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?

The Nitty Gritties–Food

As I’m plodding my way through my training for my sixth marathon I thought I’d do a mini series on some bits and bobs (“the nitty gritty”) to do with my training that might either be interesting (who knows!) or helpful to other people. Obviously I’m no expert and this is only my experience, which isn’t huge, and everyone is an individual. What works for me might not work for you, but you might find something that helps! I have a few other topics in mind but if people find this a) boring or b) have a request, please let me know Smile

First topic surrounds one of my favourite things (other than running): FOOD. When it comes to food and marathon training I think it can get over-complicated and confused. To be quite honest, if you’re a regular runner or do regular exercise then really not a huge amount needs to change straight off the bat. You don’t suddenly need to be eating pizza every night and gulping down a protein shake to get through the day.

Ideally as you gradually increase the miles each week then you should also gradually increase your calories/fuel as well. This is especially true if you’re trying to lose weight (I’m not, don’t worry!). Just because you added an extra few miles onto your usual run at the weekend doesn’t mean it’s time for a second lunch. That being said, as the miles do get substantially bigger and you suddenly find the day after a long run you are rungry ALL THE TIME then sensible snacking can help immensely.

Protein

As you probably know I’m a huge fan of protein. Personally I think a snack that’s high in protein is fantastic because not only is it quite satiating but it’s also great to help towards muscle repair. Running takes a lot out of the body and protein can really help build back up the muscles.

  • Cottage cheese – this might sound a bit odd but cottage cheese is a fantastic, tasty snack. It’s high in protein and low in fat and sugar. It’s a good source of calcium and selenium (a good antioxidant). Have it plain or add in some berries and some seeds and suddenly you have quite a well-rounded snack with protein, carbs and fat. I take a little Tupperware box with me to work and eat it like a yogurt in the afternoon.
  • Nuts – pistachio nuts are a regular snack for me at work. I prefer them to other nuts as they’re a bit harder to eat as you have to de-shell them. This means I’m less likely to mindlessly power through a bag of them. Nuts are high in calories but they’re a fantastic source of protein and ‘healthy’ fats. If you have more self-control than I do, other nuts are also just as good.   IMG_8275
  • Meat jerky/biltong – OK not exactly a ‘normal’ runner’s snack but I love these. Just make sure you get good quality that’s not full of sugar and strange chemicals. It’s super high in protein, while low in carbs and fats.IMG_8276
  • Icelandic-style yogurts – they taste just like normal yogurt though they’re a lot thicker. They’re low in fat and sugars but really high in protein (something like 11g per 100g) and contain all the good probiotic magic too. There are flavoured ones too but they’re usually full of sugar so I’d recommend just throwing in whole fruit instead.

Fat

Fat, like protein, is very satiating and shouldn’t be feared. It’s an important source of nutrition for our body, helping contribute to healthy hair, skin and nails and also hormonal function and reducing inflammation. Just avoid trans fats as they’re the nasties that can mess around with your system.

  • Hummus – pair with some vegetable crudités or some wholemeal crackers and you’re good to go. A great source of fat from the chickpeas and olive oil.
  • Avocados – the star of Instagram posts all over the world, mash onto a rice cracker (preferably a wholegrain one to bump up the fibre and satiety factor). It’s a great source of potassium (more than bananas!) and monounsaturated fat.
  • Nut butters – again, spread on rice crackers, toast or eat by the spoonful. Fairly calorific so a good choice if you’re in a rush and need to get in some nutrients fast. Personally I’m not a fan of nut butters. It’s alright but I don’t get the craze for it…
  • Cheese – avoid processed rubbish (though I’m always partial to Babybells as they’re in such handy little packages). Try and get some good quality cheese that will be more tasty, more nutrient rich and just generally better for you. Cube up some feta and throw in some cherry tomatoes or olives and that’s quite a nutritious and filling snack.

Carbs

Carbs are a necessary requirement for running. When training for a marathon, a low carb diet is probably not the best approach unless your body is really used to this way of exercising. Your body needs fuel and carbs are the easiest and simplest fuel for your body to use. You do want your body to tap into your fat reserves as well but within reason.

I’d avoid crisps purely because they’re not that filling and they’re likely to spike your sugar levels and leave you wanting more. Aim for low GI (more complex) carbs that will digest slowly and leave you feeling full and satisfied.

