Goldilocks running, gardening and baking

The weeks are flying by! So here is a random catch up of thoughts (which turns out to be a lot of baking).

A sunny walk

St Albans Abbey in the sunshine. Weeks ago we had parked outside St Albans and then walked into town via a flooring shop to look at some samples. We were going to visit The Pudding Stop but it was very busy so we got a takeaway instead (peanut butter salted caramel brownie..).

Baking

I have their recipe book so I decided to make them for work the next week- they went down very well. Although in the recipe book you add the caramel in the middle, with more batter on top, but I think next time I would just put the caramel on the top with the pb.

Last week I made a raspberry and white chocolate loaf cake, and it was very well received. This week I used the same recipe but made it into a lemon and blueberry cake instead. I doubled the mixture and made a tray bake for work, topped with a little lemon icing, and then a loaf cake to take around to Sunday tea, with the rest of the white chocolate melted and poured on the top.

The loaf needed longer to bake, hence the more browned appearance!

Sensitive skin products

I have been sent some products for dry and sensitive skin, including some lovely What Skin Needs soothing skin gel (which is good for wind burn- I have not tried it yet as it hasn’t been as cold, but I do have a problem with this after a long run in the cold so I know it will be useful), and skin balm (I love this stuff). It contains plantolin, which (from their press release) “is a patent-protected active plant extract, scientifically proven to soothe, renew and protect. This key ingredient is derived from the Australian indigenous plant, centipeda cunninghamii, and is internationally patent protected for its novel active compounds that provide a natural synergy of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity. Plantolin extract is used in Australia on wounds to speed up the healing process and stimulate tissues regeneration“.  It also smells lovely (it contains lavender and geranium oil which I love as a combination (we had that on our foreheads at the end of yoga last week). I do get dry and itchy skin, and I have trouble finding creams as body butters tend to feel too greasy and thick, some very scented ones irritate my skin, and others don’t seem to sink in very well. Before this one I was using a Body Shop almond milk and honey one, and this one works just as well.

I was also given a massage candle. (I didn’t know what that was either)

It turns out you can use the melted candle wax as a moisturiser- it has a pouring lip at one end, so once a bit of the wax has melted, you blow out the candle and then pour carefully onto your skin. I haven’t been brave enough to try that yet, but the candle does smell lovely- a fresh citrus smell which is perfect for spring (grapefruit and tangerine).

 

Running

I’ve had a real mixture of running recently. As I haven’t been training for anything specific (eg the Wings for Life was just run as far as I fancied) I’ve just been going out as far as I would like. Last Tuesday our running club started the tradition of the 8 (and a bit) mile route on country roads and paths around Essendon- a tiny village near Hatfield. We only do it once a month in the summer, when it’s light enough to finish before it gets dark, as we have to cross a dual carriageway, and some of it is on country roads. We usually do around 4-6 miles on a Tuesday, so to push it up to 8 always sounds hard, plus this route has some big hills, but it’s so satisfying once it is done.  I skipped a run on Thursday in favour of going to the cinema- we went to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2- I thought it was quite fun, and I am not usually into the comic book films. The end did drag on a bit though, and I lost patience with the extra bits in the credits, so we left after the third one!

Last Sunday I didn’t set an alarm, and I’d been out for a meal the night before so had a fairly late night (for me- midnight!)- I decided to run to the lakes and back, but when I got there the route I usually take was cordoned off.

It said helicopters were using the area so I was taking no risks! There was some sort of car show going on, so I had to run up a hill, along the top and back down again before getting to the lake. I had no idea how long the run would be- I guessed around 6 miles, but it turned out to be just over 7. I think 7-10 miles is a good Sunday morning Goldilocks run- not too short, not too long.

Brunch and free jam

The day before my birthday (weeks ago now) we went out for brunch at Bill’s- my favourite place for brunch (or sweet potato fries!)- I have been using the app to pay for the last few visits (you link it up to paypal or a credit card) and I had enough stamps for a jar of jam- they wrapped it up so beautifully too.

