Rants and Raves #5

And we’re mid-week! Hurrah! Can you believe it’s Christmas next week – as in next week? I’m pretty much in the “I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time ever” camp so I’m fairly excited right now. I know some people aren’t as keen on Christmas and it can be quite stressful, but I just really enjoy it – the atmosphere, family time, food (ALL THE FOODS), friends, music, films…I love it. Anyway, on to my rants and raves!

Rave: And on the theme of Christmas… Christmas jumpers! I’m a jumper lover and it really appeals to me on two levels: it’s Christmassy and it’s warm.

IMG_8781 From Matalan

Rant: Ben pretends he doesn’t like Christmas jumpers but I’m convinced there’s an excited little boy in there somewhere…

IMG_8789 From Tesco

I’m sure he loves wearing it really. But anyway, Christmas jumpers are amazing. It’s sad they’re only really socially acceptable around Christmas. And I lost my last jumper as I thoughtfully put it away last year…to an unknown location.

Rave: The gym! OK it is early days but I’m really enjoying the variety. I did (my gym’s version) of body pump, which isn’t the Les Mills one but is a very similar concept, at the weekend. The class worked on muscles that I had long been neglecting: shoulders, back, triceps, biceps, chest…it’s been a while. And my body made me full aware of that the next day as I was hobbling around like a 90 year old woman struggling with simple activities.

I also did a class called Pure Blast. It was 30 minutes of high intensity exercise. Basically you either sprinted on the treadmill or cycled madly on the bike for a set amount of time, then did a series of exercises like squats, burpees, sit ups, lunges, etc. before getting back on the bike. Non-stop for 25 minutes (5 minute cool down – or in my case, collapse on floor). This was followed by a core class which was run by the same monster guy. He did a very similar concept whereby you did a certain core move a set time and then moved quickly on to the next move. After peeling myself off the floor I realised I quite enjoyed it. My body didn’t know what had hit it – there was just so much variety!

Rant: My gym, I won’t lie, is one of the cheaper gyms (PureGym) but works brilliantly for me. It’s open 24 hours a day and has loads of different classes which are perfect for my schedule. It’s also massive so there’s never a chance of not getting a machine or set of weights. However it isn’t glamorous by anyone’s imagination and some people who go there (I am heavily generalising here as I know a lot of nice people who also go there) can be a bit intimidating and, for want of a better word, are a bit “rough” (I fully admit to to being a snob). This was proved as I came out of the gym and was cat-called by a bunch of guys also exiting. Me quickening up to get to my car just heightened their calling. Lovely.

Rave: Alfie. Need I say more?

IMG_8522 Alfie gives me hope that one day when I become a mother (*heart palpitations begin*) I will sink into the role easier than I think. I just love this fur ball more than words – even if he does decide to poo when his walk is 99% over and we’re well and truly past the poo bin.

Rant: OK this is something I’ve been meaning to post about. When Ben went to China (and Hong Kong) he asked me if there was anything I’d like him to bring back. I said some Chinese sweets as I was intrigued what they’d be like. Verdict?

IMG_8546 Not sweet at all. In fact, there were these so-called ginger sweets (actually I have no idea what they were called at all as the description is in another language) which blew my head off! The after burn was ridiculous. I was bitterly disappointed. You live and learn.

Rave: Hey check me out posting not one but two ‘outfit of the day’ photos in one post! I used to do this a while ago but then stopped because…well, I’m actually devoid of any style and my clothes are quite boring. But I was quite proud of this outfit. If you think it looks stupid/ugly, please don’t tell me as I want to continue to live in my fantasy world… ;-)

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Jumper from Matalan, skirt very old stolen from sister years ago, socks from River Island, necklace and boots I can’t remember (this is possibly another reason why I don’t post my outfit that often)

I much prefer summer to winter but winter does have the benefit of long boots and layering. And long socks! They were so toasty. Almost typed “tasty” (food is never far from my mind clearly).

Rant: Working from home is amazing. However deciding to “chance” doing an update on my computer in the morning before I started work was not wise.

IMG_8788 I started it at 8.30am and it didn’t finish until 1pm. I kid you not. I felt terrible because obviously I couldn’t do any work. My manager was aware and it had happened to someone else in the office the other day so it wasn’t really an issue. I pottered about doing chores and bits and bobs. I suppose you could say that’s a good thing – but I’m the type of person who when genuinely sick and can’t go to work is convinced they’ll think I’m lying or taking liberties. I hate people thinking I’m dossing about or not doing my job. I got what I needed to do done for the day though so it wasn’t too bad in the end.

