Perfect start to the weekend

So, half time finally rolled around. What with extra meetings, parents evenings and other things, I was pretty shattered by the time it arrived. I was just imagining laying in bed all day (something I never do, but I sometimes like the idea of it) when I got a message from my dad asking me if I fancied parkrun in the morning. Well, I couldn’t refuse!

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Andy got me some flowers for Friday evening as the last week had been so manic.

He picked me up as we chose the newer one (I am on the way to that one, whereas I drove to the other one as I passed their house on the the way). This time I brought gloves with me, as it was a chilly morning. You have to park a little way from the start (7 min walk for us) so I wore my jacket and we left them in carrier bags near the start as we knew we would get cold on the walk back.

My dad got me into parkruns last year, but this year has had a knee injury (apparently at 60 he is too old for the op…) and over the summer had the OK to start running again. October was his parkrun target and we went a few weeks ago to the first Panshanger one, although he ran a bit ahead of me that time. This time we ran together – it was lovely to have a catch up and chat, and enjoy the beautiful views. He kept doing little spurts to overtake people, and I would catch up, but in the final half k he put on a great spurt and I could not keep up. The course is undulating, but finishes with a very steep climb, so I knew I could not catch him. There were less people at the start than the time we went before, but I was still surprised to have finisher token 81- normally I am in the high hundreds- my first ever one I finished number 82 but the weather that day was shocking so not many people came!

Dad had finished 3 places ahead, so we queued to have our chips scanned and then headed back to the car. It was just such a great start to the day- I am really pleased for my dad that he is back running again- he is not competative at all, but he really enjoyed doing parkruns and when he first got his injury that was what he wanted to get back to doing. I didn’t get a pb overall, but I did get a pb for the course (I didn’t realise that the parkrun stats keep the different courses separate to each other)- 29.32, which was still pleasing.

Ages ago I mentioned to Andy that I wanted to do 25 by Christmas. He took this to mean a sub- 25!  I don’t think I could manage that (especially not on this course as it is more hilly and not on roads) – I meant doing 25 runs. Well, this weekend was my 23rd, so you would think I am well on track. But, we have a few weekends away (including a trip to Brighton for the 10k race there), and I am marshaling on one free weekend, so I think I only have 2 Saturday’s left between now and the end of the year! We shall have to see if I make the target or not.

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I made myself caramel apple french toast for brunch- I have not had this in a few weeks! I made the french toast as usual, then chopped an apple and cooked it in the pan, and then drizzled with a little toffee sauce (from the Lake District). Delish.

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Then I put on some music and spent a few hours cleaning and tidying- when work gets busy our house slowly turns into a tip so it was very therapeutic to return it to a livable state.

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Someone at work gave me some beautiful flowers after our very busy week.

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I even tidied my nail varnish collection!

A little later I went out to the shops.

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The fountain in Welwyn is always dyed pink in October for Breast Cancer awareness, and it looked rather pretty in the autumn sunlight.

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I had parked a bit of a way from the town centre, so I got a chai latte to drink on the walk back to the car, and enjoyed crunching all the leaves.

When I got home I got on with some work while I waited for Andy to get back from football- it was such a great start to the weekend as I felt like I achieved a lot, but also relaxed and had some good “me” time.

How have you been enjoying this wonderful weather? I am at a wedding tomorrow, but I am not sure that the lovely weather is going to last until then.

Poppy Run 2014

So whilst on a run last year I had run past Stanborough lakes in Welwyn and seen a sign saying “Poppy Run“- I had no money with me so no chance of entering, but I filed it away in my brain and this year signed up in advance.

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The route started less than 2 miles from home, at 11am, and it was the day the clocks went back, so I had been up for a long time. I had porridge for breakfast, as although usually I don’t eat before I run, it was going to be a long time. Then I jogged down there for a gentle warm up.

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It was a lovely low key event- you queued up at the gazebo in the car park to collect your number and t-shirt (this was taken at the end!), and the start was right next to it. The t-shirt was cotton, and I don’t normally like to run in them, but I didn’t want to be “that person”- anyway I had on a long sleeved breathable top, so it went over the top of that just fine. I was wearing a jacket on the way, but it was way too warm for 3 layers so left my top in the gazebo while I ran- so much easier than a bag drop!

