Christmas Movies

My, the weather outside is frightful. And not in a Dean Martin snowy way either, just howling winds and torrential rain. Luckily (?) this week I have been very busy at work, and also conscious of not doing too much, so I have not really had time to miss running. Actually on Monday I didn’t get home too late, so did about 2.5 miles (and on Tuesday I went for a waffle with some friends). On Wednesday I had a physio appointment-I felt to bruised after, so when I got home I persuaded Andy to accompany me on a walk as I knew I would not be going to the Sweatshop run. Hopefully I can start that back in the new year.

Then I did some baking for work- ginger cake (recipe from British Bake Off book) and a honey loaf (from the Leon cookbook).

I made a lemon icing for the gingerbread, as I used the lemon zest in the honey loaf so the juice needed using up anyway.

On Thursday I had to stop by the shops on the way home as someone at work was leaving and I was in charge of getting her gifts. I was planning on having a short run, but I think I got home at about 7pm, and it started raining, and I was just so tired (and still had marking to do, and gifts to wrap for work) so just had a shower instead.

We have managed to watch a couple of movies this week- one night we watched Mary Poppins after seeing Saving Mr Banks last week (which I just thought was brilliant- it’s not a documentary though, just based on a true story, whereas a lot of critics seem to be annoyed that it is not completely true to life- it’s just a movie!!!!!), and then another evening we watched Home Alone. I am still trying to decide if I actually want this jumper or not.

On Friday after work I visited my Nan, and then my Mum and Dad- it was so relaxing to chat and catch up. Then I did my physio exercises and stretches at home in front of the TV.

This morning I was planning on having a run, but the weather again was awful, but according to the weather it would stop raining in the afternoon, so I postponed until later. I made some festive pancakes- with all the toppings: cinnamon apple, mince pie filling, a little chocolate pb, and some gingerbread syrup.

It’s so gloomy! I had both blinds open in our living room but still the flash went off. Means I can keep the Christmas tree lights on all day though …

After popping to the post office I went on a run- I went for about 3.6 miles- I was keeping it steady but when I looked at my Garmin I was below 10 min miles- I think the wind must have been behind me at that point! It was great to be out there- plus I was listening to marathon talk (from a couple of weeks back) and someone else scored a royal flush negative split! Love that the phrase is catching on 🙂 I was giggling as I was running at that point.

I have had a massive tidy up and clean today- so therapeutic as these last few weeks have been hectic. We have a Christmas music playlist so I was listening to that earlier while making some gingerbread dough- yup, I am going to make a gingerbread house over the weekend. Hooray, I love Christmas baking.

What would be on your Christmas music playlist? We have had some classics including Winter’s Tale, The Snowman soundtrack, and some others but right now Proper Crimbo (Bo Selecta) has popped up- eclectic to say the least!

What Christmas movies do you love? I also need to watch The Snowman, but I normally save that for Christmas Eve.

PS- Anyone else joining up for Jantastic? We still need 3 more team members for Run Blog Bake! We are friendly I promise, and I am especially keen to encourage people to start running (run/ walking).

Jantastic persuasion!

So, as you all know, I love listening to the running podcast, marathon talk. Even when I was not running for months, I still listened to it on my walks. I started listening to it when I was training for a half, and it planted the seed of a full marathon in my head. I have only run one marathon, but my plan is to get faster over shorter distances before trying it again, as the long slow runs just took so much time. Anyway, I digress. For the last few years they have organised a Spring motivation challenge. It really is just for fun (they do have prizes but anyone who takes part has a chance, not just people who get their targets). Basically you sign up (on their shiny new Jantastic website) and pledge how many runs you will do per week (you can see their rules but basically they have to be over a mile- run/walks count so anyone thinking of starting running then feel free to join in too). I am aiming for 4, which is really at my limit. I can achieve 3 per week no problem, but keeping 4 per week going is a challenge, so I am going to aim for it and see how I get on. You have to log your runs each week, and get a % score (so I will get 100% if I run 4 times) which carries on through the challenge.

