Running, baking, gardening and the rest of half term

After my as-now standard 10k run on Tuesday morning, I had breakfast in the garden and then decided to have a go at making bagels.

We had ordered my favourite cream cheese with our shopping (Nush stuff, made from almonds and is gorgeous) and there is no better combination that a bagel and cream cheese.

I was not looking forward to the boiling part (you poach them for a few minutes once they have risen, and before you bake them) as I had visions of the dough disintegrating into the water, but in fact it was fine.

They were super tasty, and not as hard as I had imagined so I would definitely give them another go. I used this recipe (and halved it because I didn’t think they would keep for that long after) and it was one of the simplest ones I’ve come across.

I had lots of work to do, but then as now we are allowed to leave the house for exercise more than once, we had a nice walk in the evening together once it was a bit quieter. That is pretty much our only change (I’m still not comfortable with the idea of going to a shop or takeaway or anything like that).

Wednesday was another day with a run first thing, breakfast in the garden and then doing more work. I was trying to get all my work finished by Wednesday so I could have the Thursday and Friday off, but famous last words and all that… Anyway, yoga wasn’t on so I made us some bread to have with soup for dinner.

Thursday was a happy day. As I’d run to Ellenbrook fields last week and found the route OK, I messaged my dad and asked him if he wanted to meet me there, so we did. He cycled there and we met there just after 9am. We ran a loop of the fields together, chatting the whole way around. We spotted so many birds (woodpeckers, chaffinches, even a skylark hovering above the grassy field), and chatting as we ran was just so enjoyable and not the same as a phone call. Our final km along the runway (the finish of EF parkrun) was pretty fast, and then we stood around in the shade for ages after, chatting some more. I always just leave my watch running, and according to Strava my moving time was 2:17 but the elapsed time was 3:16 so I think we must have chatted for an hour after before I had to run home. 13.1 miles in total for the second half marathon of the month.

After brunch and a shower I had to squeeze in a bit of extra work (I shouldn’t have said anything about having some work-free days) before getting ready for afternoon tea. Some of my team at work had decided to do one over Zoom, so I baked some scones and prepped my snacks. I opened the peach and lavender jam from the Hitchin Lavender farm (I bought the jam last summer)- I love peach jam, so summery. Topped with a little Oatly creme fraiche so it tasted even more summery. (I also had some veggies, oatcakes and hummus- someone (even though they know I’m veggie) asked if a carrot was a fish finger!). It was so much fun to catch up with everyone and although we did talk a bit about the wider opening of schools next week, we also just chatted about everything else. Everyone is getting into gardening so it was nice to compare notes.

I did not want to watch the 5pm briefing (I’m finding it increasingly stressful to watch because I feel like everything is way out of my control and just not sensible at the moment) so I watched Springwatch while Andy watched the briefing.  I also found my first courgette flower on one of my plants- how exciting! We had a walk before dinner (beans + marmite + violife cheese on sourdough). Mmm.

We started watching The Last Dance after hearing so many good things about it, so that’s been good evening TV.

On Friday I did some yoga (I am so slowly working by way through the 30 days with Adrienne- I think this was Day 11!), and then had a walk to stretch my legs. I thought they would feel worse after the 13 miles, but I think as I had a long break in the long run they were actually OK. My ambition to not do any work failed yet again as I had more bits to deal with, but I also spent time doing some things on my list at home (including rolling all of our Ocado carrier bags, as they used to take them back but don’t at the moment, so we just bunch them up and shove them in the cupboard under the stairs- after 10 weeks it is getting hard to find space!), sorting out my new house plants and organising my desk a bit better.

Colour coded of course.

We used our Vitality code to hire a film for Friday night- The Day Shall Come- (about the FBI using undercover agents to try to entrap people into terrorist activities) which was very good but also just bit depressing.

Saturday was the standard 5 miles before the parkrun quiz (and you can see one of my new plants)- 9/15 this week, so better than last week but no pb!  Once that was finished I made us pancakes for breakfast, with berries and maple butter.

