Tooting Common parkrun and the Harry Potter escape room

On Saturday I headed to the Tooting Common parkrun in London. This meant another early morning catching the 6.39am train.

Luckily it wasn’t ridiculously cold, but it was still fairly chilly. I was in my running gear plus a jumper (which I’d wear later after the run) and a big winter jacket with a fresh travel mug of coffee to take with me. I was going to meet my friends at 11 after parkrun for some escape room fun (more on that later) so I had a big bag with me as well full of a spare set of clothes, baby wipes, deodorant etc. The best you can do when you don’t have a shower!

On the train I chilled with my iPad watching Mudbound (really good film!) and my coffee. But in the back of my mind I was feeling a little stressed. The thing is, the parkrun I’d chosen wasn’t exactly the quickest one to get to. It was about 20 or so minutes on the tube and then a mile from the tube station. And as my train didn’t get in until 8.23am I was cutting it fine. Not only this but the tube I absolutely needed to get in order to get there in time was the 8.28 one. GAH. I could have made life so much easier on myself by choosing a parkrun that was a little closer to Waterloo, but I wanted to get another letter done for my alphabet parkrun challenge. There are no easy ‘T’s around where I live so this was perfect (I say “perfect” loosely here).

As the train pulled into the station I was like a runner at the start of an Olympic race, I was ready to go go go. As soon as the doors opened I leapt out and stormed it down to the barrier and then out down to the tube. My big bag didn’t help but I had to just move quickly. I thankfully got on the right tube and then was just left catching my breath and standing around for the next sprint. It’s amazing how stressed you can get just standing around waiting and not being able to do anything. The train arrived at almost 10 to and I raced out. I had a map screenshotted on my phone and had memorised the roads I needed to know. I saw another runner running from the tube so assumed I was in good company as they headed in the same direction as me. Though it was slightly awkward as I was running just behind them like some stalker girl.I remember running past a really nice coffee/cake shop and thinking “ooh” and then “FOCUS ANNA”. I got to the Tooting Bec Commons where the parkrun would take place and saw a number of runners. I asked one girl who was running if she was heading to parkrun and she said no. This stumped me a little as I just assume anyone running near to a parkrun would do it! Luckily though I could see a crowd of people in the distance and the welcoming signs of high-vis.I arrived with a few minutes to spare, so quickly stripped off my jacket and jumper and dumped my bag on a big canvas sheet that had been laid out especially for this purpose. I’d done a little bit of research beforehand and knew the course was flat and three laps, but also that it was narrow at points so if you wanted a speedy run you needed to be near the front. This always makes me nervous as “speedy” is so subjective. But I DID want a good time (for me) so tried to position myself in a spot that was behind the clearly very speedy types (you can always recognise them) and in front of the more casual runners. It’s a hard judgement and I was sure I’d probably get overtaken but there we go, you just have to guess!

I got my music sorted (always a requirement for a fast run for me) and then we were off. Tooting Common parkrun is run mostly on tarmac and basically in a triangle. The first bit you run down a path to get onto the “triangle” that you do three laps of. This starts as a long tarmac path, which is great for getting the speed up and finding your place in the crowd. Then you make a fairly sharp turn onto a more mud/compacted trail path. This felt *very* slightly uphill but I might be imagining it. Then you turn left again and run down a nice flat straight of tarmac. The first lap felt quite comfortable (comfortably tough I hasten to add). The second lap begun and I felt the effort of maintaining the speed (around 6.40min/miles) start to become tough. I remember starting to notice more of the course on this lap as the first lap was a complete blur. Like, oh look there’s a nice pond, a children’s play area and nice trees. The marshals, as always, were really energetic and friendly in their support. I tried to thank them all verbally or give a thumbs up as I passed – even if you’re going for a time, they deserve it because they’re standing in the cold! I also feel like they gave me a lot of cheers and support as they could see my gurning face and pain train grimace.