Furniture

A while ago we ordered a new shelving unit from St Albans Wood Recyling co. – they use recycled wood to make bespoke furniture. (A side point- this is a bit like parkrun for wood as it is a not-for-profit, run by volunteers and works to support people getting back into employment). We’d been for a look around their “ideas hub” (a sort of show- room, but it more shows things they could make with the wood, and then you give them the exact specifications and they do a quote) and seen something similar that we liked, so they made one to fit perfectly between the dining room and living room doors. The bottom shelf is a metal grid so it can be used to store shoes. I just need to actually put some books or something on it- the thermostat is a little lonely!

Do you have many loyalty cards? I feel like I have so many (I even have one for the Montezuma’s shop in Brighton- even with 3 visits a year it will take me a long time to earn a free bag of truffles!). I do quite like having it on the app but then if I can’t get internet (or remember my password…) it’s more complicated. Have you been to the cinema lately? I still haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast, but as the cartoon is not my favourite Disney film I haven’t been that bothered. We did watch Moana last Friday as I was given the film for my birthday- that’s more like it! What sort of distance do you like to run? I do prefer a slightly longer run (because I would rather run slower but for a bit further than have a short and gasping for breath run), but up to half marathon is long enough I think.

*I was sent the sensitive skin products in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

The podcasts we listened to on our northern road trip

I love a road trip. We have had some brilliant ones over the years, and this Easter was no exception (and no long haul flights either). When we have a long drive we load up the podcasts and head on out.

This time we had classics like Wittertainment/ Kermode and Mayo’s film review (BBC Radio 5’s film podcast), Pop Culture Happy Hour (they discuss TV, films, books, music), and More or Less (from Radio 4 -they look at numbers in the news and discuss how factually accurate they are).

A few years ago we loved listening to Serial (although later the series 2 wasn’t quite as gripping as we weren’t aware of the story- whereas it had been big news in the US)- they had made a new podcast called S-Town so we listened to all of that. It was released in one go, like Netflix do, so you could listen to one after another instead of having to wait a week. It was a very interesting story, and it kept going in different directions. If you have listened to it, the Here’s The Thing podcast (hosted by Alec Baldwin) had the presenter Brian Reed on it, and that’s worth a listen too.

I’d seen on Joy the Baker blog a recommendation of The Accused, a podcast by the Cincinatti Enquirer newspaper, where a journalist investigates an unsolved murder from the 1970’s. Very well done and very interesting- this reminded me more of the first season of Serial.

We started to listen to the BBC podcast Murder in the Lucky Holiday Hotel, but I found the first one very complicated (not helped by having a complicated journey that day with lots of sat-nav directions). I think I need to start it again and listen from the beginning, but on first impressions it wasn’t as well put together as the US ones.

Some of these are very serious, so when we needed something more light-hearted, the Adam Buxton podcast was brilliant for that. I have mentioned it before, but I used to love the Adam and Joe show when I used to babysit, and then I loved their radio show and podcast. Adam Buxton on his own is different (obviously)- still the same funny jingles, but he intereviews a different person each week. Sometimes I have heard of them (Louis Theroux, Zadie Smith), other times I haven’t (Mark Maron) but they are all so interesting. One of my favourites was an old one with Michael Palin, but they have all been great in different ways.

We didn’t have time for any others, but I did hear an advert for the second season of Someone Knows Something (a Canadian podcast investigating the disappearance of a 5 year old child in the 1970’s)- so I shall have to add that to our list of road trip podcasts- we are off to Scotland in a couple of weeks so maybe we will get around to it then.

Which podcasts do you like to listen to? Any recommendations for me? When do you listen to them? I listen to some when running, some when I drive to work, and some when I am just pottering around the house, baking or gardening. I don’t tend to listen to them when I work as I can’t concentrate on them. We also listen to ones we both like at dinner, and in the car.

 

My “old favourite” trainers, and trying to find a replacement

I’ve been through many trainers in my running career so far. When I started out with my run/walk sessions, I just wore my normal leisure trainers (most probably skechers), and then I swapped over to Nikes as Andy got me a Nike+ wrist watch (you put a little sensor in the sole of the shoe and it tracked your distance).  It was a long time before I plucked up the courage to go to a shop (I don’t look like a runner, what am I doing in that sort of shop?) and have the gait analysis.

