Brownies, street bingo and running happy

Another week of lockdown living…

Kyle and I are still working from home, sorting out our new house, and staying “alert”… whatever that means. We ventured to Ikea a few days after it opened and thankfully didn’t have to wait in any crazy queues. In fact, we literally just walked in. Of course we had to keep away from other people and you couldn’t go inside one of the “fake rooms” if someone else was. But it wasn’t busy at all so felt all very normal. We got some bits and pieces but as I only have a Fiat 500, couldn’t get the armchair we wanted. But we’re hopefully going to ask a favour from Kyle’s brother who has a larger car to see if he can help us.

Ikea selfie

It’s been a lot easier buying furniture online. We bought a chest of drawers and a matching wardrobe. Unfortunately it required assembling and really wasn’t that simple. Pages of diagrams, parts and screws…

We built the drawers one weekend and the wardrobe the next. It literally took us four hours a piece and we still managed to mess it up somehow. We got the top of the drawers on backwards and managed to nail into the wrong areas in the wardrobe. Ah well, they’re both standing and doing the job intended so that’s all that matters!

Every week we’ve been getting involved with the “street bingo” that happens on our road at 2pm on Sundays. It’s run by an amazing guy who runs an Instagram page called @dontsufferinsilence1 which is all about improving mental health and looking out for each other. He got everyone together (he’s been doing it for like 10 weeks!) and loads of people sit on their doorstep and do the bingo and get involved (social distanced of course).

I’ve never seen anything like it in real life. To be honest it was somewhat overwhelming to begin with because suddenly you’re being introduced to loads of people but everyone is super chatty and lovely.

So we’ve sat outside with Alfie and did the bingo and got to know our neighbours each week. It’s really nice to see how much everyone looks out for each other – like proper old school Britain, you know?

Kyle thinks he’s cool…

What’s also been lovely is more house warming presents from lovely people! And OMG trying the BEST brownies I’ve ever had. Our lovely friend Shell sent us some Gower Brownies and Jesus Christ they were incredible. Perfect texture, dense gooey delicious squares of pure heaven. They don’t look like they’ll rock your world but honestly they were amazing. So moreish as well 😉

Running is still going well, happily! Without having any marathons coming up and not being injured or coming back from an injury has left me in a novel position whereby I can literally run whatever I want and my long runs have naturally just fell in the 15-18 mile region, which I love.

I don’t really set a concrete distance in my brain before I head out but I have a rough range. It’s very relaxed and it’s actually one of my favourite runs of the week.

Last weekend Kyle joined me for 6 miles before heading  home and I carried on to get 16 in total. It was windy and hot – not a great combo, but it was nice to zone out to the MarathonTalk podcast and enjoy the sunshine.

And less getting lost as the weeks go on, winning! I reallly love my long run route because it’s so varied, road, trail, promenade along the beach, coastal paths, and super flat! Perhaps not the greatest training for hills but ehhh I fully enjoy it.

What’s your ideal long run distance?

Do you enjoy putting furniture together? I’ve been surprised at how many people said they love it!

Have you ever been involved in something like street bingo?

Well that escalated quickly…

Life has really taken a dramatic twist hasn’t it?

Since the last time I posted (blissfully happy in a bubble of long running and marathon hopes), well, everything has changed.

For us in the UK things have really ramped up quickly in the last week. From advice of washing hands regularly to now schools closing and instructions to work from home, avoiding social spaces and parkrun cancellations.

It’s undoubtedly a scary and uncertain time but I don’t want this post to be all about that because let’s be honest we all know what’s happening and it’s pretty overwhelming and consuming. I’m actually quite glad to now be working from home because it’s all everyone talks about in the office. So I’m at home with a little set-up in my room adjusting to this new way of life.