Then I made the Pret Love Bar (they have been publishing some of their recipes on Insta) – it is basically a flapjack topped with caramel, chocolate drops, nuts and seeds. I didn’t have any pumpkin seeds so I used some coconut instead.

We had to prep some quiz questions for later on (Andy borrowed a very funny idea from Joe Lycett) where you blur out a picture of a castle and have to guess which one it is (we included Cinderella’s castle). Andy’s car had not been working (the battery had gone flat) so after getting a charger he wanted to test it out, so we popped over to see his brother as he had  cleared out  their garage and found some bits they’d borrowed from us ages ago- it meant I could give them some of the flapjack too as it made rather a lot!

We managed a quick walk before dinner and were just ready in time for the quiz, which was good fun as always. Then we watched the space rocket launch and went outside to see if we could spot it (but we couldn’t- we did see the ISS though).

On Sunday I headed back to the new paths that I’ve been finding, and looked for more of the WCG 20/20 route.

I took my time, stopped and looked at lambs, birds, and of course the signs! 6.5 miles and that was plenty as it was so warm.

I’d made cinnamon rolls the night before and so they just needed baking and topping (using the rest of the cream cheese and a little maple syrup) for breakfast before heading out to the garden. While Andy did the tough jobs like moving the concrete slabs that he’s been digging out, I did jobs like planting out sunflowers, putting pumpkin plants into bigger pots, a bit of weeding, splitting my spider plants and potting on a little house plant.

I had persuaded Andy to do No Mow May (to encourage flowers for the bees) and you could do a flower count- there are a lot more daisies in a metre than you would think!

 Then it was time to pack my work bag yet again and wonder where the last week had gone.

Have you ever made bagels? Is there something on your list that you would like to try but have not got around to yet? Have you made any changes since the lock down guidelines changed? (I know they have since been even further relaxed in England but I am still sticking to essential travel and exercise)

A three day weekend to start half term

Saturday morning started the same way for me as it has for the past eleventy weeks- a run, quick shower and then the parkrun quiz.

My run was very enjoyable, listening to With Me Now, and heading down some different streets to my recent runs. It was pretty breezy, and I think that was keeping people home because I didn’t see very many people out so not much crossing the road required. One road had blue ribbons on all of the trees- for the NHS maybe?

The quiz was a personal worst for me- 8/15 (too many maths questions!), but I do like doing it because it reminds me that it’s Saturday and keeps me a bit connected to the parkrun world.

Then we had Swedish cardamom buns for breakfast- I have had this recipe earmarked for ages and only just got around to making them. Grinding the cardamom seeds (and getting them out of the pods) took a while, but honestly the are better than cinnamon buns. So so good. Although I could  not quite follow the twisting instructions, so I made them into normal swirl shapes.

After being fairly sunny first thing, it got quite overcast and so I did some bits around the house, baked some lemon and lime bars and did a bit of work. Later on we popped over to (socially distance) drop some things off at Andy’s and my parents houses- Andy came with me so he could say hi, as usually I’ve been dropping things off on my way to or from work (as I work in St Albans which is where they all live)- it was his first time out of WGC in over 2 months!

Also, how tiny is this marmite jar? We had ordered the big jar (500g maybe?) but it was out of stock so we got this as a substitute instead- it won’t even last a week!

For dinner we tried a recipe from the recipe book I got for my birthday (Happy Vegan)- coconut cream spinach pasta. It was really tasty and very easy- basically cook up some pasta and then blitz all the ingredients for the sauce in the food processor- it was optional to top with chilli flakes, and as I am not a spicy person I opted for pine nuts instead. It was really tasty and we will definitely have it again.

We watched some Killing Eve as we tend to save series up and then watch them over a week or so, instead of having lots on the go.

On Sunday I headed out for a shorter long run (7.5 miles) as I had run 13 on Thursday. Home to another cardamom bun and then a day of relaxing in the garden (well, until the government “kindly” published the early years guidance for wider opening of schools, on a Sunday of a Bank holiday weekend, at the start of half term…..).