  • Fruit (banana is obviously a great choice here but obviously I’m going to say apples are the best).  
  • Vegetables, such as carrots. I don’t need to convince you veg is good for you.
  • Pretzels – a nice salty snack that’s more filling than crisps and really moreish.
  • Popcorn – a great snack as long as you avoid the sugary ones. A great source of fibre as well which is key for a good working gut and digestive system.
  • Toast – a slice of wholemeal toast can be exactly what the body needs. Add some jam and have before a run and you’ve got a great source of fast and slow releasing energy. Or peanut butter for a more sustaining snack.

Little bits of what you fancy…

Life is too short to not enjoy food! Have that slice of cake or bar of chocolate, just don’t have it every day “because I’m training”. I will always have a naughty snack/cheat meal/whatever the hell you want to call it at the weekend because though my body might not need it, my mind and soul does.IMG_6459

My ethos is that I generally try and save a big treat until the weekend so I can fully enjoy it rather than some shop-bought cakes or biscuits someone from work has that I eat because I’m bored. I want to go out to a nice restaurant and eat a nice meal with people I enjoy being around. I make it into something that can be fully immersed into and enjoyed. Like afternoon tea or enjoying some home-baked cake from my friend.

If you’re feeling tired and worn out, generally it can be one of two things: you’re not getting enough quality sleep or you’re not eating enough. Your body needs fuel and recovery. Sleep and food are two very simple easy ways to make running easier (IN THEORY – busy mums all over the world don’t shoot me!). If you’re not looking to gain weight, eat as much as you possibly can to maintain your weight with your training. Don’t skimp on calories, dive into those bad boys. And if you start gaining weight? Drop it your calories down a bit. Better to gain a little weight in the process of good running than burn out because you’re not eating enough. I’m not saying to suddenly count your calories and become obsessed over it, but just be mindful of what you’re putting in to get the best out.

Just my personal thoughts!

What are your favourite snacks?

Do you lose weight or gain weight when training for a marathon?

Do you graze through the day or stick to bigger meals?

Rants and Raves #25

I’m so tired this week. The weekend really took it out of me. Fortunately I have a day off tomorrow, wheeee! So I can do more sorting and organising (*cough* and spending). Alfie’s back from my parent’s now as well. He does not like the balcony at all bless him! On to some rants and raves…

Rave: It’s so close to Christmas. I’m such a big fan of Christmas. I love the music, the food (ALL ABOUT THE FOOD), the festivities, the sparkle… Everything. I was wearing my ‘gateway’ Christmas jumper at the start of December.Christmas jumper

Old house selfie

See, it’s not quite a Christmas jumper but it’s fairly festive. I think I can get away with wearing it in January as well. I do have a proper one that I’ll be rocking out soon.

Rant: I hate myself (real hatred) for saying this but… Justin Bieber’s music is growing on me. WHAT’S GOING ON. I still detest the singer as I think he’s very arrogant and just not my type of person (as if we’d be friends otherwise;)) but his latest music is so bloody catchy.

Rave: I don’t tend to spend lots of money… But when it comes to workout gear, I can’t seem to stop. I found these gorgeous pair of Lululemon capris on eBay the other week.

Lululemon capris

Lululemon gear is just gorgeous but ridiculously priced. RIDICULOUSLY priced. Even worse than Sweaty Betty. I often have a little look on eBay to see if I can find anything and I was chuffed to score these for a discounted price. They are so soft, fit like a glove and just make me wish I was millionaire so I could buy everything from that shop.

I also bought some (more) leggings from Fabletics in their Black Friday deal. Two pairs of leggings for the price of one, I couldn’t resist.Fabletics leggings

I’d had these mesh capris in my ‘Wish’ bag already so I was happy to get them and another pair (more funky coloured) for the same price. I was concerned the mesh would be annoying but I barely notice it.

Rants: Buying loads of new gym and running gear wasn’t a great idea just before I moved as it only meant packing more stuff. In the end clothes that were in drawers ended up in bin bags… which then ended up like this when I needed to find certain items.

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Yes that is a random tool kit

My running and gym gear has lovingly been put away now in my newly created chest of drawers. Though I still have a bin bag left of normal clothes I’ve yet to get to. Priorities.

Rave: I’m really into snacking on biltong and dried meat at the moment. Such a good snack to tide you over until your next proper meal.

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Like meat crisps in a way 😉 Sorry veggies, I know that must sound awful to you.

