A perfect autumnal day

This morning it was raining. Then it was drizzling, and the skies were grey. Not a hint of sunshine anywhere. But, it was such a great day.

After breakfast (delicious pumpkin porridge) I walked up to the allotment, and spent a good hour digging, weeding and chopping down plants. I even picked some sweetcorn that we have grown!

Once I was home, it was time to warm up and dry off a bit.

Then onto one of my favourite autumn tasks- making Christmas cakes! I make one for us, but also for our parents, so I had to cook them in two batches.

While they were baking (they take 2 hours) I got on with some housework, some work, and general pottering about.

I also made some orange and lemon/ passionfruit fairy cakes for work- more on that another day!

I have booked on to pump later, and before that I am planning on walking up to Sweatshop to get some new trainers, but that depends on when I take the final lot of Christmas cakes out of the oven.

What are you favourite drizzly day activities? Baking has to be up there for me, but I also love going out in it, because then coming home to a warm cup of tea just seems even better.

Melting chocolate

I love any recipe where I have to melt chocolate. There is a fantastic cookie recipe in the Hummingbird book where you melt dark chocolate and then stir in the rest of the ingredients, and I love making caramel shortcake as just melting the chocolate for the topping is so satisfying.

I was recently sent some goodies from Thorntons to use in my baking:

Some milk chocolate buttons (ideal for melting as they had extra cocoa butter in them), 85% dark chocolate, milk chocolate with orange and cardamom, and some chocolate marzipan (although I have just been eating this and not using it in anything!).

I used the milk chocolate buttons to make these caramel shortbreads. The chocolate melted so well- I think small buttons melt easier than big chunks anyway, but it did go really smooth.

Earlier in the week I made some fudge (as a thank you to the people who helped me raise money for The British Heart Foundation). I went for my peanut butter fudge recipe, with some almond extract, swapped dark chocolate chunks for the white chocolate, and topped with a few cocoa nibs for extra crunch.

The dark chocolate was quite bitter (in a good way), so it went with the sweet fudge really well. I have not used the orange and cardamom chocolate yet, but I can imagine that the flavours so well together, so maybe some sort of spiced orange loaf cake? I was impressed with the range of chocolates from Thorntons, I have not looked at their chocolate for ages, but they have some more unusual flavours now (they do one with salted pistachios, and dark chocolate with salted macadamias which I think sounds amazing) . You can see the dark chocolate available from Thorntons here.

What is your favourite chocolate recipe?

* In conjunction with Thorntons.

Guest Post- mixing vegetarianism with triathlons

Hi peeps,

Today I have a guest post for you all:

Vegetarianism and triathlons – a good combination?

Many people think that in order to be a successful sportsperson, you will have to be an ultimate carnivore, dining on meat whenever possible. However, as Martina Navratilova, Carl Lewis and British Olympic medallist Lizzie Armitstead prove, vegetarians have their place in the world of sport.

A triathlon is an incredible test of your endurance and an event that will push your body further than ever before. As a result, fuelling your body has never been more important and failing to do so correctly could seriously affect your performance.

Here’s everything you veggies need to know about triathlon nutrition:

Replace what is lost without meat

Meat provides a lot of the vital nutrients that our bodies need to function correctly. Once meat has been excluded from our diet, we need to find a substitute to keep us fit and healthy.

As you’re probably aware, meat is a great source of protein, which is vital for tissue repair, red blood cell development and keeping bones healthy. However, there are other ways of getting protein into our body without eating meat: milk, tofu, cheese, peanut butter – there is a wealth of options that can work.

Iron is also found in meat and is used to help transport oxygen around the body, reinforce the immune system and convert blood sugar into energy. As you will agree, keeping your iron levels correct will be key to the success of your triathlon. You can do this by eating foods like leafy green vegetables, wholegrain cereals, figs and lentils.

Focus on complex carbohydrates

You will need enough energy to see you through the test of your triathlon. Around 60 per cent of your triathlon nutrition should be made up of complex carbohydrates, as these take longer to be broken down by the body, and hence provide a slow release of energy. Complex carbohydrates include rice, pasta, bread and potatoes.