The third lap I managed to overtake a girl who’d been in front of me for a while but had to stop and stretch her calf, then I was on the heels of a guy who was running the same pace. He started looking behind him and then guiding me through other people and giving me the odd encouraging comment. I could barley respond. As the songs changed to the next one on my iPhone I could hear my gasping breath. Not a fun noise it must be said. I managed to drop the last lap to 6.30min/mile and was literally counting down the 0.1s to the end. I saw a girl just ahead of me ask which way to go as we finished out last lap of the triangle and saw we turned off to the right to head to the funnel. I was glad she asked as I hadn’t a clue! As I saw the funnel ahead and made my final sprint I genuinely thought I was about to hurl. That horrible, horrible feeling of almost being sick because you’re trying so hard is awful and one of the main reasons I hate short distance running. You don’t get that in a marathon (or at least the way I run a marathon!). I crossed the finishing funnel in 20:17 (but actually 20:18 officially and second female) with the contents of my stomach still thankfully inside.It took me about five solid minutes to get myself together though. I was absolutely rinsed. I was OVER THE MOON though. My third fastest parkrun (20:06 being my PB and 20:17 from Chelmsford parkrun so many years ago). I couldn’t have given anymore. But it does give me encouragement that a sub-20 minute parkrun might be achievable before the end of the year. As long as I remain uninjured and healthy!I caught my breath and then found my stuff and put my jacket back on as I started getting cold again. As I cheerfully walked back to the tube I noticed that cake shop again (called Crepes and Cakes by Nazish Omar – very nice indeed). Well, it would be rude not to! So I popped in and bought myself a very nice looking slice of rainbow cake. A little “well done me” present. I didn’t eat it then though as I wasn’t quite ready for solids yet 😉 (Actually I haven’t eaten it yet at all because of later foods. It’s safe in my freezer though for a day in need. My parkrun rainbow cake).From there I headed to Liverpool Street on the tube (smiling like a Cheshire cat, looking a bit of a loon in my short shorts it must be said). I had a bit of time before I met my friends so I scoped around for a coffee shop where I could grab a warm drink and a loo to change in. After walking around for ages – so many places closed! – I finally found somewhere that looked ideal. I was cold and really hungry by this point and saw they did fresh porridge, I was sold! Unfortunately after I ordered a coffee and the porridge I found they didn’t have a toilet. Great. Oh well.Anyway I ate the lovely steaming porridge before meeting with the first friend who’d arrived. We found a Costa and I managed to get changed there. Suitably attired for our Harry Potter themed escape room 😉 (Terrible loo selfie there, apologies).