These high protein crisp snack things though didn’t blow me away… bit bland. I’ll stick to my Snack a Jacks I think.IMG_6308

Rant: Websites that don’t accept hyphens in names. CaptureSo many don’t accept ‘Anna Smith-James’. IT’S MY NAME. My name isn’t Anna SmithJames. Or Anna Smith. Or Anna James. It’s Anna SMITH-JAMES. And on that subject, it’s JAMES not JONES. EVERY FRIGGING PHONE CALL. *Sighs*

On the subject of my name. Before I got married I was Anna James, but then I took Ben’s second name (Smith) and made two boring names into an interesting one. Now my intention is to find my next husband and just keep adding to my name, like Anna Smith-James-Taylor, and so on.

Obviously I’m joking. But I’m not changing my name. Who knows what the future holds but for now my name is remaining the same. The process of changing it is far too stressful… so many people, companies, websites to inform.

Rave: I found out what noise was keeping me awake. It was a scent thing that had been left in the flat. It clicks and ejects a puff of scent out every so often. I thought the noise was due to the wind on the window or something like that but then I was right next to it and heard the bastard. It has since left my flat. Though I do also now have ear plugs 😉

What are you rants and raves this week?

Are you a light or heavy sleeper?

Did you get anything on Black Friday?

Rants and Raves #22

I can’t believe how quickly October is flying by! It’s almost Halloween – I thought that was ages away until I realised I had a Halloween party this weekend and didn’t have a costume… Anyway, here are my latest rants and raves.

Rave: I forgot to mention in my post about my trip to Wales that I got ID’ed for entering one of the beer tents at the Food Festival!! This made my day. I’m only 27 so really this ins’t that big a feat but in my head I believe she thought I was under 18 😉 Bahaha!

Rant: Since realising how close Halloween actually is I’ve just bought a costume for parkrun. I have no idea if I will be able to actually wear it to run in though and I’m thinking it will be too cold to stand and marshal in. *Sighs* Well it’ll do for the Halloween party anyway on Saturday night so it’s not a complete waste… I also bought a (very cheap) costume for Alfie as well. “Costume” sounds quite elaborate, but it’s really more of a jumper. If I can’t run and wear my outfit then Alfie will be coming to parkrun again and will be wearing his. He doesn’t know it yet 😉 I reeeeeaaaalllllly wanted this one but they didn’t do his small doggie size.

Halloween dog costume

Plus I’m pretty sure he’d pack his little bags and leave if I attempted to put him in that (but how cute, seriously??).

Rave: These little chocolate cupcakes are so scrummy!

Salted caramel chocolate

I wish I’d bought more from the sweet shop in Wales. The salted caramel one was to die for.

Rant: DNS’ing the same races I’ve DNS’ed for the past two years. How weird is that? I’ve now been injured at this point in the year three years in a row. It’s getting a little silly now. I wouldn’t have signed up so far in advance but these are really popular local (and cheap) races. Who was I to know Bournemouth would cause me such an issue? (Probably every other sensible runner in the world who suspected I was running too many marathons too close together…).

I’m desperate to run the Gosport Half marathon (in a few weeks time) as it’s literally where my parents live and where I’ve done so many long runs before. It goes along the coast and has the view of the Isle of Wight, which is rather nice. But it seems this one, as with the Lordshill 10 mile this weekend, it’s not meant to be.

Rave: I’ve entered the Chester marathon for next autumn. I know, I know. So far away but it was cheaper to enter now than to wait and I like having things down in the diary.

Chester marathon

I was tempted to do Bournemouth again as it was such a disaster for me this year, but marathons aren’t like 5ks or 10ks that can just do at a drop of a hat and I want to do lots of different ones rather than revisit the same ones. Chester was voted as the UK’s number one road marathon by Runners’ World in 2012 and 2013 so should be good. I can also time it nicely with a trip to Shropshire with my grandparents and parents (that also means more parkrun tourism, wheee!).

But next year I will not cluster marathons together either and ensure I have proper breaks afterwards. Oh the wise words of an injured runner…

Rave: I signed up to Tribe Pack to test out their snack boxes.

Tribe Pack

The concept is like graze where you get a box of snacks delivered weekly/monthly/etc. and it’s a surprise what you get. The range of snacks include things like seeds, dried fruit, cereal/protein bars, etc. all made by Tribe. In a box you get two bars, two trail mixes, a ‘discover’ snack and a Tribe Life magazine. My box contained Tamari Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin,  hulled hemp and chia seeds and tamari), Tumba trail mix (pumpkin seeds, almonds, organic goji, toasted coconut), Organic Mountain Berries (sour cherry, raisin, goldenberry, goji, aronia, barberry & wild blueberry) and a Baobab bar (superfruit energy bar) and a Wild Apricot, Pecan & Lucuma bar.

