More Christmas lights runs, Winter Solstice and final preparations

So, onto the final full week of term before Christmas (although for lots of other schools it seemed they were finishing on the Friday). Yoga wasn’t on, so I went along to the Wednesday evening run again, as they were doing another Christmas lights trail run. The weather was better than last time, and I enjoyed it just as much as before.  Because I was back so late (I think 8pm, and then had to have a shower and dinner) I didn’t think an early run the next morning would be sensible, so I switched and did morning runs on Tues and Fri that week.

On the Friday after work I had booked a shoulder massage, although it wasn’t until well after work was locked up, so I went to get the car washed in the time in between (it’s on my way home and there was no point going home as then I would have had to turn around and head back anyway).

On Saturday, I’d suggested to Dad that we went to St Albans parkrun for a change. I’d not been there since 2017, and as it was where we started with parkrun it felt like a return was overdue. They have a new course now- it used to be run to the lake, 3 laps of the lake and then run back, but the paths by the lake kept flooding, and also the numbers got so big that they could not really accommodate that number of runners on such narrow paths.

The newer course is still 3 laps, but all on grass and slightly up and down. The corners were very sticky with mud and I was glad I’d worn trail shoes.

Before the start we were looking out for one of my dad’s friends who he had persuaded to come along. We didn’t see him, but I did get a “Dolly or Bev” from a fellow With Me Now listener, so we had a nice chat. The parkrun brass band were playing festive songs at the start and all the time that we were running, and loads of people were dressed in festive gear so it had a lovely atmosphere. At one point we were running behind a lady in a Christmas tree outfit and commented that if we wanted to be in the photos, that is where we should stay. I did laugh when I saw the pic (below) on their facebook page as the two of us were captured perfectly!

After we had finished running, we stood and listened to the band a bit more. We chatted to the WMN listener (Barnaby) and then Dad’s friend turned up- he had parked in the opposite end of the park so we hadn’t seen him as we’d been looking in the wrong direction.

In the afternoon I was off to get my hair cut, and then in the evening it was time for a Christmas classic, Elf.

I did a shortish run on Sunday of 6 miles, as I had lots of Christmas preparation to be getting on with- finishing making cakes, putting on marzipan and icing so they would be ready to be decorated, We did have a walk later on and came across this amazing post box topper covered in knitted birds. I am so impressed with these- how they make the 3D is just so brilliant.

In the evening we watched a new film, 8 Bit Christmas, which I quite enjoyed (it was a father recounting his 80’s childhood where him and some friends were all desperate to get some sort of Nintendo thing). Better than Love Hard (the name, a cross between Die Hard and Love Actually, was misleading as it was just another romantic comedy), which we watched the previous week.

Decoration twinning, final countdown, fab tags on the tea (sleighing it) and a Baby Yoda Christmas top. 

And so to the final few days of term. We had a little Christmas party (for the kids- literally an hour where they played musical statues and pin the nose on Rudolph- but they were all very excited) so I wore my Disney headband- twinning with my tree decoration! The teas in my advent calendar were keeping me going for the final push!

The Winter Solstice started with a run, and ended with lighting lots of candles. I love all of the traditions, and of course there’s lots of overlap with Christmas (let’s not get into why that is…), but the tradition of bringing in evergreen leaves into the home to remind us that nature is sleeping really resonates with me, and I do think we need to slow down at this time of year, although it can be harder to do that when people are rushing about doing Christmas preparations. I’d ordered some buns from Random Buns Of Kindness (a gorgeous vegan bakery) and so one was waiting for me when I got home too (well, two halves as we shared a toffee apple one and hazelnut truffle one).

And then the holidays were here!

I hope you had a good Christmas? Do you do anything to mark the winter solstice? 

Christmas runs and trying to get my booster

As you can see from the number on my tea advent, this post is from a while back! After the Festive Five run on the Sunday, it was another fairly normal week for me, with some morning runs and the last yoga before Christmas.

One morning was so frosty that I had to run very gingerly until I was out onto the main roads, as the pavements were super slippery and there isn’t always a grass verge.

As it was the final yoga before Christmas I opted for my Christmas leggings and my Disney Christmas sweater. Our yoga teacher put on some antlers after seeing me, but sadly they kept falling off in the class!

Saturday morning sunrise- the sunrise is so late now that in the week I’m driving to work before it comes up, so it’s lovely to see at the weekend.

I received my Magic Moon Club secret Santa- a Holly Jolly Christmas top and a lovely note from the secret person too. I love that the owner of the shop organises this as it spreads cheer around.

