A grown up Easter

Hey peeps

I hope you are all well, and enjoying the Bank Holiday weekend- 4 days of bliss!

Sainsbury’s kindly sent me some Easter goodies to give me some ideas for a grown-up Easter weekend.

Those little Easter egglets didn’t last long- I loved the dark praline ones and Andy loved the white chocolate ones.  He also enjoyed the wine- it would be perfect for taking on a picnic as it is only a little bottle.

The carrot cake was delicious (not a great photo as it was on its side in the box!)- I love carrot cake and this did not disappoint. I loved the chunks of nuts on top of the icing.

The gluten free hot cross buns were delicious- I have had some gluten free bread before which has ended up with more of a cake like texture, but this was really good and I am not sure I would be able to tell the difference.

I also enjoyed the Taste the Difference hot cross buns, with golden raisins and cranberries. I love hot cross buns with toppings- so again one was with coconut butter and (home-made) blackcurrant jam, and the other with lemon curd.

They are great for breakfast or to go alongside a cup of tea.

I also have a few Easter treats- I was given this cute rabbit (I have already eaten the little carrots), and I bought for us to share these gorgeous peanut butter filled eggs by Montezuma’s. They are amazing, and almost too good to share!

If I was to have a little Easter picnic meal, I think I would have something simple and savoury to start like avocado on toast.

(Proof that I don’t just eat sweet things!)

This was avocado on seeded bread, with some tomatoes and a little fresh basil.

Or maybe some hummus- I made this using the recipe in my new Oh She Glows cookbook, and added in a little pesto. Very tasty.  Or a combination with hummus and avocado (matching my delicious waffle from last week)- yummy. Then it would be on to the chocolate- I have been saving the Easter egg for this!

If you have hot cross buns left, then I recommend making bread and butter pudding with them- we used to have a recipe card where you spread them with marmalade, cover with custard (you can make your own, or buy it fresh) and then bake. Very good indeed.

 What are you up to this Bank Holiday weekend?

Veggie restaurant in Sorrento

Ages ago we visited Sorrento in Italy! I might at some point post some photos (when Andy sends them to me) but in the mean time here is my Italian inspired post.

Eating vegetarian food in Italy is not too difficult as there is always pizza and pasta on offer, however they have no idea of vegetarian cheese, and seem to love parmesan on everything, so I do like to try to find cheese free food when I can. Luckily we found a lovely organic veggie and vegan cafe in Sorrento called the Mondo Bio Cafe. It is on the side of a little health food store, and was only open until 8pm so one night we got there too late, but we did eat there twice. The menu was fab, with veggie and vegan options, as well as other dietary options such as gluten free- they offered spelt, kamut and some other sort of pasta for all their dishes. I had the most amazing gnocchi with tomato sauce and Andy had a lovely basil pesto dish, and then I think the second time I had some sort of baked tofu with tomato sauce (I think Andy had the pesto pasta again as he loves that).

If you fancy checking it out, there are some Trip Advisor reviews here.

Anyway, at Christmas I was given an Italian cook book, and recently have been attempting some of the recipes.

I have always wanted to try biscotti. This means twice baked- (and where the word biscuit comes from)- bake it once, then slice it and bake again to make it crispy.

They turned out really well- I used macadamias and almonds as the nuts (was meant to be pistachio) and they were especially good with a little nutella (also Italian!).

But the main dish I fancied trying was a gnocchi dish.

The recipe did call for ready made, so I am not cheating! The only passata available was this Pizza Express stuff, which turned out to have salt added, but it turned out so well.

Basically, chop an red onion and cook in a little olive oil, then add the passatta and simmer for 10 minutes, adding basil leaves at the end. Then cook the gnocchi.

Smelled so good already!

Then put it all in a baking dish with some mozzarella, and bake for 10 minutes.

It was delicious- we topped ours with more fresh basil as we bought a pack (I never have much success with keeping those little pots alive)! We had it with a salad, although the suggestion was some crusty bread.

Yum. I had never even had gnocchi before that trip to Italy, and am really glad I tried it. I am not the greatest potato fan, but the rich tomato sauce was just delicious and went really well with them.

What is your favourite Italian food?

Favourite holiday food find?

Perfect hair products

I don’t often post about beauty buys, but I feel I have to share this with you guys because this one product in particular has actually revolutionised my hair.

I have very thick hair- I know a lot of people say this but I do think mine is crazily thick. I always have to have 2 people drying it when I go to get it cut. I would love to be able to plait my hair, but even if I have 2 plaits they are too fat to properly hold together. So of course these products that I love may not suit your hair.

