Cake show!

Hey peeps

Last week a friend asked if I fancied going with her to a cake decorating show in London- of course I said yes! It was this show (still on tomorrow if anyone is interested).

When we first arrived we had a little wander, just to see where everything was. There were demonstrations, classes (but you had to book those in advance and pay, so we didn’t do any of those) and loads of stalls selling all sorts of cake decorating paraphernalia.

There were also competitions, so we had a wander around to see some of the winning cakes.

This was my favourite- so cute!

I also loved the panda- so sweet. There were loads of amazing cakes though- there was a section for flower art (or called something similar- basically flowers made with sugar paste) and they were amazing- they were so delicate and looked real. There was also a 4ft high warrior cake.

I stole this off my friends’ facebook page as I didn’t take a photo- I am sure she won’t mind.

I then saw a cake with spots and a bow (a bit like my Christmas cakes) but then I realised that was for the age 12-18 category! More my level I think!

We then went back to the start and bought a show guide, which we then got signed by Jo Wheatley (she won the Great British Bake Off and had a blog). She was presenting a demonstration a bit later on, so after buying a few bits we each bought a muffin for lunch (I was going to get a sandwich, but none of them looked that nice and then I saw the price- £4.30!!!) and went to watch the demo. Apologies for the photos- I have no idea how to zoom on my phone!

She was so sweet- she got kids up to help her, and gave all the things she made to the children in the audience too. She made some macaroons (something that I have never attempted but looked like they would not be as hard as I thought), some peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and some chocolate lolly’s.

We also watched another demo, and this was rather weird. The chef made a chocolate cake, and got a child to help him decorate it with chocolate ganache and raspberries, but then he passed the bowl of left over chocolate ganache around the audience, and was encouraging people to dip their fingers in and have a try! Some people think I am a bit funny about things like that, but I do think that it was very unhygienic.

There was also a competition going on (a bit like the Food Network Challenge)- there were two teams of three, and they had to make a cake to show the four seasons. It had to be a certain height, and I think altogether they had about three and a half hours of time- during the day we kept popping by to see how it was going on.

They are the Easter themed ones from Friday.

The scariest bit to watch was when they had to transport their cakes from where they were working to the final table (again like those challenges).

You can’t see them that clearly, which is a shame. The really tall one (on the left) had a later for each season. The top one was my favourite- it was a little house with snow on the roof, decorated with candy canes- so pretty.

The one on the right was done by a group of friends (whereas the other team were professional) and the skill on parts of their cake was just amazing.

We bought a few more bits, then headed back to the car for a sit down! We had been walking around for hours.

Here are my goodies! I was quite restrained. In the end I bought a Fancy magazine (which came with jelly beans and some random oat bran!), a set of cake decorating tools (a bargain as they are usually about £4 each but the whole set was £6), some flavourings for icing/cakes (almond, coconut, lime and peppermint), some foil cupcake cases and a really smooth roll up mat to roll out icing on.

I got home at about 5 in the end, and was pretty tired from walking around all day. I had a little rest, and then headed out for a run/walk. I have been out twice this week already, and each time this week I have done 3 min run, 1 min walk (last week was 2 min walk)- my route is only just over 2 miles, but I have coped with it so far. It’s weird because at first I feel like I struggle to get my breathing under control, and my legs feel fine, but then towards the end my calves get more stiff, and my breathing seems fine. It rained a bit, but not too hard, so I didn’t mind- although I should have worn my visor as my glasses get hard to see through!

I had grand plans to make some bean/chickpea burgers, and roast some veggies, but I was tired and hungry (and Andy is out at the football all day so no-one to cook for me!) so in the end I toasted some left over sourdough bread (I made some on Friday) and had it with pesto, hummus, spinach and an Early grey tea. Perfect.

Right- Andy won’t be back for a few hours so I might have time for some baking now 🙂

Green tea baking

Hey peeps

Ages ago I was sent a box of Lemon Green tea to try out.

Green tea is my least favourite tea (I only knew I was being sent some tea- no idea what type), but I found that the lemon flavour in it was lovely and refreshing. I had to let it brew for less than a minute, but it was rather zesty. I find with green tea that less is more (with the brewing time)- it seems to stew quite quickly- but leaving it for just a minute means that it is more delicate tasting.

I also had it as an iced tea (back in the Spring when it was warm- remember that warm weather?). To make it, I put the teabag in a cup and topped with about an inch of water. I let it steep for a minute, removed the teabag, then poured it into a glass and topped up the glass with cold water. I let it cool in the fridge for a bit, before adding a slice of lemon and some ice.  This was delicious and very refreshing.

