Christmas in July! Plus walking a half marathon.

A few years ago we were in Montreal and came across a big Christmas in July celebration, with giant inflatable animals, food trucks, decorations and so on, and I really liked that idea, but often we are on holiday on the  25th. This year however we were home, so I decided we would have Christmas in July.

Of course Christmas Day starts with a parkrun. Dad had planned a route to a place he had only discovered through cycling in lockdown- an old gully with paths along the top and through the bottom- it involved a bit of scrambling at one point as it was a steep climb to get back out again. My brother had been to Simmons to get croissants for breakfast (I’m still bringing my own water and tea). It was forecast to rain but it held off so we were able to sit in the garden for a few hours after.

Once home I showered and put on a Christmas t-shirt- this one has a gingerbread man on it (and unlike my penguin t, this is most definitely a Christmas one).

I got my Christmas apron out and did some baking. I could not decide what to do, and in the end went for candy cane caramel shortbread- basically make caramel shortbread, crush some candy canes and add some peppermint extract to the melted chocolate topping.

We did a big more lego, as that seemed a festive thing to do.

Then in the evening I put on some candles and we watched a film- although not a Christmas one (Andy drew the line there)- we ended up watching the Eurovision film, which was gentle and fairly funny.

On Sunday we were up early as we were going to walk the WGC centenary walk, which is around 20km, but as it starts from about half a mile from home it is basically a half marathon.

The weather was forecast to be “sunny intervals” and not too warm- perfect. And it was, but then some big clouds appeared later on (top right to top left!). We had taken bananas and water with us, but not rain coats…

After around 9 and a half miles it started to rain quite hard, but luckily we were close to a railway bridge so we sheltered under there for a few minutes and then it eased off.

At about 10.5 miles we were coming up to the final golf course and it started raining heavily- there was no shelter around and we were soaked through after a few minutes. A couple of girls asked the way as they had got lost on the golf course- the posts with the signs were hard to spot with the rain coming down. The final part was through the woods, and then it stopped raining and my clothes started to dry off, but as soon as I got home I needed to change into something dry. It ended up being 13.6 miles, and we walked it in just under 4 and a half hours.

After lunch and a shower Andy was watching the football so I watched some Disney+, opting for Cinderella. I don’t think I’d actually seen it before. Princesses were not my thing when I was little, and my favourite Disney films were Jungle Book, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid (although she is a princess, I loved the sidekicks and songs more). It was just over an hour and just what I fancied – totally easy watching.

After dinner we had a Christmas pudding- one of the Waitrose ones with the clementine in the middle- and used one of our film vouchers to watch Onward, which I loved but why Pixar do you tug those emotional strings so well?

Have you ever celebrated Christmas in July?  Do you like long walks? We sometimes have fairly long walks on holiday- my most memorable one was a 10 mile walk in Glacier National Park to see a lake of icebergs- it was amazing but the whole time I was really jumpy in case we saw a bear (we didn’t on that walk, but saw plenty of bears in that park on other days).

Week 1 of summer-venturing too far

My Sunday run- anti-clockwise and then back through town

As I hadn’t run too far on the Sunday (8 miles) I decided to do a longer run on the Monday. I had completed some of the 20/20 route and then come back through town, so I retraced those steps through town and re-joined the route, completing it over the 2 days. It was a beautiful day, but actually not too hot which was perfect for running.

Monday run- up through town to where I had stopped, and then carrying on anti-clockwise

Once home I decided to treat myself to a hair hot oil treatment- they are a bit of a faff because you have to wet your hair, put the oil in and then leave it for a bit of time before washing, so I sat in the garden and had breakfast while it worked it’s magic.

I had a list of jobs to start working through (booking my MOT, doing some gardening, general cleaning and washing) but I made sure to have time to sit in the garden in the afternoon too.

One spider plant looked a bit big so I tipped it out, divided it into 2 and re-potted, so now I have 2.

On Tuesday I headed back into work to sort out my classroom- trying to move the furniture around to make it fit the September guidance. I had ordered a click and collect from The Pudding Stop as we have been craving a dessert from there recently, so after finishing at work I parked out of town and walked in.

