30+1 and other great things

What’s been happening around here lately… asides from my vegan adventures.

Let’s get over the negatives quickly… I haven’t been running. I only have myself to blame really as I pushed it at the Romsey Beer Race when realistically I should have sat it out.

My hamstring was just on the mend and then ehhh I pushed and it became worse. I’ve been seeing my physio (if you’re in need around the Portsmouth area he’s great) and it’s been helping.

It’s a tough one really as it’s the upper part of my hamstring (“high hamstring”) and this area notoriously doesn’t get much blood flow. Then coupled with sitting making things worse (hey day job..), means that healing is slow.

It’s hard to know how to help the situation. Obviously I’m not running. But I’m a big believer in strength training to help and doing strength work does improve blood flow to the area. It’s just finding that balance of pushing and protecting the hamstring. Gentle single leg glute bridges and being conscious of the muscle (i.e. making sure it’s the hamstring working and not my back or glute taking over). So that’s that right now.

But on to more positive things.

Podcasts

Oh my god, if you have not tried Sh**ged Married and Annoyed podcast from Chris and Rosie Ramsey you NEED to. It is so funny. Laugh out loud while walking Alfie kind of funny. I love their Geordie accents, how relatable they are and their humour. It’s my new favourite and I’m trying not to binge listen to them because I like having lots ready to go.

Birthday

Ahh another year has passed. It has FLOWN by. And a lot has happened in that time. I’ve been and done a number of cool things, eaten A LOT of cake and chicken wings (40 is my new PB), ran a lot (5 marathons!), got myself a cheeky 10k PB (who’d have thought eh!), and spent a lot of time with a guy who’s become somewhat important in my life…

So yeah while I might be older, I’m definitely not wiser but happier, and that’s something eh!

Birthday Cake

Kyle’s lovely sister, Lucy, is AMAZING at baking and for my birthday she made the most amazing cake.

It’s INCREDIBLE. She kept the design a secret from me and when I saw it I just could not believe the detail! So chuffed.

It’s a fruit cake which is cool and means it’ll last for a bit (ha..well we’ll see).

As it was Lucy’s birthday the day before mine we shared celebrating it at Kyle’s house with his family and had the most awesome spread of food. Chicken wings, ribs, spring rolls, crisps, chocolate, token salad.

It was fantastic and such a fab way for me to re-enter into the world of eating meat again.

I will say though that ordinarily I’ll be reducing my consumption of animal products but it was a celebration so I did eat quite a lot it must be said!

Presents

I got so many lovely gifts for my birthday, I was very (god I hate this word so much) blessed.

My lovely friend Louise even made me an amazing sign. She’s just started a new business of handmade crafted items (carvings in glass and wood) and her gift to me was just perfect.

Check out her Facebook page here if you’re interested.

Merchant House

On Thursday night my work team and I went out for a meal and drinks at The Merchant House in Southsea.

I’ve seen so many good things on their Instagram and it didn’t disappoint!

I went for the pork belly burger (with maple bacon and cheese) with burnt end loaded fries and deep fried vegan cauliflower bites.

Their vegan menu actually looked really good! I was tempted to try their seitan burger but in the end was too tempted by pork belly. It just means I need to go back!

It was a really fun evening. I really like the people I work with, the food was fantastic and I love Southsea. It feels like a mini Brighton 🙂

So despite not running, there’s still a lot of good stuff happening round here!

What kind of burger is your favourite?

What’s your favourite food at a buffet?

Do you go out with your work colleagues?

9 Ways to Make Your Home More Zen

I have a contributed post today talking about making your home more “zen”. I’m all about de-stressing your life and making your house a happy, comfortable environment so I found this really interesting.

Whether we’re out running or just trying to navigate the many responsibilities that life throws our way, from time to time it can seem like existence is a little frantic. If we don’t take steps to protect ourselves, then there’s a chance that we get caught up in the rush. Sometimes this happens without us even quite realising it — only after some time has passed do we notice that we’ve lost touch with ourselves a little. As such, it’s important that we’re taking the time to slow down a little. One of the best ways to do is to create a zen, relaxed environment in our homes. When life seems to get a little too much, we’ll have the perfect little hideaway in which to retreat.

