Things I’m Loving – December

I’m quite excited about heading into the new year. 2017 has been a solidly good year for me. Full of happiness, good running, delicious food and lovely memories. I hope 2018 will continue these themes! Also I’m quite looking forward to being in an “even numbered” year again – is that odd? Anyway, on to some cool stuff I’m loving lately.

Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush

My skincare regime used to be cold water. Literally nothing else. But times are a-changing! After having my first ever facial last month I’ve given my face a bit more thought. Let’s be honest, I’m certainly not getting any younger and, well, I’m still single sooo…IMG_2263On that note I’ve made a couple of investments to my “beauty regime”. My mother is a terrible influence on me. She recently bought the Clarins version of the cleansing brush and let me try it out (yes we shared brushes, no I don’t care. She’s my mother). It felt amazing and left my face really fresh and clean. Then the next day we ended up in Boots and somehow I’d purchased the Clinique cleaning brush. Almost £100. I actually felt a bit sick when I got home. To be fair, it came with three other products, though I mean for that cost it better have!! (It came with a toner product as well not shown in the photo).

After having used it for a number of weeks I can say I don’t regret buying it. My skin indeed looks clearer and happier. I’m not one for getting spots or have “problem skin” but it definitely looks fresher. Plus it’s fun to use.

The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% Formula

I don’t actually know what to call this product. I heard about it after listening to the Don’t Salt My Game podcast where they debunked lots of skincare myths. It was one of the products that was recommended to actually work at keeping the skin looking good. It’s also very cheap (£5.50) and didn’t have all the guff and nonsense that other skincare products seem to have.IMG_2264It has a very high concentration of two powerful antioxidants: Resveratrol and Ferulic Acid, which are apparently great antioxidants for the skin.

I just put a couple of drops on my face after using my face buffer and then smooth it in. It’s quite oily but doesn’t leave my skin oily if that makes sense. I really like this product. Together with the buffer my face has really improved. And for someone who quickly gives up with skincare products after I don’t see the point of them, these are things I’ve maintained for a good number of weeks now and really like to use.

eGloves

I was recently sent another pair of eGloves to try out after I bumped into the guy behind the business at a parkrun and he mentioned that my current eGloves looked to be a bit too big for me (they’re a small). He very kindly offered to send me a new pair in extra small in the new range. It was also extremely good timing because I was finding my hands were getting really cold when I ran. The eGloves I originally had were more lightweight gloves which were good when it was chilly but not so much for when the temperatures were really low.IMG_1887When I first popped the new gloves on I knew they were the real deal. These bad boys are seriously warm. They’re also not big and bulky – as some winter gloves are – and still have the cool finger bits that allow you to still be able to use the touch screens of smart phones (so annoying when you have to remove your gloves to do this!). IMG_1983I wore the gloves during the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and they were perfect. The material is very breathable so even when my hands got hot it didn’t feel like they were sweaty inside. Fully recommend these if you’re looking for some warm running gloves!

Oryx Desert Salt

I was also recently sent a set of salts to use for cooking. Oryx Desert Salt is an unrefined, sun-dried salt, free from additives and preservatives. It contains natural and essential minerals and comes all the way from the Kalahari Desert, where it is ethically and sustainably harvested. And, what I most love, is with every purchase they donate a percentage to the Khomani San and Mier communities who own !xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.IMG_1917The pack I received is a fab gift box set of three grinders containing coarse salt, smoked salt and wine salt and a cotton refill bag. I also received an apron (see below photo: my dad loves the apron).IMG_2173Yes too much salt can certainly be a bad thing for your health, but used in moderation and sensibly, these salts really add a lovely taste to my dinner. Salt is also good for reducing the dreaded cramp and is important if you sweat a lot (hi all runners). IMG_2175I feel rather posh using them I must say! I personally loved the smoked one as it adds such a subtle tasty edge.IMG_2180

You can buy them in Sainsbury’s.

Next month I hope to talk about my vibrating massage ball (always sounds so wrong…) and my new running watch… 😉

Do you use a lot of salt when cooking?

What is your skincare regime like?