Anyway, on to what this blog is about: RUNNING. Of course all the races I’d signed up for have been cancelled or postponed. I had the Eastleigh 10k this weekend, of course Rotterdam, and then I’d optimistically signed up to the Southampton marathon as a back-up, but that too has been postponed. Rightly so. And parkrun being cancelled.

Of course this is all the right thing to do. Not going out to social areas, not mixing unnecessarily, limiting chance of exposure. My dad has a heart condition so I’m worried. But we can only control what we can control and there’s point wasting emotional energy on things outside of that. Obviously easier said than done, but I’m trying.

So no marathon in the near future and a bunch of long runs and weeks’ of trainings that seem worthless now on paper. However, for me I really enjoy the process of marathon training so personally it’s not a waste. It’s just a shame there’s not a big shebang of a race to celebrate those long runs.

That said, I’m almost certain I will run 26.2 miles in April. My plan is to run the distance around where I live. I mean, it’s going to be ridiculously tough – so much harder than if it was a race as it’ll just be me on my tod running along. But part of me is curious as to whether I can actually do this… We’ll see. My plan would probably be to run it over the Easter weekend. I’d properly plan a route, maybe get my family out to support me, do everything I’d normally do. Well, watch this space!

Last weekend Kyle and I ran 18 miles together. We both knew Rotterdam had been cancelled and potentially the miles were “pointless” but we wanted to do it anyway as we’d planned it and had mentally geared up for it. Kyle is not a huge long distance fan and now that Rotterdam isn’t happening he’ll drop his mileage back down. It makes sense.

It’s such a shame for him because he did so well with the long runs – far better than last time when he trained for the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and got injured halfway. He was very much on for a solid race. But such is life right now. He’ll be able to train up again if he wants to (Rotterdam is technically postponed until later in the year so this is real possibility all being well in the world, of course).

The 18 miler we did around where I live, my usual along the coast style long run which I love so much. We reversed the route and set off Sunday morning. We had a more relaxed start as no parkrun to get to (this was to be a “true” long run in the sense we wouldn’t be stopping or sandwiching anything in the middle). The wind was a bit blustery which was somewhat annoying  but generally the run went really well.

It’s funny though because when you’ve been doing a run route in one direction for so long, when you change it suddenly it makes everything different and you notice all these hills that you previously hadn’t!

However, we maintained a decent pace and then towards the end I stretched it out a tiny bit just to get my legs going. It’s my usual way of running long runs that I like to speed up a bit towards the end if I have the energy. Kyle wasn’t far behind at all though.

When we got back to mine my parents handed me a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that a lovely friend had dropped off after I’d done a favour for him. What a fantastic way to finish a run, I tell you! We didn’t eat them straight away 😉

Instead we showered and then celebrated with an almighty carvery. Honestly, so satisfying and extra delicious after all those miles!

I had roast gammon with all the trimmings. It was glorious. The doughnuts were had later when we were chilling. Perfection!

Delicious Lotus Biscoff

Anyway, stay safe and healthy everyone!

What’s your favourite doughnut flavour?

Are still long running if you’ve had a race cancellation?

Our trip to Bournemouth – running, food and cats

I feel like I’m so behind and so out of touch with my blog at the moment and it’s really making me sad.

I love my blog. It’s like a diary. I like documenting things, putting photos up and rambling. And if people read it (and thank you if you do :)) it’s a huge bonus.

Work has been taking up my mental capacity to write. It’s not just that it’s busy, but it involves a lot of brain resource that leaves me dwindling at the end of the day. And weekends are packed with everything that doesn’t get done in the week.

And not just work, but life in general. It seems to be moving 1,000mph. It’s good – really good. I’m very happy and content and life is moving in the direction I want, but my blog has unfortunately taken a back seat.

But there’s so much I want to talk about! So I’ll do my best…

A couple of weekends ago Kyle and I went to Bournemouth. Bournemouth is about an hour from us and to be honest we had no real reason to go other than it would be nice to go somewhere and there were a couple of foodie/fun related things we wanted to try.