When we sat outside having a cup of tea I noticed that my yellow jumper was totally covered in bugs, but of course none of them show up on the picture!

A while ago I earned a 25% off Lulu voucher for a Strava challenge, and it ran out on Sunday and I’d been umming and ahhing about whether to get anything. In the end I chose some shorts (be brave) but the code didn’t work. I tried a few things, and in the end was helped by messaging them on facebook.

On Monday morning we headed out on a long walk- we have had a library book for ages (months of course) and although they are closed and have extended the loan, we had heard that if you posted it through the door, they were being dealt with by staff, so we went the very long way around to town. Some parts that we walked through were much older so I was keeping my eye out for old post boxes, but mainly saw GR ones.

Once home I sat outside in the shade and worked by way through some old magazines- reading a February running magazine in May is quite funny because half of it isn’t relevant (although I do tend to skim past the kit things anyway- I know what I like!).

In the afternoon I made some peanut butter cookies (we had one for dessert with some salted caramel oat ice cream), did a bit of work and a bit of sorting in my office- I’ve moved things around to accommodate my new plants.

We watched the Prince-Andrew style press conference (no idea why, it made me so cross) and then did a bit of weeding and tidying in the garden before pesto pasta dinner. We watched Supersize Me 2, which was  interesting, but there were parts I actually couldn’t watch.  So here are some flowers to think about instead.

Do you like marmite? Do you watch series all in one go, or have lots on the go during a week? Have you seen Supersize Me 2? And if so, would you have reacted in the same way as the people did at the end? 

Happy birthday Ellenbrook Fields parkrun! Finding new paths and garden updates

Monday started with some yoga, and then a walk, before lunch of focaccia (made with the sourdough), and finished with a homemade Pret cookie in front of the TV (finished Bosch so onto Cardinal).

On Tuesday I had a run (6.6 miles- I did wonder why I didn’t round it up to 7 as usually if I go over half a mile I’ll go to the next one) first thing and a bigger breakfast as I had meetings from 12 in work. I have been looking for the next section of a public footpath, and finally found it, so I headed up there and was rewarded with lovely countryside views. I shall be going a bit further in half term I think.

I had a mini pannetone left over from Christmas, so I made that into baked French toast with some cherries and peanut butter. Mmmm so good.

After a bit of a busy (and hot) time at work (moving out all the “unnecessary” furniture, so I decided to do a bit of Disney drawing once home. This time I chose Pascal (from Tangled). I also finally got onto another item on my list- sorting out my recipes. I had a few notebooks with recipes stuck in them, recipe cards from supermarkets tucked on the shelves in between the books and so on. I had bought a big ring binder and a-z files, so went through all the recipe, got rid of any I don’t like, and put the rest into the file. I feel so much better and more organised  now.

As it was mental health awareness week I listened to Phone a Friend, which I really enjoy (It’s George Ezra and his friend Ollie, and they talk about mental health issues and other things)- I find it very comforting and not too heavy going.

Allison had mentioned this fun website where you can Disney-fy yourself, so I created myself on there.

I went for a Frozen themed one to match our last Disney trip.

Wednesday I had a run (5 miles)- it was very hot, soooo much hotter than Tuesday!

In my new Happy Vegan book there was a recipe for an ultimate sandwich, so I made a version of it for lunch (because I didn’t have all the  ingredients)- toasted sourdough, hummus, miso, carrot, beetroot- it was so tasty.

The main colour in our garden right now is this pinky red, but the peonies are on their way out. The final one always makes me think of Beauty and The Beast with the petals falling on the floor one by one.

Yoga on Wednesday was good too, although very warm and there wasn’t much airflow in my office even with the window open, plus I felt a bit self conscious as our neighbours can probably see in.

Thursday was exactly 4 years since Ellenbrook Fields parkrun started, and I’d had in the back of my mind an idea to run there and back. It’s over 5 miles away, so it is a fair long way, but gentle rain was forecast so I decided to get up early and head over there.

I was looking at the postboxes on the way, and when I stopped to look at one on a post (middle right pic) I noticed one in the wall behind it- I was so excited when I found it was a VR one (bottom left)!!

