A weekend for feeling festive

This weekend I was fully in the festive spirit. Friday was Christmas jumper day:

Thanks Not on the High Street- it was that or Mince Pies before Guys, which made me laugh so much, but the cute whale just won it for me.

On Friday night we had a team evening out with a meal at Pizza Express, and then a visit to The Pudding Stop.


On Saturday morning I drove to Ellenbrook parkrun- on the Tuesday a few of the girls from the club said they would be going, and when I looked at my results I realised I had only run there a handful of times- I’ve volunteered a lot but I have run a lot more at Panshanger. It’s easy to do a run beforehand there as it’s close to the business park- wide pavements, fairly flat, and as that was right where we used to live I know exactly how far a mile is and so on.

I got to the start line with about 10 minutes to go, so I ended up running up and down the runway (in the above picture) to keep warm. It was so foggy you couldn’t even see the start line from the end of the runway. When I was getting out of my car, a guy drove past and rolled down his window and asked me if I knew where parkrun was. I explained it, telling him to go through the gap in the hedge (it is a real path) and then turn right, saying something like “you’ll see all the high viz volunteers”- well, you couldn’t see them as it was so foggy! I had’t slept well and my hip was feeling sore, and as I changed into my trail shoes in the car park one side felt a bit too stretched, but I pulled my knee into my chest and that seemed to sort it- I ran fairly slowly and cautiously but everything seemed alright.


I’d said to some of the runners at the start that I wasn’t going to go too fast, as my focus is miles and not time, and I didn’t look at my watch at all. At one point I had to take my top layer off, although I was then too cold- can’t get it right! Anyway, turns out I finished in position 39, first in my age category, with 27.37, which was my second fastest time there. It seems that a warm up is good for running- who knew?


I had been meaning to get my car washed for ages, and decided that as I drive past the big Tesco on the way home, I would see how busy it was. It was fairly quiet (I thought it would be manic with only a week until Christmas), so I left my car and wandered around the shops. I didn’t see anything and there’s a cafe there, so I went for a hot drink.


When I got home it was time for the Christmas bowl! I got this in Disney in September, but I was waiting until December to use it.

I had a whole list of things to do, and managed to get them all ticked off- making more Christmas pudding fudge for gifts for people at work, putting marzipan on the Christmas cakes, work (not festive but it had to be done). The tyre pressure light in my car has been on for a while, and last time I tried to sort it out myself I ran out of 20p’s and managed to deflate my front tyre. Not good. Andy needed to collect some things from work, so I drove and then we stopped off to get that sorted on the way home.

Later we walked into town, in the fog- in fact the fog was worse on the way home- it was so grey and wintery.

On Sunday morning I was off on a long run- I decided to run to and from Ellenbrook parkrun, as on Christmas Eve I would quite like to do that, and also run parkrun. I went there and back slightly different ways, but each way is around 5 miles- I’ll have to be organised that morning so I’m not late, but it should be doable.


Christmas leggings are being well used this month!


In the afternoon I went for afternoon tea with Andy’s mum and my sister in laws- it was such a lovely afternoon, and I always approve of places where you can get more sandwiches (I didn’t, but you can). The cakes were actually Christmassy ones- the fruit cake looked like Rudolph. There was a log fire burning, and a live singer. It was perfect. We took a lot home with us, as we were also given mini mince pies and chocolate covered cherries.

Later that evening I wrapped all the present for work, cut up and bagged the fudge and wrote cards. A very festive weekend indeed.

Do you have many Christmas jobs left? I have a bit of wrapping to do, and I need to ice and decorate the Christmas cakes. Did your work take part in the Christmas jumper day?

Colmar Christmas markets

For the last few years we have headed to Europe for a weekend to visit a new Christmas market- we’ve been to Copenhagen, Bruges, Cologne, Vienna and Strasbourg. Last year our train to Strasbourg also went to a place called Colmar, and when looking into where it was, it turned out to be one of the top ten Christmas markets in Europe. We have flown to a few of the places, but getting the Eurostar is so much easier and less stressful (this was confirmed by our September trip to Paris where we flew out and got the train back)- the train from St Albans is 25 minutes and goes right to Kings Cross, and you only need to get to the Eurostar 30 minutes before, no worries about baggage limits or liquid restrictions. So a few Fridays ago we headed off, picked up a sandwich to eat in the train station and got the Eurostar- I had downloaded some things to watch on the Channel 4 app (Secret Life of the Zoo/ 4 and 5 year olds) but it hadn’t worked so I listened to some podcasts which meant basically I slept most of the way. We stayed overnight in Paris, right by the station, and then in the morning got the train to Colmar. There is a Starbucks in the station so we got a hot drink to have on the train.


