Fresh air!

I love fresh air. I think that is one of the reasons why I love running so much. I think I would struggle to run for 10 minutes on a treadmill, but I could run for hours outside.

Anyway, this weekend was filled with fresh air! Freezing cold fresh air. As the weather looked OK we booked a B&B in the Cotswolds, and headed up there on Friday afternoon. We stopped off somewhere (all the little towns have lovely names but I can’t remember them!) for tea and cake, and after leaving our things at the B&B we walled to a nearby pub (with a fire) for a cosy dinner.

On Saturday we headed to Charlecote Park (making the most of National Trust membership) where I found this gingerbread house! Well, it’s made of wood, but it looks just like one!

We spent the afternoon wandering around Stratford upon Avon, where we had tea and cake in The Real Tea Cafe (they use the cool loose leaf tea container things too) and then had a lovely (cold) walk by the river, and in the evening we went for another walk in another little town before dinner. It was so nice to be out and about so much, even though it was very chilly.

On Sunday we went to Oxford. I bought some new lunch tubs:

Owls are super cute!

Then we went to Giraffe for lunch and had a walk around, before heading back home for the afternoon. I was considering a run on Sunday evening, but it was so cold, and by then I just wanted to warm up. So I made some tiffin for work.

This was based on a Hummingbird fridge cake recipe 150g butter, 50g coconut oil, 50g golden syrup, 50g cocoa all melted in a pan. Then add in a packet of chocolate biscuits (left over from Christmas), some dried cherries, and some trail mix. I sprinkled it with coconut and a little more trail mix to make it look pretty.

I did have a run on Monday, but I missed aerobics on Tuesday as I have had a really sore shoulder. It is much better today, but the last few days it feels like I have pulled something, or strained a muscle or something, so I thought a day of rest would be better. I tried the Deep Freeze one day, but that didn’t seem to help, so for the last couple of days I have been using Deep Heat, which helps more, but also smells so much stronger!

I had a training course this afternoon, and walked back as it was close by (more fresh air)- I am just enjoying some lovely teapigs lemongrass tea before I head out on my Sweatshop run. It is lovely out there today- the sun came out this afternoon, and the air is crisp and cool, so a good night for running I feel.

Are you a fresh air fan?

Red Nose Day Cookies

Hey everyone, can you believe that February is nearly over? It seems to have flown by!

It is coming up to Comic Relief day, and I was asked by the people at Sainsbury’s to come up with a cookie design to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Red Nose Day. Well, I could not resist, as I love baking cookies.

The Sainsbury’s site has loads of recipes for bake sales (to raise money) but I adapted a recipe from an old book called “Cookies Galore”, as I wanted to make jam sandwich style cookies. Mine were peanut butter and jam sandwich cookies.

It will make around 8 large cookies, but of course it depends on the size of your cookie cutter.


125g butter/spread

50g caster sugar

1 egg

200g plain flour

6 tbs cornflour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla

Peanut butter and raspberry jam, to fill. Writing icing to decorate.

First up, preheat the oven to 180C, and line baking sheets.

Cream together the butter and sugar, then beat in the egg and vanilla. Sift in the flour, cornflour and baking powder, and mix gently to form a dough.

Roll it out gently, and then cut out the shapes. For each cookie you need a circle for the bottom, and then the same size circle for the top, with a hole cut out for the nose. I used a little cookie cutter for the centre, but you could use an apple corer for a smaller hole.

Place them on the baking sheet, and bake for around 15 mins, until the edges have started to brown. Then leave to cool.

To prepare, thinly spread the bottom with peanut butter, then cover with raspberry jam. Put the top on, and then use writing icing to draw on the eyes and mouth.

I think they look quite cute (and very home-made- some worked out better than others!)- they emphasise the red nose I suppose.

They also taste lovely- they reminded me of a cross between a shortbread and a scone, if you can imagine that? Plus the pb and j combination is always a winner in my book.

Are you doing anything for Comic Relief? Do you have a good cookie design?

Relaxing half term

Hey peeps, I hope you are all well and staying warm (how cold did it get yesterday???)

