On to new things…

So I finished my last day at work last Wednesday. It was definitely a bittersweet. I’ve worked there for over five and a half years. I remember joining and being this timid, terrified girl…unsure of everything, so quiet and afraid. I walked out of there on Wednesday confident, self-assured and ready for my next challenge. I’ll miss so many of the people I worked with but I’m looking forward to working with a new bunch of people and hopefully making some friends!

I had Thursday and Friday off, which was just amazing. I haven’t had a proper couple of days where I literally have nothing planned for ages. I decided to do a day of sorting schizz out in the spirit of new beginnings and all that. I also agreed to help my parents sort out their garage and under-the-stairs cupboard (a blackhole for shoes, bags and coats).

My dad took off the Friday as well and hired a skip which helped the situation. I mean, I love my parents but they just seemed to hoard so much junk. I’m not even joking when I say we took FOUR black bags of shoes to charity. Who has time to wear that many shoes?? And their garage is just full of random rubbish and charity-shop worthy items that for some reason my parents thought to keep hold of. NO ONE NEEDS THREE TOOLKITS. This is probably one of the main reasons I’m not a sentimental person when it comes to physical things and mementos. There are few items I’m irrationally attached to. All about that minimalist lifestyle (leggings aside of course. You can NEVER have too many leggings. Honest).

Found some rather hilarious old photos of my sister, mum and I.

AnnaTheApple childI mean, those hair styles…

As I was still not running it meant I could have some lovely lie-ins and then go to the gym at a more reasonable time than I usually would. I was given an Amazon gift voucher from work as part of my leaving present so I decided to buy and download some movies I’ve been wanting to see so I could make time on the elliptical machine far more bearable.

Cardio entertainmentI’ve got through Get Out (really creepy but really good) and the Lego Batman Movie (very funny). It’s actually a really good way to stay motivated on that god-awful machine. It also makes me keen to get back on it as I’ll only allow myself to watch these movies on the elliptical machine. Happy days…

On Friday night I went out to a fantastic burger place for some food. I’d heard that The Rockstone pub in Southampton literally did the best burgers around and so was fairly excited to go and eat stupid amounts of food, and of course spend time with good company.

I ordered the “BBCK” burger which was a 10oz burger with Brie, streaky bacon and a cranberry chutney. I also upgraded my fries to bacon dust fries. I mean, seriously.

The Rockstone BurgerMy partner in crime ordered the “Ban Ki-Mmm” which had Korean pork belly amongst other treats on top. I did get a little food envy on seeing his but mine was SO tasty it was only very brief. He upgraded to sweet potato fries. I have to say, usually I’m not a huge burger fan (I prefer more toppings/protein to carb ratio…), but this was heavenly.

We were both more than happy (and fairly full) on finishing our burgers. By the way, they were impossible to pick up. I did try but failed miserably. 10/10 for effort…not so much for getting covered in sticky cranberry-ness. Though we were full we decided to forgo the pudding on offer at The Rockstone and instead go to the handily located Sprinkles just down the road. Just a small pudding, eh? 😉

Sprinkles sundaeI got a cookie dough based sundae (zomggggggg) and he got a baked skillet cookie with ice cream. Mine contained hot cookie dough at the bottom, chocolate and vanilla ice cream and vanilla gelato as well as cookie pieces and molten white chocolate and regular chocolate drizzled on top. Dear god it was good. I couldn’t quite finish it all. For once my stomach said no. But I gave it my best stab! I prioritised the best bits!

So my time off was pretty damn good. I did manage two miles on Sunday to test the leg out… it felt OK but I’m not entirely convinced. More updates on that soon. Things are going pretty well right now (let’s ignore the small car accident I had Tuesday morning *sighs*, again more on that another time!)

My blogging is going to be a bit off-routine for a bit while I find my footing in my new job and adjusting to a new routine. But in the words of Lego, EVERYTHING IS AWESOME

What’s your ideal burger?

What’s your ideal sundae?

If you use cardio machines, how do you motivate yourself to stay on them?

The Botanist – Reading

When you love food as much as I do, getting invited to a restaurant launch is probably up there with a dream evening. A new restaurant has just opened in Reading, called The Botanist.

