The Keys and more

I will try to keep these recaps as brief as possible!

After our flight to Miami and the longest immigration queues I have ever seen, we drove through some crazy storms to Key West.

We got to watch the sun set over the water,

while musicians played in the streets.

We visited the home of Ernest Hemingway, and a turtle hospital.

After a few days we drove up to Miami (stopping at the 7 mile bridge)- it was super hot!

We got to spot all the sights from one of my fave TV shows, Burn Notice (which is actually filmed in Miami, unlike Dexter which moved).

So many pretty buildings. I think if they were in the UK they would look tired and dated, but the bright colours and funky architecture works with the blue skies and laid back feel.

We are not ones for sunbathing so we walked up and down the beach. Within 30 mins of this photo it was chucking it down with rain- we were on the edge of a tropical storm.

Then after a few days in Miami (2 nights) we drove up to Orlando. First up we stayed near to Seaworld, and spent some days shopping, going to Seaworld (and Discovery Cove).

The dolphins at Seaworld have an underwater viewing thing which was very relaxing.

It was a super hot day so I was always trying to find the shade!

Good plan to visit the penguins- it is always icy cold in there!

Veggie food options at seaworld are still terrible- the only thing I found was a veggie wrap (literally, a wrap with carrots, lettuce and red cabbage, no spread, no hummus, nowt) which Andy and I shared for lunch, and also some massive chunks of pineapple 🙂

We also watched the Shamu show (Shamu is their name for the killer whales). I have been there before and sometimes the whales would not come out and so the show changed a lot. The trainers used to get in the water with them too, but I think someone was killed, so now they do not go in the water at all. But really seeing these impressive animals leap out of the water is the best bit, and there was a baby that was copying the older whales which was cute to see. It seemed less choreographed than before, which is probably a lot better for the animals.

Then we went to stay in a Disney hotel and had a few days there.

They always do amazing fireworks shows.

We also went to EPCOT (my fave park)- and Hollywood studios which was MGM but got re-named.It was hot (yet again, I was after the shade while Andy took a million photos).

Then it was farewell to Orlando and off to St Augustine.

We stayed in an amazing B&B, called AT Journeys End. The Innkeeper, Tim, cooked the breakfast for us and the other guests each morning, and as I had put I was vegetarian he had planned the meals around me. How amazing.

St Augustine has some beautiful buildings, and a lot of history to it. This was built as a hotel.

It also has a castle/ fort, and so we looked around that and even watched people fire a cannon into the water.

Look how fab it is, right by the water.

It was hot, so yet again I was finding some shade! I bought a bottle of water from the shop there and when the lady gave me my change she said “thank you for staying hydrated”. I love that!

More of the castle.

And some of the pretty old town area- lots of chocolate shops, ice cream shops, t-shirt shops but such pretty buildings.

This is Flagler college, and is another hotel. And I just noticed me in the picture haha! We did a guided tour of that too.

It was time to cool down, cue lunch in a cafe with a smoothie (and an umbrella!). Andy said I wasn’t smiling enough in this picture, so cue a rather “special” one next.

I think it is the lighting haha!

Then we drove to Savannah

Which was just beautiful, full of tree lined streets and squares.

And more

(Mercer House from the famous “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”. Which was not how I pictured it at all)

A beautiful fountain

A stunning church which was also totally amazing on the inside- stained glass windows etc

Leopolds Ice cream (because we all need ice cream to go alongside culture)

An impressive town hall

And a massive bridge

After that we went to Charleston, but we have not sorted out the photos from that yet. These pics were on Andy’s old camera, but he also got himself a new one (fancy SLR one- shouldn’t it be me, the blogger, who has one of those?) which has about 1500 photos (yeah, Andy takes a lot of photos) and we have not sorted them yet, surprisingly.  So they might emerge at some point.

So have you been to any of the places I visited? What is your favourite place to go on holiday to? And what photos do you like- people or places? We mainly go for the places (as you can see, out of all the photos I think there are maybe 10 with me in them!) but my parents always take photos of them, and also of random people like their waitress and stuff!