That was a really bad experience. St Albans town centre was rammed. There were some “keep left” signs but there were so many people it was impossible to do, and they have not shut the main road to cars, just a small side road, so you could not easily avoid people. My order wasn’t ready until 3.30, so I went and sat in the park for a bit. Thankfully the park was quiet. I put my mask on to wear when picking up my order (someone asked the other day why I did that when they weren’t compulsory at that point- this was the Tuesday before the Friday that we had to)- but this just seemed such a weird question. If something is good manners (I wear a mask to protect others) and is deemed a sensible precaution, why not do it as soon as soon as you are able to (eg once you have a mask) ? This article (which is about masks in schools) had some interesting points about how it can help stop the spread and also change behaviour.

Our freezer is now very well stocked including biscoff baked cookie dough desserts- although we did share the doughnut that day because it wouldn’t freeze I don’t think.

The click and collect was fine (you can see into the shop from outside so you know it is OK to enter, you pop in, say your name and they put your bag on the counter shaped like a big cartoon mouth, and that’s it) and as I walked back through town I kept my mask on. This seemed to make others give me a wider berth. Perhaps they are being considerate, or perhaps it’s a subconscious signal that things are not back to normal. I also wanted to see what it was like to keep it on for a bit, as we are hoping to go to Disneyland Paris but you have to wear a mask the whole time which could get uncomfortable. I think when I first put it on I did feel a bit claustrophobic, but I got used to it after a bit of time. I wasn’t sure how it would work with my glasses, but if I tuck it under the glasses then they don’t steam up.

We did a bit more on our Disney castle, although the Florida one has now had a paint job so it won’t match. It’s coming together, and it’s been really enjoyable to put on a podcast and work together on building it.

On Wednesday I was planning on going out for a run first thing, but Bird&Blend were having a Christmas in July sale launching at 9am, so in the end I decided to order a few bit first before going out. Poor them, their site crashed (they were very apologetic as they had been working with their developers to get it ready)- so it took a bit longer to check out. It was really warm by the time I set out and I was glad of the shade in the woods. Once home I could at least sit in the garden and cool down.

Our tomato plants are doing so well, so I had some with my lunch (mini pitta- I don’t like using the toaster at work so I am making the most of lunch at home) and also joined in with the butterfly count in the afternoon.

We of course had to eat some of the Pudding Stop treats- this is a biscoff cronut and was really tasty (and sticky).

On Thursday I fancied running a 10k, and hoped I’d worked out a route. In the end when I got home I was over 6.2 miles, so I ran around the corner to make it 6.5- I like full or half miles unless it’s a 5 or 10k…

From Vitality we use to get Starbucks drink each week, but that switched to Caffe Nero in the lockdown, so they had replaced it with ordering coffee beans online (which we would not use as we don’t drink coffee). As more of their shops are open now, they have started the reward up again, so we ventured into town (WGC not St Albans) to see how busy it would be. It was actually fine- again I put my mask on before I got to town as I think that made people give a wider berth, but it was not too busy. In the cafe you could see inside, see the floor markers, and it was all contactless (eg the voucher is on the app). I was surprised that some people were actually sitting inside (with many rules including only sharing tables with people in your bubble, which I don’t think people are adhering to?) and the tables were spaced apart, but that is a step too far for me at the moment.

On Friday I decided to have a go at the not parkrun, as my Saturday morning runs are chatty ones with no worries about time. I did a warm up, 5k and then around a half a mile cool down, and got my fastest not parkrun of 29:29. I spent the rest of the day pottering around at home, watching a bit of TV in the afternoon and having a go at making some signs for our outdoor area at work using my wood burning pen and the wood from an old pallet. On Fridays we’ve been watching a new episode of Queer Eye (we can’t burn through them too quickly)- feelgood TV at its best.

We were chatting the other day about the queues for things that have reopened, (eg McDonalds having 2 hour queues and traffic jams, the queues for gyms reopening) and I could not think of anything that I missed that much that I would have to be there right away. Andy mentioned parkrun, and I suppose that would be the only thing, although when they re-start there won’t be 2 hour queues. Although I can’t see that happening for many months to come.

What have you really missed going to or doing during lockdown? What would you queue 2 hours for? I don’t think I would even queue 2 hours for the best Disney ride!