The Botanist is a chain but with only a few locations. I first heard about and went to The Botanist in Chester after the Chester Marathon. I was blown away by the look of the restaurant interior – so pretty and adhering to its botanical-theme.  So I was curious to see what the one in Reading would be like.

I invited my friend, George, to join me as he lives in Reading and is a fellow lover of food. It was a Thursday night which was somewhat of a bummer but hey I’m not complaining! We headed there straight from work, hungry and ready to go. Being the keeners we are, we arrived ten minutes too early so decided to ‘waste some time’ in a delightful Turkish cafe down the road. I had a freddo cappuccino which rocked.

Anyway, back to The Botanist. On arrival we were offered Prosecco or beer. We went for a glass of bubbly and enquired about what the event would entail.Apparently lots of free drink (an open bar, anything you want) and then canapes at 7.30pm. I was somewhat disappointed that the food would “just” be canapes (check out the menu, so many tempting options!) and seemed so far away. But hey we rolled with it and decided to do a lap of the restaurant to check the scene.

The restaurant is so beautifully decorated. I just love how they keep to the theme! Flower pots, plants, flowers…so pretty.It was filling out quickly with lots of people so we decided to head to the outside area and chill with our bubbly. The restaurant has a small but lovely outside area which was delightful to enjoy in the evening sunshine.We also noticed lots of cool looking cocktails being handed out. Some of which were in plant pots!! The Botanist is well known for it’s very cool cocktails, again all botanically themed.The barmen and ladies were lovely and friendly and, as you can see very happy to have their photo taken. Anyway, sadly as I was driving I couldn’t partake in much drinking but had insane amounts of Diet Coke instead…love that stuff.George and I grabbed one of the above cocktails after a bunch were made. I tried a sip (divine, so tasty!) and gave the rest to George. Lucky guy, he lived just down the round.We were sad not to be able to try the plant pot cocktails but these were very tasty.

And then finally we saw canapes being brought out. By this point, George and I were VERY hungry. The waitresses (who were working very hard indeed that night! And were super friendly and helpful) were bringing out these boards of canapes and putting them on tables. We didn’t have a table and they were walking straight past us. Cunning work needed to be done.

I saw a waitress with a board and asked her if I could have one “for our table”. She gladly handed one over, yesss! George and I quickly found an edge of a table to perch it on and like locusts attacked. The canapes were DELICIOUS.

And from then we seemed to score big time on the canape front. After three more boards we decided to head outside again for some fresh air as it was quite busy inside. We luckily found a table and I chilled with my Diet Coke while George sipped a beer. And then a waitress came over and gave us another board. Amazing.We rated our favourites (now serious canape connoisseurs). The chicken lolly pop was the best, hands down. Followed by the pork belly skewer (neither shown in this pic annoyingly). The quails egg Scotch egg rocked our world too. A fellow patron came over and asked to have one of our Scotch eggs as she’d seen them and hadn’t been able to try one yet. George and I looked at each other, both clearly trying to think of a polite way to say no (yes, even though this was our fifth board…), when another board passed by and we told her to grab it. Whew! Crisis averted 😉

Basically the food was amazing and worth the wait. I’ve never been so full on canapes before in my life! It was great being there with George who was as food-centric as me. Then we headed back into the restaurant and enjoyed the live music and the free drinks (well, Diet Coke for me).The music, the food, the drinks…all made for a fantastic evening. I’ll definitely be finding myself in Reading again soon to go back for a proper meal. I’m really pleased this one has opened up closer to me as I was sad when I realised there were none nearby after I had such a great meal in Chester.

We eventually left, goodie bags in tow, and headed for a some pudding at a local ice cream parlour. It ended the evening perfectly.Cookie dough ice cream and fudge brownie. Delightful!

Have you ever been to The Botanist?

What’s your favourite canape?

What’s your favourite cocktail?

**Full Disclaimer: I was invited to the opening of The Botanist in Reading in exchange of a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Currently – April

I feel like I still have so much to catch you guys up with. Things have been a bit mental round here and I’m trying to get my ducks in order left right and centre. So without further ado, here are some things that I’ve been currently loving.