They can never get his name right – at least they got mine right though, often I am Marielle. The awful exchange rate means it’s a very expensive treat now though. There were great views on the train of the pretty French countryside, all enjoyed whilst listening to Wittertainment. It was so cold though- all the lakes we passed were frozen solid.


We arrived around lunch time and luckily our hotel room was ready, so we dropped off our bags and had a wander around. It was such a pretty town, very similar to Strasbourg with all the buildings. It was beautifully decorated, and easily walkable.


It’s a bit like Brugges, with canals running through the old town, and lots of buildings facing straight out onto the water. All of the bridges had lovely decorations on them.


There were lots of different markets, all well signposted. We were given a map when we checked in to the hotel, with the markets marked on them, but we didn’t use it as there were signs everywhere.


I loved this little village set by one of the canals.


There were some more unusual decorations too- I loved this tree made of skis!

Of course while we were there we sampled some of the drinks on offer- I had a lovely warm apple drink with spices and local honey, and of course Andy had some mulled wine.


We headed back to the hotel for a bit to warm up and have a picnic dinner of nice bread and cheese, before heading back out to see the decorations at night.


It was even prettier at night (but very cold). The markets were still busy- I think the European ones are so good as they get the local people out too, it’s not all tourists. I had a proper hot chocolate while we wandered to keep my hands warm.


Argh! I washed my hair on Saturday night as we had to be up fairly early in the morning for the train- it was only after that I realised that this was the in-room hairdryer. I’ve only ever seen them in Italy before- it’s the equivalent of someone blowing gently on your hair. Plus the tube gets so hot as you hold it, so you can’t use it for very long. About as useful as a chocolate teapot. Not quite as bad as when we were in Yellowstone and the room didn’t have a hairdryer (it was a lodge with no TV, but I thought it would still have a hairdryer as it had a shower)- it was freezing in the mornings and I remember sitting in the sun by Old Faithful hoping the sun would start to dry it a bit!


This was the park between our hotel and the train station. On Sunday morning we had to get a short train ride (15 mins) to a place called Mullhouse, as there were no direct trains back to Paris that day. We had a good hour there, so we wandered into the town and found a lovely bakery for our breakfast- chocolate almond croissant= winning at breakfast, oh yes.


There was a Christmas market there too, although it wasn’t open at that time on a Sunday morning. I liked the display in the town centre.

After the main train journey, we had time to wander around Paris- we had a walk along the river, before heading to the underground to go to the Eurostar station.


The only thing we bought was this gingerbread man, which was very tasty indeed. It was another great place to visit and put us in a very festive mood.

Do you prefer trains or flights? Where is the best Christmas market you have visited? Any travel hair issues?

December running so far, and fava bean granola

My Strava feed seems to be full of running at the moment- it seems a lot of people are running every day in December/ for advent. To me, that’s crazy. I know that running 3 days in a row is OK for me, and 4 is my limit, and really the 4th run is no use to me at all as I will be stiff, tired and slow. However, I do like the challenges that encourage me to run a little further than normal. I can get into a bit of a run midweek- 3 miles is my minimum run (what’s the point in spending more time washing my hair than I spend running?), so doing a distance challenge is good as it makes me run 4 or 5 miles in the evenings instead. It is also good for my at parkrun as I tend to run a mile or two beforehand, and so I am then warmed up for the start of parkrun.  As I have mentioned before, I’ve signed up for the 100 miles in December challenge, and I also want to run 1000 miles in 2016. We are half way through December now, and my monthly total is 44 miles (not too bad you might say- nearly half way), and my yearly total is 940. As we were away for the first weekend in December I did no running then at all- missing one long run and one parkrun had a big impact. So I have 60 miles to run in two weeks. I think it’s doable. This weekend I’ll run before parkrun, and do a long run on Sunday, so that will be around 15 miles. I’ll do a normal club run on Tuesday, and then I can run in daylight (I finish on Wednesday)- I’m planning another long run on Thursday with a few of the girls from the club. I might run to and from parkrun on Christmas Eve, and I have a 10 mile race the day after Boxing Day. I don’t want to be having to run lots of days in a row so I am trying to make sure all of my runs are slightly longer.