But how do you do this? We take a look at some tried and tested methods below.

Source: Pexels.com

Light and Airy

It’s difficult to get into that calm and serene state of mind when you’re sitting in a dark and dingy home. If that describes your current space, then take a look at opening up your property a little bit. If you have sunlight pouring into your home, and there’s plenty of space, then you’ll find it much easier to enter that elevated state. Don’t worry if you think your home is dark and always will be — there are plenty of ways to let more natural light flow in. To get more space, take a look at low-lying furniture. It’ll make the ceilings feel higher than they are. Pulling the couch and other furniture away from the wall slightly can also create the illusion of added space.

Feelings of Joy

Zen life isn’t just about simplicity, it’s about joy. Whatever makes you happy is specific to you, and it’s your place, so why not fill your home with things that’ll make you smile? On the other end of the spectrum, you should also avoid having too many items that will, for whatever reason, bring you down. If your cables or that ugly piece of furniture creates a small feeling of anger/sadness/misery every time you take a glance, then conceal them or get rid altogether.

Feeding the Senses

We spend so much of our time thinking about what we can see, but we should also focus on what we can feel. There are plenty of things that can influence us “under the surface,” and put us into a relaxing and chilled state of mind. The two obvious sources are incense and scent diffusers. Adding those natural fragrances will massively boost the ambience of your place, and simply make it a more enjoyable place to be. It’s always worth keeping in mind that we perceive much more than we think — it’s about more than your eyes.

The Purge

Even if you took all the other advice in this blog, you would still struggle to create a relaxing, zen home if you hadn’t taken the most crucial piece of advice: getting rid of the junk that you don’t need. Having too much clutter around us is a drain on our mind and spirit; our items begin to feel like a burden. As such, it’s recommended that you follow the top tips to declutter your house. If you’ve lived in your home for a few years, then it’s likely that you have plenty of items that you don’t want, need, or even realise that you still have. By taking the time to get rid of them, you’ll be reclaiming your home, and in the process making it much more relaxing.

Use Earthy Colours and Materials

When we think about the zen way of life, we tend to think about nature, purity, simplicity, and harmony. In your home, you can bring these characteristics to the fore by using earthy colours and materials. You’ll feel much more in tune with the outside world if you’ve incorporated wooden and stone touches throughout your home, for instance. You’ll also want to look at other ways to bring the outdoors in, too. For example, you can add plants — it’s hard not to feel happy when you’re surrounded by plants (they actually released mood-boosting chemicals into our mind) — or souvenirs from your travels, such as jars of sand, pinecones, and other beautiful outdoor, all natural decorations.

Source: Pexels.com

Deep Comfort

People often spend too much time on making sure that their home looks the part, and not enough on making sure that it’s comfortable. It’s hard to feel deeply at ease if you’re not physically comfortable. So moving forward, take a look at upping your home’s comfort levels. You can begin in the most obvious rooms, your living room and bedroom; your couch and bed should invite you to sink in deeply — you can add throws and other comforters to make them even more relaxing, too. You can take your home’s comfort levels to new heights by adding things like a cosy reading corner or — the best option out there — an outdoor hammock. There are few things in life more enjoyable than swinging in a hammock on a cool summer’s day.

Remove the Disturbances

While there are plenty of things that’ll nudge your home’s zen factor in the right direction, it’s likely that you have a few things that are also bringing it down. As such, you’ll want to take time some to remove the disturbances that are removing the flow of your home. Just as you added joy, you’ll need to remove the less than positive aspects, or, rather, hide them away. For example, you could put your television — which is great when it’s in use, ugly when it’s not — inside a cabinet, or hide your laundry basket so it’s not on display.

Minimalist Style

Now that you have a zen home, take a look at maintaining a minimalist approach. The temptation to add more items or to let things in your home get out of hand sometimes feels unavoidable, but this isn’t the case! You just need to stay on top of things.

Anna here again… personally I LOVE a good de-clutter and sort out. Weirdly something I really enjoy. But don’t just chuck stuff, give it to charity or re-gift/re-home elsewhere 🙂

How do you make your home comfortable?