Onto the booster hunt. I’d originally booked by booster for the start of January, as I had my second one at the end of June, so this was 6 months later. However, when the government changed the rules (eg it could be 5 months after your second vaccination), earlier appointments became available, and with the number of cases at work just going up and up, I was keen to get mine as soon as possible (particularly as if you catch it, you can’t then have the booster for another month after). So I booked on for Thursday after work and Andy drove me up there. However, when I got there (past the car park marshals who checked your appointment, and past the people directing you to the building) the person on the door asked if I had an appointment (yes) and if it was 6 months since my second vaccination. Sadly, no. She then explained that the centre were not licensed to carry out the booster if it had been less than 6 months, and that they had been turning people away all day. I was not about to argue with a volunteer who had been stood outside in the cold all day, but it was frustrating to have rushed back from work (and been dreading the injection all day). They had explained that the government had changed the rules before informing the centres (and knowing how the gov have been with schools etc, I can very much sympathise with them on this). I couldn’t cancel the appointment as it had already happened (by the time I got home) but thankfully it let me book a new one. Anyway, this centre still appeared in available appointments, but I didn’t want to go back there again in case the same thing happened. There were hardly any places doing them, and none in WGC (a city…) at all, but there was a pharmacy in a nearby village, so I booked that for the Sunday evening. I rang up a couple of times to check that they would do it for me, but there was never an answer, so in the end I looked up walk in places and decided to go to one on Saturday, as there were no other walk in centres that didn’t fall in work hours for the next few weeks.

With Me Now video, parkrun start, tea by the Christmas tree and my finish token

So, I went to Jersey Farm parkrun with dad, but then drove straight home after, had a quick shower and breakfast and then went to join the queue. I thought it would be long, but I had no idea and really should have taken headphones with me. Andy had dropped me off but in the end came and stood with me in the queue to keep me company. It was freezing, and later on started raining too. In the end I queued for 2 and a half hours before getting inside. Also there was a guy in cycling shorts and a vest, and that was all. And it was freezing– no idea how he stood outside for so long. Someone had checked ID and vaccine cards at the start of the queue, but when I got inside they asked me the same question of was it 6 months since my second one. When I explained that the person at the start of the queue said it was OK (as did the NHS website) he went to check and came back and said it was OK, but I did have a mild panic at that point. Later I noticed a sign with the dates of second vaccines on it, and I was OK as I was past that.

I dread having injections (I used to be OK as a child, but then had one injection as a teen where I fainted, and since then have fainted a few times, so I always worry that it will happen again)- usually I just have to psych myself up once a year (for the flu jab) but now I’ve had 4 in a year! Anyway, it was actually OK. The guy taking my details was really friendly (he loved my surname and asked me if I was married to John Wick- the nurse doing the injection didn’t understand his banter at all!). My arm felt sore and I felt really tired, so spent the rest of the afternoon watching videos (catching up on With Me Now parkrun videos), going to bed at about 9pm.

In the morning we had arranged to meet Andy’s parents for a walk around Ellenbrook. It was lovely to walk there, and I felt OK (I felt sad for parkrun no longer being there though), so when I got home I decided to try a run. The penguin Christmas decoration this year has been in Hatfield, so I ran there to take a photo (I was going to take a photo of it after my injection as where I got the booster from was right by the penguin, but I forgot). I got a little bit lost in the town centre, and then a passer by took pity on me as I attempted to get the penguin in my selfie (I just cannot line things up at all) so she offered to take a photo of me which worked out much better.

Me with the penguin, then a snowman/penguin/who knows, breakfast and the penguin again. 

I ended up running nearly 8 miles which probably wasn’t the best idea seeing as how tired I’d been the day before, and I spent the rest of the afternoon feeling shattered. This feeling lasted into the next week too- it could well have been end of term tiredness too, as the end was approaching, but I am sure the booster added to it.

I was relieved to get my booster, particularly as the numbers at work went up even more the following week.

Have you had your booster yet? Do you have some nice decorations near you?

Advent calendars and Christmas lights running

After celebrating my 250th parkrun, I ordered the top as soon as I got home pretty much. I was so impressed that it arrived early in the following week. It’s my favourite colour of all the milestones and ever since I started working towards them, I was looking forward to the green one the most.

I also received a lovely yellow heart in the post, courtesy of a lovely With Me Now pod listener- that community is the nicest online community there is.

Of course this week was the start of December, which meant the start of advent calendars!

