No more get ups!

Hey peeps, half term is here! I am so relieved! And apologies in advance if my ramblings make even less sense than usual. This week has been even more flat out than usual, with parents evenings going on as well as the usual end of half term business.

But anyway, back to the weekend:

On Sunday I treated myself to pancakes for breakfast- chocolate chip pumpkin ones served with a chopped cooked apple (from my garden), and a little DCD.

I made a Swedish Apple cake for Sunday tea, and it was lovely. I caught a few of a new Rachel Allen series, called Cake Diaries. I love her baking recipes anyway, and I copied it down from the TV show and it worked so well. One to make again for sure.

As I had opened a tin of pumpkin puree, I decided to make some of Angela’s wonderful spiced pumpkin gingerbread. I used molasses whereas I am sure I usually use treacle, anyway it was not as dark as usual, but still delicious. I have frozen it in slices as it makes a big loaf. I didn’t make any of the buttercream, as I wanted to freeze it, but I have made it in the past and it is amazing.

Anyway, I have no idea what I have been doing this week! I know I went on 2 short runs on Monday and Tuesday, a 3.5 mile route. It is so dark in the evenings now. Anyway, that was all I managed to squeeze in around work, work in the evenings, extra meetings, parents evenings etc.

Andy surprised me with a little treat to help with parents evenings:

Some chocolate covered pretzels! I love the pretzel flipz (although not the z in their name), but you can’t get them any more. These were a welcome sugar boost, although I could not eat them while talking to the parents- not very professional!

I was very excited when I got home on Wednesday night to find my i-herb order had finally arrived! Gingerbread tea here I come! I also ordered some coconut tea, coconut lip balm, and maple pb, and they included a little black cherry teabag which sounds lovely.

Today was a staff training day, so I came home as soon as I could- I was not quite sure how much longer I could keep going for. I was planning on going on a run this afternoon, but I feel totally shattered, so I am staying at home instead.

Tomorrow we are off to Italy for a couple of days, so I need to pack, plus I think we will be doing plenty of walking. I don’t want to be so tired that I don’t enjoy the holiday.

What are your plans for the weekend/ half term if you have it? I am going to be making our Christmas cake when I get back, and I have another cake decorating course booked which I am really looking forward to 🙂

Project Pretzel

I have been wanting to make pretzels for ages. Last summer when we were in Savannah we went to a lovely cafe for a drink (and it was so lovely we went back another day)- anyway while we were in there they took out some freshly baked pretzels and gave them to the customers to sample. They were amazing.

Then I saw the Hairy Bakers visit a bakery in Germany, and bake them there. And I was given their book for my birthday.

When we went to the Olympics we saw a pretzel stand, but were so disappointed as we bought one to share, and it turned out to be a doughnut in a pretzel shape. Poor show!

Earlier this week I decided to add baking pretzels to my list of weekend things to do. I used the recipe from the Hairy Bakers book, only I added cinnamon to it to make them a bit sweeter.

Although they take time, they were fine as they fitted around my Saturday morning. I got up, had breakfast, made a cup of mint tea and did some work. Then when the water had cooled, I activated the yeast. Then I changed for my run, and then once changed it was time to make the dough.

The dough needed to rest for an hour- so I went out on a run. 7 miles which I found really tough.  I went to the Sweatshop run on Wednesday, and although I found the last little bit hard, it was not too bad and I still had the energy to run home. I went to pump on Thursday and didn’t do the heaviest weights for legs and back, mostly I kept them the same. Anyway, today I just was not feeling it. The weather was lovely and I did enjoy it, but my legs felt pretty tired and I had to fight the urge to just stop.

Anyway, once home it was time to shape them- this took some time as they had to be rolled into ropes. The recipe said 60cm ropes, but that seemed way too long, so mine were very small (probably more like 30cm). However by the time they rested and baked (time for me to shower and make some tea) they puffed up and lost the pretzel shape, so next time I would try to roll them even thinner.

Once out the oven I spread them with a little melted butter (well Pure spread) and then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. They were lovely- soft dough and sweet cinnamon sugar- perfect with a cup of tea. Good brain fuel for my next section of work this afternoon!