The Boston App: My friend, Andy, from the running club who’s just recently run Boston (he’s SUPER fast) sent me a Tweet letting me know that I was a tiny bit famous:That’s me on the app screen for the 2017 race! OK granted you can’t really tell as you can’t see my face, but you can see my running club vest! Clearly the organisers thought that my red, white and blue vest was ideal. And check me out running to the tangents 😉

Becoming more adult: I Facetimed my dad to work out how to use my new tin opener… OK so hear me out before further judgement ensues.I’m used to tin openers that go alongside the vertical sides of a tin, whereas this contraption sits on top. I couldn’t get my head to work it out. I mean I know it’s simple. I just couldn’t connect those simple dots. So I Facetimed my dad because, well, he solves everything. He explained in very simple, Anna-coherent terms how to use it and hey presto! I got it to open my tin of salmon.

I mean, know it’s totally obvious now. Like one of those weird eye puzzles that you look at for ages trying to see the horse but you can’t see it until you blur your eyes and then it’s like it never left the page. OK, weird analogy. Unfortunately this tin opener leaves a very sharp edge. You win some, you lose some.

Weird snacking: No I’m not pregnant (good Lord), but I do love these gherkins to randomly snack on.They remind me of being in America with their pickles they serve with sandwiches and burgers. It’s weird, but it’s good.

Healthy treats: I heard about this “ice cream” on social media (can’t remember where now if I’m honest). As you’re probably already aware, I’m a volume eater so buying the real stuff (i.e. Ben & Jerrys,  my one true love) would be problematic for me as it’s likely I’d eat the whole tub. At an excess of 1,000 calories for some of them, that’s a bit much for an evening treat! I have minimal self-control and being fully aware of this I will rarely buy any. I admire people who can take a scoop and enjoy it for what it is, but for me I always enjoy things in larger portions. It’s just the way I am. So anyway, Frill is not technically ice cream but it’s very similar.It’s a frozen smoothie made up of dates and fruit and cocoa powder and some other bits and bobs (but actually no nasty-looking chemically things from what I can tell). The whole tub is 350 calories and a whole lot less sugar. Considering normal ice cream portions can be around that for just two scoops, this is pretty damn good! And it’s surprisingly dense.

I won’t lie, I did indeed eat an entire tub one evening because I’m a fricking independent woman and can do what I the hell I want (in my PJs watching crappy TV. Yes, Beyonce, I’m truly living the dream). They have a green and a red version. The red is a berry flavour and the green is a green smoothie flavour, of which the mind can only boggle whether that would actually taste nice. But there we go, healthier ice cream for greedy people like me 😉

New Nike trainers: The lovely guys from MilletSports let me choose some Nike trainers and like a small child in a sweet shop (who am I kidding, like myself in a sweet shop) I scrolled through so many beautiful looking pairs before I settled on some black and white Nike Frees.Just casually taking a selfie at the gym in my new Nikes with my London Marathon finisher tee as you do 😉They’re super comfy. I mean like bouncability is a strong 10/10. Though technically speaking they are running shoes, I’m reluctant to run in them as I’m so injury-prone and particular about running trainers but for the gym and everyday life, they are PERFECT.They literally fit like a glove. Ahh I do love Nikes.

PureGym antics: I love my gym. I truly do. It’s super close (8 minutes drive), open 24/7, huge with lots of machines and equipment (four squat racks!) and very cheap. The clientele never cease to amaze me as well. You do get some funny characters, especially at 5.30am. The guy in the photo below was doing some crazy things on the pull-up bar that just blew my mind. He’d “superset” his acrobatics with dumbbell curls. As you do.It was amusing to watch I must say. Never a dull day.

London Marathon: I love all the stats they give you. A plethora of facts and figures to geek out over. This one was my most proud:I held out strong on the final stretch it seems! 🙂 Weirdly I was actually passed and was overtaken for the first 35k the exact same number. Not sure how that works!

What’s a weird food you like to snack on?

What’s your favourite brand?