So we booked a very inexpensive Airbnb for the Friday night and went straight from work. We’ve been so lucky with Airbnb’s in the past. We’ve had one that was strange but not unpleasant but every other one has been absolutely fine, which is obviously why we keep doing it.

This one in Bournemouth though wasn’t great. It was described as a “quiet family home” but on arrival it was clear it was more a “chaotic family home” with children racing around the place and dogs barking loudly. It was a tricky to find out from the host where we were allowed to go, where the bathroom was, did we need a key and trying to explain to them what our movements would be (if we meet the host we like to explain our plans so we’re not just coming and going through their house – especially as we were going to be off early for a run in the morning). She didn’t seem interested at all or like she knew what was even going on.

In the later evening (past 10pm) the children were still running about and playing (they were very young children) and to top it off at 6am we were woken by a loud argument outside our door (lots of “you need to f****** get out”) which was VERY unsettling. To the point that we left ASAP and didn’t even shower after our run. You win some, you lose some!

But anyway. We had a fairly good dinner on Friday night in a place called Mokobo Burger (we still don’t know how to pronounce it).

I had three different types of chicken wings which were really good (though one lot was super spicy) and Kyle had a burger and loaded fries. I have to say that while my wings were good, Kyle’s burger was a bit disappointing (it was slightly burnt) and the “loaded” fries were just insipid fries with a small lump of pulled pork on top… which came out about 10 minutes after our mains.

It was a shame because originally we were going to go to our favourite burger place (Monty’s Burger Lounge) but decided to try somewhere new. Sadly it was loud and hard to talk to each other and just a bit “meh”.

So far, not great for our trip! We woke up early to get in five miles before Bournemouth parkrun as we wanted to get eight miles total for the day. We had grand ideas of running 2.5 miles before and after but in the end it just seemed simpler to get out and do the 5 miles and finish with parkrun.

It was a nice 5 miles, though somewhat unsatisfying because we didn’t really have a route planned so decided to run 2.5 miles towards the sea, and then back again. We could just see the sea a few 100 metres in the distance before heading back.

Obviously I know this already but I really do prefer longer distances. My body just gets into the groove after about three miles and feels nice and in the zone. So by the time we got to parkrun I was ready to go.

Bournemouth parkrun is literally right next to the football ground so getting there felt very much like I had a half marathon or full marathon to run as this was always where the portaloos were for those races in October! But no, just 5k left today.

We lined up in a big huddle and then we were off. It was a bit chaotic to begin with as we were literally just running across a field. It bottlenecked in slightly but was still rather crowded as we got onto the first loop. I found the first mile tough – not because of how I felt running but because of the crowding. It was hard to overtake people and I got wedged in to lots of people. I was scared to knock fellow runners or step on their heels. Eventually though we spaced out and I was able to get past people running slower than myself.

Then I got into my stride. It was like I was suddenly unleashed and I was off. I checked my watch – woah where had that pace come from? And I felt fantastic! Yes it was hard but it was hard in a very manageable way. It felt gooood!

We finished the loop for the second time and then headed off onto another loop for the half (ish?) of the run. I found myself picking runners off and running past. Grimacing but in a good way, I pushed the pace and finished strong.

My time was 22:43, which I’m super pleased with! And eight miles in the bag.

And it was Kyle’s chance to rock his 50th parkrun t-shirt for the first time! (Super impressed how quickly it had arrived).

After parkrun we walked back to the Airbnb and then took our stuff and left sharpish. We then headed to the centre for breakfast at the lovely South Coast Roast. It was very “hipster” and I mean that in the nicest way. Lots of milk options, environmentally friendly and all the avocado options on the menu.

We went for the Bondi breakfast which had avocado toast, tomatoes, poached eggs, chilli jam, pickles (I LOVE pickles!) and then you could add extras. So I added halloumi and Kyle had chorizo. It was delicious.