Rave: I’ve done my one month free of Kindle Unlimited. I downloaded (for free) and read Thorn Birds (wowza is that an epic love saga or what! Slightly creepy as well) and the The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window (absolutely fantastic – very dry and sarcastic humour but this really appealed to me).

I also downloaded Life of Pi and Great Expectations as audio books and listened to these in the car on the way to and from work. I loved Life of Pi and really recommend it. I chose Great Expectations as I don’t think I’ve read a Charles Dickens before and thought I really probably should. It was over 11 hours long though!

I decided I was going to cancel my Kindle Unlimited account though as I didn’t think £7.99/month was worth it. I do read a lot of books but I usually aim for the cheaper ones and there wasn’t enough audio book selection to keep me interested there. This meant that I had to listen to Great Expectations quite often towards the end of the free month as when you cancel Kindle Unlimited they remove the Unlimited content from your devices. Though I’ve managed to duck this so far by not connecting my Kindle to WiFi (sneaky, sneaky), but for my phone (where I listen to the audio books) this was impossible.

Anyway long story short: I enjoyed Kindle Unlimited but I’d prefer to spend £7.99 a month at Audible where you get a free audio book from a huge selection every month. I did enjoy Great Expectations though – even if Dickens often decided to use 12 words when one would have sufficed.

Do you enjoy reading/listening to audio books? I love getting through twice as many books by using my ‘dead time’ when I’m commuting to listen to something.

Have you ever tried “foreign” sweets before? Generally I’ve had good experiences but I think this is because I’ve always had more “Westernised” sweets.

Are you a Christmas jumper lover or hater?

So excited

The weekend has just flow by. I can’t believe how close to Christmas we are now! And how close to Ben and my next holiday – wooo wooo!

At the end of January we’re off to Florida to go and do some theme park craziness (though missing out Disney World as it didn’t rock our world at all the last time we went) for 8 days, and then travelling to Dallas for 6 days. The first part of the holiday we’re going with a couple friend of ours, Kate and Jamie, and they are literally obsessed with theme parks and Florida. They’re going for two weeks which was just too hardcore for us, which is why we’re then going to Dallas.

So this weekend gone we went up to Bristol to stay over at Kate and Jamie’s house on Saturday to get down to the Holiday Master Plan, i.e. where we want to go, what we want to do and more importantly what kind of restaurants and food we like and want to go to. Jamie is a HUGE food enthusiast and loves all the American-style food and, well, food in general. Jamie is like the male version of me basically. Food is important to us!

They cooked an amazing feast of food. Honestly it was incredible.

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There were tortilla chips with dips, oven-roasted hot and plain chicken wings, corn on the cobs, home-made burgers, crispy bacon, ranch dressed slaw and regular salad and my personal favourite RIBS.

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Ribs are one of my favourite meals in the entire world. I adore them. It was such a good spread, but it didn’t end there.

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Pudding!

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Home-made brownie, hot fudge sauce and Hagen Daaz vanilla ice cream. Oh my life. All in a special Mickey Mouse bowl (sink?). The photo above really doesn’t do it justice but as you can see there was a HEFTY amount of ice cream there – a slab I would say.

We all stumbled to the finish line in states of absolute fullness and severe feelings of sick. We literally sat there in silence (I’d like to say a satisfied silence, but it was more a silence of necessity as movement in general was painful at that point). I regret nothing though ;-)

What was really fun was we took Alfie with us and he got to meet their pug, Doug. They seemed to get on well – though Alfie refused to allow Doug to sniff his bottom. Not sure what that means in Dog Code. But Doug didn’t mind Alfie having a sniff. I like to think that this is Alfie asserting his Alfa male status ;-) Or just being grumpy!

IMG_8805We had such a fun evening, ending in a random Harry Potter quiz to get us ready for the mayhem ahead. We’re all huge fans of Harry Potter, roller coasters and general silliness that it will just be like being a kid again I think. And we’re staying in the same hotel which is a walk or a short bus ride from Universal Studios so it’s perfect. And we’ve got tickets to an ice hockey game!! It should be mental :D

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The next morning we all went for a walk with Alfie and Doug to their nearby park and had a nice long walk – the conversation never veering far from the impending holiday. We are all SO excited.