What’s your take on healthier treats?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Nike trainers by MilletSports for free in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

My third Bristol parkrun and a tough long run

It seems like I’m in Bristol at the weekend more than I am in Southampton at the moment. I drove up there on Friday after work to stay over with my friends, Kate and Jamie, so Kate and I could then drive together to Cardiff for my other friend’s baby shower.

I never really need an excuse to go to Bristol if I’m honest. I love it there and Kate and Jamie are brilliant hosts. And Jay always cooks a mean dinner! We had roast chicken, salad, wedges and wraps.He’d used a BBQ rub on the chicken and it was delicious. I was in charge of pudding, which is always a bit dangerous. I bought a dessert pizza (I only recently found out this was a thing!) and some ice cream.Ben and Jerry’s Blondie Brownie is my absolute favourite (it has that salted caramel core and big chunks of blondie and brownie in it, divine!) and Jude’s was on offer (brown butter pecan) so I thought, ahh why not.The dessert pizza was actually quite disappointing. This might have been because it defrosted on the way to Bristol and then we over-baked it. It was just a bit dry and boring. However, with the ice cream it worked very nicely. Needless to say we all felt very full and slightly sick and I had memories of Orlando…

I’d managed to persuade my friends to go to a different parkrun the next morning rather than Pomphrey Hill that we usually go to. I’ve never been to Ashton Court parkrun and a (very speedy) friend from Southampton was coincidentally also going to be there so it seemed nice time to test it out.It was a beautifully sunny morning but still fairly cold. I didn’t take a coat with me and was feeling very chilly, though the sunshine definitely helped. Kate and Jamie brought their lovely little pug, Doug, with them as their parents were popping down to watch us run so could look after him. I also met a very lovely blog reader. Hello Liz!Ashton Court parkrun is a very interesting parkrun. The course is basically 1.5~ miles straight uphill and then 1.5~ miles straight downhill. My Southampton friend gave some good advice on how to run it, basically saying that you needed to push it on the first half as this is where you got your time. Going downhill is easy so there’s no worry about effort level there. So give it hell for the first bit and grit your teeth through the pain!

It was quite a busy parkrun, surprisingly given how intimidating the course was (over 500 people). I decided to listen to some music to get my head in the zone. Annoyingly I hadn’t got myself to a decent spot in the start (which was very busy) as I was faffing around and I hadn’t found satellites on my Garmin either, which meant my run was messed up on Strava.

But anyway, I got going. The beginning is on the flat so you can sort of get yourself going before you then start trekking uphill. It really was a grind. I just kept pushing, feeling the good vibes from my music and letting people overtake me.

Then, disaster, my music went from rocking motivating tunes to… Bear’s Den. I love Bear’s Den. But I love it when I’m chilling out not when I’m trying to maintain a hard effort level. Arrrrghhh! So I had to ferret into my FlipBelt and get my phone out to change the track – no idea why Bear’s Den was on my running playlist! But on the plus side, it meant I could snap a photo as I was running.

As ever, the photo doesn’t do justice to the hill

Though the hill was hard, I knew it would be over fairly soon. As we got past the steepest point and headed to the turnaround bit (the speedier runners now hurtling downhill, including my friend – who by the way did this in around 18:40!) the end was in sight. I reached the halfway turnaround and headed back downhill…but now the wind was in my face. Luckily this was only really because we were quite high and had no shelter, so as we got to the steepest downhill section the wind disappeared.

Photo Credit: John O’Brien

And the fun began. I’ve never run so fast in my life! I’ve never looked at speed bumps with genuine concern that I might fall over one if my foot was placed wrongly. I managed to overtake quite a few people who had previously overtaken me which was nice. And then we reached the last flat bit before the finish…ooof this was hard because suddenly I couldn’t maintain that super fast speed anymore but had to hang on as best as I could.

Photo Credit: John O’Brien

I came in at 22:39, which I was buzzing about because it was faster than last week’s Netley!And I was happy with my fastest ever mile on that downhill. I’ll take that!

Kate and Jamie enjoyed it too which made me happy. They’d recently done the Bath Half Marathon and hadn’t enjoyed it that much so it was nice for them to feel the love of running again. Where better than at parkrun, eh?Kate and I then had to get sorted and showered and sorted fairly pronto as we were driving to Cardiff for our friend’s baby shower.