This year I had the Bird and Blend tea advent, which actually has two teabags in each box- perfect with one for me and one for Andy. I also got myself a jam one, as I saw them last year and loved the idea. It contains loads of unusual flavours (peach and mint, things like that), plus I had an idea to re-use the little jars to fill with gifts for people in my team at work.

December also meant the start of Run Up 2 Christmas- my challenge was to run 60 miles (100 km) before Christmas Day, so I was keen to keep up with the mileage even though the end of term tiredness was creeping in.

Running looked a little different-  morning runs on Tuesday and Friday, and a Wednesday evening run. Our running club has put together a 12 days of Christmas challenge (they did this last year too and it was brilliant)- the challenges range from running a parkrun, running “naked” (no phone/watch), taking photos on your run, or listing your goals. One of the days you got extra points for festive leggings, top or hat, so when it was announced that there would be a festive lights run one evening, I decided to join in with it. There are lots of lights and decorations in the centre of WGC, and there is even an app to download, and QR codes at each place so you can check in. The run leader had got the app ready and planned the route, so I headed up to the meeting place on Wednesday evening. It was a bit drizzly and quite cold, but of course seeing everyone in their festive gear cheered me up no end. One of the runners was playing Christmas songs from her phone, and someone had fairy lights instead of a running light. We ran into the town centre, stopping at each decoration for photos, and it was just such good fun. A totally social activity and so good to chat with different people and get to know a few people in the club a bit better.

On the Saturday I was off to Jersey Farm parkrun, proudly wearing my new 250 top (I wonder when the novelty will wear off?). It was such a beautiful morning with the most amazing wintry sunlight. I had breakfast with my parents before heading home. Andy had ordered some Pret sandwiches for us to be delivered to them (because we do not have a Pret where we live, and I love their vegan Christmas sandwich). He had ordered both the vegan options for us to share, but annoyingly when I got home and we unpacked the bag, one of them was missing, so we shared it (which was fine but it would have been good to try the other one too).

I enjoyed a Pret cookie with some tea in the afternoon while I did some work, and then later we walked into town to get our Vitality drinks.

As it was December, Saturday night was time for a Christmas movie. We opted for the new Home alone (Home Sweet Home Alone)- it was OK, and I enjoyed some of the nods to the original, but (hopefully this isn’t a spoiler), due to the nature of the “baddies” I didn’t really enjoy all the slapstick comedy and injuries.

On Sunday I was off to run the Festive Five- a local 5 mile race which I really love. Everyone wears festive gear, the marshals are always so cheerful, and it’s one of those low key events where you can turn up 30 mins before to get your number. I can run from home as it is a couple of miles away, and lots of OH ladies were running too so we had a lovely catch up at the start. The course is two laps, and I ran most of it with a couple of runners from my club. I was also super chuffed to be offered regular or vegan chocolate at the end- fantastic. (And those NOMO drops are gorgeous)

Once home and warmed up, we headed back into the cold to go and get a Christmas tree. The farm we went to last year was really good, so we opted to head there again. Then we had the “fun” of untangling the Christmas lights, and then putting on the decorations. We also went on a quick walk as my wreath box had arrived, and I needed to get some greenery for it. I then watched some Christmas TV shows (Christmas at the Plaza hotel in New York) while I decorated the tree and made the wreath.

Such a festive weekend!

Have you watched any Christmas movies or TV shows yet?

Celebrating my 250th parkrun!

But first up, the rest of the week.

A course after work one day meant tea and snacks in my office while I watched the online presentation. The colder weather has meant some mornings I’ll have a matcha to warm up with as soon as I get back from my run, and we have been having the fire on a couple of times. I have been loving Only Murders in the Building- we had to finish a few other series first before starting this one (including The Chestnut Man which must be one of the creepiest things I’ve seen in a while)- the tone of this really reminds me of The Thursday Murder Club (the book)- I’ve really enjoyed it.

I wasn’t going to order my 25 t-shirt, but then after my dad adapted his 100 to celebrate his 200th parkrun, I realised that the 25 top was perfect to edit, so with minimal crafting ( I traced the 0 from the 100 shirt) I made my own top to wear on Saturday!

The week was fairly standard in terms of running, walking and yoga, but we had a staff training day on the Friday instead of the kids being in, so we could leave a little earlier than usual (we basically don’t have a lunch break, and use that time to complete the training, so then can leave earlier). To make the most of this bonus time, we booked tickets to go to Wimpole to see the Christmas lights trail.