Are there any new products you’ve been loving this month?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent both the gloves and the salt pack for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinons are my own honest ones.**

My trip to Llandudno and a Christmas party

Life lately has been so good. I know I’m probably a broken record on this front but I’m very happy right now. Running is going well. I’m loving my job. I have a solid group of friends who continually make me smile every day. Life is indeed good.

I’ve just got back from Llandudno, seeing my grandparents, and instead of the usual “oh god it’s back to work” I was actually quite happy to go back. Not necessarily as happy about the super early morning, but you can’t win them all.IMG_1646Spending the four-ish days in Llandudno was lovely. Unfortunately my grandad wasn’t his usual energetic and fighting fit self due to an ongoing cough he couldn’t shift, but it was nice to be there anyway. Though he did go on an epic 5.4 mile walk with my dad around the Great Orme while I was out doing my long run on the Monday morning. I mean, as you do when you’re almost 84 right??My 15 mile long run was great. It was very icy and frosty but it was nice to get out in some different scenery. To make life easier I used a 5.6 mile loop that my grandparents had marked out for me (on proper maps, with elevation charts and everything!). This was handy because it meant if the roads were too dangerous I wasn’t going to be too far away from their house to stop.Llandudno runIt also felt a bit easier in my head mentally to think I was doing two-three loops rather than 15 miles. It was a great route because it went from one coast to the other, so you got to the see the sea twice which is always a win in my book.IMG_1697I didn’t have any choice but to wear my shorts as I hadn’t packed any leggings with me (I live in Anna La La Land where I don’t consider any negative prospects ahead, just everything running smoothly and the sun perpetually shining). But actually my legs were fine. It was my the tops of my ears and my fingers that suffered. I was wearing my Nike gloves and they’re still quite thin so my hands got really cold. I ended up pulling my sleeves down over them too. I made sure to  stop a couple of times to take some photos – it was so beautiful (with or without snow, really) that I had to.
Snowy LlandudnoThe first lap was good because I was new to the route and had to double-check my carefully written out paper instructions to ensure I was going to the right way, which helped pass the time. The second lap I just zoned out as I knew where to go. When it came to finishing the second lap I was at over 11 miles I didn’t fancy doing another lap as it would make my long run too far (almost 17 miles) and I really couldn’t be bothered. Instead I started the third lap but turned around when I hit the golf club, which we’d walked to the day before and I knew was 2 miles, so there and back would get me to my 15 miles. Perfect.
15 milesThe rest of the time in North Wales was good old fashioned family time. Lots of walking, quality quiz time (I love a quiz) and good food. My grandparents eat really healthily and light so the only indulgences were when we ate out for food (we had an Indian and a Christmas meal) or when I bought a chocolate drenched waffle at the Christmas market…IMG_1802Some thing have to be done. We also did a fun walk around Llandudno to find all the different Alice in Wonderland statues (called the “Alice Trail”). I love stuff like this.IMG_1799Then I was back at work on the Thursday, just in time for our Christmas do. It was at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which was rather fancy and meant I could put on a sparkly dress.IMG_1868The event only cost £5 and we got a drink on arrival, half a bottle of wine, two drinks tokens and a three course meal. I mean, that’s not too shabby at all! I got myself all glamorous (well, as glam as I can really) and enjoyed a fun evening of food and dancing. IMG_1871I did drink but not to excess as I had work the next day (and not to mention a marathon the following weekend). I’m actually not a huge drinker. I don’t mind getting a bit tiddly but I hate the feeling of wanting to be sick or the room spinning, which inevitably happens after drinking too much. The dinner was great (even more so because my friend and I got to split someone else’s meals between us as they hadn’t shown up). And the pudding was a pudding BAR. I will unashamedly say I returned after my first selection for more. I must have eaten about nine different selections (tiffin, rocky road, mince pie shortbread (!), blondies…). I mean, to be fair they were quite small.Historic Dockyard Christmas partyAnyway it was a really fun evening. It was nice to have a Christmas party with people who were around my own age. However, it did make for getting up on the Friday morning somewhat tricky. Luckily though everyone who’d been just as foolish as me not to take a day off or a half-day was in the same boat, so I wasn’t alone in my grogginess at work!

