ish miles) as we had planned a walk later, but it was so good to have views and to be running in a straight line. I passed a handful of runners and all of them said good morning back- hooray!

Once home we had the French toast from the Fearne Cotton Vegan book- using some amazing Mindful Bites vegan panettone- such a tasty breakfast.

I happened to be on facebook when a notification popped up about With Me Now going live, and so I watched that. They were down in Hove along the Hove Prom parkrun route (one of the people who sometimes presents it lives down there so they did a little link up). It was so nice to see the parkrun route. It was my first UK tourist parkrun and I’ve run it 6 times, so I spent a bit of time reminiscing about our various Brighton trips.

One of the things I had planned to do before Christmas was go on a walk near the town centre, as when I’d run there I had seen some really pretty Christmas lights, so once it started to get dark we headed out to walk around (a bit of my snowman running route). Once home I attempted to make myself a version of the Pret Christmas sandwich as we had some bits left over- stuffing (I think their version is nut roast but our stuffing had nuts in), cranberry sauce, roasted pumpkin (the final homegrown one from our garden), Leon vegan burger sauce and pesto, with some peppers and beetroot on the side. It was very tasty.

On Sunday the weather was beautiful! I had another run (8 miles finding lots of flooded paths) and then the same breakfast.

I had bought some vegan “Christmas cheese” (wensleydale and cranberry) from Sainsbury’s and it is really good with a proper crumbly texture, so that on crackers with persimmon has been a good lunch. We usually start our Christmas cake on Christmas Eve, but were too full this year (and then had Christmas pudding on the day itself) so finally got around to trying it. I’d used a new recipe so I was really pleased with how tasty it was.

Leon burger sauce and ketchup and pickles are the best in a burger

Andy got me the book about Escape to the Chateau, (love their TV show) so I’ve been reading that most days in the afternoons. It covers their first year, with a chapter per month, and both of them write in each chapter so you get both their perspectives. In case you were wondering, it it sounds like a lot of work!

We watched a few films- Soul (which I enjoyed and didn’t make me cry as much as other Pixar films tend to), Mulan – hooray for girl power (which was really different to the animated version instead of a shot by shot remake, cough The Lion King), and some classics such as Pitch Perfect. Plus catching up with podcasts of course- the classic Adam and Joe Christmas special, as well as the Off Menu festive editions.

I was given a fair few chocolates and treats from work, and by far my favourite were these marzipan fruits- sooo good. I am going to be doing veganuary this year, after probably being 90% vegan for a long time, so anything that isn’t vegan has been passed over to Andy which he is fine about.  We also made some spiced apple juice for a couple of evenings- it reminded me of Christmas market visits.

This peanut butter on a date is the best snack after a run.

On Tuesday I had a run of two halves. I was going to meet a friend for a walk at the lakes, but she was unsure if the paths would be OK for a buggy, so I said I’d run down and take some photos. The final club challenge was for a run before 9am, so I did a 5k to the lakes, stopped my watch (for the challenge) and then walked around taking photos. I then ran home a different way, for a 10k. While I was running I was trying to remember how many miles I’d run in December, because all of my other months this year have been 100 miles or more. When I got home and checked, I only had 6 miles left, so I decided to do that on NYE.

I made some snacks to have while Andy is working his way through the chocolates- dates filled with peanut butter and topped with dark chocolate, and some marzipan rolled into balls and then dipped in dark chocolate. I am trying to make them last! We were treated to some amazing bright moons, and some beautiful sunrises in the mornings too.

Sadly my friend couldn’t make our meet up as she felt poorly, but I decided to walk there anyway as I had to visit the bank in town and it was such a beautiful day- I need to make the most of being allowed to leave the house.

Caffe Nero was empty and I was freezing so I got myself a peppermint hot chocolate for the walk home, with my Disney candy cane cosy. Funny thing- last year I got these for a few people as I think they are fab gifts and mean that you never use the cardboard sleeve in coffee shops- saving on waste too. Anyway, one of my friends didn’t know what it was for, and so put it in a drawer, and it was only when another friend sent a photo to our group chat that she realised what it was for!

In the afternoon I met my mum for a walk. There is a place she’s been with my dad and they keep seeing a barn owl there, so we met just before sunset (well around an hour before, to give us time to have a walk). We were so lucky to see the owl hunting and then catching something, even being chased by a crow.

It was glorious to be outside with the sun setting. Nature is really the best tonic.

When I got home I was so cold- actually walking was Ok, but we chatted a bit at the end, so it was tea and a mince pie to warm up. We had bought tickets to a live podcast (Elis James and John Robbins) so we made sure to have dinner before it started.

The final day of the year started with a run. In the end I did 6.5 miles to make sure that I would cross that 100 mile mark.  It was super frosty and cold and I ended up keeping my padded jacket on the whole time. Later on I did some jobs in the garden (like cleaning my poor trail shoes after the many many laps of our garden) and the bird bath was frozen solid (not just the surface).  We bought a matcha variety pack so had some of that to warm up.