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We got back and Jamie did a fabulous pancake breakfast for Ben and Kate. I brought my porridge (what did you expect?). My friends know what I’m like (apple obsessed, porridge lover…) so they didn’t mind. Ben was in chocolate chip, cream and syrup heaven though.

IMG_8811He stacked up his three pancakes (first batch) with white and milk chocolate chips in between each layer, coated with golden syrup and then finished with cream. He loved it. I’m actually not a massive pancake fan (or crepes for that matter) so America in that respect is a little disappointing at breakfast for me. I’d much prefer just my regular porridge as the idea of lots of sweet stuff in the morning doesn’t do it for me. When we last went to Florida we had a villa so I could satisfy my porridge need by making it myself but this time we’re in a hotel. It might be time for me to branch out. Watch this space…

And then we were on our merry way back home. It was such good fun and I now have a list of restaurants that I’m subsequently going to peruse through. Does anyone else do that? Find restaurants beforehand and then look through their menus? It gets me really excited about what’s to come!

And so we drove back home, Alfie on my lap. He hates travelling in the car but when he got to look out of the window he was more impressed.

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What do you eat for breakfast on holiday? Do you branch out and have something different? Any recommendations for a pancake un-enthusiast?

What’s the most exciting part about going on holiday for you? For me a big part if trying new foods. But going with friends now is going to add a brilliant new element – and we’re all similar to each other in different ways so it makes things very easy.

Do you enjoy roller coasters?

MyProtein Review – take 2

I’ve recently been sent some products from MyProtein to review. I’ve previously done a MyProtein review before (find it HERE) and I quite like the company, hence my willingness to do more product reviews for them. The website has a lot of different products on offer, from supplements, protein powders, nutritional items and accessories all related to fitness and health. I got to choose a few items, so here we go.

Glucosamine Sulphate (find HERE)

This is a supplement you take one of every day and it provides 1000mg of glucosamine sulphate, which is a naturally occurring nutrient that is a major component of our body’s cartilage (it’s basically in the fluid around the joints).

IMG_8561 It’s aimed at those who wish to have optimum bone health, especially those who are very active. I’m so hyper aware of my body and any impending injuries or current injuries that this really appealed to me. Anything to help, you know?

It’s quite a large tablet to take but I’m sure you could split it in two to make it easier. I can’t say I’ve felt a difference from taking this (though I have only been taking it for a week or so) but I had no side effects. Also a lot of the reviews on the website profess positive views on it’s ability to help with pain in the joints and “clicky” knees. On further investigation I’ve found it’s actually used as a treatment for osteoarthritis. To be honest, I don’t think I need to take this but I think if you do experience clicky knees or painful joints it might help.

MSM Powder (find HERE)

MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane) is a form of sulphur and provides a flexible bond between the proteins for your hair, skin, joints, tendons and cartilage. This is a bag full of MSM power of which you take 1g daily alongside food.

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This is ideal for, again, people who are training long term and to help them get the right balance of nutrients for the body.

I drink it in the morning mixed with squash (yes I’m still addicted) and I can’t taste it at all. Again I have no side effects from taking it but I’ve also not noticed any benefits (but again, I’ve only been taking it for just over a week). Similarly to glucosamine sulphate, it’s used for osteoarthritis and also join inflammation, bursitis, tendonitis…which was all very good news for me with my latest injury woes! Very timely indeed (though I’m pretty sure I don’t have osteoarthritis!!). For £5.99 it’s not a bad price considering you only take 1g a day so it will last a fair while.

ZMA® (find HERE)

This is another tablet-form supplement with a blend of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B6. The benefits are that magnesium helps with the body’s electrolyte balance, bone and teeth  maintenance along with the supporting of the nervous system, muscles, protein synthesis and helps reduce fatigue. The zinc supports the immune system, metabolism, the maintenance of testosterone levels, it supports your vision, skin, hair, nails and bones. It also has a protective element against oxidative stress. The vitamin B6 helps to regulate your hormones.