The countdown to the summer holidays and braving eating out

Last week was the final week before the holidays and as with all the weeks before, it was pretty much the same, although I didn’t do yoga on Monday morning and I have no idea why (I think I had to be in work earlier for a meeting, but I can’t remember).

Red Velvet tea and TV one evening, and a really tasty noodle recipe from the Fearne Cotton book (a peanut butter sauce with smoked tofu, broccoli and courgettes)

Anyway, early morning runs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and our final yoga class on Wednesday evening. Some people talked about possibly re-starting in the actual yoga venue in September, but I can’t imagine that at the moment. Also some people seem to interpret the “1 metre plus” as being 1 metre, and forgetting the plus part (which means additional measures like masks, windows open, additional cleaning etc)- I can’t imagine doing yoga in a mask, and I also don’t think it would be that responsible of me to go as once back at work in September I’ll be exposed to all of the germs that come with being in a room with 30 children all day. I am hoping the online classes continue.

Early morning run weather/ waffle/ iced tea matching my nail varnish

I had planned a trip to the Waffle House on Friday with some colleagues, and after chatting about it Andy decided he fancied waffles for dinner (on Thursday) so we made the hummus and avocado ones- so tasty.

And then we reached the end of term- and it felt very strange indeed. A couple of us had arranged to head to the Waffle House for a late lunch (we finish early on the last day of term, and Friday pm’s has been our planning time so we could head off once everything was sorted)- they were doing takeaway only, with a smaller menu, and you had to order online. I was a bit apprehensive about it, having still not been anywhere like that (no takeaway, no coffee shop, certainly no supermarket or anything) since March, but it was actually quite good to see how well it worked and how everyone managed to keep at a distance when collecting. We then went and sat in the park and had a catch up. Although there was a huge group of people (at least 30 adults plus loads of kids) and that was a bit frustrating to see as the limit is still 6 people outside meeting up.

It was good to mark the end of term (and year) in some way, because so many of the other events (like sports day) have not happened so it has felt rather strange and a bit of an anticlimax. I was given some lovely gifts from colleagues and children/ parents, including these gorgeous cakes- the penguin was a particular favourite of mine of course!

In the evening I watched a live podcast of a teaching related comedy one (Two Mr P’s) and that helped make it feel a bit more like the end of term too.

Saturday was standard with a run with my dad and brother, breakfast in their garden, and then relaxing at home. Our tomatoes have finally started turning red so it’s been good to eat them after tending them for so long.

On Sunday I had a run around some of the WGC 20/20 route, and then did a bit of pottering in the garden. We had been working our way through Mrs America which I really enjoyed. I thought I would find it annoying (I gave up on Mad Men after a few episodes because the sexism was so frustrating) but I found it so interesting to see how the movement developed, although you could also see how the scaremongering worked and how that it still used today by some political parties. Worth a look on i-player anyway.

We had seen on a Queer Eye episode a recipe using pickled grapes, so we adapted it a bit (pesto pasta veggies, some quorn and then pickled grapes). To make them you basically soak them in red wine vinegar for a few hours and they are so tasty. I love pickled anything so this was a win for me.

Do you like pickled foods? Have you been out to eat yet? I definitely don’t feel like going to a restaurant any time soon, although we would not tend to do that regularly anyway. I think it was good for me, mentally, because I have built a lot of things up in my head to be bigger than they actually are.

Another not parkrun, a lesson learned and my lockdown locks

Last Saturday I headed over for a run with my dad and brother. Dad had mapped out a new route, partly through woods and taking in a small section of the Jersey Farm route- we are very conscious that we don’t want to be running on the parkrun route on a Saturday morning. We had lovely views across the valley at one point, and again really enjoyed running together. My brother had stopped off at Simmons (a bakers) and picked up croissants for breakfast. I’d still taken my water and tea with me, and we had a lovely breakfast in the garden.

When I got home Andy had been digging up more of the concrete lumps that are hiding in our garden- we have a big pile of junk now! I made some fudge for end of year gifts, using condensed coconut milk (partly as an experiment, but also Ocado didn’t have any normal condensed milk)- it turned out pretty well.

I also did some pottering in the garden and of course had tea sat out there. I kept seeing loads of butterflies feeding on the flowers.

