Quebec City

My final holiday recap has been a long time coming!

After our time in Acadia National Park, we drove up into Canada, to Quebec city. We didn’t have the best start, as the drive was long (several hundred miles) and we were stuck at the border for a bit, and then in traffic to cross the bridge for a few hours. Then we got lost trying to find the car park, and then once we had found it we could not find out hotel and ended up dragging our cases up and down the streets for close to two hours. We were so exhausted by the time we checked in (it was around 9pm and we had left our hotel at about 10 in the morning) we went to Starbucks for a panini and hot drink before crashing out in the hotel.

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This gorgeous hotel dominates the skyline of the old town (no, not ours, although we could see it from our hotel).

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One our first full day we got our bearings (realised then how close we actually were to the car park- about ten minutes!!) and had a lovely walk around the old town.

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It was a beautiful day so it was great to walk around.

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You could walk along a lot of the wall too.

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I got a little obsessed with David’s Tea. They have shelves of loose leaf tea in canisters which you can buy, and they make anything hot or iced to take away too.  I watched carefully- they brew the tea, pour over a cup of ice, and top up with a little cold water- if we had space in our freezer for a bag of ice I think I could replicate it at home! While we were there we tried quite a few fruity flavours and I bought a few packs to bring home.

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Quebec city was very french, in the way it was set out and of course all the people speaking french! From watching TV and films I will generalise and say that Americans seem to love the idea of Paris, but I would say that Quebec city is what they imagine Paris to be like if that makes sense. All cobbled twisty streets and little shops. And macaroons.

During the summer there are free firework shows over the river, so we made sure we were there on time. Each time is a different theme- the one we saw was set to opera music. Very dramatic, although it started raining and was absolutely pouring by the end- luckily we didn’t have to run far to get back to our hotel after but we were soaked through!

There was a big park by some battlements, and one morning I went for a run along the top- the park was great with running path marked out, and lovely views across the river.

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Later we got the ferry across the river, again for the views, and then enjoyed wandering around the shops and other parts of the old town.

As our holiday traditions go, we didn’t have lunch, and so headed for an early dinner at Le Chic Shack, a really good burger place- they did a home-made veggie burger, which you could have in a bun/ gluten free bun/ served on a salad. They also made their own soft drinks- I had a mango one and Andy had lemonade. We sat by the window and enjoyed people watching.

2014-08-03 22.08.45Then we went for a long walk through the park, and even saw some woodchucks!

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It was a great place to visit, although I think it would be magical at Christmas time with everything covered in snow and lights everywhere. Save it for another year I think!

Do you like going to places at certain times of the year? Going to the Bath Christmas markets is one of my favourite seasonal trips, but then going in the summer means lovely walks.

Cous cous with roasted vegetables and haloumi

Hey peeps,

I hope everyone is doing well. Well this week was back to work after the summer holidays, which means me getting back behind with blog reading again!

I may have mentioned before that my Garmin has been playing up a bit recently- it sometimes takes ages to find a satellite, and sometimes makes up where I am, saying that I either do a mile in a minute or in 20. It also has not always charged up- I am not a fan of the clip anyway (instead of a USB or something to connect to the watch, it is a clip with 4 little metal sticks, that have to line up with 4 metal pads on the watch) – it sometimes takes a lot of tries to do it up properly. So I have started browsing and reading reviews as I really like having it. Any recommendations would be greatly received by me. Yesterday when I got home I found that the battery was flat, which was annoying as after my long run at the weekend I had left it plugged in to the computer for ages to make sure it did charge up. I didn’t mind too much as I wasn’t going for speed- I went around the fields (probably about 5 miles) and just took it easy.

I am off to Sweatshop later – the email warned/ informed us of doing dynamic stretches  (ministry of silly walks) first.

Recently we have sometimes been having a very easy dinner of roasted vegetable cous cous, salad and haloumi cheese. It is easy because we buy the cous cous ready made, and so all that needs doing is grilling the cheese.

Saisbury’s recently sent me some of their dried giant cous cous, so I thought it was about time I had a go at making it myself. At the same time Andy’s mum gave us a little vegetarian cookbook, which had a recipe in there (although it was for cous cous with roasted veggies and flagolet beans) so I half-followed it for a speedy dinner.

First up, I chopped and roasted a courgette, pepper and red onion.  I added a little olive oil to the dish, as well as basil and oregano, and roasted them for 30 minutes.

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The giant cous cous was simple to make- just put in a saucepan (40g per person), top with water, and then bring to the boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes.

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While that was cooking, I sliced some haloumi cheese. I put some balsamic vinegar onto the veggies, topped with the cheese, and then baked for another 10 minutes.

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Served with a salad, this was really easy (and much cheaper than buying the ready made pots of cous cous).

2014-08-23 19.04.45Are you a fan of cous cous? I prefer the giant one as it was a bit more like the texture of pasta, but it makes a nice change from quinoa.

If you use a GPS watch, which one do you have? What would you recommend?

*Sainsbury’s sent me the cous cous and a voucher for the other ingredients in exchange for a post. All opinions are my own.