What’s your favourite room in the house?

Do you often do a good sort out?

Two week vegan challenge – done!

So I completed my two week vegan challenge.

I didn’t eat meat, fish, cheese, milk, chocolate, basically anything that contained animal products. This also included milk powder, honey, gelatine… oh yes, I went all in (or all out…). I wanted to do a recap post of how I found things, things I liked, didn’t like and what happens now.

Let’s start with the bad stuff.

Bloating

I did not get on with chickpea or lentils. This is possibly because I went from full meat-eater to full legume consumer in a short amount of time. On my first few days I ate a lot of chickpeas. I saw them as a fantastic source of protein and something I could use to basically replace meat, cheese and eggs.

What I didn’t see coming (foolishly) is how that would hit my digestion. Within hours of eating I was VERY bloated. To the point that I went to bed looking pregnant. I’m lucky that I have a boyfriend that is apparently blind because although he couldn’t tell (pffft mere mortal man that he is) I could 100% tell and it made me feel quite low in self-esteem (I’m only human).

Vanity aside, I felt incredibly uncomfortable. My diet was never bad beforehand. I ate a lot of fruit and veg so adding more fibre-rich foods just overloaded my system. Getting real here, before the vegan diet I had a very nice regular toilet routine and rarely had any issues. Call me perfect poo Anna 😉 But add in a whole bunch more fibre and gaseous legumes and everything went out of whack. My system just was not happy and suddenly I felt very, well, backed up. I felt uncomfortably full all the time.

Potentially Expensive

So quickly chickpeas and lentils were removed. This massively improved things, but it did cause me a somewhat annoying issue of having to buy more expensive food items to fill in the chickpea holes.

I bought Linda McCartney sausages (GAME CHANGINGLY GOOD), kebab-style fake meat and relied more heavily on tofu.

Now I know that protein isn’t the be all and end all and we don’t need as much as protein powder companies and gym buffs would have us believe, but personally for me I work better on a higher protein lower carb diet. This new vegan diet however was a lot higher in carbs and a lot lower in protein. It was hard to find protein to slot in. But don’t get me wrong, meat is expensive too. I guess my issue is more than I couldn’t just throw cheese on things or have eggs – both are very cheap forms of protein/fat.

A Bit Boring

I found tofu very dull. I mean this is highly likely to be an experience thing and over time I’d get better, but honest to god it was dull. Not matter how many spices I threw on it, it just tasted very boring and the texture was a bit ehhhh.

I’m not a huge bread, pasta or rice eater so this left a lot of salads to eat at lunch…and salads that didn’t contain a huge amount in my eyes. Or soup. I got to eat a lot of soup as an easy filling lunch. Again this is down to experience but to make something I was going to enjoy required a lot of effort and thinking.

As a non-vegan I can whip up very boring and fairly bland meals but still really enjoy them – scrambled egg… chicken… tuna salads… I can eat this stuff for days. But without those options I was left a bit lost. I used butternut squash and sweet potato A LOT.

Hard Work

Now I know this would get better with experience and learning but for my two week stint, eating was hard work. Checking ingredients for anything non-vegan. Trying to find items that would be filling and not too fibre rich and not too expensive to add to meals. It just made eating difficult. It was a pain each night to think of exciting meals that would fill me up and not bloat me.

One of my favourite go-to meals was a sausage sandwich. But I missed eating lots of vegetables and not worrying about their compounding affect on my digestion.

Vegan Protein Powder

I tried two types. One upset my tummy (I tried Form Protein three times, and it just sat in my stomach like a rock) and one just tasted meh (MyProtein Vegan blend). It made eating porridge a bit sad for me.

Now onto the good…

Oat Milk

This is INCREDIBLE in tea. It really has changed my ways for good. I love it! It just upgrades a cup of tea. I probably won’t go out of my way in cafes to ask for it but if I notice they have it I’ll be getting it.

Linda McCartney Sausages

These are in my life for good. I used to eat a lot of the Heck chicken sausages but I’ll be replacing them with these one now. So tasty, so much flavour and FULL of protein.