I also did a bit of baking earlier in the week. I had some chocolate chips left over from my American Soda parcel, so I made some more crispy squares.

Peanut butter + chocolate = perfection in my eyes!

They are so tasty! All credit to Angela (Oh She Glows) for another fantastic recipe. Seriously if you have not given them a go already, then do, because they take hardly any time, and are just delicious.

While I was making them I had a nice cup of chai (this is a herbal one so no black tea, although I mainly bought it because it matched my nail varnish…).

I promise I have eaten some savoury things this week! I got home from work on Tuesday and realised I had forgotten to defrost anything for my dinner- I was planning on having a mexican casserole from the freezer. But luckily I found a beetroot and goats cheese roast thing (from Asda)- I had the first one ages ago and forgot all about it. Served with spinach and frozen roast veg it was pretty tasty, although it still reminds me of something I would eat in a pub. Also it looks a bit like a raw burger/ frozen around the edges still, but it was hot- the pink colour from the beetroot stayed during the cooking.

I also had some lovely sweet potato chilli (might have needed the flash!).

From the freezer- it contained roasted celery, red and yellow peppers, butternut squash, sweet potato, onions from my allotment, then once roasted I cooked them in a pan with a tin of tomatoes, a tiny bit of lazy chilli, and a tin of kidney beans. So good- the sweet potato goes very soft. I had it with some pecan crackers– they were OK but not that great- I think I only ordered them because I had some space in the i-herb parcel and they didn’t weigh much.

Are you a pretzel fan?


Hey peeps!
Thanks for all your lovely comments on my last post- I am still so pleased about my half marathon time. The official chip time was 2.20.51 (or some seconds, now I can’t check because the website won’t work)- I’ll take that!

While I was away on holiday I was sent a lovely email from the folks at Chobani yoghurt, inviting me to a launch party, as they were to start selling their yoghurt in the UK. I could not make the date (as it was during the day) but they said they would send me some yoghurts to try out. I had tried them before when I had been on holiday in the US (so many US yoghurts contain gelatin, so it was good to find some that were suitable for veggies), and I was looking forward to trying some more.

They sent me a lovely (chilled) parcel of their fruity greek yoghurts including  blood orange, peach and cherry. Each pot contained yoghurt and a fruity compote .

They also sent me some rather cute spoons!

I added some chocolate chips to the cherry one- delicious.

I also enjoyed some with some roasted fruit- nice and warming for the chilly evenings.

The cherry one was my favourite- I usually prefer peach yoghurts but I liked the cherry flavour with the creamy yoghurt more, plus I felt the flavour was stronger.

When I peeled off the top, I was pleased to see that they give away some of their profits to charity– I like it when companies do this.

I do usually look for organic dairy (but that is a personal preference), but on their FAQ page they explain that they work with local-area farming communities, instead of shipping organic dairy from further afield, and of course it makes it more affordable. They still make it hormone-free (which is not an issue I don’t think with UK produced dairy, but it can be present in non-organic US dairy).

Strained greek yoghurt is high in protein, and the stats for this yoghurt is impressive. Per 100g, the cherry one has 8g protein and 94 cals, and 0g fat (so a serving had 14g protein). The reason it has no fat is because it is strained, so there are no preservatives or anything- the yoghurt part just contains skimmed milk and various cultures. It does taste very creamy for something that is fat free. I liked the fruit part too (but of course that contains sugar, but I prefer that to artificial sweeteners or stevia or something).  I also found that the yoghurt was more even in texture- some yoghurts have that thin film of liquid on the top which I find a bit off-putting, but these ones were more uniform. I found them very filling as the pots are big- good for breakfast when it is warmer- I just wish they did them in smaller pots,  as you can’t really save half for later once they are open. They are now on sale at Tescos, so worth a look if you fancy trying them. I used to prefer plain yoghurt as then I could mix in my own fruit, but I liked these too and felt the balance was good between yoghurt (80%) and fruit compote (20%).

Thanks Chobani 🙂

Are you a fan of greek yoghurt? I used to have it quite a lot, but since I have moved to mainly organic dairy I have stopped buying it- this has reminded me how much I like it.