We had a walk while it was still light (we have done this most days) and then I put up my ear holders (from Etsy) and Andy put up my big Lilo and Stitch poster. It was in our bathroom in Hatfield but the clip frame had warped a bit, and I had a hard time finding a frame that was the right size (in the end I got one from Habitat which arrived this week). I am really pleased with how it has turned out as it was a big blank wall before.

A final look at my Strava stats- every month over 100 miles, whereas usually I might manage this for a couple of months. I think one year I was close to 1000 miles and another I just managed it, and this year I did 1,406.

It’s quite pleasing but I am sure it won’t happen again!

Did you have a good new year?  Do you keep track of your miles? I must admit it’s my favourite Strava feature- I like seeing maps of my runs but I am never bothered by the pace, and having the miles add up over a month and year are very satisfying.

A week of self isolation

I am someone who needs to be outside and needs to be busy. I am happy pottering around at home, but the idea of a pyjama day is really my worst nightmare ( I mean, not as bad as big spiders, but you know what I mean). I am happy to watch a film in the afternoon if I have been out and about in the morning. I don’t run every day- usually 4 times a week- but I do have a walk or some sort of activity each day, and my 10,000+ per day step streak has been going a few years now. So when I got that notification of having to stay home, it really did feel very tough.  I had so many messages from friends and family checking how I was going to cope, and even my dad asked me if I was going to head out at midnight when the isolation ended. So I have a reputation for a reason.

Anyway, it was OK. It felt like a shame because it was my holidays (from work) and on the one hand I was trying to enjoy them, but on the other hand wishing the first week away so that I could actually get outside properly. The fact that our area went into Tier 4 as soon as it was invented (this was predicted of course that they can add on more tiers, just like with the GCSE’s now being numbers, they can add 10 in a year or so, like they did with the old A, A*, A** etc.), so plans to meet up outside on walks with my parents and with a friend were not allowed anyway, but if I wasn’t isolating I would still be allowed out to exercise each day.

A gingerbread man cake for my brother, our cake is the reindeer, the robin for my parents and the tree for Andy’s parents.

I know we are so lucky to have a garden, and so I started each day with a run in the garden. Garmin/ Strava are not fans of tracking runs so close to the house, so it would take me a long time to get to 4 miles (I had signed up to run 100km before Christmas, and that was what I needed to hit my target).  At least with a few podcasts the time went fairly quickly. I soon wore a path in the grass though, and by the final couple of days I had to stick to the patio and running down the side of the house because the grass was so boggy (we had a lot of rain).

Then I got on with work, exciting things like cleaning, and then Christmas prep such as wrapping gifts, decorating cakes and baking. I would sit down for a bit at lunch but generally try to keep on pottering about because I wanted to sleep well, and I don’t sleep well if I’ve been sat around all day.

My trail shoes were so muddy, and on the final couple of days I ran in my gardening shoes (old running shoes) because I could not even get my trail shoes on. Cleaning them is on my list!

Spiced nuts, Christmas Disney top, tiffin, spiced nuts and watching In Bruges.

Delicious veggie chilli had for dinner one evening.

My tea advent calendar was a nice focus each day too. One day I had a fair bit of work, and the tea was called Jack Frost (I think spearmint and coconut), so I watched Frozen while I got on with the work. Elsa’s palace felt very fitting!

Usually Strava looked like a scribble in my garden, but one day it decided that I had run in a straight line away from home. I promise I didn’t. It even had ben running over a lake. Impressive powers. One day we got a Pret deliveroo for lunch, because I love their Christmas sandwich (something like nutty roast or stuffing with roasted pumpkin, cranberry sauce and other goodies).

On payday I had treated myself to the Brooks Christmas trainers- I nearly got them last year but didn’t, and then this year on payday decided to treat myself. Well, of course they arrived once I was isolating and the garden was way too muddy for them. At least I can wear them next year!

Of course I had some films to keep me going too.

For most of the week the weather was fairly rubbish, but in Christmas Eve we were treated to beautiful blue skies and frosty winter weather.

I made sure one of my jobs that day was to top up the bird food in the garden as that’s not a fun job in the rain.

Not a bad step count either!

I made some “mini” stollen (they were not that mini), had breakfast watching Mary Berry’s Christmas show, and also got ready for a zoom quiz later on (had some stollen during the quiz).

On Christmas Day of course I had to wear my Christmas leggings.

It was another frosty morning with our pond being completely iced over and such a pretty sky. After showers and breakfast we swapped presents and listened to some Christmas podcasts, and then got on with lunch prep.

Home Alone jumper on of course- this was my first ever Christmas jumper from about 7 years ago I think! The collection has grown since then.

We had always planned for it to be just the two of us on Christmas, so we had the right amount of food which was one good thing. We’d got an order from Cook a while back, and then topped it up with a few other bits. We had their lovely vegan squash and nut stacks, with some cranberry stuffing, roast potatoes, veg and cranberry sauce (Andy also had a few pigs in blankets). I’m not usually a fan of roast potatoes but they were very tasty, and I don’t think I’d ever had stuffing before. I think I’d always associated it with meat because it is meant to get stuffed in the meat (?) so just never tried it. We even had veggie gravy which again I don’t think I’d ever had because I don’t trust that it would not actually have meat in it (if I was having it somewhere else). Then I did feel a bit sad because the weather was so nice and usually a walk after Christmas dinner is just such a good part of the day. In the end Andy went out for a walk and I walked around the garden listening to a podcast. I just knew I’d feel better after walking instead of sitting around, and it was good to get some fresh air.