I’m working most of Christmas (except the Bank Holidays) but I don’t really mind as everyone is so jolly and festive. Plus I have a holiday to Dubai in January to look forward to. I’ll have my Portsmouth Coastal Marathon recap coming soon! Spoiler: I finished and I’m not injured 😀

Did you have a work Christmas party?

Do you run in the snow?

Do you cope well with being hungover?

What I’m loving lately – October

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while… all the things I’m currently loving lately.

Harry Potter clothing: During my meanderings around the delights of Amazingstoke’s Festival Place last weekend I popped into Primark. In general I don’t do much shopping in physical life. As in, non-online shopping. But occasionally I’ll pop into H&M as there’s one local to me. We don’t have a very accessible Primark nearby (it’s in the centre of Southampton and I don’t generally go there that often because the Internet and Whiteley, a little but fantastic shopping village nearby, save me from such efforts).

Anyway, I’ve digressed. So I went into Primark to hunt down a really nice sports bra someone at work wore when running (she wore it as her running top outside, I didn’t spy on her getting changed or anything weird). I didn’t find the sports bra but I DID find a Harry Potter jumper. And, weirdly, Harry Potter underwear.I bought the jumper but not the pants (and forgot to take a photo of said jumper…). The jumper will go nicely with my Harry Potter t-shirt ready for my friends and my Harry Potter-themed escape room at the beginning of December. There are four of us and we’ve each got a house that fits our personality. I’m Gryffindor 😀New boots: And as a nice segue… a few weeks ago when I was in Chichester my friends and I popped into a charity shop because the Harry Potter-themed window lured us in. Most of the window items had been sold (including an amazing looking Harry Potter chess set!). However I then spotted a very cool pair of boots in almost perfect condition. For £8.50!
OK I rarely wear heels but I’m sure I can push the boat out one day… After all, I no longer have a standing desk at work (I mourn for it daily, believe me. It just means I have to get up and move about more frequently. But it does mean I can relax a bit more at work) so really I could wear heels.

Gin: And another great segue(!), my lovely friend Charlotte and her husband, Paddy, gave me a prototype Christmas present when we were in Chichester. A sort of “make-you-own hipster gin” ingredients set.How cool is this? So each little jar contains different ingredients, like dried lemon peel, cinnamon, juniper berries etc. that you can add to a gin and tonic to spruce it up. Gin has become rather “in vogue” (though to be fair to Paddy and Charlotte, they were loving it waaaay before it became cool) and my dear mother has appointed herself some sort of gin connoisseur recently. She’s bought about five different kinds of gins! So when I showed her this little set she was VERY excited. That evening we made up a few glasses of lemon and juniper berry flavoured gin. Ooh er!So fancy! It tasted very nice. I’m not a big drinker but my drink of choice is a G&T. So crisp and delicate.

Protein powder: Speaking of tasty things. I am currently OBSESSED with the MyProtein marzipan-flavoured protein-powder. I adore it. I add about 20g (so maybe a scoop?) of it to my porridge and it rocks my world. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet or crazy strong, but subtly almondy. I was using the Chocolate Smooth flavour but this is SO much better. I got a small pack as I wasn’t sure what I would think (450g I think) but I’ve since gone back and bought a 1kg. I also bought the Cinnamon Danish flavour and the Speculoos. I had to Google what Speculoos was though. It’s a limited edition flavour (as is Marzipan) so I thought what the hell, why not.As a side note, as I’m living at home I obviously get these things delivered there. My dad also buys lots online as well (usually some random cables or part for his latest robot craze or yet another Alexa – I swear Alexa is becoming an omnipresence in the house. You can’t move for her) and he mentioned the other day that it can be quite disappointing when something is delivered but it’s for me not him. He grumbled that it’s usually “running gear or some powder of some sort”, which did make me laugh. He’s not wrong.