I’d also forgotten that I had signed up for the Virtual Runner 5k series of December- annoyingly I didn’t go to parkrun the first weekend (we were away) and last weekend I marshaled, so one day I did an out and back to get the 5k in, although a longer run would have been better, so this week I submitted the first 3 miles of a 5 mile run. The 4 medals all clip together to make a snowflake which is why I signed up.

Ages ago I was sent some granola from Fava Mills. They use fava beans from Finland to make high protein breakfast cereals.


They make 5 varieties- Apple and Cinnamon, Cranberry, Crunchy, Apricot and Papaya, and Berries and Beets. They also make ground fava beans which you can add to savoury things, a bit like quorn mince or lentils or something.


The apple and cinnamon is my favourite- this is on top of an apple with some almond milk, although you can’t see the apple. The granola is super crunchy, and although I do prefer it crunchy, I leave it to soak for a bit as otherwise I don’t think my teeth could handle it!


The ingredients are: oat flakes, fava bean flour (20.5%), sugar, pea protein, rapeseed oil, apple cubes (4%) [apple, sugar, natural apple flavor, acidity regulator (citric acid)], barley malt extract, cinnamon, salt. So they do contain sugar, but then most granolas do. Each serving has 9g protein, which seems quite good.

They are available to buy only online at the moment, here. They also have some recipes on their website.

I think it would make a great crunchy topping for an apple crumble too, although I have not tried it just yet.

Do you mange to keep running/exercising during the festive period? Have you ever joined a challenge? When do you finish work for Christmas?

*I was sent the cereals in exchange for a mention in a blog post *

Encourage Your Kids To Stay Active With These Fun Sports*

I have a contributed post today, all about keeping your kids active:

As a parent, it’s natural to want the best for your kids and to encourage them to do well, but it’s also natural to want to protect and nurture them if there’s something that they don’t want to do or is bothering them.

For most parents, the line between pushing our kids that little extra bit for their own good, and letting them decide what they want can be pretty fine at times.

It’s absolutely important that we listen to our kids and support them – we can’t expect them to be enthusiastic about everything we ask them to do because, like us, they’re individuals, and we have to find a middle ground for compromise.

On the other hand, sometimes we do genuinely know what’s best for kids when they don’t, and we do have to take on the responsible role and put our foot down.

One of these times is absolutely when it comes to the health and wellbeing of our children, and as we all know, a big part of health is diet and staying active.

Most kids have far more energy than us adults, to the point where they could literally outrun us in a marathon,  but as much as they have energy, they’re not robots, so they won’t always feel like going outside to play, or doing some sports.

We have to be able to encourage them to stay committed to things, even on the days when they don’t really feel like it, because as much as we also like the odd day on the couch watching Netflix, we have to teach our kids that they can’t just go through life doing only the things they feel like.

When they’re older, they need to have a good work ethic and go to work even when they can’t be bothered. If we give in to their every little whim now as children and allow them to constantly drop out of things, then they won’t have this work ethic as adults, so it’s not only important for them now in regards to their health, but also for their future as successful adults who contribute to society.

Here are a few really fun sports you can encourage your child to get involved in. Not only are they fun and help them stay fit, but if you start early enough, then you may find your child has a real talent for these sports that can lead to much bigger things.


This is always a favourite with children because most of them love to swim, anyway. Swimming is a great thing to teach young children as early as possible, because they will be very fit and healthy, become strong swimmers, which is good for safety reasons, and the earlier they start, the more likely they will develop a real passion and commitment to the sport:


If you ever watch the Olympics, you’ll see that this is highly dominated by young people. They have been on the Gymnast beams since very early ages, and have developed amazing skills and strengths, not only body wise, but mentally, and they are very driven and focused on what they do.


This is a sport that is also best when learned as early as possible, and although it’s more popular in some countries as opposed to others, it’s definitely gaining in popularity recently. It’s a sport that you can do with your kids together as a family, and if you see them showing signs of talent or passion, then you can certainly look at hiring a tennis coach to work with them and hone their skills, both mentally and within the game.