We arrived at midday and found Shell making her own sandwiches for the baby shower (tut tut, Rob!) so we quickly took over while Shell could relax and look her lovely (pregnant!) self.It was a lovely afternoon. We ate lots of really tasty food; I love a buffet, and the food was rather posh! (Think M&S).And played lots of fun games that her sister, Rebecca, had organised. We did a baby-focused quiz which was actually quite tough and then a crafts-focused game. We had to design baby socks for a career that we were given on a piece of paper. Mine was a baker.I’m actually quite impressed at my craft-skills. Basic but not entirely terrible!Everyone did really well: (L:R) teacher, movie star, astronaut, baker (I did two socks for some reason), musician, vet, athlete and doctor.

Then we wrote advice on the back of puzzle pieces for the baby to read later in life. Here are mine:Wise, I think 😉

Then I headed back to Southampton. The next morning I was up at 8.30am to run a long run with my friend, Mark, and a triathlete called James who joined us. Both are a lot faster than me but thankfully they were happy to go around 8 minute miles. They wanted about 13 miles and I wanted 16 so I ran over a mile to our meeting point and planned to run a mile and a bit back. It was a very sunny and warm morning and for some stupid reason I was wearing long sleeves.

The run was really very hard. The pace wasn’t crazy but there was a gusty wind coming from all directions which tested me. The temperature didn’t help and, let’s be honest, the food over the past few days and just my general fitness wasn’t the best.

I started to struggle from about eight miles I think but it was an overly mental thing rather than my legs not working. It helped chatting to James and Mark and this took my mind off things. But as we got to around 10 miles I realised I was quite thirsty.

Mark was great at keeping me going and tolerated me moaning (he has withstood many of my moanings at parkrun, bless him). He’s aiming for a sub 3:05 at Brighton in a few weeks so he’s in great shape right now…whereas I felt like I was crawling at times.

When we got back to the starting point, James had a bottle of water and was so kind to let me guzzle down a load. I felt a lot better! I also felt a lot better knowing I had about 1.5 miles of running on my own, which meant I could slow down if I wanted to. Surprisingly though I kept the pace up. Though when I was finished I really was finished.The rest of the day was like a sleepwalk. I was tired, lethargic and just hazy. I made sure to drink lots of water (with electrolytes) and eat good solid meals but I went to bed that night drained.

(I didn’t forget Mother’s Day. I’m taking my mum to London in April for lunch at Jamie’s Fifteen. She spent the day with my sister seeing Beauty and the Beast. I was grateful to have the day to myself if I’m honest – I know, terrible daughter – because I was just so tired. I wouldn’t have been great company!)

So a good weekend which left me exhausted!

How do you recover after a hard long run?

What’s the most interesting parkrun course you’ve done?

What’s your favourite Ben and Jerry’s flavour?

A parkrun fail and trying new things

This weekend gone I headed up to Cheltenham. I’ve only been there once before for like a day to see my friend Shell so it was nice to see it again for a bit longer. It’s a lovely place – though strangely has lots of white buildings and lots of buildings with columns on, which to me is the height of poshness 😉

And clearly Cheltenham is very posh as they even have their own Wholefoods! Wholefoods is obviously a lot more popular in the States, but we have a few mostly in London and this random one in Cheltenham. Obviously I had to pop in there for lunch on Friday between working.

The salad bar was obviously a lot smaller than the amazing America ones and I was told the burritos were amazing so that’s what I went for. There was a little Mexican food stand where you could have burritos or quesadillas made up for you there and then with your choice of fillings. I went with a chicken, rice and extra guacamole burrito and it was HUGE. It was jam packed full of filling. So tasty. I also had a cheeky rocky road slice afterwards as well. I pretty much needed a nap afterwards though I was so full…but back to work I went!

On the Friday night I did a (beginner’s) salsa class. This is a bit crazy for me as, being ridiculously clumsy and generally an awkward person, I’m not a natural dancer. That said, I did ballroom dancing at school (in preparation for our prom) and I loved it so I was quite excited to give it a go.