I started on some Mizunos, and I totally loved them, but after a year they were less springy. I went back to the shop and the salesperson said that as I had no problems with them, I should stick with them, but the same version was not available so I got the newer one. Alas, the newer ones just never felt right, I could not put my finger on it, so I took a chance and ordered some pretty looking shoes online. They were Asics Gel DS 19’s (and in fact I had to swap them as I originally ordered size 5.5 and needed a 6).

I still have them. I loved how comfy they were, and they saw me through many races including the Brighton marathon. After that they felt pretty flat so I went back to get gait analysis. I was between a pair of Brooks and a pair of Asics, but as I had loved these so much, I stuck with Asics, and the new pair (Gel Kayano 21’s) were fab, so when I got the parkrun monthly prize I got a second identical pair.  Since then I have mainly bought shoes online in the sales, and I have pretty much stuck to Asics (including for trail shoes). My current favourites are Asics GT2000’s, but they are reaching the end of their life (464 miles according to Strava- my Kayanos got to 590 and then 470 before I replaced them), so it was perfect timing when Millet Sports offered to send me a pair of Asics. Even better, the newest version of my favourite ever ones, Gel DS 22’s were on the list.

They are so pretty! More importantly, they are so comfy. As with all trainers I wore them around the house for a bit, mainly to sort out how tightly to tie the laces (and also to admire the colours before they start getting muddy), but I don’t think running shoes should need breaking in. The first outing ended up being a 9.5 mile run out to Panshanger park and back. It was a fairly slow run as my back had been sore (my fault for doing my work on the sofa the day before instead of sitting at my desk), so I ended up stopping in the middle to stretch out my back and admire the view. There’s a bench on a hillside so I enjoyed the view for a bit before heading home.

The Millet Sports website lists that these shoes have:

– Flytefoam midsole
– Propulsion Trusstic
– Impact Guidance System
– External Clutch counter
– PU Duosole
– Wet grip rubber forefoot
– Rearfoot GEL cushioning
– Ortholite sockliner

But I have no idea what most of those things mean. All I know is that they feel supportive but also very light and springy. I do overpronate a bit (I tend to flick one leg out to the side) but I don’t like the feel of the really chunky trainers. These seem a good middle ground to me, and so far they are going well.

I think these may be my new favourites! I shall need to keep an eye for the Gel DS in the sales next time I need to add another pair into rotation.

Onto some general bits:

Alpacas:

On my way home from the long run I tried to take a photo of the alpaca (or llama) but it was hiding behind some bushes- how inconsiderate!

Trees:

Since we moved we have not liked this huge tree, (it towers over the house and you can see it from the front of the house). We had to apply for permission to have it cut down as there are tree preservation orders in our town, but we were granted permission provided we replace it with a different tree (apple, cherry, basically nice trees that blossom).

This week it was finally taken down- hooray! It makes a huge difference to the amount of light upstairs and also means we have a much bigger garden now.

Funny Facebook stuff from April:

This was actually for the Easter weekend, and it made me laugh a lot. We didn’t quite have that for this past weekend, but I love the idea of it still.

Cake and National Trust visits:

I made a carrot cake (in fact, two, one to take to work) as it was my birthday this week. It’s fab having my birthday around the time of the May Bank holiday as it means I get a long weekend to celebrate- after going to Winchester and Southampton we visited a few National Trust places in Surrey on the Sunday, before coming home.

Polesdon Lacey National Trust house and gardens (complete with fluffy llama toys to spot in each room in commemoration of a trip that the owner made to South America).

Claremont gardens- loads of goslings about.

The ultimate marzipan combination!

On Monday after my long run, we walked into town for breakfast, and later Andy’s parents popped over for tea and cake, ending a long weekend in a very relaxing way.

Car annoyance:

I had not driven my car all weekend, and as I went to go to work on Tuesday morning, I had a completely flat tyre. What bad luck! Any other time I would have spotted it over the weekend.

The AA person changed it and found a screw in it (I’d already had the same tyre patched fairly recently, but it wasn’t in the same place)- luckily Kwik Fit had the right size tyres in stock but I was late for work which was a very stressful start!