This week I have been on half term, and it has been fab as I have caught up with friends, spent time sorting things out at home etc. I have taken some random photos, so here goes:

Yes, I know I am about 2 months too late, but I made some chocolate peppermint bark! It was super easy, and so pretty too.

I melted 200g dark chocolate, stirred in 1 tsp peppermint extract, and spread it thinly on some baking paper. Then I melted a little white chocolate (80g I think), poured that over the top, and sprinkled on 2 crushed candy canes. I didn’t have to leave it too long to set (as it was so thin) and then I chopped it up with a sharp knife.

So pretty, and it went down rather well with my friends too.

I also made an orange and almond cake for a meet up (but there was some left over for me to enjoy another day).

Although it did not taste very orangey to me, compared to when I have made it before. Maybe the oranges were not as ripe or something?

I was sent some popcorn from Lord Poppington’s (fantastic name) to try- we shared the sweet and salty last night and it was lovely- soft popcorn, like you would get if you popped it yourself, and not covered in a crunchy tooth-destroying coating like a lot of the sweet ones are. I look forward to sampling the other flavours.

I have also been drinking lots of tea.

The Twinings everyday tea is a nice black tea, and not too strong (not a builders tea).

This morning I tried some of the black tea with echinacea (10%)- it had a rather fruity delicate fragrance, and I really liked the flavour. I can’t quite put my finger on what it reminds me of, but it is more gentle than a normal black tea. I don’t drink that much plain black tea any more- I love Earl Grey, or something with another flavour in there, and this tea was great because it was not too strong, and had a hint of something else. It is probably not something I would have chosen to buy had I seen it in the shops, so I am really glad I have tried it.

The tea went very well with some lovely pancakes (made with peanut and wholegrain spelt flour- my fave combination)- I needed these after my run this morning.

I have not done that much exercise this week (compared to other weeks off where I would be out walking more, and running further too), as I felt I needed to recover from the half marathon, but I have kept up most of my usual routine. I went to Body pump on Thursday, and kept the same weights, but that turned out to be a bad idea, as I struggled for some of it. I had been out for lunch so I did think I would be full of energy, but then afterwards I realised that for one, I missed last week due to being at work, and then the rule of thumb with running is one day recovery per mile run, so I won’t be back to normal for another week. My legs found the squats and lunges especially tough, but that is no surprise really. This morning I went on a 6 mile run- that will be my longest of the week, and actually it was OK. I quite like that distance as I can run that before breakfast, so I don’t have to wait around for ages (and then delay going out)- although after 5 miles I suddenly got awful hunger pangs and actually felt really sick.

I have also been using my new oven (hooray, we finally got around to having it installed after our old one packed up before Christmas) to make some Red Nose day cookies, but I think I shall save them for a separate post!

Have a lovely weekend! What will you be up to?

Alibi giveaway!

First up, thank you all so much for the lovely comments on my Brighton half recap post- I am still grinning when I think about it. If anyone is tempted by a half marathon then I would strongly recommend it. The run was pretty flat, and at least the slope/hill was at the start (and it wasn’t that steep), the scenery was lovely by the sea, the race starts at 9am (I prefer earlier rather than later as you don’t spend the whole day doing the race), and Brighton is a lovely place to visit for the weekend too.

Since then, my legs have been pretty sore. I put on a lot of the Deep Freeze cream, as that really does help, but they were still pretty stiff. I had a day of work (and lunch out) on Monday, and had that as a rest day. On Tuesday I went out for a gentle run before breakfast, and that really did help my legs, as they were much less stiff after.

Yesterday I went to have my hair cut, did some work at home, and then went to the Sweatshop run in the evening. I have no idea how far we ran because when I went to start my Garmin it told me to hold to save the previous run, but I just pressed start, and by the time I realised I was already running, and it was dark, so it added it on to the previous run, but I didn’t start it for around a mile I think. Anyway, I lost the front runners, but could see the middle runners ahead, and had the guy from the shop with a couple of newer people behind me. I thought I knew the route, but when I got back near the shop the guy from the shop (who I thought was behind me) ran towards me from the shop, and then all the other runners appeared from different directions! It was a bit confusing- I think no-one was 100% sure of the route so all the little groups went their own way! Ah well, it was still good. And the guy who ran with us told me how much faster I have been getting too (not the same guy as last time). It is nice to hear that, and now I have the half marathon time it sort of proves that I actually am speeding up. Hopefully that will continue!