But what I really enjoyed the most (surprise surprise) was baking with it. Ages ago when I was in Waitrose I picked up a recipe card for a banana and fruit loaf (for Fairtrade week- that shows how long ago it was) and the dried fruit was soaked in green tea. As there was lemon zest in the recipe (actually it was orange zest, but I had lemons!) too, I thought lemon green tea would be perfect. I figure as the recipe cards are free in store I can write it out for this blog (plus I did change it a bit).

Banana Green tea loaf.


I green teabag

50g dried fruit (the recipe says cranberries, and I used a pack of Bear berries and cherries)

225g self raising flour (I used half plain and half wholemeal)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tbs ground cardamom

50g butter (or spread)

100g brown sugar

Grated zest of one lemon

1 medium egg, beaten

2 large ripe bananas, mashed


Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a loaf pan. Put the green teabag in a cup, pour over 150ml boiling water, and add the dried fruits. Leave for 5 minutes, then remove the teabag.

Sift the flour and baking powder together. Add the cardamom, then rub in the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and lemon zest.

Whisk the egg with the tea-infused fruits, and add to the dry mixture. Finally stir in the mashed bananas. I was unclear whether to add the water or not (as the recipe did specify 150ml water, but then it also did not say whether to add the water or discard it)- in the end I added several tbs of the water because the batter seemed quite dry- I suppose some bananas are bigger than others so that would make the batter more moist.

Anyway, don’t over mix the batter; pour it into the loaf pan and smooth the top down. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes, until well risen, golden and firm to touch. Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Optional- wrap and leave for 24 hours to allow the flavours to develop.

The lemon green tea soaking with the dried fruits.

The loaf cooling on the rack (alongside the little sourdough rolls I made).

A slice of the loaf- yes the last point was optional and we did not wait to try it!

This cake was lovely- the bananas made it nice and moist, and the cherries and berries were lovely. I usually soak dried fruit before I bake with it, as it helps it to plump up, but I usually just use water. I think the lemon green tea added a little extra to the flavour.

I am now looking forward to trying them out in different baked goods- Green tea cupcakes sound very summery, and I am sure I have seen a green tea biscotti recipe before now too.

Thanks Twinings! And if you like them you can visit the Twinings Facebook page.

So, any good green tea recipes that I should try out? Feel free to link! Thanks.

A restful weekend

Hello all

I hope you all had lovely weekends.

Friday for me included this:

When I got home from work I had some lunch, did some work and then headed out for another walk with some running interspersed. I did the same route again, and pretty much the same as the other day- 3 mins of jogging and 2 mins of walking. It chucked it down with rain, but I never mind that when running because I will get in the shower once home anyway (so really it gets my hair washing started sooner). I even got to wear my Bondi Band- and it did keep all my hair out of my face- shame it could not keep the rain off!

Once I got home the skies opened and it poured down- I did try to take a photo (the rain was beating against the window) but it does not do the heavy rain justice. My trainers would have been squelching in all that water.

Then after my shower I had a lovely dinner (cooked by Andy)- pasta with veggies, pesto and fresh basil (and then some cheese). After that we packed a bag each and headed to the train station. Andy had managed to book us a weekend in York (train tickets + hotel) and although I was a bit concerned about going away when I was tired after work, actually it was great because I couldn’t take any work with me (I could have been tempted to take loads home and work all weekend) and also could not do any housework either.

We got the train up on Friday evening, and then had a lovely weekend wandering around York. We went to another National Trust place (good timing as it tipped with rain), went out for lunch (again good timing as we were stuck in a hail-storm), and enjoyed some time walking around the town, looking at the impressive buildings and little streets. On Sunday morning we lounged around the hotel watching the London marathon (Well done everyone!!!!!!) and popped out for breakfast (I had a scone- yummy) before checking out at the last possible moment! We then paid a visit to the railway museum (and saw all the Scouts and Brownies out for the St George’s Day parade in the town centre).

And I even treated myself to some bargains: some Whittards chocolate tea which sounds divine- chocolate truffle tea which has black tea, cocoa beans, coconut and macadamia nuts in it, some Hotel Chocolat Easter goodies (reduced) and also some chocolate peanut “smudge” (spread) which I could not resist!