From there we walked to the nearby Cat Café. Yes, you read that right. It’s a cat shelter but built as a café so you can go in and spend time with the cats (on their terms of course…) and order drinks as well.

We were introduced to the cats and told the rules (no picking them up, no stoking while they’re asleep, being respectful to them etc.) and then ordered some coffees.

Well, I have to say that while the cats were beautiful and the café was friendly and lovely, I happened to meet the most grumpy cat who when I tried to stroke lashed out at my hand and made me bleed slightly. I mean, I am a dog person and I’m not quite as savvy with cats so it was probably my own fault…  but it was a bit of a shock.

A tiny wound to be fair

The other cats were fast asleep so in the end it was a bit of a dud experience. It very much felt like we were there because the cats had allowed us there and we were blessed to be in their presence… As a dog person this is a strange concept to me as dogs tend to just love you and want your company regardless. Cats are definitely more picky and temperamental. They were gorgeous though and well looked after.

Then we headed home! Definitely a weekend of ups and downs – though we enjoyed ourselves regardless.

Are you a cat or a dog person?

Do you need a decent warm up before you get into a run?

Have you ever had a bad experience with a hotel or Airbnb?

Our trip to London and all the food

I’m so behind on my posts. I have so much to talk about as well!

I’ll start first with an incredible weekend I had with Kyle that as just SO good. Kyle and I were super excited about it. It was literally all our favourite things, but sadly without any running.

We planned to go to London for my Christmas present, which Kyle had gotten me. A chicken wings tour! I mean, this was a perfect gift and a perfect excuse for us to spend a night in London and enjoy ourselves.

Originally we’d planned to do the tour on the Friday, stay over and then do parkrun and brunch Saturday. However it turned out that the chicken wings thing was only available Wednesday or Sunday… ehhh. So no parkrun for us sadly as we’d be travelling up Sunday morning to get there for the wings at lunch, then head home Monday after brunch.

It’s funny because after we got there we wondered why we hadn’t brought our running kit so we could do a cheeky run Monday morning. It was a bit of a lost opportunity but I think we were both just too focused on the food.

We did Lee-On-Solent parkrun on Saturday though and ran 1.5 miles there and 1.5 miles back to the car so we could get in a “long run” of just over 6 miles. Obviously 6 miles isn’t that long in comparison to previous runs I’ve done but I’m being super sensible about this comeback and I don’t want to just jump into a 10 miler and bugger everything up.

Anyway, parkrun was good. I saw a few people I knew, which is always nice and had a nice run with Kyle. We took it relatively easy and had a very enjoyable run. We made sure not to stand too close to the back as we have done in the past as it gets crazy busy at Lee and it’s a fairly narrow start.

Sunday we woke up early without an alarm – which is always nice. We got into a bad habit of sleeping very late a few weeks ago which made us feel terrible. I say late, it was about 9am, but this is late for us. We just felt so groggy and like we’d had too much sleep. As lovely as lie-ins are I’d rather naturally wake up earlier and feel refreshed. We relaxed in bed for a while as our train wasn’t until 10 and I decided to go for another short run.

I wanted to be running two days in a row again and adding another 3 mile run to the weekend would help me gently transition into this. The run went really well. No issues and it felt OK (asides from it being around Clanfield which is so fricking hilly!).

It was a fantastic Airbnb!

After the run we got ready and headed to London on the train. It was very tight on timings to get to Shoreditch, check in at our Airbnb (we love an Airbnb) and then meet our tour guide for the wings experience. But we made it bang on time!

It was just us on the tour which was really nice (the tour can have up to 15 people I think). The woman who was our guide (I’m embarrassed to say that while we did get her name I don’t think I’d be able to spell it correctly) was SO lovely. She was friendly, knew so much about the local area and just the right amount of involved. (If you’re interested it’s THIS experience).