There’s no difference

If you carry out your vegetarian diet plan successfully, there is no reason why you can’t perform just as well as – or maybe even better than – non-vegetarians during the triathlon.

Once you have sorted yourself out internally, you’ll need to kit yourself out externally to optimise your performance. Invest in a pair of running shoes made from a breathable material with a thick, spongy sole. These will keep your feet comfortable and dry.

It’s also worth investing in some specially designed triathlon clothing. Have a look at the range at Activinstinct – their collection of compression clothing could help prevent muscle strain, keeping you safe during the triathlon. They also sell a range of triathlon wetsuits, which you will need for the swimming stage.

You can find out more information about a successful vegetarian diet plan here.

I was listening to the marathon talk podcast the other week, as Tom Williams (one of the presenters) was in Hawaii reporting on the Kona Ironman. A triathlon has never appealed to me as I am such a poor swimmer, but I can see how the cross training would benefit running, and completing something like an iron man must be such an amazing achievement. It is also interesting to see that more people are opting for vegetarian or vegan diets. A quick google search directed me to an article about Thad Beaty, who turned vegan, lost 70lbs and then completed Ironman Arizona to raise money for charity. Of course there are other famous vegan athletes like Brendan Brazier and Scott Jurek (I loved his recent book Eat and Run) – while I am not saying these diets are for everyone, I think it is great that there are people proving that you do not have to have the typical raw egg protein shake diets to build muscle and achieve at endurance sports.

Would you ever consider a triathlon (or have you completed one already?)?

How has your diet changed as you have got older?

Veggies/ Vegans- are there particular athletes you look up to?

*Contains sponsored links

Blustery day

I love the word blustery, first of all. I think it conveys what autumnal weather can be like, and also reminds me of Winnie The Pooh stories from when I was little. And boy have we had some blustery days recently!

On Sunday I woke up early, (just after 8am)- I was quite pleased with that time but then I realised that the clocks had gone back so it was just past 7am. The weather was windy but sunny, so I decided to head out for a 10K, as I was expecting torrential rain and gales later. The run was great, although it was tough because of the wind. I decided on an out and back (and very specifically out for 3.1 miles) as then I got to repeat my favourite parts of the run. The wind was behind me on the way out, which meant the hill coming home was even tougher than usual with the wind trying to push me back down.

I was home before 9am, so I had a delicious Rude Health pumpkin bar, had a shower and then got back into bed to read. It was bliss.

Later on I had some porridge- I treated myself to some Dorset cereals Gingerbread porridge (I have made my own using molasses and spices, but this is a treat) topped with some apple (my final garden apple) cooked in coconut oil and sugar. So comforting and warming.

I spent some of Sunday afternoon baking in the kitchen (more on that later this week) before we went for dinner at Andy’s parents. We were considering the cinema late on Sunday night but the cold windy weather put us off- we came home and had the heating on instead!

On Monday I woke up super early due to all the wind. Thankfully we have only had a tiny bit of damage (a fence fallen down, although it is down to our neighbours to fix/ replace it). I had planned a rest day, so pottered about before walking to the post office.

Photo: A bit of damage around from the wind

There was a bit of damage to see on the way.

Photo: Big tree broken

A few telegraph wires had been pulled down too.

At least the weather stayed good for my walk (it is just over a mile away)- it poured with rain just after I was back home!

Then I did some baking- I was going to a friends house for afternoon tea and I had offered to make macaroons- they seemed afternoon-tea-like. I made up one batch, then divided it in half. I added yellow colouring and lemon extract to half, and green colouring and mint extract to the other half. For some reason the yellow ones came so easily off the paper, but the mint ones stuck. I sandwiched the lemon ones with lemon curd, and the mint once with dark chocolate spread. I think I should have used more green colouring too, as once they were cooked they lost the colour quite a bit.

I was quite pleased with how they turned out anyway, and I liked these more than when I tried them before- they seemed to have a better chewy texture and a nicer flavour.

This morning the sun was again shining so for my run I headed to the fields, as now it is dark in the evenings so it is not an option then. It was wonderful, but hard work as it was muddy and the grass was slippery. Maybe I need to look into some trail shoes? Would they be OK for the pavement sections too I wonder? Although I need new normal ones too (maybe that will be done on Thursday).