We did have a little bit of a hard time getting home on Sunday- we had to get two trains on the way home (which I don’t mind) and they were running late, and then the second one terminated early because of a train blocking the line, so it was a bit chaotic and we had to get a rail replacement coach, which took ages. Ah well, we got home in the end.

Having a break at the weekend is always nice, and I feel like my batteries were well and truly recharged ready for this week. This week I have a few afternoons where I won’t be in, but today and also Wednesday I will be in all day. I am taking Lara’s advice and making myself a little plan to say when I will be doing housework, when I will do work, and when I will fit in exercise, so that I don’t do it all at once. I do like a good plan.

What did you get up to this weekend? I am trying to catch up on blogs but the new Blogger dashboard is not as easy to use and I think I have missed ones out. So update me 🙂

Anyone else love watching marathons on TV? Andy thinks I am a bit strange to like it so much- last weekend I was watching the Paris marathon too- but I love seeing all the people out there running, all the people raising money for charity is so inspiring, and the elite runners are so fast!

Back to square one with running

Hello everyone!

Since dipping my toes back into the running water (shoes?), I have been thinking a lot about starting running. I really wish I had started this blog right then (back in 2008), but in fact I waited a couple of years (and had run my first half marathon) before I started blogging. I did a post about how I started out running here, and I really believe that anyone can do it.

Here are some of my tips for starting out (or starting again!)

Have a plan!

I think if you are starting out, then having a plan is really important. The plan I followed is here– it starts with 1 minute of running (which means gentle jogging and not fast sprinting) alternated with walking. I did think that I might need to start there, but as I have had a few years of running under my belt I think my body had retained a little of that and so I have started a little further along this time. Anyway, each week the next week looked too hard, but your body does adapt and I think a plan helps to move you on at an appropriate pace. I am going to create a plan for myself, based on previous training plans and my current fitness levels. Because I am going back to work I need to fit in with that, so I will only be going out maybe twice a week to begin with, until I am feeling better and can increase that.

Don’t go too fast or too soon

I think often (and I was included here) people think the “run” part of a plan means all out sprinting, when really it is a gentle jog and might only be a tiny bit faster than walking pace. You can work on your speed once you can run steadily for 30 mins or more. Also don’t go from doing nothing to going running every day. Your body needs time to adapt to this new exercise.


Your body needs rest days. The temptation is to go out every day, but when you are starting I think the rest days are even more important as your muscles will be recovering.

Kit yourself out

I think getting some good trainers (and of course a sports bra girls) is really important. When I started originally I was wearing old skechers which were not very supportive (and slipped off when I ran). This time I was back in my trusty old Nike’s (even though I would be walking more than running). I am also planning to get my gait analysed when I next buy some new trainers.

As I have got more into running, I have accumulated more bits (e.g. a Nike+ band, a Garmin, water bottles etc), but I used to time my running/ walking intervals on my mobile phone! I have a little mp3 player and I love to load it with podcasts and listen to radio shows, and that would be my favourite item I think.

Enter a race!

This is great for motivation. The reason I started running was because I wanted to run a Race for Life (a 5K race), and when the training runs were feeling tough, I had my goal in the back of my mind. I was worried that races would be elitist and full of speedy lycra-clad club runners, but in reality they are friendly and inclusive. Just don’t start at the front as you will get in the way of the fastest runners!  And don’t worry about coming last. I always worry about this, as even at my fastest I was still a slow runner. Last summer I was last for the majority of a race, but it was still fine (and I had a personal cycle escort for a lot of it!). If you are starting out (and a female) then I think the Race for Life series is brilliant- very inclusive and beginner friendly (as lots of people walk the events)- and of course great for raising money for charity, and raising awareness. I am following this advice, as I have two half marathons booked for the autumn- hopefully by then I will be able to run that distance again. 🙂

Run in a different part of the country.

I am lucky because Andy enjoys running too (OK, maybe he does not enjoy it, he sees it as something he should do) so we have completed a few races in different parts of the country- a nice excuse for a weekend away. My favourite of all time was the one we did near Nottingham last Autumn– who would not want to run with views like this?

And of course if you enter races you can get rewards like medals, t-shirts etc.

Think about nutrition

Different food works for different people, so you have to find out what works well for you before and after running. I know that some foods that I can eat normally do not agree with me before a run, and also I want to make sure I am eating nutritious foods to help my body with the running. In the summer heat, think about keeping hydrated, especially when running further. I know I get very sweaty (is that too much info??) and end up with salt all over my face and body after a run in the heat, so I have to make sure I replace those salts with something too, not just replace the water, as otherwise the salts get too diluted in your blood.