Weirdly our rose is still flowering, and it did look so pretty against the blue sky. We were both still full from dinner hours later, so I think we had a few nibbles of crackers and then had a Christmas pudding with a bit of ice cream. We did a video call with my parents, and watched some Christmas  TV. All very chilled out and enjoyable.

I ordered this jumper from Etsy pretty much as soon as I got home because it just seemed perfect.

And then, my self isolation was over! Hooray! I shall save the freedom for another post!

What did you have for Christmas dinner? Did you have to change plans?

Have you had to self isolate yet? How do you think you would cope? At least I know I can manage it, but of course it could easily happen again, so I am not sure how I’d cope a second time around.

The Christmas movies (and TV) that complete a festive season

Every year there are a few classic film and TV shows that we watch at  this time of year, and with all the other stuff going on, some Christmas movie escapism was what was needed, especially at around 4pm on a Sunday when it was dark outside, I’d make a pot of tea and settle down.

First up, the classics, which we tend to watch closer to Christmas Day.

The Snowman. I cannot remember a Christmas where I didn’t watch it, and just the music makes me feel calm. Saved for Christmas Eve.

It’s a Wonderful Life. We first watched this on Christmas Eve when we went to Boston and New York over Christmas- it was snowing in Boston and freezing cold, and after we’d been outside all day we put the TV on and watched it. It’s now a Christmas Eve tradition.

Home Alone. Another classic that is probably reserved for the day before Christmas Eve. Although I still can’t look at the big spider, and the bit where the guys sit in their van and know the timings of all the lights still freaks me out.

Muppet Christmas Carol. A great take on a classic story. Creepy ghosts but catchy songs!

Elf. I mean, is there a happier film than this?

In Bruges. Now, some might argue that this isn’t a Christmas movie, but it takes place in Bruges in December, and it’s all snowy. It’s got a sort of Fargo feel to it- very dark humour. But a nice change to all the super sweet Christmas bit going on.

New films this year!

Last Christmas. Now, when I heard about this last year, I could not quite believe that there had been a film created around just one song. I do quite like the song (and the Jimmy Eat World cover of it), but I mean, how do they make a film of it? It was billed as a romantic comedy (a genre I am not a fan of) but I think the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour hit the nail on the head when they said it was a bit more like a Christmas Carol, and should have been called A Christmas Lesson. It was fine, but I feel like they used the song too early (and also way too literally). Not sure I’d rush to watch it again but it was quite nice seeing London looking all festive, so if I came across it on TV I might re-watch.

Happiest Season. This was quite sweet. A young woman with a plan to propose to her girlfriend while at her family’s annual holiday party discovers her partner hasn’t yet come out to her conservative parents. There were some good characters (I could have happily seen more of Dan Levy’s character) and it was perfectly watchable.

Noelle. This had Elf vibes to me, with the Christmas North Pole village just looking so festive and pretty. I wished that Anna Kendrick sang a bit more in it, but I’d happily watch it again.

Godmothered. New to me (I think it was out last year?), it’s not totally Christmas related  with a fairy godmother-in-training trying to prove that people still need fairy godmothers, but as a lot of it happens in Boston around Christmas time there is enough festive goings on to make it part of the list. I did wonder at times who the target audience was, as there were some jokes that I think would go way over some heads.

The Christmas Chronicles. Andy liked this more than I did. I thought it was quite funny, but again who is the audience? I would think it would be too scary for little children, and it was a bit predictable. Anyway, I might watch it again but there would be many more in front of it on the list.

TV Shows:

Community Christmas Special. Community was a great comedy show, set in a community collage, and their Christmas special has some great songs and is just a feel-good watch without being saccharin.

Gavin and Stacy Christmas Special– the original one, not the one from last year.  It is full of classic lines and captures the essence of a family Christmas.

Home for Christmas: This is a Norwegian show on Netflix, with a second series this year. When we went to Oslo last November we saw loads of adverts for it, and so started watching it when we got home. The first series begins at the start of December with the main character lying to her family and tells them that she has a boyfriend, and that he will accompany her to Christmas dinner. The series follows her in a Christmas countdown as she tries to find a partner, and it’s very festive (she rides a sledge up and down her local high street, there’s some skiing, lots of gløgg- Scandinavians do Christmas properly) and it’s quite sweet.

Podcasts:

Lots of podcasts release Christmas specials, but the one that tops them all is the Adam and Joe one. I used to watch their show when I was babysitting, and then when we moved to Hatfield,  listening to their xfm show used to be our Saturday routine (and listening to their podcasts kept me company on my runs back when there were not many podcasts about). Adam Buxton now hosts his own podcast, but each year he’s done a festive special with Joe, and hooray, they are still doing one this year!

Which are your favourite Christmas movies or TV shows?