With two more of my friends we got to the Enigma Escape Rooms for what has to be described as the most awesome escape room we’ve done yet (this was our fourth). If you like Harry Potter and like this sort of clue-based puzzle room thing it is definitely for you! It was SO much fun. You’re not actually locked in in this one, it’s more about passing the different classes (e.g. Potions, History of Magic, etc.). God it was awesome. We had put ourselves into the different houses and were wearing our corresponding t-shirts (I’m in Griffindor).We also managed to do the escape room without any clues (these rooms can actually be quite tough and in the previous ones we’ve done we’ve had to ask for help) and finished with 11 minutes to spare. We got a special little wristband thing because we didn’t need any clues and an “Outstanding” level of achievement in our overall OWL (right, I know I sound like a loser right now but I DON’T CARE).After this we headed to the Strut and Cluck where we met the final friend for a lovely lunch. I had a pulled turkey shawarma which was just delicious. It was a little small in my usual portion sizes so I ordered some bread and pita to go with it. But for normal appetites it would be fine.
Obviously an occasion like this will always require pudding so we headed to Shoreditch, not too far away, where the Boxpark is. Apparently this is the world’s first ever pop-up mall. It was very quirky. In fact, it was full of people so hipster it made my teeth hurt. Like you know if you ever walk into Topshop and you see a lot of the clothing and think “who on earth would wear this?”, well pretty much everyone in Shoreditch. It was quite a fun place to look around. It was full of quirky vegan eateries, street-food and, yes, lots of dessert spots. We first went into the Dum Dum Donutterie.After seeing so many cool artisan doughnuts on Instagram and always being so sad they’re always in London I was chuffed to finally see some amazing looking donuts. It was tough to choose but I went for the salted caramel one – I mean, technically it was a “cronut”. It was very dense.
Then, as not everyone wanted a doughnut, we headed to Nosteagia, which is a Hong Kong themed dessert bar (not sure if this is the right term but whatever) which made “bubble waffles”. Basically waffles full of deliciousness. One friend went for a Nutella one and another friend went for a peanut butter themed one, whereas I went for a honeycomb one.Yes, I know. I just couldn’t decide between the doughnut and this. In my head I was sure I’d eat half of each. Hummm.I started with the waffle which was delicious. The waffle itself wasn’t that sweet, but the ice cream, cream, popcorn and salted caramel sauce made it the ultimate pudding. After having about half I decided to try the doughnut. I’m actually not a huge doughnut fan (I really don’t like the jam-filled ones that are predominately popular in the UK) but this was no simple doughnut. It was dense and delicious, a bit like a very dense cake. SO good. (Un)fortunately though, both puddings were far too good to not eat the entirety of. I’m just far too greedy for my own good and finished them both. I’m not even mad. Life is too short to not eat the good stuff. Memories not calories 😉

And then I headed home. It was a lovely, lovely Saturday full of my favourite things 🙂

What did you get up to at the weekend?

Do you like Harry Potter? Which house would you put yourself in?

What pudding would you have gone for?

The consequences of being too greedy… ice cream and running don’t mix

The weekend after a marathon you want to basically do nothing. And well, that’s pretty much what I did! Well, sort of.

On Friday night a bunch of my running friends and I went to a very lovely Chinese in Southampton (actually my friend Mike’s stepmum’s) called Shanghai Bay. Now I’m actually not a big Chinese food fan. I’m more an Indian fan, but Mike assured me that this was not your everyday British Chinese restaurant. It was where the local Chinese community come to eat. When you see 90% of the customers are Chinese you know it’s going to be authentic and tasty!As none of us really knew what to order, Mike suggested he just get a selection of bits and pieces to share between us (cue Anna mini panic on sharing food. Needn’t have worried! So much food!). There was a large turning bit in the middle of the table so we could rotate the different plates round which was great for the sharing situation. We started with a platter of ribs, sesame prawn toast, spring rolls, crispy seaweed and peanut chicken skewers.Very tasty indeed. And obviously I loved the ribs. Then following this we had crispy duck pancakes followed by mountains of main courses… sweet and sour, black bean beef and another one (a pork dish, no idea what it was but it was delicious). Oh god, so much food… We barely made a dent! The above photo isn’t when all the dishes are out… I got too distracted eating to take better photos! So yes, we were quite full afterwards. It was also highly amusing seeing some of the “older” generation using Snap Chat filters for the first time. I don’t use Snap Chat either so it was quite an education for all of us!Then after those fun and games we all headed to the nearby Sprinkles Gelato for a bit of pudding… even though we were all feeling quite full. But as we know, there is a separate stomach for pudding.I ordered the Sticky Situation, which I’ve had before… basically a dessert in a jar. It was vanilla gelato with cookie dough, white and regular chocolate sauce, chocolate buttons, real cream (not the cheap squirty stuff). But yeah, it was FILLING. Mike and Kate ordered the peanut butter version of it and they struggled towards the end too… I guess a crepe, waffle or a smaller sundae might have been a more sensible choice (as the others had gone for) but that’s not how I roll!
I was SO full (as you imagine). It was delicious though. We all stumbled out of Sprinkles feeling very much in a sugar coma. I went to bed that night not feeling my best!