What sorts of activities did you like when you were a child? We did a lot of walks and bike rides as a family, and on holiday we would swim or hire kayaks. One of my favourite clubs at school was the country dancing club, although I didn’t like the  orange skirts wee had to wear! What do you think it available in your area? The first junior parkrun has just been launched in Hertfordshire, and I think it is brilliant. I have put an item on the school newsletter about it as I think it is so important for families to be active together, or just being outside in the fresh air. Plus the ethos of parkrun is to join in, or watch, and it is in no way pushy. I think that forcing children to do something they don’t like causes far more damage in the long run.

We are also having a big push at work because studies have shown that most children do not reach the required 3 hours of activity per day- they are far more sedentary now.

Hatfield 5 2016

After our Saturday in Bath (a couple of weeks ago now) I was doing the Hatfield 5. It’s a fairy new race (this was it’s third year)- I ran it for the first year, but last year we were away. As it’s local, we get a great turnout of OH ladies both running and marshaling. The first year was still my 5 mile pb- a great time of 44.44 (great because of the palindromic nature as well as it being very fast for me) and I didn’t think I would be anywhere close to it.

I had also signed up to the Virtual Runner UK birthday run – it was any distance in November. I actually submitted a random run so the medal would come, but I wanted it for this run. The money went to Alzheimer’s UK, and as was pretty much 2 years to the day since my Nan passed away of Alzheimer’s I wanted to run the race in memory of her.


The race HQ is at Herts uni, so you could use their car park and hang about inside the cafe area after collecting your number. I left my bag at the drop (although that took a while and should have hinted to me that maybe I should have just run back to my car). We only headed to the start line 5 minutes before as it was quite cold, and I lined up with a few runners who I know are a similar speed to me. I had no aims of beating my pb as I had worked out I would need to run all my miles beginning with an 8- it sounds way too fast!

I was trying to keep one of my friends (Louise) in sight, but the start was crowded so I lost her for a bit. I managed to catch her up after a mile or so, and a little later we caught up with another runner from our club (Emily-she’d only joined a few weeks before and this was her first race). After a while Louise said she needed to slow, so we left her, and the two of us pretty much stayed together, sometimes me a bit ahead, and sometimes Emily. We saw loads of OH marshals along the first couple of miles which really gave us a boost too.


Here we are after about 3 or 4 miles I think (both feet off the ground for both of us).

As we came to the final mile we kept being overtaken by these two guys, and then they would go past us. It turned into a bit of friendly rivalry as one of them commented “you girls keep going past us”- I think we finished ahead of one of them! The final mile is the same as the first mile, but in the opposite direction, but it seemed to go on for ages! I had barely looked at my watch during the race (only to see the mileage) but I could see the finish clock, and knew it had taken us a minute or so to cross the line, and it was still under 45 minutes so I put in as much of a sprint as I could to try and beat my time.


Chip time was 43.58! A new 5 mile pb by nearly a minute!

I managed the royal flush negative split too- my miles were 9.09, 8.59, 8.50, 8.41, 8.20. Not sure how I managed that! Just over 25 minutes for the final 3 miles, yet my fastest parkrun (and I know there’s a 0.1 to be added) has been just over 27 minutes recently.

I stayed at the finish line and cheered lots of our runners over the line, but I started to get very cold so thought I would head in to get my bag. I ended up queuing for about 35 minutes- one poor guy was on his own trying to find each bag. It was very painful and annoyingly I missed seeing the last couple of runners from our club cross the finish line. We had a few mini group pictures as we hadn’t taken one at the start (a schoolboy error)- marshals and runners. It was great to see so many familiar faces.


From our facebook page


The medal was a really good one too- nice and chunky. I decided that I was going to donate my finish time to the charity (like when parkrun do the donate your time campaign) so it’s properly for my Nan.


I then had a bit of a rush as I was going into London for afternoon tea with a couple of friends- it was the first weekend of their festive one and we got mini mince pies, which excited me a lot (even though I am not the biggest fan). I think I didn’t drink enough though as I had such an awful headache at the end, and didn’t have any painkillers with me. I could have bought some on my way back to the train station, but as it was a Sunday the trains were less frequent and I thought I would rather get an earlier train and suffer on- it wasn’t good though as I wanted to sleep on the train but then worried I would miss my stop. Apart from that it was great though.

When I told Andy I got a new pb, he went “for 5 miles?” as if that wasn’t very impressive! I think it’s my 6th or 7th 5 mile race, so I was pretty pleased!

Which distances do you think you race the most frequently? I would guess 10k for me, but I need to do a tally chart to find out. Which tea would you have for afternoon tea? Earl grey all the way for me.