Then in February you keep that challenge going, and add to it the distance of your longest run each week. Of course that could be a couple of miles, but if you are training for a longer race you might have a longer run each week. Then in March you have to predict your time for a distance of your choice. Last year I predicted a 27 min 5k, and managed 27.12. Only when I went to log it I realised I had actually predicted 27 hours. Yup. I was a long way out! You score less if you run faster or slower than your prediction, as the point is to be in tune with your fitness levels.

Anyway, it is all for fun, and I set up a team (the same as last year): Run, blog, bake! So if you fancy joining in, then please sign up. At the moment I can’t see team members, but apparently they are adding that option soon. Also last year we had a little facebook group going for motivation, so if you do join then add me as a friend and we can cheer each other along (or commiserate when we can’t run due to various reasons).

Along those lines, I ordered myself a treat which came this week!

A marathon talk hoodie!! Marathon talk used to sell their own hoodies, and it was going to be my post marathon treat. I felt like it was unlucky buying one before I had completed it (I really didn’t have a lot of confidence that I could do it), and when I had finished, they stopped selling them. Boo.

So I was so excited when they posted a picture on their facebook page. Woohoo! I may have run my only marathon over 2 years ago, but I still did it.

It is super soft- way too nice to wear when running.

Plus it has thumb holes. THUMB HOLES!

So cosy.

They had a discussion the other week about whether running a marathon has a time limit (in that if you ran one 20 years ago, could you still be a marathoner, although there are some speedy folks who would consider my time not a real time, even though I ran every step…)- anyway, I would not say I am a current marathon runner, because I am not training for one at the moment, but I am a marathoner because I completed one. And no matter what happens, I have that medal. What do you think?

Talking about running, I went to the physio again today. She was pleased to see that everything seemed to be OK, and she has given me some stretches (and some fat elastic band thing to do exercises with) as my pelvis is not moving properly which is why I am so stiff.

She has said I don’t need to go back to her, but I should have a sports massage. Uh-oh! I remember the pain clearly! What a new year’s “treat” that will be eh?

Let me know if you fancy joining in with Jantastic!

Baked apple with ginger

Last week I was sent a gorgeous hamper from Flora.proactiv.

It contained all the ingredients needed to make this lovely recipe; baked apples with ginger.

It also contained some Christmas treats.

A heart shaped baking dish and chopping board, a pestle and mortar set and a fab Christmas apron (which I have been wearing a lot!). I felt very lucky unpacking it all.

The recipe was very simple to follow, and smelled wonderful when the apples were cooking. I love baked apples but I have never added water while they are cooking- perhaps that is where I have been going wrong?

The dates and ginger were stuffed into the apple cores, then the Flora.proactiv, honey, ground ginger and orange zest was mixed up ready to be spread over the cooked apples.

I loved the combination of apples and ginger- very warming and wintery.  I love the way the apples pop up and burst out of their skins. The orange zest was a great addition too- I would not think to have apples and oranges together.

Are you a fan of baked apples? I always forget about them and then when I have them I love them. They are especially good with some custard.


Christmas shopping complete!

Hey peeps! I hope you have all had a lovely weekend.

On Friday after dinner at home (and after a frantic trip to Halfords as I realised on Friday morning that one of my headlights had gone) we drove down to Bath- the traffic is so much better at that time of day. We had the film podcast for company in the car.

Then on Saturday morning we were off to the Park and Ride (much nicer than trying to find a parking space/ navigate the town centre). The town centre was very busy, but not as busy as last year. We browsed for a bit, had some lunch (M&S salads) and then started on the shopping list. I didn’t have too many bits left to get, but I did have to look for some as I had not decided what to get.

Anyway, it ended up being very successful. We found a gorgeous toy for our friends baby, and I bought presents for friends, wrapping paper, and a blanket for us.