And unsurprisingly I woke up not feeling my best. But I headed to Southsea to meet my marathon buddy, Joe, his friend Matt and Matt’s dad for the Southsea parkrun. I parked about a mile away (near The Tenth Hole, where we’d be going for a post-run trip after) and jogged down. A handy little warm-up – which I never usually do before parkrun.The temperature and weather were fantastic. It was lovely and warm and the breeze was fair minimal. The perfect time for a trip to Southsea parkrun!
Joe was planning on testing his marathon legs and I was just planning on surviving. My legs had felt fairly good post-marathon but I wasn’t expecting or really intending on attempting anything too fast or crazy.

We started far too far back. Joe should have been far more forward (being the sub 18min 5k’er he is!) so the first 100m or so I was dodging and weaving between people. Joe and Matt zoomed off and I just tried to get my legs going. Surprisingly things seemed to go OK as I got faster and faster. Southsea parkrun course is quite dull in that it’s a flat 1.5 mile run along the prom and then a turnaround and 1.5 mile run back. But it’s a quick one if that’s what you’re looking for. I managed to get my legs to go faster and overtook a number of people. My legs felt fine and my lungs felt fine… but my stomach was NOT happy. I felt incredibly sick. In fact, I was genuinely concerned I would BE sick. And the smell from the cafes nearby made things so much worse.

As we turned around and headed back I tried to maintain my pace (now with a very slight headwind, but you can always feel these things when you’re trying to run fast) and I remember several guys effortlessly gliding past me (or so it seemed). There was a very young lad sailing along just ahead of me and I tried to hold on to his pace. I did wonder where his “responsible” adult was though as he was very much under 11 and running solo. But that did help distract me from the sicky feeling to consider what you’d do if you had a very young child who could outrun you so much but wanted to join you at parkrun. You’d have to find someone just as speedy that he could run with I guess. Running parent problems!My official time was 21:44 which I was really pleased with. I was more pleased that I wasn’t actually sick. Though after finishing I had to take myself off to a nearby bush and breathe deeply for a good few minutes before I was in the clear. I wasn’t sick but good god I was close. Lessons have been learnt.Joe didn’t do as well as he’d hoped (19.30ish…so slow! ;-)) and Matt got a PB. Matt’s dad did very well as well and we all agreed our previous night nutrition (the boys had had chips and beer) hadn’t been stellar so our performance wasn’t too shabby all things considered!And then Matt and his dad headed off while Joe and I headed to The Tenth Hole for a post-run coffee. We had originally intended on having cake or breakfast but the reality was I felt so sick even the smell of food was turning my stomach. So we settled instead on a coffee and ordered cake to take-away.I knew future Anna would regret not getting cake! I also got three little cake’s for my parents (they come as a trio of cake selection). This way they’d still get cake but it would fit into their Slimming World diet being smaller cakes. I chose a s’mores Rolo brownie and a peanut butter caramel cake (sweet ‘n’ salty – there was more popcorn on top but I nibbled at it).They’ve gone into the freezer to stock-up my cake supply. I honestly couldn’t have had stomached them. Who even am I! In fact, I didn’t actually eat “breakfast” until 1.30pm as I really just didn’t feel right. That will certainly teach me and my greedy self. The coffee was lovely and it was nice to catch-up with Joe again post marathon. Then I headed to Asda to do some food shopping (best time when you really don’t want to be around food…) and had a very lazy day not doing much else.