Oxford Half Marathon!

Hey all- Have a cup of tea because this is a long one!

Saturday started off with a yummy breakfast:

Malt loaf with honey pb, papaya and fig, and mint tea. Like my new butterfly tea towel? I only bought it to make my photos look pretty!

Then we packed and headed off- we decided to make the most of our National Trust memberships, and went to Waddesdon Manor. We have been before, but years ago. It has lovely grounds (we usually only go for a walk around the grounds) but we used our membership to have a look around the house. Not really my thing, although there were a few nice paintings. Luckily it rained as we were inside, then didn’t for the rest of the time.

Some of the trees were just beautiful- I love it when the leaves turn at this time of year.

The house looked very pretty too- I like the turret on one side of the building.

They were displaying different sculptures around the grounds too- I liked this one.

Then we went for lunch- I didn’t fancy any of the veggie options, but I was tempted by about ten of the cakes (I am not even joking: fruit cake, flourless chocolate cake, carrot cake, scones..)

So I went for a slice of lemon drizzle cake, and an Earl Grey tea. Perfect.

After we walked around for a bit more, we drove to our hotel, then went to a nearby town for some dinner. Andy had a pizza express voucher, so we went there. This turned out not so good- I had dough balls for starter (carb loading of course) and then I ordered the goats cheese salad. Only it came with big lumps of chicken in it. Now to some veggies this might not put them off (I know people who pick the meat off pizza and eat that) but I cannot stand the thought of meat touching my food. Anyway, no-one even came over to ask how everything was, so I had to go and get someone in the end (and I went to get a menu to double check- you can get the salad with added chicken but there is no way I said anything that sounded like it, and it was not offered to me either). I asked for a new one, and it did look like a new one (different dough-sticks) but near one side I found some more little bits of chicken. I ate the salad from the side of the plate away from the chicken (poor Andy was then telling me not to think about it and reassuring me that I had not eaten any by mistake), and when the person collected our plates I mentioned it, and he told me I was wrong and it was artichoke. I did tell him I didn’t believe him- there was artichoke in the salad but that is more green, plus it peels into layers. Andy took a photo with his phone- it was definitely chicken.  Urgh. Anyway, I am going to write to them because I really was not happy. Pizza Express are normally so good as they mark things so clearly on the menu, plus there are a lot of options, but I really didn’t have confidence in them. Anyway, the voucher was for 3 courses so we finished with some fudge cake. Hmm, 2 cakes in one day- taking the carb loading too far?? After that we headed to the hotel to get things ready for the morning- as the weather looked like it would be bright but cold I chose capris, a loose long sleeved top (I remembered wearing it on Autumn runs before) with a vest (with race number) over the top, and gloves.

Anyway, the next morning we were up early (to a frost), had some malt loaf for breakfast and drove to the start. We got stuck in loads of traffic, and we did leave plenty of time, but anyway we made it to the car park with about 5 mins to spare, and I needed the toilet! Luckily people in the queue told me that last year they delayed the start because of the traffic, and as there were loads of people in the queue behind me I thought I would be OK. I rushed to the start (and bumped back into Andy- I left him when I went to the toilets)- and it seemed people were already crossing over the start line- it took me by surprise!

Then, to the recap!