PS next post will hopefully be the foodie post 🙂

Coconut brownies = making up for missed baking

Can you believe that I managed three weeks without any baking at all? Three whole weeks? Also I did not even have one brownie while I was on holiday! There were so many tasty looking baked goods on offer all the time, and we did share a few cookies (we made the mistake on one holiday to each have a carrot cake cookie, and neither of us could finish them- they look normal sized in the cabinet but they are so much bigger than normal) and share a few slices of pecan pie for dessert, and share some cups of ice cream (peanut butter ice cream- I will get it while I can, and also toasted coconut ice cream= amazing) but no brownies at all. On our last day we went to a bakery to get a sandwich for lunch, and they had coconut brownies in the cabinet which I thought sounded fab.

So I decided to attempt to make my own. Also I was desperate to use some of my new coconut essence.

So here is the recipe ;

First I toasted 50g coconut by putting it in the oven on a low heat (140C-ish)- altogether took about 10 mins but I checked and stirred regularly.

Then I preheated the oven to 180C.

In a pan I melted 100g pure spread, 100g dark chocolate, 175g xylitol (have not tried baking with this since I bought it), 1tbs brown rice syrup (but golden syrup would work), and 2tsp brown sugar. I kept the heat low and stirred to help it melt, then left it to cool.

In a cup I added 1 tsp coconut essence to 2 beaten eggs (from my Mum’s hens), and in another cup I measured out 100g wholegrain spelt flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 2 tbs cocoa powder.

Once the melted mixture had cooled, I stirred in the egg mixture, then added the flour mixture and stirred.

Then (this got messy) I spooned some of the batter into the empty flour cup (this just saves on washing up) and added the toasted coconut to it.

I poured the majority of the batter into a brownie pan.

Then I poured the mixture with the coconut on top, and then sprinkled with chocolate chips. I suppose you could sprinkle coconut on top, but I was worried it would burn in the oven so that is why I made a sort of coconut topping. Plus it is a bit more fancy than mixing it all the way through.

This went in the oven for 25 mins- it should still wobble a little when it comes out if you like a squidgy brownie.

For easy slicing, leave them to cool before you try to cut them.

I have also spent 3 weeks without running. I have never taken workout clothes on holiday (well unless we have gone away for an actual race)- often our hotels have had gyms, or there have been lovely running paths nearby, but for one I don’t want to use up the luggage allowance with all the extra gear (plus it would mean even more washing while on holiday). Also we keep pretty active and walk a lot, and I also think it is good to have a break. I was still getting little niggles from my hamstring every now and then, and also was sometimes starting to lose enthusiasm for a run, so I think a break means I get properly rested, and also feel rejuvenated and raring to go again.

My plan was for some yoga this morning before breakfast, but when I woke up I was feeling so dizzy- I get a sort of delayed motion sickness sometimes- when I travel I never feel bad, but often once we stop moving I feel like I am still tipping (especially when I do things like lean forward when eating, or bending down to pick something up) and it can take a few days to go away. I decided that being upside down was not such a good idea- it can wait one more day.  I was also so thirsty when I woke up, so I went for a delicious smoothie- frozen cherries, frozen banana, cocoa powder and Kara coconut milk, and topped it with a little pistachio and passion-fruit granola. I had managed quite a lot of fruit and veggies while I was away (often my dinner choice was the chicken salad without the chicken!) but I always crave fruits and veggies when I get home, plus this was nice and hydrating too.

We have been unpacking (and having a massive sort out of clothes and shoes and things to take to the charity bin), cleaning, sorting the garden and sorting out things for the tip. I had to find space for all my new purchases you see!

Trousers, jeans, 3 cardis (all the same but different colours- black, pink and turquoise) and a green knitted hoody thing all from Gap, 2 tops (on the left, one black and one blue with printed flowers on it) and the bright green track top from Old Navy, shoes from Skechers and a replacement tennis visor from Lululemon (which I had read about but never been in- I got a very cool bag instead of a carrier bag with all motivational quotes on it!) plus a cool Ron John (a surf shop) bag for life.  Also my Discovery Cove hoody but I realise I am wearing it right now so no photo (I am sure you will all cope 😉  ).You even get a close up of the tennis visor because I was so excited about it!