First up, I love “I love juicy” shampoo by Lush. Smells like a fruity smoothie, gets rid of grease and sweat, and leaves hair shiny and soft.

I am a bit fickle with conditioners- at the moment I am using a Bath and Bodyworks one I picked up in the US last Easter (yes I hoard things like this too) but I love the Organix coconut one. I have never found a Lush conditioner that properly conditions by the way, and I have tried a fair few.

This is what has revolutionised my hair. I tend to wash my hair quite often, and I do like to use hair straighteners as otherwise I look rather 80’s. Plus I get kinks from ponytails. I have tried serums before but they leave me with greasy hair and having to wash it even more often, which just wastes my time. Catherine over at Running In My Wellies raved about this coconut serum before (again by Organix), and when I saw it on offer I had to try it. First up, it smells like coconuts. Surprise. But mainly it actually makes my hair better. I use it like this: I get out the shower, and put my hair in a towel. Then after washing my face (to give you an idea of the time) I put a blob of this in my hair, work it through a bit and then put my hair back in the towel. Then I get dressed, clean the shower, and then take my hair out the towel and tie it up with all sorts of bands and clips. Then later on I blow dry my hair. If I straighten it, I tend to do that the next morning so my hair is properly dry as a hair-dryer will never get it 100% (well it would, but I can’t be bothered to dry it for that long).

The serum, instead of making my hair greasy, seems to actually repel dirt and grease. I am not joking!

I have been trying to wash my hair less, as I was washing it every other day at least. But recently I have been using dry shampoo after some workouts. I always use this after body pump now, because I get back so late that I can’t be bothered to wash it. Sounds bad I know, but I am sure washing less is better for your hair. It is better for my stress levels!

One week I think I washed my hair on Saturday morning after a parkrun, and didn’t wash it again until the Wednesday night- on Tuesday I had a run but just used dry shampoo. I really should have written it down, but I am sure one week I only washed my hair twice. I also find that using the serum means I use less dry shampoo. My hair does get greasy at the roots, so one day I would wash my hair and in the morning it would be fine, but the next morning I would need to use dry shampoo. Now, I can leave it another day without using the dry shampoo. I was only partly joking about stress levels too- one day I had a big pile of marking, left work late and wanted to have a run. As I was driving home I just decided that I would not wash my hair- this means a quicker shower but also means I don’t have to spend ages drying it at night, and straightening it in the morning- less stress right there.

Can you tell how much I love this?

What hair products do you love? How often do you wash your hair?

Tea follows running in the rain

(And iced tea follows gardening)

Recently we have been enjoying a pot of loose leaf tea on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

On our trip to Nice I bought some gorgeous teas from the Christmas market, including this chocolate orange tea, which contains huge flakes (pieces?) of dried orange.

Although I love “normal” tea, there is something lovely about the ritual of brewing tea in a teapot and taking time to enjoy the drink.

It is even better if I have been out on a run, either in the freezing cold, or more commonly this winter, the pouring rain.

I was sent this rather bright and fabulous running rain jacket from Mountain Warehouse to help me stay dry in the rain.

Since I have had it, it hasn’t rained so I have not tried it out, although we are heading off to the Lake District later so I am going to try it out on some walks up there.

I love the bright pink colour- it will be great for dark evenings too.

They have plenty of waterproof jackets to choose from, and if you are unsure what you can look to find out how to choose a waterproof jacket with their expert guide.

I was considering some waterproof trousers too, so on Sunday afternoon (after watching the London marathon) I walked up to the shops to have a look. I tried on pairs in 3 different shops but they didn’t seem very comfy for walking in, so I am going to take my running trousers instead.

Yesterday I did my longer run of just over 8 miles- I was going to do a shorter loop but forgot and went the longer way automatically. It was good to be out there and although I was chilly at the start I warmed up pretty soon- no need for a jacket!

After some work at home and helping my Dad load up his car for the tip (he has a bigger car so offered to take all our garage junk for us) I headed to the allotment for a couple of hours of weeding. Oh my word there were dandelions everywhere!!! I was so tired by the time I got home, and hot and thirsty too, so instead of hot tea made myself an iced chai.

I used a chai teabag, and then topped with milk and ice.

So refreshing!

This morning I had another short run (3.5 miles)- I saw some rabbits! I had to pop to work, and then to the shops, and now need to finish packing for our trip.

Do you have any favoured post run rituals? Really I should focus on stretching more, but normally I want to wash the salt off my face and then have a drink.

Any Lake District recommendations?