We have been looking for one for ages for our sofa- found this one, plus there was a 20% off voucher- excellent. We found a lovely looking cake shop but each time we walked past it was full (it did only have about 5 tables)- we tried a few places but nowhere had seats so in the end we headed to Starbucks to share a chai latte. That fuelled a trip around the markets- again they were busy but not as bad as last year (last year there was a one way system being strictly enforced and you could not even get close to the stalls it was so jam packed). I saw a few lovely items but the plan was to go back after dinner so we didn’t have to carry too much around with us in the day. Later on we stopped for tea again, and Andy had a delicious mincemeat shortbread slice (he let me have some) and I had a couple of satsumas that had been in my bag. When we got back outside it had started raining which was not so good, although at least it was dry for most of the day. Then we picked up the last few bits from the shops before going for dinner. We came across a Bill’s in the afternoon, so booked a spot for dinner- it was just what we both fancied.

I went for two starters; butternut squash soup with rosemary bread, and a small salad (you could get a bigger size) with halloumi, quinoa, tomatoes, spinach and avocado. The soup was enormous and so delicious-that would have been plenty! The salad was good too (although I find halloumi so salty)- they were very generous with the avocado.

Then we went for a wander around the markets. I picked up a couple of things, including these lovely scented decorations.

They smell so good- a mixture of cloves and oranges and Christmas spices.

Then we got the park and ride and drove back home- it was awful weather by that time.

This morning I woke up early so headed out for a run while it was sunny. I went across the fields (they were super muddy!) which meant I had to take it slow. The route is just under 4.5 miles, and I felt good, and made sure I stretched a lot when I got home!

As I mentioned the other day, I have not had pancakes in ages, so I made some of the lovely Buckwheat pancakes and had it with some meridian mince pie filling, and a little gingerbread syrup.

There were a few bits I didn’t manage to get yesterday, plus we needed something for dinner, so I braved the shops (again, they weren’t as busy as I feared and I found a parking space right away) and was so pleased when I ticked the last few things off the list.

Then I made some Christmas pudding fudge– this will be gifts for people with various dietary requirements so I used a gluten and nut free Christmas pudding. Smells good.

Then, finally, we decorated our tree! On Thursday after work I bought the tree, and put it up at about 11pm or something stupid, so it has been bare for a few days.

It looks so pretty. I have no idea how to photograph it well, as the flash means the lights don’t show up. But I am feeling very very festive now.

This evening my plan is to write our Christmas cards as I am sure we are getting towards the last posting date, and maybe decorate a Christmas cake.

Am I the last person to put up their decorations? Have you found the shops emptier this year?

Winter Cooking

Hi folks,

Work has been manic this week (end of term craziness)- I have spent all evening working (it’s gone 10pm) and I still have more to go. Luckily I have a guest post lined up! Enjoy:

Winter cooking: Tasty food and a toasty kitchen

The offer of a home-cooked meal simmering on the stove at the end of a long day, these are the things we remember. Now that winter is here, what better time to try some healthy new recipes and warm the house at the same time?


For many of us, a drop in temperature stimulates the appetite.  Winter activities, whether it’s skating, shovelling the drive, or just standing at the train station shivering in the cold, uses energy that needs to be replaced if we are to remain healthy.

Preparing food with an eye toward nutrition, particularly during the winter months, is crucial.  Ensuring that you and your family stay healthy has lots of benefits, beyond keeping your energy up as the temperature drops. It can teach kids valuable habits to keep them eating right as they grow up, prevent health conditions developing later in life and even reduce the cost of life insurance quotes.

Setting aside the season’s ever-present cookies, fudges, and cakes, the following recipes are offered in the spirit of hearty flavours and vitamin-laden vegetables.  Be warned:  these dinner suggestions are delicious.

Temporarily vegan:  Thai curry vegetables

Don’t let the fact that there’s no meat in this offering fool you (sounds good to me!!).  The creaminess of the coconut milk, combined with the gentle spice of the curry sauce, creates a flavourful, ’cold-weather’ comfort food.  At a sweetly simmered 12 minutes, the vegetables are tender, not soft. The flavour of the vegetables blends slightly, but the integrity and the identity of the eggplant and the sweet red pepper are left intact.