IMG_8560I think this is clearly a good supplement for anyone, not just for those with fitness inclinations. I have to say that I’m quite impressed with this product. I read the reviews on the website and found it aligned with what I’d found: very good, deep night’s sleep! Perhaps my opinion was influenced by what I read, either way I’ve been sleeping brilliantly. OK I don’t get up at 5am anymore so that does help too but genuinely my sleep has been pretty damn good. I’m a very light sleeper but I wake up a lot less in the night now. Who knows! It is a more pricey product however at £28.99, though the tablet is a more reasonable size if that’s any consolation…

CoconPure Oil (find HERE)

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This is a very large tub (460g) of 100% organic coconut oil, unrefined and non-bleached. Coconut oil is a very healthy oil as it’s rich in lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides, so though it is high in saturated fat most of this is good fat (not the same as that found in chocolate and cake) and is metabolised differently in the body. IMG_8585

Coconut oil can be used in so many different recipes. I often fry my vegetables or eggs in it, or melt a tablespoon of it and toss some roasting vegetables in it. It adds a very subtle coconut flavour to my meals. You can also use it in baking. MyProtein actually has a quite interesting article on the usages and benefits HERE.

For £9.99 I think this is an absolute bargain for the quantity and quality you get. I’m very pleased with it and use it probably every day.

Overall thoughts: As I said, I’m a fan of MyProtein. Though there is a danger of just wanting to buy everything from the website. When you read about the benefits that certain supplements provide you can get carried away wanting to be sure you’re not missing out on some vital vitamin or mineral. I’m sure if you were sensible you could get a lot of these benefits from eating a well varied and balanced diet. However for those who want to be certain and are maybe nervous they’re missing out then it’s ideal, especially for people like me who are injury prone! Anything that could support my body and help me get stronger is something that instantly appeals to me.

If you take supplements, which do you take?

Do you use coconut oil? What’s your favourite use of it?

Have you use MyProtein before?

***Full Disclosure: These products were sent to me for free by MyProtein.com but all opinions are my own.***

The definition of insanity

…is doing something over and over again, expecting a different result. That’s me right now. You might be able to guess where this is going. It can hardly be a surprise and you’re probably as bored as I am about the whole thing. For that I can only apologise, but I assure you no one is more fed up of this than me.

Running and me are taking a break. I’m pretty sure it’s long overdue. Injury after injury. I’m so tired of it all. I’m tired of dreading every run. How will it feel? What’s going to go wrong? And even when it goes OK I still wonder how long will it be before I’m injured again. The injury I have at the moment, which is gradually going away, is merely the straw that broke the donkey’s back.

I was thinking about it over the weekend and I was surprised at how unstressed I was about not running at the moment and how I actually wasn’t missing it. I’m not training for a race so there are no worries. But I let my mind wander to what my feelings would be if the weeks continue and I’m still not running. My heart started to race and I felt myself getting stressed.

My dad asked me why I run, I say “because I love it and enjoy it” and he replied “are you enjoying it at the moment?”. Honestly? No. And I haven’t properly enjoyed it for a while now. I loved the Berlin marathon but every run leading up and the runs after have been tainted by injury or the worry of injuries to come. This isn’t fun anymore.

So I’m going to take a break from running. For how long I have no idea. It might be weeks or it might be months. Deciding this feels like the world has lifted off my shoulders, which in itself says something really. I’m almost certain I will defer London. I want to run London confident and happy after running strong the months before. And, my current injury aside, even if I was running well at the moment I would still feel the same as my head is in a rubbish place – the doubt and the fear is constant. I’ve begun to resent running. I resent how much it consumes my moods and makes me a rather awful person to be around when I can’t run. And it’s not just the marathon, it’s running in general. At the moment I have absolutely no desire to run. The love and enjoyment has disappeared.

I’ve joined a gym (again) and I’m going to do classes, like circuits, spin and body pump, and use the rowing machine (which I always love) and other machines and just do whatever I fancy there. Right now I don’t want to think about running, training plans, marathons, races or injuries. I just want to exercise with abandon – feel the endorphins and sweat. I don’t run to lose weight (ironically I’ve lost weight not running – how weird is that?), I exercise because there’s something so primal and basic about it. You feel accomplished, invigorated and on top of the world. If running can’t do that for me right now, I’ll find something else that will.

The sad thing about this is it’s all so repetitive (I’m sorry). I was in the same position last year and similarly decided to take a break. I think my issue before though was I got back into running as soon as I could and went straight into marathon training for Paris in April and from there it was a spiral of constant running and injuries. This time I just want to do whatever I fancy without any time frames, limits or goals. Who knows, London might still happen but I have no ambition to train for it at the moment or in the coming weeks. I want to go to the gym, sweat it out, get strong and feel good. And hope my love for running will return at some point.

Have you ever felt ‘enough is enough’ with something?

Have you got fed up with a type of exercise?