Nutritional Yeast

Man this stuff is good. I was sprinkling it on everything. A small amount contains so much protein and B12 and FLAVOUR. Cheesy savoury goodness.

Vegan Meals Out

I enjoyed trying pulled BBQ jackfruit and I loved the seitan “chicken wings” I had at the Rockstone pub in Southampton.

Omg so good! Choosing something off a vegan menus is something I would NEVER have done before as I was worried it wouldn’t fill me up or be that exciting but after three different vegan meals out I can say that wasn’t the case.

And vegan cake is damn good too!

The only thing is, vegan cheese is not good. I’m sorry but it isn’t. I’m a blue cheese kind of girl. Strong mature cheddar. Goat’s cheese. Vegan cheese was literally fake cheese. Horrible. It didn’t taste of anything and it made me feel slightly queasy when I thought too hard about what it contained (you could argue that cheese made from animals should make me feel the same but as I don’t see eating animals as an issue this argument doesn’t work on me).

I Didn’t Miss Meat that Much

This was an eye opener. I didn’t crave meat. I didn’t miss it. The only times I missed it was really when I couldn’t think of something to throw together. Ordinarily I’d be throwing chicken into something and boom there’s a meal. But it was more the convenience of it than the taste (don’t get me wrong though, I bloody love chicken). What this has shown me is I can think outside the box and not just be lazy and reach for meat. I can eat a non-meat meal and still be full.

It has shown me though how much I love cheese. That I won’t be reducing! But meat, definitely. I can see several days in the week being meat-free. Chicken wings aren’t going anywhere though – if they’re on the menu, it’s likely I’ll be ordering them.

Overall, the two weeks taught me a lot. It helped me become more conscious of my animal product consumption. Showed me vegan food isn’t terrible (chickpeas aside) and helped me assess my diet going forward to a be a bit more environmentally conscious.

I raised a little bit of money for a local animal shelter too, so that’s bonus! (HERE’S the link if you’d like to sponsor!)

Have you ever changed your diet in a big way before?

Do you eat a lot of meat?

Do you eat a lot of cheese?

Romsey Beer Race 2019

The Romsey Beer race is a race I’ve done four times before and I truly love it.It’s such a lovely local race with great atmosphere, a beautiful route through Braishfield and of course a cake and beer at the end.

I’ve actually done really well at it each year I’ve done it – placing either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.But going into the race this year things weren’t going to be the same. I was nursing a bit of a hamstring niggle and in all honestly probably should sit the race out to look after it. But the thought of not running it brought a lot more sadness than the thought of running it and not being able to run after. It was a risk and one I decided to take. It was Kyle’s first time doing this race, my parents and his family were going to support… I won’t lie, I’d have felt like shit just watching and not running.

So on the Sunday we arrived in Braishfield. It was fairly overcast but still a little warm. Not as bad as some years though (especially last year which was so hot). It’s such a small and local event that it has a handful of porter toilets and a very easy-going approach to the start, which I love. It’s chip timed though so that’s a win. There’s a water station that you pass twice which is always appreciated (though plastic cups… better than bottles but still).

Now realistically I should have just enjoyed a gentle plod round but as every time I’ve ever run this race I’ve always gone for it I decided to not break the routine. It’s the one short distance race that I actually enjoy pushing myself on. I don’t know why. Maybe because I know the pain points and I know I won’t explode running fast because I’ve survived many times before.

Kyle and I did a little warm-up, said hello to running friends (fellow blogger Big Mug of Tea was doing the race for the second time – spoiler: she smashed her PB!) and then got to the start. The start is on a flat field where you have to do one lap before heading out onto the road. This is the only race I feel somewhat comfortable with going near the front. I feel somewhat justified as I’ve placed a few times before… I was eyeing up other girls wondering how fast they’d be. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything crazy considering my hamstring issue but I wanted to at least give myself a good chance. It’s like this race turns me into a weirdly competitive person that isn’t normally present at running events.

I knew I’d need to put my foot down straight away from the start because the first mile or so is relatively flat and then there are some nasty hills, so it’s best to get some speed in while you can. So off we went around the field before meeting the road. We turned the corner and I got to wave to Kyle’s family and my parents as they cheered us on. I heard them shout for Kyle very soon after so knew he wasn’t too far behind.