Awful photo sorry but I tried to take it discreetly at the beginning!

Well, I wasn’t terrible. I was surprised at how quickly the instructors went through the steps but after a few attempts it was easy to pick up. I mean, I was rigid and awkward but I didn’t step on any toes. I think that’s a success! The guys stood in a circle and the girls would dance with one and the move on to the next after performing a certain move (very basic moves!). One guy, who later told me he was actually another teacher, laughed at my “furrowed brow of concentration”. Well I was concentrating! I might need to aim to not try and look at my feet the entire time I suppose… I’m keen to try a few more lessons, but we’ll see!

Then Saturday morning was going to be the Cheltenham parkrun. Annoyingly though I woke up to -5 temperatures and a Tweet from my Cheltenham-based friend saying it was cancelled. I’m very grateful for his Tweet (thanks Mat!) as otherwise I would have just gone there without checking and then been disappointed and very cold. So instead, a bit of shopping happened instead. I re-planned the run to be after lunch so I had a nice light Greek salad lunch in Patisserie Valerie, which I’ve never been to before but was really lovely (though can I just say, the salads are not filling for lunch. Not for me anyway. I was still hungry and would easily have had one of their very tasty looking cakes afterwards had I not needed to be careful of my run later).

I hate leaving my run until later but realistically it made sense with fitting it in the weekend and the fact that in the morning the paths everywhere were so icy and dangerous. I’m pretty sure I spent quite a significant portion of Saturday cold. At first I thought I was going to wear my compression socks and shorts but after feeling so cold all day I decided to go with leggings and compression socks. Luckily my leggings were long enough to cover my knees so I didn’t have that awkward knee exposure look 😉The run went well. I didn’t really intend to go very fast but as I was so cold I just wanted to get warm so I pushed the pace. I got to two miles and found I was really struggling though and thought maybe best to slow down a bit! I slowed a little and told myself I could take it easier.It did feel good to get a bit of a tempo run on as I had intended to blast parkrun that morning. I’d heard that Cheltenham parkrun was really flat and I was sad I missed out on seeing what time I could currently do. It wouldn’t have been crazy fast but it’s always nice to have a “check in” run to see what paces I’m hitting. I need it have a long think about how I’m going to approach Tokyo and this would have been handy. But I got in a longer run and was able to pick up the pace so that was good. I guess that just means another trip to Cheltenham to eventually do their parkrun! 😉

I ran around Pittville Park which is where the parkrun is located anyway and it was a really lovely run. I did a couple of laps and aside from dodging dog walkers and small children it was a perfect runner’s route next to a lovely lake (pond?) and trees.

That evening I saw the new M Night Shyamalan film, Split, with James McAvoy in it. It was brilliant. Well, I know that his films have never reached the lofty success of the Sixth Sense but I actually really like his films (though there are a select few I haven’t seen like Lady in the Water and the Light Bender thing…). I loved The Village, Signs, Unbreakable and The Happening. And I love James McAvoy. There also might have been a tub of Ben and Jerry’s (Cookie Dough) that was snuck into the cinema…thankfully outside was cold enough for it not to melt prematurely in my handbag!

The next day I left to drive home and, because I needed to get a long run in, decided that I would do it as soon as I got in to stop any temptation to avoid it. I also cleverly bought a whole chicken from Waitrose from a services and popped that in the oven so when I got back it was pretty much done and my flat smelt amazing.The run went really well. My shin only very slightly niggled (progress, progress). I was worried that having run the day before might cause my shin an issue but it felt alright. I also felt really good in terms of my fitness. I effortlessly remained around the 8min pace without feeling it was a push so that was comforting.I won’t be running at that speed for the marathon but it was nice to feel comfortable for 10 miles at that pace. I planned my route so that it was my usual 6 mile route and then another usual 4 mile route so I could break it up in my head. It worked perfectly. Then I got home and enjoyed carving up the freshly cooked chicken. A food coma promptly commenced 😉

When do you prefer to get your runs/workouts done? I always prefer the morning.

Have you ever been to Cheltenham before?

Have you ever done a salsa/dance class?