I had a lot of work to do so tried to get on and power through, and included a lovely tea break, using some of the Marie Antoinette tea I bought at the Cake and Bake show- it looked so pretty. It is black tea with roses, other petals, vanilla and cardamom (and some other bits I think).

Also, I am very excited because I got an email from Popchips this week saying that they are going to bring the sweet potato flavour to the UK! No time line yet, but that makes me happy!

Runners- do you have separate shoes for road and trail? 

How did you spend the blustery weekend?


So recently I have been thinking a lot about snacking. I used to always pack a mid-morning snack to have at work, because if I didn’t have anything then I would find I would be so hungry at lunch, and get tempted by staffroom biscuits before eating my lunch.

But then I would have a snack after work, and then maybe one later on after dinner too (which was getting expensive but also I felt it was a bit too much for me), and so recently I have been having a slightly bigger breakfast. This has linked with a change at work where I have been finding that I don’t have time at break time to have anything to eat, so the bigger breakfast has really helped to get me through to lunch.

I signed up to the Super Conscious Living Programme (by Laura) last month, and started to notice some interesting patterns. Although for the last two weeks work got so manic I didn’t fill in the diary, so I am going to start with that again tomorrow for the next two weeks and see how I get on.

I have noticed that with a bigger breakfast I am not often hungry at break time, but I am hungry by lunch time (which is good!). I have noticed that I tend to prioritise work and promise myself a break “in a minute” which often never materialises. For example once the kids have gone home I will say to myself “you can make some tea once you have marked those books and replied to those emails” and then I get distracted with other things that need doing, and before I realise it is 5pm and I still have not even stopped to go to the bathroom. In turn this would make me feel stressed- especially on days when I have something to get to in the evening- on a Wednesday for example I like to have a snack before going running with Sweatshop, so suddenly I would be stuffing down my food to make sure it had time to go down.

At the end of the day I started going to the staffroom and making a tea (Pukka Three Cinnamon is gorgeous, as is their Earl Grey if I feel I need a caffeine fix) to take back to my classroom, and have alongside a snack. This in turn helped me feel less stressed, and most probably made me more productive in my work. This is something I need to make sure I continue as in these last two weeks the stress levels have gone up again as the time for these little breaks has gone.

While I was thinking about all of this, I was sent an email from Popchips all about snacking. I tend to have Popchips as a weekend snack (love the salt and vinegar ones) as I think I like something salty like that after a longer run. I thought the research contained some interesting bits and bobs:

Excitingly, popchips has recently revealed that we are a nation of ‘snackered’ workers(knackered + in need of food = snackered), meaning that the average worker is reaching for the snack cupboard at least twice a day to keep them going. ‘Snackered’ workers are tucking into a pick-me-up at 11.30am – and again by 3pm, and over three quarters of Brits agree a snack helps to boost energy levels!

Some other interesting stats from the study include:

–          One in ten sneaky employees admitted that when previously experiencing an energy slump they have faked an illness so they can go home early.

–          Fifty five per cent of Brits agreed that eating smelly food is the number one bad habit closely followed by noisy eaters (40 per cent).

–          Six per cent choose to hide and snack privately in the bathroom or toilet.

I must say I agree with the smelly food thing, but I can’t imagine anyone at work going home early because they are just tired! And I can’t think of anything worse than eating food in the staff toilets! I think if I worked in an office it would be different, but the nature of working in a school means set break times anyway so even if I was starving at 11.30am I would not be able to eat anything.

How often do you typically snack in a day? Do you snack differently at work to the weekends? What are your favourite snack foods? I tend to favour cereal bars for work because they will survive in my bag in a warm classroom, and won’t go bad if I don’t choose to eat it that day.

PS This week I ordered some Clif bars from wiggle as they were on offer- £10 for a box of 12 is the cheapest I have seen them anywhere.

*Popchips have offered to send me some popchips in exchange for posting the research, but all the opinions are my own. Also, I asked if they knew when the Sweet Potato popchips were coming to the UK but sadly they didn’t know.