My first mile was 6:40 and I felt like this was within the realms of my capability. I could feel my hamstring a little –  not painful or hindering but just THERE saying “remember me”. I knew there was at least one girl ahead of me and as we got into a consistent pace two other girls passed me. So it goes! I wondered if I would catch them up later. We hit the hill and it was a long slog to the top. Oof why do I love this race so much?? Thankfully we got a nice downhill to enjoy afterwards and I managed to overtake one of the girls. Another girl sped past me but she shouted to us that she wasn’t racing and to ignore her – she was running under a man’s bib. I was nice of her to tell us but a bit confusing.

The route goes in a sort of two loop style thing and is all on road. The road isn’t closed off but the marshals do a good job in managing any cars (of which there were very few). It’s a lovely countryside quaint little British town so it’s very quiet. The locals come out and cheer and one house always sprays their hose pipe which is a welcome relief when it’s super hot.

Because of how the course goes you get to see your supports a number of times. It was really encouraging and nice to hear Kyle being cheered on very quickly after me. Though it did help me keep my pace up for fear of him catching up! 😉 A lot of my club do this race so there are always friendly faces about the place – another reason I love this race.

Thanks Mr Big Mug of Tea for the photos!

Another girl overtook me and I knew any placing was becoming out of reach. That’s OK, I was going a lot faster than I’d expected. My hamstring was still there as a persistent annoyance but still nothing to make me super concerned. The final mile felt like a long drag. I knew there were three girls ahead of me (as well as the non-racing girl) and the third girl was just ahead. She was about 5-10 seconds away. Could I make it? It felt like such an ask. Everyone was cheering me on and I tried and tried to not let my pace drift backwards.

We turned around the corner onto the cricket pitch where you do a final lap before finishing (such a tease). My friend Mark who’d already finished was shouting at me to push on and try and catch her. I tried one final push but just couldn’t get close enough and on the final 200 metres I just lost it and my speed drifted away as I lost my energy. She was the stronger runner, kudos to her. She finished 5 seconds ahead.

The difference between me getting a trophy (or a tankard in this case) and not, ahh well I tried! My time was 33:46 – which means I beat last year’s time by one second.

I was initially (and in a very silly way) disappointed not to have maintained my streak of placing in the top three but when I took a step back I realised I achieved a lot more than I’d initially thought by a) even running it and b) being faster than last year.

My hamstring wasn’t too bad afterwards. I mean it felt like it had been worked hard but I wasn’t limping or anything like that. It wasn’t painful to walk, for that I was glad.

Kyle finished soon after me and was happy with his 34:27 time.

We headed over to the cake and beers and I got a slice of lemon cake and a beer (which, as usual tradition of this race dictates, I gave to my dad after I had a few sips).

Fantastic supporters!

It was nice to chill for a bit on the cricket pitch and cheer in other runners and chat in the sunshine. Another part of why I love this race.

Then we headed home so Kyle and I could quickly shower and head to our local pub, The Osborne View, for some lunch with my parents.

As it was the last day of my non-vegan status I went the full hog (ha) and had a double portion of the chicken wings. It was glorious.

Is there a race you do every year because you love it?

What’s your favourite pre-race food?

Would you rather a medal or a cake/beer?

Week one of being a vegan

I went into my vegan challenge feeling quite smug and happy. I’d meal prepped like a boss. I had replacement snacks. I was good to go. 

As someone who is very routine-based with the meals I eat during the week (same breakfast, same lunch, similar snacks) I just had to replace them with vegan alternatives. I had my meal pan for the week and felt confident.

Breakfast was easy. I just swapped my whey protein powder in my porridge with a vegan version. I used almond milk already so that was fine.

The Form vegan protein I tried initially (chocolate salted caramel flavour) was delicious and gave a good consistency to my porridge (super stodgy, which I love) but I didn’t feel great afterwards. I felt a little sick and like it was a rock in my tummy.

The MyProtein Vegan protein powder however sat far better in my stomach. Sadly the taste was far inferior (I had the chocolate flavour). For feeling better afterwards though, I’ll stick with the MyProtein.