Are you injury prone? If not, what’s your secret? ;-)

Berlin Christmas markets

Well that’s my second Berlin trip this year done and dusted. And I must say I don’t feel quite as in pieces as I did after my last one, having not run 26.2 miles this time!

Though I’m still shattered. I left for Gatwick Friday afternoon and met up with two of my friends before flying into Berlin to meet the other two. We were staying in my friend Charlotte’s parents house so the whole trip was very cheap (let’s not talk about how my taxi there and back from the airport cost more than the flight itself…). We got to her house late that evening.

The next day was a whirlwind of Christmas markets, Starbucks, SO much food and lots of girlie chatting, as you can imagine. It was cold but thankfully we had no rain so we wrapped up warm and did lots of walking so it was fine.

The first Christmas markets we went to were on the grounds of a beautiful German palace in Schloss Charlottenberg.

Berlin Christmas marketsCharlotte is German so having someone there who can fluently speak the language is just perfect. She knew how to get everywhere and where was good to go. Like our own personal tour guide ;-)

There were so many Christmas markets all over the city and they were all such good value for money. The food and drink was very well priced and not extortionate like it can be in the UK for this sort of thing.

German Christmas market food The food on offer was just incredible. Chocolate covered fruit, gingerbread, stollen, marzipan everything, cookies, biscuits, bread, cheese, meat, chocolate, sweets…I could go on. I tried as much as my stomach would allow.Berlin Christmas market food I shared a skewer of chocolate grapes with one of my friends (surprisingly refreshing) and later had what I can only describe as a marzipan teacake (bottom left). It was marzipan-flavoured marshmallow fluff covered in dark chocolate. Lovely but messy! Top left was a big blob of sponge filled with plum jam (sauce?) and covered in vanilla custard. I shared that with two of my friends but I only had a couple of bites as, disappointingly, it did nothing for me. A bit bland and not that sweet for my tastes!

One of my friends had a waffle with Nutella on it and it looked AMAZING.

IMG_8696We then enjoyed a nice walk around the palace grounds and then hopped off to the Postdamer Platz area for a bit of normal shopping and sushi lunch.

IMG_8686Berlin has so many sushi restaurants and we all love it so it was the obvious place to go. I do love a conveyor belt as well – you can be very choosey! ;-)

There were a few markets here as well to mooch around which were also very good.Berlin Christmas markets 2

As evening was drawing in we headed to our final market in Ku’Damm, where the broken church is (I ran past this in the marathon as well).Ku'Damm Christmas It was beautiful with all the lights. It did get busier as it got darker but it was still very pleasant. My friend and I decided to share a ginormous cheese pretzel and a ginormous sweet pretzel (covered in sugar and chocolate – words cannot describe jut how bloody delicious this was).

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Cheese pretzel heaven right there

We later also shared a meat skewer. She was my partner in crime in trying different foods. We managed to get lost from our other friends when we became distracted by large meat skewers. These things happen ;-)

IMG_8739 Though we did find the problem with wandering off… we lost our German translator and struggled to work out what kind of meat it actually was. Turns out the guy just didn’t understand the English word “pork”. It was very tasty though.

We then spent the evening in PJs with our duvets and hot chocolates watching Love Actually. I think I’m pretty set on Love Actually being my favourite Christmas film now. It’s just perfect.

The next morning we left before eating breakfast so we could have a late breakfast/brunch out. Though it turned out we didn’t actually start eating until about 1pm due to the length of time it took to get somewhere good for restaurants and then the service was so slow! But it was worth it in the end.

IMG_8759 We then did some more shopping and moseying around the sights and then headed for an early dinner (we had to leave for the airport at around dinner time).

IMG_8768 I think my favourite sushi are the ones with butternut squash (the dark brown filling ones) and the egg ones. SO good. With miso soup I was literally STUFFED.

Then we headed back to Charlotte’s to pack and get ready to go. But first Charlotte’s mum had made an epically amazing sticky toffee pudding (funny to eat such a British pudding considering how Germany everything else had been!)

IMG_8774Just to tide us over for the flight, you know? ;-) As you can probably tell, it was delicious.

A perfect weekend of fun, catching up with friends and indulgent food. I fully recommend Berlin for the Christmas markets. Very cheap, lovely atmosphere, lots of home-made items in stalls selling clothes, jewellery, decorations, etc. and all the food and drink was to die for!

Have you ever been to Berlin? Or Germany?

Do you enjoy Christmas markets? What do you look out for the most? For me it’s all about the sweet treats!