Cake: Cake has been very much in my life in a big way recently. The guys at Wiggle are fantastic at bringing in snacks and baking. It seems like every week we have something new to munch on. I’m not mad. On Monday last week it was one of the guy’s birthday and he brought in a chocolate cake he made. Someone else from another team had also baked him a cake too! A chocolate melt-in-the-middle cake. Obviously I had a bit of both. I was glad to have tried both as well because at the end of the day as he picked up the cake he’d baked to put in the fridge he dropped it on the floor! How devastating! I mean, it was hilarious but equally heart-breaking at the same time. RIP cake.And I’ll try not to think of just how many bits of cake I had the other week when someone left. There was literally an idea table covered in delicious home-baked goodies. I’m an absolute sucker for anything home-baked. After eating 80% of what was in the bowl I decided not to have any more (it was only 10am…). I put it in my drawer and tried to forget about it. Well, the afternoon came and the cake was promptly eaten. *Sighs* I had the best intentions at least.

Christmas snacks: And on the note of delicious snacking, I popped into Lidl before work one morning (handily located on the road from my gym to work. I love Lidl and am really glad I can frequent it more often). I love browsing supermarkets (I’m a strange breed I know) and Lidl’s Christmas selection is always worth a gander. As a side note though, their bakery is at the front of their shop and it gave off the most intoxicating, delicious scents of freshly baked pastries, bread and cakes. I almost passed out (this was post-workout after all). Once I came to my senses though I found one of my favourite Christmas snacks: lebkuchen gingerbread. I first had them when I was in Berlin visiting my friend and they were amazing. I mean the big fat ones you can get at the Christmas markets are the best (I don’t know if they’re the same things but they’re very similar). They’re gingerbread but very soft and almost cake like. I’m not a huge fan of hard gingerbread (the British creations) but these are DIVINE.Running: And finally something to do with running! I’ve “officially” started marathon training. I mean, nothing much has really changed to be honest. My long runs will be getting longer and I hope to do a speed session once a week. The speed session is a new addition to the rota because I never normally do it (other than a speedy parkrun occasionally).

Yesterday I went out at lunch with the intention to do some sort of speed workout. Originally I was going to do two minutes of hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy as many times as I could be bothered but during my (almost) mile warm-up I decided to do mile repeats. The lake next to the office has a gravel path around it and it’s about a mile long so I decided to just blast it round, have a jogging break, then repeat. My intention was to go sub-seven minutes for the mile as this is what I’ve been able to do on some miles at parkrun. Well, I definitely surprised myself. I managed THREE mile repeats (with 0.4 mile jogging recovery) at sub 6.45 pace. I mean it was TOUGH, both mentally and physically. But I did it! I definitely needed those recoveries between but I felt strong maintaining the pace (though it did feel like death. God I hate speed work). Afterwards though the feeling was AMAZING. In the end I did 10k total and I was around a minute off my PB! Not too shabby. SplitsUnfortunately though after showering and getting back to the office, I had the most ridiculous red face which quite a few people commented on. Wonderful.

What kind of speed work do you do?

What Christmas treats do you like?

Are you a Harry Potter fan?

Rave, rave, rave

I was thinking of doing a Rants and Raves post but actually I couldn’t really find much to rant about. What a problem eh!

I am in such a happy place right now. My life seems to be floating along so nicely! I know this is mostly due to changing jobs and changing up my routine but it really has made me a much happier person.

Rave: Speaking of routines, so as you probably know along with running, I love going to the gym as well. I enjoy the different type of workouts I can get; focusing on strength training and making myself stronger. After moving into my parent’s house I realised I needed to change my gym as it was now too far away to make logical sense.

I did a bit of hunting. I briefly, VERY briefly, considered joining a ridiculous expensive gym right next to work…and then found a far cheaper and 24/7 gym on the way to work. This was perfect because a) I don’t want to spend a fortune on some fancy shmancy gym which probably will have a ratio of 10:1 cardio to weights ratio and b) I like to go SUPER early. I’m not an evening gym person and I like starting the day with a workout. Plus going early means beating any crowds.So the gym I found (called 24/7 Fitness) is SO good. It has several different rooms, which I quite like. A room that’s like a Crossfit room with hanging ropes, TRX’s, a rower and a climbing frame type thing and lots of mat areas with free weights and dumbbells. It has another room focused on chest presses and chest isolation machines. Another one focused on leg weights with squat racks etc. and then a room with just free weights and benches. It also has a “women’s only” area… lots of machines, all pink (*sighs*) – at least it’s not just full of cardio machines, eh! And a few other rooms with more machines and then cardio equipment. It is a bit shabby but I’m not there to admire the paintwork so it suits me fine.I drive there after walking Alfie, do my thing and then shower and get ready there. Other than making me get super organised the night before with packing what I need to take with me (so far no forgotten bra yet) but it’s saved me so much time sitting in traffic as I’m past all the busy stuff before the gym and then it’s a quick 10 mins from the gym the rest of the way. What a win!