The jacket was sent to me by Mountain Warehouse.

Go Mo! And down to the BBC.

Warning: This post contains some moans.

Marathon viewing breakfast of apple, muesli and granola. Seriously some of the chunks of granola were bigger than the apple chunks!

So on Sunday morning I was up (not that early!) watching the London marathon. The elite races were on the red button which got a bit annoying after a while as the feed kept on cutting out (although that could have been from the motorcycle/ car cameras), but that did not take away from the excitement. I am glad I did that because it seems that the BBC mainly showed Mo so that the front runners of the men’s race didn’t get much coverage.

It was almost ironic that the commentators were just talking about how Mo had been practising taking bottles from the wing mirrors of cars (as last year when he ran the first half he messed up his drinks station stops a few times) and then what happens? Poor Dibaba (also making her marathon début) messed up her water stop- I am not sure why she didn’t carry on instead of stopping to pick up her bottle, but anyway, it shows how important these little things are.

Then of course there was the men’s race. I think anyone who thought Mo would win was either deluded (hoping for some sort of miracle) or just mis-informed. The field was immense- the marathon world record holder, the world and Olympic marathon champion, the reigning London marathon champion and the course record holder to mention a few! If you are interested in a breakdown of the competitors, then this article explains it really well.

Mo set his sights high on breaking the British record of 2:07:13, which he was close to, finishing in 2:08:21. He also finished 2 seconds behind London course record holder Emmanuel Mutai and 3 seconds behind Geoffrey Mutai (who amongst his achievements won Boston in 2011 in 2:03:02)- I think anyone would be pleased with that on their marathon début! Mo is now 4th on the all time list of British marathon times (and the top 3 are all held by Steve Jones)- seriously, nothing wrong with that!!! He was a bit behind the main pack, but towards the end caught up some stragglers (can you call them that if they finish the race sub 2.10??) and even overtook one or two (I think he was 10th at one point and finished 8th, but I am not sure if there was one pacemaker left at that point).

First up, I want to rave about Mo’s attitude. He took on a challenge. Yes, he could have chosen a début marathon with a quieter field, had pace makers going to his exact request, and possibly won. But he wanted to run in London, his home town, and good for him. He also sets such high goals for himself- of course he has Olympic gold medals but running 5000m/ 10,000m on the track is a different discipline to a road marathon, and it takes time to adapt. He came out before the race saying he wanted to break the British record (and he now holds the English record) and was disappointed when he did not break it, but it is that attitude of aiming so high that shows why he is such a great competitor. No doubt he will learn from this experience and come back stronger for his next marathon. He is not finished with the marathon.

What I will rant about is the BBC commentary, and specifically Brendan Foster. I am not sure if they had begun to believe their own hype, but they were so negative towards him. I can’t believe that after one performance (where he didn’t blow to pieces or DNF or anything like that) they had the gall to suggest he should stick to the track!!! Seriously! I mean perhaps for the Olympics that is where he is strongest- he still has the speed in his legs for that. But to suggest that after one attempt he should give up is just ridiculous and laughable and idiotic, and many more things. As a nation we are getting more sedentary and more overweight, and Mo is such a great role model for children to look up to. I just think it is such a bad attitude for the BBC to put across- try once and then give up? Whatever happened to “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again”? Grrrr.

Tony Audenshaw (famed for Tony’s Trials on Marathon talk) was interviewed after running the marathon and was just brilliant- his enthusiasm is what the sport should be about- he was encouraging kids to start training to beat the British marathon record- that is what we need!

I also loved Michael Owen’s post marathon interview- he had to sit down because his legs were so knackered, but he was so positive about the running community- he was saying that in football you get a lot of negative attention at matches and on twitter etc, but while he was running everyone was giving encouragement, everyone was friendly- he wanted to hug everyone he met on the way around. That is what running is about, and that is why the running community is so great, and that is why we should be encouraging children to take up running. Kids- ignore the idiots on the BBC- running is great, and if on your first run you don’t win, don’t give up!! Get to a local parkrun and see what the running love is all about.

Also another positive is that we are starting to have some other British runners coming through-Chris Thompson gave a hilarious post run interview where they showed him his final steps on the monitor- he was staggering about a bit and looked like he had no idea what was going on- he had given that race every last drop. (Think he finished at around 2:17). He was laughing at himself!

Finally, if you have ever run a marathon then you will appreciate this little video made by Tony to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma research (if you watch it then you can text or donate on the webpage)- it had me giggling away.

Not too much complaining I hope! What did you think of Mo’s performance? Or the BBC’s coverage?