EF parkrun starts with a little loop and then you do a big lap of the fields, through open fields, woodland, a field of cows (eeek) and finally along the runway, so I decided to do the big loop and miss out the little loop because I had to run home too. Although once I got close to home I was on about 12.5 miles, so I did a run around the block to make it up to 13.1 miles- may as well have a half marathon for May.

EF had asked for photos on their facebook page, so I spent a bit of time looking through, and found one with my dad, brother and mum- I think from my 100th as my mum came along to that and had made piles of cakes. I did get really tearful looking at it, because I find it hard to work out when we will be able to get together like that- not even at parkrun but just seeing my parents and family in general. At least we are all still keeping in touch and have good times to look back on.

I was glad to have been out because I then had a big pile of work to get on with, so I actually appreciated sitting down. My office got very warm though (it gets the sun in the afternoon) so I ended up taking my laptop downstairs and doing some work in front of the TV as it was cooler in there (the battery only lasts a couple of hours though and when I’m accessing the remote stuff the battery icon doesn’t show up so it’s a bit risky!).

For my birthday I’d been given some vouchers for Patch (they sell lovely house plants)- Andy decided to order a couple too, and they arrived so we had a very big collection of boxes!

I’m pleased with how they look, although we did it across two orders so they haven’t all come yet. The red poppy in our garden started to flower and it’s enormous!.

On Friday I had to wait in for a delivery (Andy had solid meetings from 7.30) so I felt a bit spaced by the time we went out for a walk (plus my mind was boggling from all the logistics of the potential wider opening at work…). Heading into the garden always helps, and lots of the geraniums have started flowering.

In the evening we decided to rent a film- as we have Vitality we used to get a cinema ticket each fortnight, and they replaced that with a rental, only because we have Netflix and Disney + and Amazon Prime there has always been so much to watch. We’d heard good things about The Assistant, so we watched that. It was good, but quite draining too, so needed Gogglebox after for a little bit of light-heartedness.

Do you round up your runs to the next mile/ km? Have you seen any good films lately? I’m enjoying the new Kermode and Mayo TV show where they talk about film and TV and we have added a few more things to our list after watching that.

A weekend in the garden and having fun with postbox bingo!

So I mentioned a while ago that I had noticed an old postbox on one of my runs (an Edward 7th no less) after it had been mentioned on the With Me Now pod. I have tended to stick to the same routes on my runs- a sort of out and back through some fairly empty residential streets, or the longer run through the woods to Panshanger. Because of all the news about parks reopening, I figured Panshanger would be busy so I decided I would plan a different route.

My parkrun top had arrived in the week and I could finally take it out of quarantine, so of course I had to wear it on Saturday morning.

I could not decide on the wording for ages, but in the end went for “it’s still parkrunday”- because even without parkrun being on, that is what Saturday is.

I saw quite a few postboxes- loads of GR (5th) and some GR 6th- they seemed in better condition than the ER ones for some reason!

At one point I was running along a pavement and a fox was running towards me. I was about to go in the road to avoid it but luckily it ran into a driveway.

After doing the quiz (9/15 this week) I made us some pancakes for breakfast and then we got on with more garden jobs.

Project Pond continues! We were weighing the liner down with bricks, but these rocks have been dotted around our garden, some buried under soil or plants, so we’ve been gradually digging them up and moving them. We put them around the pond and then used the pebbles at one end to make a little ramp for any wildlife (I could pretend I was on Brighton beach when I was sorting  the pebbles into size order). Also more digging up of the horrible bit at the back.

And of course some relaxing in the afternoon. One rose has started flowering and it really is such a bright colour that in the evening it looks like it is glowing.

Top right – the fountains are blue to thank the NHS

On Sunday morning I did a route I’ve not been on for ages, to avoid the park and to take in more post boxes. I think I need to head out to some of the old villages near me to get the really old ones.  I ran through the town centre which felt surreal because I’ve not been there for so long (over 2 months). Most of the shops are shut of course, but I was surprised by how many people were out and about.