Rave: Finding the most comfy and well-fitting jeans! As a runner my legs tend to have problems with fitting into jeans (hey there strong thighs). It’s mainly just the ratio of my body I guess. I’m sure non-runners feel this exact pain as well because, let’s be honest, we all have different shapes, lumps and bumps.I don’t regularly shop in Top Shop as it’s a bit…young?… for me. It’s like when you scroll too far on the Forever21 website and you go, “really, who actually wears this?”. But Top Shop have consistently done be well when it comes to jeans. I like that they do a waist measurement and a leg measurement. I popped quickly in there one day after work (SO MUCH MORE TIME IN LIFE!) and saw a pair that looked nice along with a lovely jumper and didn’t bother trying them on as I was heading to Nando’s with a friend. I could return them at the weekend if they didn’t fit so it wasn’t an issue.

BUT MY GOD. They fit like a glove, AND are super comfy. I love them.

Rave: Muffin market research… it was such a stroke of luck that this happened on the Wednesday. Any other day and I probably wouldn’t have seen it. But on a Wednesday I go downstairs to the Starbucks and was thus able to spot the market research table that had been set up…Muffins! Muffins galore! They had a load of different samples for people to try of either lemon, chocolate or blueberry muffins. You had to give your preference of muffin in terms of texture, taste and appearance. I mean, it was a tough job but I stepped up to the bar. I probably ate about four muffins in total. I was surprised at how much I quite enjoyed the chocolate muffins. Normally I’m not a big fan (well, actually I’m normally not a big muffin fan in general but they were free…). Some of the chocolate muffins had this delicious chocolaty oozy middle which worked against the dryness issue that muffins often face. Delicious!

Rave: New trainers. To put my work discount to good use I bought a pair of these ASICS Gel-Exalt. I get on well with ASICS and they’re a great colour.It’s funny because as I was packing before I moved back to my parents I actually found a pair of Adidas Boosts (Supernovas I believe) that have barely been worn so despite buying a brand new pair of trainers I actually don’t need them just yet. Always handy to have a few pairs to rotate with too!

Biggest rave of all: If you follow me on any form of social media (Instagram, Twitter, Strava or Facebook) then you’ll probably already know that the Bournemouth Marathon went very well for me. I’ll be (hopefully) getting my recap post up this week. I’m SO glad it went well and I can now look back at Bournemouth fondly and wear the marathon t-shirt with pride.What do you look for in a gym?

Have you ever taken part in any market research before?

What do you look for in a muffin?

Rants and Raves #39

A Friday post for you! And I’m ranting and raving… sorry for the complete randomness of this.

Rave: Well I really have no excuse not to go to the local 5k race that takes place literally at my work. We have this lovely lake right next to the big office building (which is why it’s called Lakeside…) and there is a 5k series (Lakeside 5k) that goes on on some Wednesday evenings during the summer. I’ve never gone before because I’ve never been able to get back from work in time and then get there…and it’s a 5k. I hate 5ks. However it was my friend’s birthday and he was going and it is literally at my work so I figured I best make an appearance! I’d probably only run 3-4 miles anyway on my own. It’s always nicer to run with other people.Anyway, loads of my running club turned up which was nice and my birthday buddy, Joe, so it was a lovely social evening. I did a 1.5 mile warm up round the lake with a couple of the guys and convinced myself a fast run was not happening. Why do warm-ups always feel so crap and you feel so sluggish?