The next morning, after a deliciously long lie-in, I intended on heading out for about 8-10 miles. I felt so unmotivated and, weirdly, still tired. I just really didn’t fancy going. I took Alfie for a walk to get my head in the game and decided instead to head out for three miles and see how I felt. Well I headed out and within the first 30 seconds I was already feeling like I wanted to go back. But I thought the first mile is always the worst so give it more time. Nope, two miles in and I was already wanting to be home. Everything felt fine, no niggles or anything like that, but nothing felt right, if you know what I mean. I just felt very lethargic and not enjoying the run so I headed home. When I finished I just felt even more tired and not right. I wondered if I was coming down with something…

After getting showered and sorted my mum suggested a nice walk along the Lee-On-Solent prom and then a coffee. Well that sounded lovely. Sometimes you just need to spend some quality time with your mum!We had a nice coffee and chatted away before heading back down the prom to the car. Exactly what I needed! I’m glad I hadn’t tried to push my run earlier as I really didn’t fancy it and I’m not actually training for anything right now (more on that in another post). So for now I can have those days when I don’t fancy running and not run. Lovely. I might have also picked up a slice of coconut vanilla cake and a chocolate beetroot cake to join my other cake friends in the freezer… 😉

The rest of the day was spent chilling and catching up on life admin and Graham Norton. Some days you just need to chill. I still wasn’t feeling entirely well so the relaxing and care-free day did wonders. Especially as the coming weekends I’m going to be busy again!

How do you relax?

Do you ever spend one-on-one time with your mum? What do you like doing together?

Have you ever felt/been sick on a run?

All the food and the Solent Half Marathon

Aside from all the packing madness, last weekend was really fun. Anything involving seeing good friends, eating ribs and having a solid race and long run is a big tick in my book!

So after parkrun on Saturday morning (and more packing), I met up with a good friend of mine for a catch-up and some tasty food. I told her to bring her appetite as the place we were going was not for tiny stomachs. I picked her up from the Southampton Central train station (as she was coming from Basingstoke) and we headed to Sadlers. If you’re ever in Southampton and you’re a meat-loving fan, you really must check this place out. Actually to be fair, they do a fantastic vegetarian menu as well – lots of options!I always mean to try new things but then I know how good the ribs are at Sadlers and can’t help but stick with them. They’re honestly some of the best ribs I’ve ever had. They had two options: medium (800g) or large (1.5kg). I asked the advice of the waiter (even though I knew what I’d go for regardless) and when I told him I was a “whole chicken Nando’s kinda girl” he agreed that ordering the large would be best. And I’m so glad I did (though I am slightly wondering if they were indeed 1.5kg worth of ribs…I remember last time ordering the ribs and really struggling whereas this time I was fine). The cornbread was really good for mopping up the BBQ sauce but the chips got left behind. No room at the inn!

My friend ordered the St. Elmo’s Fire, which was super spicy. She’s literally the spice queen (she’s been known to send plates back when they’ve not been spicy enough and asked for more chili!) and she said it was good.We then decided that pudding was in order. Luckily our pudding of choice was a mile’s walk away, which gave our stomach’s a bit of time to recover. Because we definitely needed to make space for a trip to Sprinkles Gelato! The last time I went to Sprinkles I’d had major food envy as I’d made a poor choice on what to have. this time I knew exactly what to get: a Sticky Situation.
This was chocolate and vanilla gelato mixed with milk and white chocolate buttons, cookie dough and melted milk and white chocolate topped with cream. Oh god it was amazing. But no I didn’t manage to finish it. It was just too much sugar. I started to feel a bit sick as I got to the bottom… big chunks of chocolate and cookie dough sadly remained uneaten (I mourn this now). But it was totally worth it. I’d always prefer being defeated by a pudding than finishing it easily and wanting more (greedy person syndrome).My friend ordered a kind of make-your-own dessert jar which included a random mix of gelato (Pina Collada, raspberry cheesecake and Ferrero Rocher! Everything she fancied basically) and a side of banana. She loved it too. And then we parted ways, full to the brim but having had a lovely afternoon. I was then fully fuelled to tackle more packing and cleaning when I got home. I didn’t need anything else to eat that day for definite!