We got there just after dark (I think 5pm?) and there were a few food trucks about. Andy was keen to have a mulled wine, to make up for the fact that we’re not going to a European Christmas market this year (this usually would be the weekend that we would go). They advertised mulled cider (eg hot spiced apple juice) but sadly didn’t actually have any. I was hoping for a warm drink to accompany me on the trail but sadly it wasn’t to be. Anyway, the trail was really good with a variety of displays, some set to music. Some were projections, some were lights, some lasers.  It was freezing by the time we got back to the car, and so I was very glad when Andy reminded me that our car has heated seats- I’d not actually used them before. Well it’s a slippery slope because I’ve used them most days coming home since then!

(This was the week that he also reminded me that on the app we can set the car to be a certain temperature at a certain time, so I can set it to be 18 degrees at 7.20am, and so when I got to leave for work, it’s all warm inside and also the windscreen is clear. We might have to plug it in more frequently in the winter as obviously that uses more electricity, but it’s a revelation!

Yes I wore my Olaf top to Wimpole even though it was hidden under my big coat!

So finally on to Saturday. Where to begin? Possibly Friday night when the storm warnings started coming in!

Originally we were heading to Henlow Bridge Lakes as it was a relatively new parkrun (so I could fill in a gap on my Wilson index), but it was also between where we live and where my dad’s cousin lives, as he was celebrating his 100th. The storm put him off, so he texted to say he would not be coming. HBL parkrun posted on Friday night to say they would do a course inspection early on Saturday morning, but it would have been by the time we had already left. A few local parkruns did cancel (Wimpole, but I think NT places cancel fairly quickly) and Dunstable Downs (but it’s super windy there), but most were on so if HBL did cancel while we were driving, it would be a case of checking the cancellation page and going somewhere close to where we happened to be.

The added complication was that lots of OH ladies were also coming along. I wasn’t going to make a big deal (as I really always pictured my 250th being at Ellenbrook Fields, and as we were going touring instead I didn’t think it would be fair to ask people to go elsewhere) but one of the group posted a few weeks ago and asked where mine was going to be. I said I’d be touring, and lots of them fancied a trip, which was fab, but also meant I had more pressure if things didn’t go so well. I’d baked some cookies (the Pret recipe) and pumpkin spice cake to hand out at the end. My parents (and brother) picked me up before 8am, and I spent the first part of the journey checking my phone for the parkrun cancellation page and HBL facebook page. Thankfully they posted at around 8.15 that they were on, so I could post that to the other OH ladies and it was all go!

We got there fairly early, but then my parents wanted to use the toilets which were not as close to the start as we thought. (It’s a two and a bit lap course, so the start and finish were not in the same place, and the entrance to the park is by the middle of the course). They left us holding the bags, and more OH ladies turned up. In the end it got close to the start and so the rest of us made our way to the start. My dad had sent in an email so I had a little shout out, which was lovely. He turned up and then we left the two bags of cakes in the bushes and asked the tail walker to show my mum where we’d put them, as she was coming along behind him. Thankfully she showed up just as they said “go”, so it was all OK!

I love that my dad took many photos and most of them have his finger in the way- it looks like I am holding his hand!

I loved the course and will definitely go back. It was flat, and a bit muddy but not too bad. The three of us ran together (Dad, my brother and me) and my mum stayed out on the course to cheer us by and take a few photos.

We were so lucky with the weather- as at home it was pelting it down with rain but we had overcast weather and then finished with some bright sunshine.

Once we had finished, we bought a cup of tea from the little kiosk and then waited for everyone to finish. I was pleased that pretty much all the cakes and cookies were taken home. I was given a lovely OH ladies tote bag with 250 printed on the back- such a special gift.

Once I got home I found that Andy had ordered some doughnuts from crosstown to celebrate- the best! It was such a gloomy day, and after some work we walked into town to get a festive drink.

On Sunday it was soooooo cold! I wasn’t really feeling that excited by the thought of going out in the run (top right pic!) but once I was out I was OK. I wrapped up more than the previous week so it was better, but it still took me a while to warm up once home. 10 freezing miles to finish the week.

As it was a beautiful day, the two of us went for a walk in Panshanger, and then in the afternoon I had booked afternoon tea with some friends at Tewinbury Farm. As it’s less than 2 miles away it seemed silly to drive, so I walked, but of course it gets dark so early. Our booking was for 4pm (and was lovely, although not a festive one as they didn’t start until December, what a shame) but when we finished at 6 of course it was totally dark. Andy came to meet me half way, although the first bit was the worst as the road didn’t have any lights (but a big wide verge so I was OK)- I appreciated the walk after all of the delicious food.