Tribe

Use the referral code TRIBE42383 which will get you a pack like I got for £1 (I would also get my next Tribe Pack for free).

Rant: Still no running. I could go on and on (as you can imagine). I had an extremely deep and painful massage on Monday though which I’m still feeling the effects of so I really can’t judge. The person I saw said try in a week but I won’t unless it feels absolutely fine walking, which at the moment it (intermittently) doesn’t.

Rave: I’m hoping to see Spectre tonight. And I have six free cinema tickets from my bank as part of the bonuses I get with my account. I foresee lots of film trips happening… I’m actually not a huge James Bond fan but the film does look good and I feel like I need to see it because I’ve seen so many of the others. Plus, Daniel Craig. And Nandos.

Rave: When I was in Wales I bought myself a pack of four pastry forks.

Pastry forks

Basically they’re little forks with a sharp edge that you use to eat cake. As a regular cake eater I thought it would be nice to have the proper utensils to fully enjoy the experience. I’ll be keeping one in my handbag at all times of course.

What are your rants and raves of late?

James Bond: yes or no? Who was the best Bond? I like Daniel Craig. Less cheese but still a lot of smooth moves.

Are you doing anything for Halloween? Any costumes?

Portlebay Popcorn

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a popcorn addict. I pop my own salt and pepper popcorn and have as part of my lunch every day at work. My office initially thought I was bonkers but now they’ve come to accept my weird little obsession.

Along with my more simple popcorn, I love trying the different flavours that have come out as well. There’s definitely been an explosion of popcorn in the past few years. No longer is it just the butter and sugar drenched stuff you buy to pop yourself and eat at home while watching a film or buy jumbo buckets of at the cinema. Recent flavours out there have also fully embraced the salty sweet flavour combo that is in full force at the moment too. It’s a match made in heaven in my eyes!

Portlebay Popcorn do a range of popcorn flavours called Kracklecorn which is “hand popped” in Devon.

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Kracklecorn is where they’ve added raw cane sugar as the grains are popping which makes the popcorn more brittle and crunchy. They sent me a fabulous selection of popcorn flavours to test out and review. Honestly, I was blown away by the variety they had!

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I’ve previously tried the Crispy Bacon and Maple Syrup flavour and adored it so I knew that flavour would be fine. But Lemon Sherbet? Very Berry? That sounds mental! The three new flavours that Portlebay have released are Very Berry, Cinnamon Swirl and Lemon Sherbet.

Lemon Sherbert popcorn

The Lemon Sherbet flavour was fairly subtle – don’t expect to get your head blown off. But it did have that tangy lemonness and fizziness you’d expect from the original sweet and it went so well with the popcorn. It tasted delicious!. It was my second favourite flavour (the maple bacon still has my heart).

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The Very Berry flavour was equally as subtle and extremely tasty. There were hints of berry-ness without it being overwhelming. IMG_1277

The Cinnamon Swirl I was initially not sure about. It tasted very “American” if you know what I mean. It smelt quite synthetic. Cinnamon isn’t a huge flavour in the UK (unless it’s Christmas), unlike the US, and it reminded me of the sweet cinnamon things you can easily eat over there but not so much here. After a few bits I decided I did like it. Again, subtle flavours.

The one flavour I wasn’t sure about was the Smoked Cheddar. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t awful but it was just odd. It had a cheesy flavour but was still slightly sweet. I don’t think I’d have this flavour again, but I wouldn’t throw it back at someone if they offered me some!

I won’t go into the nutritional details for all the popcorn but I’ll give you an example.

Cinnamon Swirl (per 25g)

  • Calories: 111 calories
  • Protein: 1.3g
  • Fat: 4g
  • Of which saturates: 0.3g
  • Carbohydrate: 16.2g
  • Of which sugars: 7g
  • Fibre: 2.7g
  • Salt: 0.1g

The range of calories per bag for the flavours is around 110-115 calories, so less than a packet of crisps and nice and filling with the fibre. The ingredients lists are also fairly clean without any nasty, strange sounding chemicals. They’re not vegan (they contain lactose) but they are gluten free.

By far Portlebay are the best range of popcorn I’ve had. The crunchiness of the actual popcorn gives a nice eating experience (does that make sense?) and the flavours are really good. Big thumbs up from this popcorn addict! I just cannot buy bigger bags though as I won’t stop eating.

What’s your favourite popcorn flavour?

What do you snack on when you’ve got the munchies?

What’s the weirdest flavour you’ve tried (of anything!)?

***Full Disclosure: I was sent the popcorn for free to review. All opinions are my own honest ones.***