On Sunday morning we had some family coming over, so I postponed my run to the afternoon because I didn’t want to set an alarm. Oh how I wished I had done that! It was so hot! I went through the woods (lovely) but then ended up on the golf course and of course there is no shade there!

I did find a penguin pebble which I just loved!

When I got home I had a peach, and the peach was perfect and juicy and sweet and just what I needed.

I decided to do a lush hair treatment because the ends of my hair are getting quite dry now. I usually get it cut maybe 3 times a year, and as it had been cut at Christmas I would have gone in the Easter holidays. When it became apparent that I would not be having it cut any time soon, I took a “before” photo, and this week decided to do the “part way through” (because I am not braving the hairdressers yet- it’s now been 4 months since I went to a shop and from what I hear they are worse now as loads of people are relaxing and not keeping their distance any more…).  Anyway, I couldn’t see much difference at first but then looking at where my hair is against the lettering on the t-shirt it shows it has grown a bit.

End of March:

Beginning of July:

These lockdown locks are here to stay a bit longer. When I’ve been running in the morning I’ve washed it and blow dried it for a bit but it takes ages to dry, so I’ve been plaiting it and going to work with it damp- it will still be damp when I take the plait out when I get home. I sometimes use straighteners to tidy it up a bit, but I have probably used them a handful of times since March. I’ve got this lovely hair oil from The Body Shop which I leave on as an overnight treatment every now and then. I think I just need to make sure I do a deep condition each week to stop it drying out any more.

How do you look after your hair? Have you braved the hairdressers yet? 

A not parkrun pb and living off tea!

Last week was the penultimate week of term and as always things start to feel even busier as all of the extra end of term/year admin has to fit in around a regular week. Tea (particularly Bird&Blend tea) has been getting me through! After watching Frozen 2, I started watching the behind the scenes series on Disney + which is so interesting as you can see how the various creative people (songwriters, animators, story creators) work together to develop the story.

I really appreciated doing some yoga (Day 17- I’m slowly getting there!) on Monday morning to set myself off in the right frame of mind before a fraught week (I had meetings/ training before or after school every day and sometimes at both ends of the day).

On Tuesday I did a warm up and then the 3.1 miles to have a go at not-parkrun. I didn’t need to stop at all when crossing roads (I mean, I slowed to check, but there were no cars coming) and I was pleased to get home in just under 30 mins (29:46). I only remembered to log my time on Sunday though!

I got rather wet on my Wednesday morning run, and then really enjoyed yoga in the evening. I will miss these classes in the holidays (they are term time only). The final Pret style cookie and some cherries was a very good post-yoga snack.

On Thursday I did another run in the morning (thankfully not quite so wet as the day before). I’ve been getting into a good sourdough routine at the end of the week- on Thursday I get the starter out of the fridge and feed it, and then later on in the evening I mix up the dough (in a mixer with a dough hook)  and leave it to rise overnight. On Friday morning I knead the dough (by hand) and then put it in the basket. Once home I heat up the oven, tip the loaf into the tray and slice the top before baking it. We then have delicious bread on Friday (and freeze any leftover slices).

We decided to do another Choose your own adventure with Kimmy on Friday- it’s good fun and as we tried to choose differently from last time we got to see various new clips. It is so clever the way it works.

I’ve said before that I have enjoyed my early morning runs at this time of year, and one bonus is that when I get home we can have a pot of tea together, and then maybe have a walk (or I’ll get on with some work before dinner). The drawback is that I only have time for a certain length of run- I did quite like doing a 10k on a Tuesday when I was working from home, but I would have to get up way before 5am for that and it just does not seem worth it. I am thinking that once the holidays are here I will get back to a slightly longer run on Tuesdays at least.

Do you like behind the scenes things? On a tangent the podcast Soundtracking with Edith Bowman was really good- each week she would discuss a different film soundtrack, and have a guest on there who worked on it (director/ musician and so on).

What is your favourite type of tea? Usually I would choose Earl Grey (B&B do Earl Grey Creme which has vanilla which is lovely) but I have been loving some of their other special blends such as Peach Cobbler (black tea with peach). I’ve nearly run out of Red Velvet tea and it’s not on sale all year so I am keeping my fingers crossed that it’s in their Christmas in July sale…