My main aim was to beat my GNR time (which was 2.27), and I knew I wanted to keep my miles under 11 mins. The first few miles were not the prettiest- running on dual carriageway and through an industrial park (although going around the Mini plant was interesting)- but I managed to keep the pace pretty well (10.35, 10.48, 10.49 miles 1-3), but after that the route was just wonderful. Past some pretty chocolate box cottages, through some nice suburbs, through parks, alongside the canal, into the city, back along the canal. Again, I managed pretty consistent pacing (for me)- 10.35, 10.35, 10.33, 10.44, 10.54 for miles 4-8. Along the route there were a few bands (I loved the drumming one the best) and quite a few people cheering. Not the huge crowds of the GNR, but I didn’t expect it to be. The marshals and supporters were the most encouraging I have ever experienced- so many people saying “well done, you are looking good, only … far to go, amazing job” and even a homeless man in one of the parks saying something to every runner like “you have to make that finish line” (to the man in front of me) and “keep going missy” (to me!). I was also impressed at how many runners thanked the marshals – I try to say (gasp/ pant) thanks to the people who cheer and the marshals who give directions, and I heard so many other runners doing the same- it was lovely. Anyway, for the next few miles I wasn’t paying attention to my watch, and it shows as my pace went to 10.59, 10.51 for miles 9-10. I knew I had slowed, partly because the tow-path was more uneven and I always run slower in parks than on the roads, but also partly because I was tiring. I decided to have some jelly beans- not the easiest things to eat with gloves. Then my stomach started hurting- well sort of feeling a bit bloated I think. I had taken a bottle of water with me, with a nuun tab in it, and by that point I had drunk most of it. But then I also think it could have been hunger as I only managed about 10 jelly beans I think. Who knows. Anyway, somewhere along the path I realised my pace was too slow (my 11th mile was my slowest at 11.12 – although on my screen it flashed 11.11 which I quite liked), so I started choosing people in front of me to overtake, and that seemed to help. I think sometimes in races I end up a bit slower because I naturally just fall behind the person in front. Because this race didn’t start in timed sections (with the faster runners nearer the front) I was being overtaken by speedy people for most of it, but also came across people walking after less than a mile, so it was harder to judge than most races I think. Anyway, I was so happy to see that when I reached the 11 mile marker, my time said 1.59! At that point I knew I would beat my GNR time! 🙂

After that there was a long hill, right into the sun, and alongside a dual carriageway, and I was finding it very tough indeed. But I had managed to up my pace- the last 2 miles were 10.41 and 10.36. There were still so many people out encouraging all the runners- one lady was going “you are all amazing, I could not do what you are doing” and someone else was holding a sign “run like you stole something”- they gave me a chuckle anyway.

Then there was the 13 mile marker- hooray! Hardly any distance left- and my watch said 2.20 I think! The course then curved into the stadium, and then the finish arch was in sight! The official clock said 2.25, but I had not even heard the start (probably still in the toilets)- annoyingly as I pressed stop on my watch the “save” message popped up, so I had to wait until I got home! No official chip time yet, but my Garmin time is 2.20.55 which I am so pleased with! My all-time pb is 2.19- so close!

Anyway, by that point I was exhausted, but I suppose you should feel like that really. The goodie bag had a clif bar in it, so I had that right away.

Photo: Oxford Half Marathon- done!

Best picture ever??? Ha ha Andy took it for me, while he was still sat in the car! I just wanted to show off my medal!

Now, for a little moan. On the race information pack it said that runners would be able to have showers in the sports centre, right by the start. Our plan was to have showers (Andy would have his while he waited for me to finish), then we would head to the park and ride, and spend the afternoon in Oxford- Giraffe for lunch. But when I got to the car Andy told me that the gym had been taken over by new management (DW fitness) and they didn’t want to let us use it. But it was still on the website that it would be available for runners after the race. I think it is a shame, because most runners would be local and go home, but partly why we chose it was because of that reason- it would not be as if they had to let thousands of people use the facilities Moan over. So we headed home, as we didn’t fancy walking around Oxford in sweaty running clothes.

Hooray for being home (still wearing my medal- kept it on the entire journey)! After a shower, we headed out to town, mainly to visit Starbucks as I had a free drink voucher. Another chai tea latte with pumpkin syrup- and a cinnamon roll to share. Not sure if that was the best post-run lunch, but tasted so good.

The medal is pretty cool- with a little mini on it, and some of the buildings of Oxford.

By the time I finished they had run out of small shirts (even though that is what I requested when I entered- it even said the size on the envelope) so I have a medium, which is a unisex medium- pretty big. But a nice technical t-shirt- will have to see if it is too big. Anyway, the goody bag was pretty good with a clif bar (eaten), energy gel (Andy saw someone having one on the finish line- not sure if they quite got the idea of them), Running Fitness mag, a bottle and a draw-string bag.

Anyway, after our drink and a walk around the shops, we came home to a big pot of tea and the Grand Prix. Man I was so tired!