Right, on to the giveaway! A while ago I sampled some Alibi, which is a sparkling drink fortified with vitamins and herbal extracts. I quite liked the flavours (pomegranate or lime)- they are pretty refreshing.

Anyway, one reader (UK based) can win a months supply of Alibi drinks, delivered to your doorstep. All you have to do is leave a comment saying why you would like to win them. The winner will be chosen at random, next weekend (2nd March). You can get an extra entry by liking my facebook page, and leaving a comment to say you have done that.

Good luck!

Guest post- Trying out Pilates and other exercise classes

Hey everyone, I have a guest post today all about Pilates:

What is Pilates?

The Pilates method evolved through the work of Joseph Pilates. Not only did the exercises greatly improve his own health, but they also helped those that he trained in the method. During the first world war, Pilates was found to be beneficial for soldiers recovering from their injuries. Since then, many have found the method to aid good health and posture and to help prevent injuries. Ballet dancers, athletes and those with back injuries are just some of those who have benefited from Pilates exercises.

Pilates consists of a series of movements that aid stretching and build core stability. The progression through the movements is fluid. The emphasis is on perfecting each movement and performing it correctly rather than on excessive repetitions of the same exercise.

The Basics

Pilates can be performed on the mat or using Pilates machines such as the Reformer. These days there are many dvds and some people decide to do the exercises themselves at home. However, many have found that attending classes gives them the structure to remain motivated. Since precision is essential in Pilates, the benefits of studying with a teacher cannot be overemphasised. For many the local gym is the perfect place to take part in Pilates classes. At La Fitness, Pilates is an essential part of the fitness programme on offer.

In a Pilates class the teacher will guide the participants through the exercises, ensuring that they are using their core strength. Through strengthening the abdominal muscles, students learn to perform the exercises safely while also strengthening and protecting their backs. Rather than focussing on isolated muscles groups, Pilates focuses on the body as a whole.

The Benefits

Pilates is often used in rehabilitation. The exercises can easily be modified to work around specific injuries and to aid recovery. However, it’s not only those that are injured that can benefit from Pilates. Athletic activities, such as running, tend to build up muscle. In order to keep the body flexible and supple, it’s a good idea to also engage in activities such as Pilates. Since many people with back problems have more muscle mass than flexibility, Pilates can play an important role in protecting the back.
Strengthening the abdominal muscles is also key to preventing and recovering from many back problems. The core stability of strong abs aids correct posture both during the Pilates exercises and in daily life. Poor posture and the stress of modern day living often pulls the body out of its natural alignment. Pilates can restore that balance bringing the body back into alignment again. Taking part in Pilates is also beneficial for the immune system. In fact, Pilates found that those who he trained in the method remained healthy during the 1918 Flu epidemic. Developing core strength is also useful when engaging in other exercises, be that at the gym, running, aerobics etc. Pilates is about lengthening muscles, helping to keep a toned and flexible body. It’s also helpful in developing and maintaining a good sense of balance. With its structured breathing, Pilates is both calming and energising. Engaging in regular Pilates classes can help to reduce stress. In keeping with its focus on the whole, Pilates works to improve both physical and emotional well-being.

Have you ever thought about trying out Pilates or another fitness class? I know some people who go to pilates classes regularly and find them brilliant, but the classes near me are always very expensive. I can see the benefits of training for core strength and flexibility, but it is something I push to the bottom of my priorities.

I do think that exercise classes are really beneficial- I know that when I go to body pump I carry on lifting heavier weights, whereas if I was at home doing the same moves I would give up very quickly indeed. And although I don’t make it to aerobics much any more (as the class now starts at an earlier time and it is hard to get there after work) I love the cheesy music and the different style of cardio that we do.

What is your favourite type of exercise?

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