They didn’t have a warm up (thankfully) but they did have a man from the British Legion talking about their events, and the fundraising. The local MP (Grant Shapps) was there to start the race, and he told us all he was going to run it, but would take a short cut to ensure that he was back to give out the medals to all the finishers.

The route was around the lake- two laps of the lake, and then two shorter laps (there is a bridge that cut the lake in half so you did that for lap 3 and 4).

It was an interesting mix of people; lots of families and small children (including one with a very small child on a scooter- good plan!), but some club runners too. One lady was wearing a Yorkshire marathon finisher’s t-shirt, which did seem a bit like overkill for a 5k that was not even timed. One guy was running in shorts, club vest and a massive bobble hat. It was quite a cold morning!

We counted down from 10, and then we were off. I tried to stay fairly near the front, as the paths are fairly narrow and I didn’t want to get stuck behind people walking it. The runners thinned out fairly soon, and I got into a good rhythm. It is a small lake, but quite pretty, and I enjoyed the route. The MP overtook me on my second lap, and I didn’t see him again- I think that he may have had to finish to be there in time for the speediest runners.

I glanced at my watch a few times to see 9 something which was good, and all of a sudden it was my final lap and I was heading over the little bridge to the finish straight. As I stopped my hand was shaken, I was presented with a medal and told “15th finisher, well done”- that took me by surprise! Of course it was not a competitive race (no clock or chips etc) but there were quite a few club t-shirts and “serious” runners at the start, so I didn’t expect to be that high up!

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The finish straight- Grant Shapps in his t-shirt and shorts handing out the medals.

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I asked someone to take my picture (she had already done so for someone else!) and then picked up my jacket. My face matches the poppies!

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I attempted another selfie to show that the running tights were finally out of the drawer- sad times.

I texted Andy as he said he would come and pick me up- I could have run the 2 miles home, but we had afternoon plans (well, tea and cake at John Lewis….) so didn’t want to get home too late. Although he couldn’t get to the car park so I ended up running a bit of the way home. It was only when I got in the car that I realised my Garmin was still going- whoops!

2014-10-26 11.46.23The goody bag was also really good- as well as snacks- nature valley bar, ritz biscuits, sweets, peanut butter, it had a poppy wrist band and pin.

2014-10-26 12.44.06The medal was good too. The t-shirt is cotton, so no good for running in really, but I have seen on their website that they have started making technical t-shirts too, so I wonder if next year they will up the entry fee (it was only £10, plus a booking fee, although you could donate more) and include one of those instead.

At some point I will try and work out my time, but really that was not what the run was about at all. I really enjoyed it and think that the event would be great for a first “race”, and equally would be enjoyed by seasoned runners. I am sure I will be back next year too, which is always the biggest test.

 Are your running tights out yet? I though they were out for good, but on Tuesday morning I went for a run in capris and a vest as it was so warm!

Christmas pudding and Bakewell tart bars!

Last week I was kindly sent some new nakd bars for me to try for the blog.

2014-10-022I had already tried the Christmas Pud bar (Sainsbury’s stock them- I have found them in two so far), and although I liked it (fruit and spices are a good combo), it was not my favourite. I told Andy I thought I could taste the alcohol (he thinks I am ridiculous, but I did think that the hint of natural flavour was hinting at the alcoholic  pudding).

But, the Bakewell tart ones, well, they might be my new favourite flavour. As someone who can happily cut a slice from a block of marzipan, I am rather fond of that almond extract flavour, and this bar has it. I thought it had dried cherries in there too, but it didn’t. I mean, I could go on for ages about the wonderful natural ingredients of dates, nuts, raisins and natural flavour, and how they survive a week being squashed in the bottom of my bag, and how they are the perfect snack size etc etc. But I am sure you all know how much I love them already, so I won’t.

Anyway, I loved it so much that I ordered a case on their website (they were having 20% off, although when I checked it had changed to a multi buy offer). I also bought a mixed box of Trek and nakd crunch bars, and they included a couple of freebies.