I really enjoyed the race- I think the weather was perfect, and the route was lovely (the first bit on the dual carriageways was not great, but you can’t have it all), the crowd support was good, the marshals were so enthusiastic, and finishing in the stadium was pretty good too. Not quite on the scale of the stadium in Stockholm! The downfalls with the bad traffic, no showers and no small size t-shirts don’t take away from what was a really good experience.


Well done for reading all that- what a long post!

Did you have wonderful autumnal weather near you? What did I miss this weekend?

PS Some nice photos from the local newspaper here.

Christmas Ideas for Foodies (guest post)

Hey peeps

I have a little guest post for you all today:

(and sorry if you are avoiding Christmas until December- be warned that I make my Christmas cakes in October half term so it will be mentioned a lot!):

The holiday season is just around the corner already, and that means that it’s time to start preparing for everything from long held traditions to decorations and gifts. For people who really enjoy celebrating the Christmas season, preparation can involve a great deal of time, effort, and creativity. For example, even just thinking about the food involved with the holiday can keep you busy for quite a while! The Christmas season is a time to indulge in things you truly enjoy, and for many people that means taking advantage of all of the treats and wonderful foods associated with the holidays. So, whether you want to fix up some treats to give as gifts or simply make sure you have your home fully stocked with delicious foods, here are five Christmas ideas for foodies.

    1. Cakes – If you want to add a personal touch to a gift for a foodie, or if you simply enjoy making your own treats come Christmas time, small cakes are the way to go. Cakes are fairly simple and quick to make, and allow you a great deal of versatility, both in flavour and decoration. So again, whether you simply want to have some tasty treats on hand for after meals, or you want gifts to distribute to friends and neighbors, a selection of Christmas cakes will always be appreciated by everyone around you!


    1. Christmas Hampers – If you’d prefer to buy gifts or treats already prepared, there earnest many better options than Christmas hampers from Marks & Spencer. These may include anything from selections of meets and cheeses, to liqueurs, or even dessert treats. Whatever the case, these hampers come already prepared to be given as gifts or enjoyed in your own home over the course of the holiday. They can be lovely and convenient to have around.


    1. Wine Selections – When you consider your holiday food selection, it is important not to forget the drinks that will accompany your meals. Having the right wine to pair with a wonderful holiday dinner makes the food even more enjoyable, so it’s important to have a selection of different wines on hand to enjoy during the holidays. A nice bottle of wine also makes a wonderful gift to a friend or loved one who enjoys food and drink.


    1. Candy Fruits – Whether it’s dipping an apple on a stick in hot caramel, or covering strawberries in chocolate, these are some of the most decadent desserts that you can make in your own home. Everyone likes sweet treats during the holidays, but if you want something more unique than a tray of cookies or a traditional pie, having some candy apples or chocolate berries might add a great personal touch.


    1. Teas – Finally, if you are looking for a nice gift or something small to enhance your holiday time, a selection of teas can certainly do the trick. Particularly in the cold weather of Christmas, with wonderful treats, foods, and smells all around, a nice hot cup of flavoured tea in the morning can really help you to relax and enjoy the holiday. This is great as a gift or as something to have around the house.


So, what do you think? I love giving and receiving foodie gifts- of course I massively agree with tea being such a good gift! I do not like getting wine though, as I don’t drink it, so it often sits around for ages before I “re-gift” it to someone else! I love the idea of chocolate berries- might be something I have a go at this year.

I normally make Christmas cakes for mine and Andy’s parents, and I often do a little food hamper too. Last year I made some coconut spiced nuts and cranberries (which were wonderful), as well as chocolate coated gingerbread cookies, Christmas pudding fudge, and apple and mango jam (all the links to the recipes are on that post). We bought some nice coffee to go in there too as both sets of parents really like nice coffee.

I have also been loving the Great British Bake Off, and loved the gingerbread structures one- I think I might need to attempt something a bit more than a little house this year.

 What would you include in your perfect Christmas hamper? Any plans to make gifts this year (I love to hear ideas)? 

This post was written on behalf of Marks & Spencer, but I was allowed to edit it as I wished.