But weirdly as soon as we started going as the race began my legs were like “let’s do this”. I managed to maintain a decent speed and chip away at my time as the miles continued. I overtook some Hedgies in front of me and tried to encourage them with me (without sounding like a cocky so and so). My friend, Robbie, was ahead and I caught up with him and we raced to the finish together. I was dying a death inside but Robbie managed to sprint ahead of me (I was barely maintaining my final burst of speed!) and slam dunked the finish. What a sprint finish! Super impressive. Apparently the fastest 5k he’s done in ages, so major kudos to him!

I’m also really pleased with my time. I got 21:26 which is definitely the fastest Ive run in a good while. But jeeeeze, it was tough! Glad I went though as it was some good speedy miles that I’d have never done on my own.

Rave: I’ve now been to the cinema three times in the past two weeks. This is incredible for me. I love watching films and I do love going to the cinema but with my (old) commute and needing to get back for Alfie…well, I just had no time in the evening to really do anything but walk Alfie, make and eat dinner and chill a little before bed! Now that I have more time in an evening and more time in the morning (so less ridiculously early mornings) I’ve been able to get out a bit more. Ahh freedom!

This does unfortunately mean spending more money. And this is both on eating out and the actual film. I’ve been eating at Nando’s each time before the cinema because it’s a) easy, b) relatively cheap (OK it’s not really for just chicken), c) I love it and it’s always a consistently good meal for me. It’s also not something super indulgent on a weekday (all about that balance). I can’t always avoid the temptation of a pudding in other restaurants, whereas at Nando’s I feel fully satisfied after my meal (always a whole chicken, plain, with a side salad and sometimes a corn on the cob depending how I feel) to be content with just a main (I say “just” but we all know it’s a ridiculous meal for a girl my size).

Anyway so recently I’ve seen The Black Tower, Logan Lucky and American Made. The Black Tower was tolerably interesting but ultimately I wouldn’t recommend at all. Logan Lucky was hilarious, quick-moving and definitely worth a watch. American Made was a good watch but it dragged a little. It’s Tom Cruise’s new one and he basically plays Tom Cruise. A fun evening though anyway.

This also means that when I listen to my two movie review podcasts (Empire and BBC Five Live Kermode & Mayo) I actually have an opinion on the films for once!

Rant: Ahh Game of Thrones is over. The last episode was really good and made me feel more positive towards it then some of the other episodes. I really can’t wait for the next two books to come out though to see how George R.R. Martin will deal with the different characters and story-line.

Rave: The Great British Bake Off is back! OK yes it’s moved to Channel 4 (overseas readers, this is such a bugbear for us Brits as it used to be on the BBC, so there weren’t any adverts and it had the very British charm and gentleness that the BBC bring to TV, whereas Channel 4 is a bit more racy and ‘different’). But this does mean that every Tuesday evening I’ll be craving cake *sighs*. I haven’t actually watched the first one yet due to my busy evenings but I’m excited to catch up.

Rave: Speaking of cake…We recently had a successful big project complete at Wiggle so cake and fruit was brought for everyone in the office.Now THIS is how you get and maintain good levels of morale in a workplace. OK, not just bringing in food, but the fact that the workforce is thanked in such a nice way. It’s the little things that really help keep things consistently happy in a workplace.The cakes were really good as well. Lots of different flavours. I had a chocolate one (not normally my flavour of choice when it comes to cake but it had a wedge of Galaxy chocolate in the icing…) and a carrot cake one. SO good.

Rant: It really annoys me when shops try to upmarket something that you can get somewhere else for like half the price. Popcorn kernels are easily available and far more affordable in supermarkets!Don’t be won over by the fancy packaging. Believe me, as a girl who regular pops her own popcorn. They’re the same kernels!

Rant: OK not really a rant but just a bit of a “what?”. These fluffy things seem to be everywhere… I see them all over people’s handbags.And don’t get me started on those weird furry sandal things (sliders?) that girls are wearing. They look like slippers! What is going on!?

Finally… Not sure if this is a rant or a rave. But on my walk with my dad the other day we walked past a farmer’s field to find a load of pumpkins appearing. Summer is definitely over!

Are you sad summer is coming to end?

Do you adorn your handbag with fluffy things or similar?

Does your work treat you to fun things and cakes?