2014-10-25 11.59.38I tried the cocoa chaos bar- tasty. Although it made me think of Professor Chaos. Just me?

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Do you like the sound of the new bars? I am thinking of wrapping one Christmas pud bar in marzipan to make a Christmas cake bar. Good plan.

* I was sent the bars to try, but all opinions are my own.



My favourite baking book

Ages ago I bought myself a copy of The Clandestine Cake club recipe book.

I have to say, I have never had a bad recipe from it, and now it is pretty much my go-to book for any cakes that I want to make.

Last weekend Andy’s parents were back, and I fancied making a carrot cake for Sunday tea. Now, I love carrot cake but have often struggled to find a good recipe- they are either too dry, or crumbly, not spiced enough or don’t seem to bake properly because of too much carrot.

The search is over.

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The CCC book has a wonderful recipe- the sultanas are soaked in orange juice, it has nuts (I used pecans and not walnuts), not too much carrot, spiced and just delicious.

Also, I have never made a good cream cheese icing, but again I have found it!

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I added orange zest to the icing because I had used the juice for the cake, and also I just love orange cream cheese icing.

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Perfection. I am already wondering when I can make it again!

I also made some banana bread, again using the CCC book.

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One for work (with cream cheese icing, although a slightly different recipe) and then a plain one for home.

2014-10-20 21.19.57Mmmmmmmmm, banana bread. Keeping me going after long days at work, runs in the evening and more work after that.

I feel like I need to do a Julia and Julia style bakeathon- bake everything in the book! I have already made caramel cake, red velvet cake, battenberg cake, elderflower cordial cake, Dutch Speculaas cake (had a sort of home-made marzipan centre layer), lime and coconut loaf, lemon polenta cake, white chocolate and raspberry loaf and harvest spiced apple cake. And they have all been amazing. But there are 120 recipes so it is going to take me a while!

What is your favourite recipe book?

Cake and Bake Show 2014

So, it seems a long time ago now (over 2 weeks now) that I went to the Cake and Bake show in London, with one of my friends.

It was at Earl’s Court, and we managed to get into to London pretty early. We each bought one of the programmes which came with a goody bag, although I am not sure it was that good value- I like the bag though and use my one from last year a lot.

We were greeted by this cake:

Mary Berry atop a unicorn, with Paul Hollywood in the mud.

There were loads of amazingly decorated cakes as there were competitions going on, but I only took a few photos.

This was one of my favourites- no idea why but it seemed to rebel against the cutsey pink cakes, plus who doesn’t love afternoon tea?

We browsed the stalls for a bit (choosing which brownie stall to go for at lunch). A few times we queued up for a Dr Oetker goody bag, but each time we got near the front they ran out, ah well.

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How do people manage to take photos of themselves in the mirror without posing in such an awkward way??

I bought myself a new apron (from the messy baker if anyone is interested)- they had loads of cute styles and when I went last year two friends bought them and I didn’t. It came with a free badge, so I chose this one:

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It must be true if my badge says it!

After eating a brownie for lunch (while we were sitting down we saw Chetna and the beard guy from the bakeoff), we headed to our workshop. We watched a demo of piping different buttercreams which was really good. We could have had a try but it was a bit busy.

We had a final visit around the stalls where I came across the Ms Cupcake stall (and I remembered I had bought something delicious from there last year- a nanaimo bar)- so I had to visit and get something. Then it was time to get the train home, and unpack my goodies.

2014-10-05 17.19.52My apron (the link with white spots thing), some flavoured icing sugars for buttercream (I bought salted caramel, pistachio and black cherry- by Sugar and Crumbs), and some tea. The sugar was in the goody bag.

2014-10-05 17.20.03I also bought Andy a red velvet cookie sandwich from Ms Cupcake, but we ended up sharing it as it was huge.

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Another lovely day out- there were so many stalls with freshly bakes breads and cakes (stalls from Borough market etc) and of course plenty of baking paraphernalia.

Now I am off to look at the Ms Cupcake book again and decide if I should treat myself…