Weekend working out

I love being busy at the weekends, and one of my favourite things to do at the weekend is go on a run, or maybe even two.

For the autumn I have a few races booked (in fact, I have one of each: 5k, 5 mile, 10k, 10 mile and 15k. It is annoying me by the way why they are not in order of length. 10k is further than 5 miles, but 15k is less than 10 miles. Why is that????) and what I want to do is work on speeding up a bit. Last year I had a bit of success when going to parkrun, Sweatshop, and also running with Andy a bit. I managed to finally run a sub 60 minute 10k (something I had been working on for years) and got my fastest half marathon time of 2.06. Running shorter distances faster seemed to be helping me run longer distances faster too. Over the summer I really slowed down- I don’t run well in the heat, but also I was training for a trail half and wasn’t bothered by the finish time, then I had a break on holiday and just enjoyed running. Nothing wrong with that. But now I want to spend the autumn working on getting that speed back, and parkrun is a big part of that.

For the last 3 weeks I have had my idea of a perfect weekend- parkrun on Saturday and a longer run on Sunday. I love it for so many reasons. I tend to wake up pretty early anyway, so I can potter about at home, head off to parkrun, pick up my brother if he is going, and then be home by 10am with the rest of the day ahead. I like running after work, as I find it can help with stress relief, but also it can make the evenings feel rushed, especially if I bring home work, so doing 2 runs at the weekend means I am more relaxed in the week too.

Recently on Sunday mornings I have been running through town, and it is weird but strangely satisfying to be out there before the shops have opened- it feels like I am using bonus hours or something.

2014-08-29 16.29.51Sainsbury’s kindly sent me some of their workout gear, and I have been trying it all out. Now I know it is summer, but at the moment it has been a bit breezy, so I tend to take a jacket with me to parkrun to wear on the way home- this weekend I took the new jacket with me.

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It has thumb holes! An instant win in my book! (Forgot to take a picture when I was actually at parkrun….). It also has handy zipped pockets on each side- great for when I run in the cooler weather as you can never have too many pockets (key, tissues, mp3 player, gloves…).

I may have mentioned the 30 day Kinetic Revolution challenge? Well, their working legging are perfect for this. They are super super soft, seamless and stretchy, and I loved the pink along the edge too. I would not wear them for running as they don’t have a pocket for a key or anything, but they are great for being at home (or for pump too).

2014-08-29 16.32.48Everything I was sent was a size medium, and I would say that is probably good for a 10-12, if you like things fairly fitted. The vest and t-shirts were fitted, and I find that sort of thing good for stretching/ yoga as they stay in the right place when doing the plank/ laying down, but for running I prefer a looser fit. The leggings were ankle length on me, so if I wanted to run with them in the winter I could pull my socks up for no gaps. Or, hunt out my leg warmers. Yes, I do have some!

I loved all the bright colours too- the items I was sent were a mixture of black (good to hide the sweat patches), pink (for fun) and grey (to match all my other workout coloured bits). Now all I need are for them to start making sports briefs, as they are so expensive!

Back to the weekend working out! On Saturday after parkrun (the subtract-sixty-seconds-streak) and French toast I did hours of decorating with Andy, and then finished making a cake for Sunday.

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I was making the Elderflower cake from the Clandestine cake club book (which I really love– it really is my favourite cake book ever). The cake was a bit of a faff, as you had to beat the egg whites and yolks seperately, but I had made that on Friday afternoon listening to the film podcast. It needed a buttercream filling, flavoured with elderflower cordial, and then a white chocolate ganache- again I had made the ganache on Friday so it just needed to be mixed up a bit before putting it on the cake.

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The ganache kept slipping down the sides, so I had to keep putting it in the fridge to set, and then adding a bit more. The white colour has not photographed that well, but it did look quite pretty I think.

On Sunday morning I decided to do a 7 mile out and back route, and I wanted to manage it under 10 minute miles. I know I am capable of this, but so easily I slip back into 11+ min miles for these medium length runs. I think I sometimes worry that if I set out too fast I will suddenly collapse mid-run and struggle to get home. This has never happened to me, but I am of a very cautious nature. This week I made sure I actually looked at my Garmin each mile to check I was keeping pace- my speed dipped a bit going up hill, naturally, but overall I did just over 7 miles in 70 minutes. Check!

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Whoops- I forgot to get some brioche out of the freezer, so pancakes it was. These were made with that lovely Orgran Buckwheat pancake mix, egg + almond milk. I love them. With some fruit and chocolate pb. Then we had to head to the opticians, walked around town for a few bits, and popped to B&Q for more decorating supplies, before heading to Andy’s parents for dinner and cake.

Do you like working out at the weekends? I really get a bit antsy if I don’t get any fresh air, so I like to make the most of having time at the weekends to get outside for a bit.

What do you look for in sports gear? For me, pockets are king, especially zipped pockets. Thumb holes in long tops are great, and nothing too tight around the neck.

*Sainsbury’s sent me these items as I am part of their blogger program.