I had a lovely salad for lunch- spinach, raspberry dressing, tomatoes and apples (both from my parents garden), basil tofu and pistachios. Yum.

Plus some Rude Health multigrain things (which they kindly sent to me to try after I raved about the oaty thins) with the last of my maple pb (hm that did not last too long haha), chocolate coconut spread, and a delicious white nectarine. MMmmmmmmmmm.

We went to Andy’s parents for tea (hence the coconut brownies which were a success phew) and it was lovely to catch up with them.

So no exercise round up this week, but the plan is a run tomorrow in the morning, before I am off to a meet up with my girls in the afternoon. I am expecting that after a 3 week break I will find it hard going so I am not going to decide how far I go, just take it as it comes, and hopefully return to the normal routine during this week.

Hope everyone in the UK enjoyed the bank holiday weekend.

And question- your ideal brownie flavour??

I’m back!

Hello!

We had an exciting (ish) end to our holiday, what with Irene heading close. In the end the hurricane bypassed Charleston, so our final day was rainy, windy (very very windy) and some roads were flooded, but we were fine. We did see a couple of news teams out and about filming and interviewing people.

Yesterday we had a final wander around town (and cue much excitement when we found a bagel slicer for sale in a shop!!! They always have them in the hotels when they have bagels for breakfast, and Andy’s parents even spent half their holiday last summer looking for one for me! so anyway that got crammed into our suitcase!), watched dolphins and pelicans on the water, bought some lunch to eat later and then a long drive to Atlanta. I think it was over 300 miles, anyway it was a long drive.

In the end we ate lunch super late (3.30pm ish) as we had to find a rest stop, so I didn’t fancy much dinner and ended up with a yoghurt and some fruit salad. Our flight was still going (but we saw yet more news teams interviewing people as flights to Washington and Philli were cancelled) but when we got on the plane the captain announced that there may be some turbulence as we were going to fly over the hurricane. What now? I have never done this before, but we actually took sleeping tablets (well, sleeping aids like the hayfever medication that makes you drowsy) and I think that helped as I dozed on and off for most of the flight. Normally by the time I get home I fall asleep as soon as I sit down, and although I feel really tired, I am going OK. Anyway, at one point in the flight they announced that they were going to suspend the services (drinks and food) and then the captain shouted at all the crew to get to their seats. It was a bumpy flight.

But home now.

And facing the mountain of unpacking to do.

Ahem.

We went to Wholefoods in Orlando and stocked up, (PB and co was on offer so I had to try the White chocolate wonderful)- later on we went to a Walmart to look for something for Andy’s brother, and it was even cheaper in there, so I got another flavour (Bee’s Knees). I also found coconut essence hooray! Which I kept in my hand luggage along with the boxed cereal bars! Can you guess which flavour I like? We did eat clif bars as our snacks most days (shared one as they are huge!) and I also tried the peppermint luna bars which are amazing!!!! But that Disney bag is full of clif bars as we bought more than we needed for our trip, what a shame. Ahem. Also I love Ghirardelli chocolates (and the free samples they always give out) and so bought a mixed bag from the shop- at the till the lady said to me “if you spend $5 more you get loads more chocolate” (can’t remember how much) but I did resist, although partly from fear of the luggage allowance!

I also got some hand made key lime sugar scrub (I much prefer sugar to salt scrubs) from a shop in Key West (it smells so tangy and amazing), a thing that means I can make a cup of tea using leaf tea, and also a key thing to go on my garage key. We collect magnets for our holidays too, but I have not unpacked them yet. They go on our fridge, so maybe I will take a photo of that one day.

I also stocked up in Gap (jeans, cardi’s), Old Navy (a couple of tops and a running jacket) and Skechers (many shoes). Plus a Discovery Cove turquoise hoody which I could not resist! But no pics of them.