A lovely end to such a lovely weekend.

Are you tempted to back order the parkrun tops? Also did you see the post about the pins? I am excited about that too!

Christmas tops and marshalling at parkrun

So, another fairly normal week came to an end. A couple of morning runs with a hint of dawn towards the end. Yoga on Wednesday evening, as good as always, and a few walks in the evenings too. I joined Run up 2 Christmas again, and this year bought the top (last year I bought socks), and that arrived in the week, although it was too mild to wear it at that point.

The only slight difference was that we had swapped cars with my parents as they were off up North and our car has a bigger range- we can charge theirs at home so it wasn’t an issue, but I am not that great with different cars. We’d had a practise swap a few weeks ago, so it was OK, but one morning it was frosty and I could not work out how to open the boot to see if there was a scraper….

Frozen jumper, banana bread, a new-t0-me vegan chocolate bar from my wellbeing buddy, and excitement over a new podcast

I also bought myself a new Christmas jumper (sort of. I mean, it’s Frozen, which isn’t really Christmas, but I think I can wear it more easily at this time of year). The people behind “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” have started doing a podcast where they chat about each show. The first series was years ago so it’s interesting to hear how they would change things, but mainly it’s reminded me of how funny it is (although it definitely gets better once Frank is in it) and have started re-watching it.

On Saturday I was marshalling at Panshanger. As it’s only a couple of miles away, I ran there. They ask for the marshals to be there at 8.15am, as it’s a one lap course so some of the points are a long way from the start. As I was the first marshal there, I got to choose, so thought I may as well go to the furthest point, at the top of the little gravel hill. It’s the highest point on the course, and I always appreciate the marshal at the top cheering everyone up, so it was nice to pay it back. It was chilly but I’d brought along a hat, gloves and buff to put on once I was stood still, and I was fine.

One thing that was a bit strange was that on the way to my spot I saw a lot of runners doing hill reps on part of the course. I thought they were warming up, but later on, just before the parkrun started, they ran past me in the opposite direction, and then again closer to when the tail walker came through. Of course it’s a public park and they were totally fine, but why would you do that and not parkrun? Particularly as two laps of the part that they ran probably equated to parkrun distance. They were perfectly friendly, and when I warned them of runners coming in the other direction they were really respectful (as were the parkrunners heading towards them) but I just find it hard to compute!

Loads of OH ladies were running there that day, so I got to cheer them on with their running and then see them at the end, as once the tail walker past I went back the way I’d come, mainly running, and so was back at the start before the event had finished. I was quite cold when I got home, but also hungry, so I had a drink before a shower (banana mylk shake from my vegan box)- I’m not normally a banana flavoured fan, but this was nice (actually flavoured with bananas) and a good thing for an energy boost when breakfast was still a bit of time away.

I made sort of DIY chocolate almond croissants by sticking some flaked almonds on top of vegan chocolate croissants and baking them in the oven for a few minutes- delicious.

I had a lot of work to get through, and Andy was out all day, which on the one hand was good because it meant I could get on and focus, but also not so good as I can easily spend all day doing work unless he reminds me to take a break. At one point I was doing some online training and was getting so stressed as I could not get it to print the certificate (we had to print it to prove we had spent the 1hr15 doing the training)- I was going around in circles as every time I clicked the “click here to download your certificate” it would open a new window with the same set of instructions. Argh. He texted me at that moment to remind me to take a break, and it was really perfect timing because I was about to cry (I’d had loads of paperwork to get through too and was just feeling a bit overwhelmed). In the end I saved a screenshot of it and that was enough to prove that I had completed the training so all was OK.

In the afternoon I went out on a walk, prepped some baking and then watched some of the making of Frozen 2.

Sunday was bright but also utterly freezing! I was keen to wear my new Christmas top, but I really should have worn another layer as it was windy and the wind just sucked away any body heat. It also started off sunny but then I ran through several rain/ sleet showers, saw loads of rainbows and it really felt a bit like the 4 seasons in one day type of run.

I had prepped a babka loaf (with chocolate and biscoff) for breakfast as I have not made it for ages and really fancied something warm. Andy put it in the oven while I was in the shower and then we had it for brunch- so good.

We did brave a walk as we had our vitality drinks to pick up. I had switched over to a festive cosy, and the decorations were up in town so of course I took a few pics of them too.

Also- marmite hummus- love it or hate it? I really like the combination, but I find that it is maybe a bit too strong for me? We’ve had it a few times (it’s amazing on warm bread) but it just gets a bit salty by the end.