I was running a meeting after work, but after that was finished I popped over to see my mum for a bit before coming home (and then, my mum had given me some eggs in a bowl, so after driving home carefully with the bowl on my passenger seat, when I was putting them away I dropped one and somehow it fell under the fridge and then smashed. As I was crouching down trying to see it, my hair got caught on the lace hooks of Andy’s walking shoes- it wasn’t my day!)- anyway, Andy had ordered this canvas for my birthday- photos from our trip to South Africa last year. I loved seeing the penguins so much, and of course the safari was amazing, so to have a reminder up on the wall is just fantastic.

Do you go for gait analysis or do you buy online? What did you get up to over the long weekend? Do you print many holiday photos? My dad always makes lovely photo books now, and they are lovely to look through. We have a couple and I think we should make some more but they do take a while to make.

*I was provided the shoes for free in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

A lovely week in the north round 2

So after our few days in Alnwick we headed to North Yorkshire, via Hadrian’s Wall.

Oh my word it was totally freezing! The wind was whipping off the moors and was just biting. After walking up to the wall, looking around for a bit, we found a National Trust place on the way to our hotel so decided to stop there.

I cannot remember where this was, but there were lambs wandering around in the car park. I love seeing the lambs.

The grounds had a walk to an old water mill, through some woods, so we walked first (saw some pretty flowers too) and then went to the tearoom, sharing a piece of chocolate and beetroot cake- I’ve never had it before and it was lovely. As someone with a bit of a thing about beetroot (I love it in salads but don’t like the idea of it in a smoothie because of the blood colour- I don’t know why) I was surprised that I liked it so much- you could taste a hint of beetroot- it made the chocolate cake taste a little earthy, but in a good way.

We had two full days in Askrigg- here we drove out to places in the surrounding area. Our B&B was lovely- for those days I went for their American-style pancakes, plus a bit of the freshly made fruit salad. I was very tempted by a hot cross bun one day (there was always toast, yoghurt and cereals out too, but I didn’t feel like I needed any of those extras alongside pancakes), but I managed to resist.

On one day we followed a walk in one of the books we had borrowed from the library, basically finding areas that they filmed at on the first series of The Trip. We spent a lot of time on our walk doing impressions of them doing impressions.

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This was me doing the “Ah-haaa” in the same place that Steve Coogan does.

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And back down in the bottom of the valley again.

We were fairly near the Wenslydale Cheese factory, so we headed there one afternoon to look around the shop (I’ve seen cheesemaking once before and it’s not something I am keen to repeat!) and we ended up having grilled cheese sandwiches and some tiffin. The sandwich was good (roasted veggies and rocket pesto or something) but the tiffin was so good as it had caramel in there too. One thing I really didn’t like was the samples room- I went in there as it had a bigger selection of jams and things- I got some raspberry and elderflower jam, and some blackcurrant and lavender, plus some for my mum- but there were piles of cubes of different types of cheese and people could help themselves- I am sure some people ate their own weight in free cheese samples, and even though they asked you to use hand santiser as you entered the room (for some reason, for health and safety, you couldn’t use cocktail sticks), I saw a lot of people who didn’t. Bleurgh.

Anyway, our sandwiches were good which is the most important thing.

One day we went to Ingleton Waterfalls- you pay to park in the car park and then have entry to the 4 or 5 mile walk up past waterfalls, along the tops of hillsides and back down past yet more waterfalls.

Some of it was fairly steep, and the weather went from being very warm if you were out of the wind, to being quite cold- layers were very much needed.

It was so impressive seeing so many waterfalls.

We had driven past this huge viaduct as it was fairly close to where we were staying, so one afternoon we parked up and walked up to it.

We ended up being so lucky with the weather too- we had a few spells of rain in the car but no rain when we were out walking. It didn’t last- on Easter Sunday we drove to Buxton and it rained a lot of the way so we didn’t stop off anywhere.