The next morning I woke up early to head off to the Solent Half Marathon. My plan was to run three miles beforehand and then the half itself to make a total of 16 miles, which would be a good training run for the Bournemouth Marathon in a few weeks. I skipped breakfast as I was still quite full and do most of my long runs fasted anyway (well, as fasted as you can be with having eaten that much the day before) and drove to meet with four other ladies from my club to convoy together to the race. We had a nice turn out for our club and there was a very friendly atmosphere.After collecting our bibs, my friend Kate and I headed out for our pre-race run. She wanted two miles while I wanted three so we ran a mile out and back and then I ran another 0.5 mile out and back to make it up. I could already feel that it was going to be a warm one.

I’ve run the Solent Half Marathon a few years ago so vaguely remembered the course being fairly undulating. As I was just planning on running it as a training run I decided to wear my Aftershokz to listen to a podcast to keep my speed under control and my mind occupied. Basically I was treating it as a long run. It’s funny because this is exactly what I did the last time I ran it too, doing three miles extra. However the marathon I was training for (my first marathon I’d signed up to – the Portsmouth Coastal) I never actually got to as I got injured.The race is fairly low-key and the roads aren’t closed. There were a few spectators but the marshals were super friendly and happy which made up for the quieter parts. We started off and I tried not to get caught up in the beginning surge. I let my running friends zoom ahead while I found a comfortable pace and zoned out.The race goes through some lovely countryside roads and passes through the New Forest so there’s lots of greenery to help take your mind off the boring road (it’s all on road). I was glad to have my headphones, but I was paranoid that people would be judging me or that a marshal would disqualify me. The race rules said that “in ear” headphones would lead to disqualification (and this is a race that did actually disqualify people – I remember when I ran it last time I saw them listed in the results as DQ) but the Aftershokz are out of the ear headphones as they work on bone conduction – and are UK Athletics approved. But I still worried. I hate how people judge people for using headphones, like it’s not proper running or something. But hey ho.At one point I found myself overtaking a guy, only for him to then overtake me and then slow down, so then I’d overtake him again, and he’d overtake again… this happened like three times! It was a little frustrating. I wasn’t increasing my pace at all.It was a very warm race so I made sure to stop at each drinks station (there were only three as it was a smaller race) and walked with my water to ensure I drank it all rather than throwing it down myself. I took a few photos – especially when we got past the coast as it was very pretty.I decided that at mile 10 I’d switch to music and try to push the pace a bit. I was enjoying drifting in and out of the my podcast but I wanted to liven things up a bit towards the end. Unfortunately there are some nasty inclines at this point too but I luckily I had enough strength in my legs to get me through. It was really encouraging to pick people off and pass them as I sped up. It was a good way to keep myself going, “one more person” or “just that person ahead”.
It got a lot harder on the final mile, which was my fastest, but I managed to hold on until the end. What was good was that the end of the race followed my warm-up run so I knew exactly how far it was until the end so could work out what speed I could hold until the end. Very handy. I came in at exactly 1:44. I will happily take that time! We got a lovely singlet as well (female extra small woohoo!) which makes a change from a medal or a buff. The finish was great as there were people dressed as Mini Mouse and Elmo. Very fun! I made sure to get a photo of course…It’s funny because though I ate so much the day before I was quite hungry when I finished (I actually remember feeling hungry during the race as well, which never used to happen to me!). Normally after long runs I don’t fancy food but actually recently I’m ready to eat almost straight away. I remember feeling this way after the London Marathon this year too. I guess not having had dinner or breakfast wasn’t entirely wise! But at the time I wasn’t hungry.

I practically hoovered up my porridge as soon as I got back – I was famished! And lunch wasn’t too many hours after either. The calorie balance was definitely addressed; carrot cake from my dwindling freezer stash can help that!

I’m really pleased with how the race went, but it’s given me a few thoughts on what pace I should aim for the marathon, especially if the temperature is similar. Perhaps closer to the 8.30s than the 8s per mile I think!

Do you like to eat food straight after exercising?

Do you stick with safe options you know you’ll enjoy at restaurants or branch out for a change?

Do you use headphones during runs or races?

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.**