Right, well I am in need of a cup of tea now, normal blogging, running etc should resume within the next few days! I am planning on doing a couple of holiday posts (once we sort the photos) and include some of the places we ate, as we managed to stay away from the chains and I think eat pretty healthily for the most part (this meant that our ice cream was justified haha!).

OK I really am going now!

Bye for now.

EDIT- well guess what- Andy just rang his parents for a catch up and told them excitedly that we got a bagel slicer, and guess what they had bought (they were in the rockies) for my Christmas present? Yup, a bagel slicer. Oops!

Swimming with dolphins!

Hello!

Thanks for all the comments on my last post. This is another quick one (no photos yet I am afraid) to say how I have been getting on.

Today was our trip to Discovery Cove (which Andy meant to surprise me with at Christmas, but then as our flight got cancelled etc etc it was no longer a surprise). I had no idea what to expect but it was amazing! Here is a (hopefully) quick run-down. And please excuse any typos because I can only see half of what I type.

We arrived just after 8am for “check in”. Here we were given ID tags and a map, and told the time of our dolphin swim. Then we went to have breakfast (all food and drink are included in the day)- a massive choice for meat eaters, but not much veggie stuff, but anyway. Then we changed into our swim stuff and picked up our wet-suit vest things. You also get given special suncream to wear which is safe to use with the animals. There was lots to see and do- we went in the lazy river first (which I much preferred to Disney lazy rivers as you could actually swim in them instead of lying in those rubber ring things). At one point it went through an aviary and we could see loads of pretty birds by the water. Then we got some goggles (Andy used the snorkle but I had breathing through the tube like that) and went into the lagoon pool. This was cold (at first) and salty, and filled with beautiful tropical fish and also massive sting rays! At first I was a little freaked out by the fish swimming right by me, but once I realised they would not touch you I was fine. We must have spent over an hour in that place alone. Then we went for a little walk (Andy took some photos) and we went into the aviary to see the birds. I was most excited to see a kookaburra.

Then it was time for the dolphin encounter. We had to have a little talk first, the we waded into the dolphin lagoon with a trainer, and it was just amazing. We all got to do the hand signals to encourage the dolphin to wave, spin, splash etc. The dolphin had a baby who was about 2 years old, which kept swimming near and copying what his mum was doing which was also so sweet. We got to feed the dolphin fish, and stroke her (and they also made us kiss her for a photo op, which I thought was a little weird but anyway). Then we swum out to the deep part and had a dolphin tow back to shore! Exciting! While other people were having their turns the trainers were talking to us and showing us hand signals and things. Then a lot of dolphins came from all around the cove and leapt up in the air all together, and swum around together a bit. It lasted about 45 mins I think, but it went by so quickly! I was excited about it, but also a little apprehensive as I had no idea what to expect. I also thought it might end up being a bit of a queue- touch the dolphin one after another, but it was nothing like that at all. We were always told to move out of their way, and it really was us going into their space- if they didn’t want to do something they would swim away, stuff like that.

Anyway, after that it was time for lunch (I think it was gone 2pm by then). The veggie option was pasta with tomato sauce, but again loads of meat choices. There were also pots of roasted veggies, different salads (lucky I checked as they had bacon bits on them!), fries, fruit, and all sorts of cakes. I had some roasted veggies (with the pasta), fruit and Andy and I shared some carrot cake- we did not want to have too much as we wanted to swim some more in the afternoon. While we ate lunch a steel pan band started playing which was great.

We decided to buy a CD of our photos- we never normally buy those photos at all, and it was really expensive, but we figured that we could print one out, or put them on our calendar and stuff. (But our netbook does not have a CD drive, otherwise I would be loading them up right now!). So something for you all to look forward to 😉

We sat in the shade for a bit, before one last long swim in the ray lagoon. Then I went for a shower (and in the showers there were massive pump bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotion, plus hairdryers and stacks of towels to use), and then it was time to come back. It shuts at 5pm, although we were there a little after that.

Anyway, it was a brilliant day- busy but relaxed. The park was lovely as it was not very crowded and really everything you needed was there.