I was very pleased to see I was wearing rabbit socks (Easter Bunny?)- I hadn’t planned it- they were just the next ones in the suitcase! We walked into Buxton, then it rained some more so we had a drink while we waited for our restaurant reservation. As we were walking back it poured with rain again, and I had only done something like 8,000 steps. I had managed to go well above my 11,000 target for every day of the holiday so I ended up walking around our hotel room for a bit to get up to the right number.

On the Monday we walked into Buxton for breakfast in Caffe Nero (no cooked breakfasts any more!) and then decided to head straight home, so we had the afternoon to get ready for going back to work.

It was a lovely trip- so relaxing, with lots of walking, lots of fresh air, lots of tea room visits, and not a bit of work in sight. A very refreshing break.

A lovely week in the north- part 1

It always makes me laugh when I drive anywhere north from here as the road sign just says

“Stevenage

The North”

as if “The North” was one place. We did a fair bit of travelling about and managed to see lots of sights.

After our trip to Harrogate and Fountains Abbey, we drove to Durham.

We had a lovely day there, wandering around the town centre and walking by the river. We went into the cathedral too which was so impressive.

The river is in a sort of a u-bend shape so you could enter from one side of the town, walk along it for a while and end up not far from where you started- or cross over and walk back along the other side.

After a quick breakfast on the Monday morning we drove further north to our next destination, stopping off at a National Trust place on the way.

Cragside was the first house to be lit by electric lights, and was powered by hydroelectric power. I usually much prefer the gardens to the house, but this one was very interesting (some of the inventions were a bit Wallace and Gromit).

As well as walking around the gardens there was a big estate drive where you could stop off and walk around lakes or along trails.

This put the Blur song “Trimm Trabb” in my head after seeing it. I think it was actually a walk with different types of fitness equipment to test balance, agility and so on.

We stayed in Alnwick for three nights- we had a lovely B&B right in the centre of the town. They did a lovely breakfast (I had their “eggy bread” each day as it was so delicious, but there were loads of other options too)- they even bought in almond/soya milk and yoghurt for another guest who could not have dairy.

Also, they had locally blended loose leaf teas in the rooms as well as being served at breakfast- this was a big thumbs up from me!

Some of the time we stayed close to Alnwick- we’d bought a book about walks in Northumberland and they had some close by including a 3 mile one in the countryside around the town.

Sometimes we drove out towards the coast- we saw a few different castles and drove on the causeway to Lindisfarne (this was not so good for someone who is a bit panicky about forgetting things- we double checked the times that we could get back by-1.50pm- and then I spent a while wondering if it was 12.50 instead..). This was not helped by the signs posted everywhere with a photo of a car surrounded by water- I did not want us to end up like that!

Once we’d driven back to the mainland (and with plenty of time) we drove up to Berwick-Upon-Tweed and it was so strange seeing signs for Edinburgh- it made me realise how far we had driven. It was also totally freezing cold- I had regretted not wearing a thermal top that day!

We went to the Bari tea room one day and it was so relaxed with delicious home-made cakes. We’d had a long walk in the morning so shared some lemon cake.

We had glorious weather although on this walk out to a castle it was super windy- I am sure at points my hair was going full troll (vertical).

On our last afternoon there we were back in the B&B fairly early (4pm ish I think) so I headed out on a run- previously we had walked in a loop around the town- it turned out to be about 2 miles so I repeated it twice (with a photo stop half way to take pictures of the old railway building that is now a large book shop)  before popping to the Costa for a drink (it was sunny but with a really cold and strong wind)- although I regretted it right away because the service in Costa is always never faster than a snail’s pace and usually worse than a sloth. (We have one at a local cinema and sometimes I get a drink, and then spend ages wondering if I am missing the film or just the adverts while they painstakingly make the drink in slow motion…).

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We went to this bookshop for dinner as it had a lovely cafe inside- it’s an old railway station and a very large second hand book shop so great for a wander too.

After our few days in Northumberland we drove to Yorkshire for our next B&B, but I’ll save that for another post.

What would your breakfast of choice be? Andy usually goes for scrambled eggs and bacon on toast, but he did have the eggy bread one day as mine was tempting him each morning.

Do you prefer visiting houses or gardens?

Are the Costa’s near you slow at serving people or is it just all the ones I have visited?