I am pretty sure that a soya chai latte was a good way to rehydrate after running 10 miles -right?

I really really love running, and I cannot really say it enough. My 22 year old self would be surprised to know this, as I really could not run at all, and never thought I would be able to. So if you fancy giving it a go, then please do- you never know, you might love it! (But of course check with your GP first).

View AXA PPP healthcare_health_insurance.jpg in slide show

This year AXA PP healthcare are one of the sponsors of Race for Life, and they are going to be holding some live discussions about running on the 26th April (next Thursday). They have experts from different areas, including training and nutrition, so if you want to join in you can click here. You can also leave comments on their facebook page, or on Twitter.

The line up looks like this:

10-12am: John Grudington, who is a personal trainer, fitness tutor and physiologist.

2-4pm: Lucy Wyndham-Read, a personal trainer. She has contributed to some great articles on the AXA PPP website including this one about starting running.

5-7pm: Dr Sarah Schenker, a nutritionist.

I would love to ask them about getting back to running after surgery. I did ask my consultant about when I could start, and he said to leave it at least 6 weeks, because the surgery was around my abdominal area, and he wanted to give everything time to heal up before I put it under stress. So one question would be “Following surgery, how can I tell the difference between pushing myself to improve, and pushing myself too far?”

I would also like to ask about nutrition- I am vegetarian and am not keen on eggs or dairy. I do like cheese but with the saturated fat content it is not ideal to have too much, so my nutrition questions would be “how can I include some healthy vegetarian/vegan protein into my diet?” and “how much protien should I be aiming to eat each day?”

What sorts of questions would you like to ask? 

They also have a Race for Life competition– and if you enter you have the chance of adding £100 to a sponsorship fund (or £200 if you are a member of AXA healthcare).

Happy running!

View AXA PPP healthcare_health_insurance.jpg in slide show

This post was sponsored by AXA PPP healthcare. All the views are my own, I was just asked to include certain links.

Dipping my toes back in

Hey peeps.

I hope everyone has been having a lovely week. I was back to work this week, and boy am I feeling it! I didn’t think it would be this hard. The occupational health team recommended that I start back at 50%, and gradually increase over four weeks. Well I was feeling a bit optimistic when I agreed to Monday Inset day, then Tues-Fri mornings (as mornings are longer and busier than the afternoons)- quite a bit more than 50%! By the time I’ve arrived home each day I have been totally shattered (and I have had to save some brain powder for marking!). It is no surprise I suppose because the nature of being a teacher is that you can’t have a break when you feel you need it, so the mornings are non-stop (especially with all the rain= wet play so not even a morning breather for a few minutes). But because last week I was feeling more normal I really thought I would cope better with going back to work than I have.

Anyway, I have tried to keep up with a bit of walking as I think it is important to keep trying to get my strength back. Typically I have come home, zonked out for a bit, had some lunch and then had a walk a bit later on when I begin to feel more human.

Yesterday I put my running gear on (oh how I have missed you comfy Thoosa clothes), and decided that if I was feeling OK I would have a few jogging sections in my normal walk. My route is about 2 miles, and I know that I can walk it so I knew that if I could not manage the jogging then I would just walk it as normal. Anyway, I walked for 3 mins to warm up, and then did a tentative minute of slow jogging. It felt OK, so I did a few sections of approx. 3 minute jogging, 2 minute walking, and finished with a bit more walking. I was really conscious of my stomach area as I was jogging because the area around the cuts still feels stiff and sort of strange. But it felt OK, and I was pleased that I managed the full three minutes at a time. Coming from running a marathon last summer, and even running 10 miles non-stop in November it seems like a big set back, but seeing as I have not run, or done any exercise since the start of December (so nearly five months) then I am going to be pleased with it.

My back has been sore too (I think it is all the driving, and probably all the bending down at work too) so I spent some time doing some yoga stretches when I got home.

Anyway, I am going to ease back in very gently- perhaps do two runs per week at the moment, and walks on other days, until I feel that I can go our more frequently.

I also had a good suggestion to make a plan (thanks Lara) for how to get back to normal (with chores, walks etc on there too) so I am going to do that once I know my hours for next week.

Also, I have been asked to do a sponsored post about getting started with running (which fits perfectly with my rambles) so I hope you guys don’t mind- I will probably post that tomorrow.

Bye for now 🙂