So there you go for the little update 🙂 We are off to Disney tomorrow for a few days.

Would you like to swim with dolphins? Or have you done something like that?

Bristol girly fun and 7.53

Hey all!

Hope everyone has had a good few days. I had a lovely time in Bristol with some girly friends.

I had a run before we left, and then topped up on fruit by having a Moma pot with blueberries and strawberries. Yum.

We hired a little apartment which ended up being right in the city centre (although I was driving and finding it involved getting lost in the one way system several times and then seeing it but it being no right turn etc). It involved a meal out as ASK (I am getting over my mushroom issues and had a mushroom sandwich thing), Starbucks chai tea (and I was impressed as they did not try to make me a latte, as is what always happens here when I ask for a hot chai tea), carrot cake in a coffee shop, a trip to Wales, walks in a little welsh town (and up a very steep hill), shopping for pretty summer dresses, hunting for frozen yoghurt (failed at this), a trip to Highclere caste (and of course the tearoom there), playing games in the apartment late at night, early mornings (thanks to the seagulls and the fact the bedroom had no curtains) and so many laughs. It was such fun. I did not take any pics and one of my friends put some on facebook but I have no idea if I can get them off there?

Anyway, I was intending on going for a run when I got home yesterday, but we decided to go to Highclere castle (fans of Downton Abbey may be excited to hear that they film it there, and I was interested to know that it used to be home of the man who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb) on the way home (kind of on the way) and when we came to drive from there the M4 was shut so we had to go up to Oxford. Anyway, my car does not have air conditioning so for the entire 3.5 hour journey I was baking, and had only had tea at the tearoom (no water in the car), and had a scone for lunch. I was so hot and sticky that I decided a run would probably make me ill, so I had a shower instead (and a walk to the allotments- you will be glad to hear that the lady has dug up her potatoes, but not the shed, and also took a little blackberry bush (I say bush, it has 3 leaves) which I found while digging up all the weeds and I do not believe she knew it was there- this annoyed me a little as I think if I had left all the weeds then she would not have known about it!). Gosh I am rambling today.

So, this morning it was magic mile time! I got up, changed and drank some water and headed out. It was raining hard. I had mapped out the route, which was a loop and a half, no road crossing needed which would make it more accurate. Anyway, I set off and after a few mins realised I was going too fast- I had to slow a little and then after that got into a bit of a rhythm. I could see the lampost that marked the end I sprinted towards it (imagining the crowd cheering me on) and I was SHOCKED to see that my time was 7.53. Crazy! My best 5k time is 28.10, so I was hoping for a little under a 9 min mile (as this is shorter I should run is faster), but I also feel like I have slowed down a bit recently, so I was not going to be upset if I was slower. But that was amazing! I had no idea I could run that fast! But then I had to walk home as I was gasping for breath.

I had my last Moma pot for breakfast after that, and it was much needed!

Now I have started packing for our holiday 🙂 Some of you may remember that at Christmas Andy and myself were supposed to be going to Florida and a few other places, but our plans were scuppered by the great British winter weather (see here). Anyway, we are off on Saturday for a slightly longer holiday (we added on a few more places as we can go for longer in the summer) so off to Miami, Key West, Orlando (and Discovery Cove- my surprise Christmas present), Savannah and Charleston 🙂 So our bed is now covered in neat piles of tops, cropped trousers, swim stuff etc. Pretty sure I won’t need jeans! I want to leave some space for some Old Navy, Gap and Skechers shopping.

But I will also be tempted by all the clif bars and peanut butter! So, I am after recommendations for stuff like that! What should I try to bring back with me??

And my last post had a lot of questions about the basil tofu! I get Taifun tofu, which comes in a 200g pack, in the chiller section (usually in the veggie section of that with all the cauldron stuff etc). It says on the pack you can eat it cold, so I usually have it in sandwiches and stuff. They also do almond and sesame flavour, which I tried but found a bit smokey for me. I think they do an olive one too, but I don’t like olives. I have bought it from Waitrose before, and from Ocado.  Hope that helps 🙂