For lunches at work I’d meal prepped a roasted beetroot, butternut squash salad with an olive oil based dressing (getting my calories wherever I can!) for two days and a lentil chickpea curry for three days. The beetroot meal was delicious, filling and left me feeling good.

The curry was a different story. While very tasty and filling, it left me feeling extremely bloated and very, well, windy. I probably further compounded this issue by then having a vegan salad on the same day when Kyle and I went to the cinema. As it’s only around 220 calories I decided to throw in a load of chickpeas to bulk it out and up the protein.

This meant that on Wednesday I felt dreadful. I don’t mean to go too much TMI here but I was literally needing to fart ALL THE TIME. This is awkward when you work among people in an office. I kept having to go to the loo or just hold them in which just made me feel even worse. I looked pregnant as well how much my stomach was bloating.

For Wednesday dinner Kyle and I went to a pizza place called Popsi’s in Southampton before we saw the Bodyguard music show and I was able to have something non-bean related.

I had a mushroom fake cheese bread starter, followed by a pizza with fake pepperoni, chicken and cheese on it and then churro nuggets with a hazelnut chocolate sauce (all vegan of course).It was quite nice (to be honest, at this point I was happy with anything that wasn’t a salad or a chickpea) but it tasted very “samey”.

Like the meat was all very tasteless and the cheese wasn’t cheesy at all. I enjoyed it don’t get me wrong, but it definitely was more of a “better than nothing” rather than a “better than the real thing” kind of meal.

The churros though were GOOD. Blobs of sugary chocolaty goodness.
Sick of feeling bloated, the next day needed a change. I had my lentil curry lunch planned but I couldn’t face it so popped it into the freezer.

My dad gave me an onion soup he had in the fridge and I made a little salad to go with it (#health). I felt SO much better. It wasn’t the best lunch in the world and it contained minimal protein but I enjoyed it and it caused ZERO bloating issues.

I caved by Friday and bought a fake meat substitute to throw in a salad. A kebab style meat thing from Vivera. Their range looks really good and it was really nice. I’d go as far to say that I’d eat this after my vegan challenge. It’s quite expensive though (£3 for a pack and I ate it in one…).

Unfortunately I didn’t read that you had to cook it before eating!! But it tasted fine and I had no ill effects… it’s entirely plant-based so?

Dinner-wise, well I’ve been out twice so that’s helped. Monday night I didn’t fancy what I had planned so ended up with soup with added chickpeas (the start of the chickpea saga…).

Thursday night I had a tofu based meal. I threw in lots of veg and peanut butter to make a sauce and bulk it out a bit and it worked well. But the tofu was a bit bland and sad. I need to work on this as I know I can make it better.

The weekend is where it got tricky. I’m used to having exciting and fun meals… I’ll usually have an Indian takeaway (I love tandoori chicken on the bone) and I’ll probably go out for a meal or two.

Well we still went out for food on Saturday but I just made sure it was vegan-friendly. This did mean we were limited on where we could go and when we turned up and it was absolutely rammed we had to wait for about 20 minutes for a table instead of just going somewhere else like we would normally have done.

The restaurant was the Southsea Village which, after eventually getting a table, was really nice. I went for BBQ pulled jack fruit burger and BBQ pulled jack fruit loaded fries, having been told jack fruit was amazing.

And it was! It was so tasty and had a meaty texture. It was lovely. But because it was essentially the same thing for both it quickly became very samey. I should have chosen a different burger (there were a few vegan options) but I wanted to avoid anything bean-related.

A big upset was getting a cafe we know and love and finding out that the vegan cakes had sold out. Kyle was lovely and offered to not get anything but I told him one of us had to enjoy a slice of cake at least!

Honestly this was the hardest part of the week, watching him eat a slice of cake I could have happily destroyed. I did have a very silly moment of wanting to cry when I saw how good it looked but I quickly pulled myself together. It’s just two weeks, Anna!

Anyway, on to week 2. I’m still going strong, though I have to say it’s a lot harder than I thought.

Have you ever gone vegan?

What’s your go-to easy meal?

Have you ever tried a vegan cake?