I had a rather delayed breakfast because when I got in the shower, the hot water wasn’t working. It turned out that something in the attic needed resetting which Andy did- phew. As it was warmer we did the pebbles in the pond (too cold on Saturday to be sticking your hand in the water). I also made my best sourdough loaf yet.

Although I need to work on the slicing because it still really exploded in the oven.

Have you bought an apricot parkrun top and if so what did you have written on it? 

A week of no sleep

I’ve been walking around my garden and listening to podcasts to try and distract my mind.

After the vague but worrying announcement last Sunday night, I just could not sleep. Partly seeing people out over the weekend had just made me worry more, our neighbours had people over all weekend and we saw so many big groups of people having street parties whilst out on our walk, but mainly the vague promise of schools reopening (when we are in fact still open for key worker and vulnerable children…), particularly with the youngest children, just made my mind and heart race.

Of course it doesn’t help having lots of friends who are teachers or who work in schools as things like this get sent around a lot.

A few years ago a child coughed in my face and my mouth was open.. (it was not his fault- I was sat down and he came to ask me something and coughed as he spoke) but I had a cough after that for a good few months, and that wasn’t a potentially deadly virus.

Added to that the government yet again announcing something but not having the plan in place (schools had detailed guidance on Thursday night, basically a working week after they announced it…) and I have been really anxious all week.

We’ve been watching more comedy to take our minds off things. Last week we watched the new Parks and Rec, which I just loved so much (we’ve been re-watching the old series as well), and this week started to re-watch Flight of the Conchords (which then makes me want to watch Muppets Most Wanted, although I pretty much always want to watch that). It’s some nice escapism for half an hour.

On Tuesday morning I did my regular 10k, and totally surprised myself by managing it in just a shade over an hour- recently my runs have been more gentle in pace so I was surprised- this included photo stops and stopping to cross the roads as there was loads of traffic about. To try and cheer myself up I used my fancy candle while working at home, and did get excited when I saw that Hamilton is going to be streaming on Disney+! We’re going to have a watch party!

I had a go at drawing Minnie Mouse- this lady on the Disney Parks You Tube channel is my favourite as she gives clear instructions and plenty of time.

On Wednesday it was back to business as usual with my runs- a much more gentle 5 ish miles, and our lovely yoga class in the evening.

My Mum had got me some fresh yeast (delivered by my dad on a bike ride and left on our doorstep) so I had a go at making not cross buns with it- it seemed to work pretty well.

I took a break from Disney to draw Totoro instead- Andy had sent me a tutorial for a stylised version, and then I found a more typical version and had a go. Doing something like this when I finish working does usually help my mind to switch off, but with the documents and guidance (or lack of) constantly coming out, nothing seemed to be helping.

Thursday I had another run- 6 miles. I am really enjoying these slightly longer runs, as often I would do 3 or 4 miles midweek. We actually braved a walk after we finished work but it was so busy, so decided we should maybe wait until after dinner for the pavements to be a bit quieter.

I also popped out into the garden after work and did a bit of pottering, laying some stones around the edge of the pond to cover up the liner. Then, the highlight of the week- watching the choose your own adventure Kimmy on Netflix! I love that show so much (but I think you would have to watch the series before doing this)- it was so much fun, and we are definitely going to do it again and see what other funny bits we missed. We had a hot chocolate as it was rather chilly.

On Friday I had to go in to work to cover for someone else, and although I felt worse about it than I have in a while, actually being in work I felt OK. Speaking to other people in my team about the challenges, and about their concerns made me realise I am not alone in worrying, and that we will do everything we can to reduce the risks for staff and children.

Once home I made some of the Pret cookies. These are my favourite cookies and I would always be tempted to buy one if I was in a Pret, and the recipe is really so good. It takes a bit of time as there are a few  more ingredients, but nothing unusual and they really are delicious.

We had a walk after dinner and it was much better, seeing far fewer people so we will need to remember that from now on.

How do you switch your mind off? What comedy shows do you enjoy?