Yield: 4 servings
Time: 1 hour



One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk (do not shake can)

1/2 cup vegetable stock

4 teaspoons soy sauce

4 teaspoons palm sugar or brown sugar

6 tablespoons Thai green curry paste, like Tesco brand or Thai Taste, neither of which have shrimp or fish paste

1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) onion

2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) red bell pepper

2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) zucchini or other summer squash

2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) peeled sweet potato

2/3 cup sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained

1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths

2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) Asian eggplant

1 lime

8 large basil leaves, cut into thin long strips



Open the can of coconut milk without shaking it. Spoon six tablespoons of the coconut cream from the top of the can into a medium saucepan. Pour remaining contents of can into a medium bowl and mix well.


In a separate medium bowl, combine vegetable stock, soy sauce, and palm or brown sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.


Place saucepan of coconut cream over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble. Add curry paste and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until very fragrant, about 3 minutes; adjust heat as needed to prevent burning.


Add onion, red pepper, zucchini, sweet potato, bamboo shoots, green beans, and eggplant. Stir until vegetables are hot, 2-3 minutes.


Stir in coconut milk, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.


Add the soy sauce mixture and a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice to taste; you may use the juice of an entire lime. Stir and mix well.


Add up to 1/4 cup water if the curry seems too thick.


To serve, place the curry in a warm serving bowl and garnish with the basil. If desired, serve over rice, couscous or quinoa.


Slow-Cooked Tofu with Savoury Root Vegetables


This recipe includes parsnips.  Nutritionally, parsnips are low in calories, about 130 for a whole one 9″ in length, and contain no saturated fat or cholesterol. That same 9″ parsnip can boast 6.4 grams of fibre, 93.1 mg of folic acid (essential in pregnancy), 59.2 mg of calcium, 46.4 mg of potassium, and lesser amounts of vitamins B1, B2, B3, vitamin C, iron, and zinc.  Eat a parsnip, fight a cold!


Yield:  4 servings

Time: 15 minutes to prepare



1 block of tofu- drained and pressed

2 cups vegetable stock

1 large onion

2 large Russet potatoes

2 large parsnips

2 small or 1 large celery root

2 tsp mustard powder

1 tbsp plus 1 tsp Herbs de Provence

Olive oil

Salt and pepper


In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Drain and press the tofu, then rub with a good helping of salt and pepper.  Sear the tofu in the hot oil for at least three minutes.


Roughly dice all the vegetables, peeling the parsnips, onion, and celery root first.  You can peel the potatoes if you like, but you might try leaving the skins on to enjoy their texture and flavour.


Toss the diced vegetables into a slow cooker and lay the tofu over the top (or you may want to add this at the end so it stays firm).


Pour in the vegetable stock, cover, and set to your desired temperature:  ‘high’ if you will be gone all day (7 to 8 hours) or ’low’ if you’re running errands (3 to 4 hours).


Braised Quorn Gumbo


With the fresh tomatoes, protein from the Quorn and low fat content, this meal is flavourful and filling.


Yield:  4 servings

Time:  30 minutes



1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium red or green bell pepper, diced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 quorn chicken style pieces

2 cups diced tomatoes

2 cups reduced-sodium vegetable broth

1 cup sliced okra, fresh or frozen

3/4 cup instant brown rice

1/8-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add bell pepper and flour and cook, stirring, until the pepper begins to soften and the flour is golden brown, about 2 minutes.


Add Quorn, sauce, broth, okra, rice and cayenne. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the flavours meld and the okra is tender, about 10 minutes.

I totally agree that at this time of year having something lovely and warming in the kitchen warms up the whole house. I don’t have a slow cooker, but I do love slow cooked things like chilli (Andy makes a delicious sweet potato chilli), chickpea stew or even just soups. I also think meals like that are so easy to stuff with veggies, so you give yourself a big vitamin boost as well. What are you favourite winter warmers?

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