She took us to Orange Buffalo to begin with an we got to try two different heat levels. Both flavours were fantastic and it came with a thick blue cheese dip. Honest to God, I could bathe in this stuff. One of my absolute favourite things in the entire world is a buffalo chicken wing with a thick cold blue cheese dip. NOTHING beats that texture and flavour combo for me. I am a simple creature I know.

She showed us around the local area (an area I’d heard about but never been myself), with all the street art, the food market, Banksy artwork… it was fascinating. It was hustling and bustling and busy with electrically (and far cooler) dressed people. It felt very “hip” (and by saying hip I have now fully separated myself from any form of coolness, I do realise this). She had fantastic tid-bits of information and interesting local knowledge.

Cool street art and a tree with lots of trainers hanging from it

The second stop was in the Boxpark in Shoreditch called Coqfighter. It was very exciting for me because I’d heard about these places on social media (follow my Instagram @AnnaTheCake88 for my foodie loving) and now I was getting to actually go there.

The wings were so different from this location because they were of the fried chicken variety so had a crispy Vodka and sesame coating and came with a soy sauce and chilli dip. Damn they were SO good. So different to what I’ve usually had before. The soy sauce dip, dear lord, was good. And the crispiness of the chicken just rocked my world. I was in heaven.

Then we headed, somewhat sadly, to our last location called the Blue Kitchen. We had double fried buffalo wings and Szechuan wings (pictured above). I didn’t think anything could top what we’d had so far but these were FRICKING AMAZING. Double fried? Yes please. In my excitement I sadly didn’t get a picture of the buffalo…but they were fantastic I assure you.

I think I amused our guide a bit because I was clearly VERY into my wings and did a good job of polishing everything off. She was amazed that we ran as much as we did as well – all the marathons and parkruns. It was fun talking to her about it. I felt like we just bamboozled her with our weird lives of eating and running haha.

After the wings tour, we headed to Doughnut Time for some pudding. I mean I was pretty full to be honest but we wanted to get some of these oh so Instagrammable doughnuts. Kyle was VERY excited. We’ve both had them before and had decided as a treat to get a box (and take a couple home for Kyle’s parents – my parents declined as they’re both on Slimming World).

We got over-excited and bought NINE. I mean, Jesus, they’re not exactly cheap either. I think they are a little over-priced and over-hyped for what they are, but it was good fun choosing and enjoying the moment.

We took a big box back with us to the Airbnb and enjoyed a few there. The ones I’d chosen (Sia Later, Ice Ice Bae and Caramacklemore) were delicious. The Sia Later (red velvet) was the best, Ice Ice Bae (with cookie dough and brownie bites) was VERY sweet but tasty and the Caramacklemore (white chocolate) was somewhat disappointing, but possibly because I was quite sugared out by that point. Yes, I was that greedy and ate three. I fully enjoyed them 🙂

Caramacklemore

The next morning, after a lovely little lie-in, we walked to Covent Garden with a little stop in Starbucks for a coffee. We had brunch booked for 12 at the Big Easy (blows my mind that this was the earlier we could book – surely this is now lunch?). We’ve had brunch here before and it’s all you can eat and it’s just fantastic. I mean, if you’re a big meat-eater of course.

We did have a little stop in ANOTHER Doughnut Time, but this time the Doughtnut Time “World”. You can really tell how much they bank on social media for their notoriety.

The shop was set up specifically for taking photos and promoting to Instagram. While it was good fun and quite quirky, it felt a little odd and, well, clinical.

I imagine when they have events it’s a bit better but just Kyle and I in the shop meant it was a bit weird. And the posters around the shop saying that the props were for photos only furthered this. I obviously fully enjoy social media and taking photos, but it was a tad overkill (tho tbf, it had worked for us right?).

Anyway, Kyle bought another of the OG doughnuts because he enjoyed it so much the day before and wanted to take one home. I refrained – I’d eaten three the day before and had one to take home, so I was happy.

Then we got to the Big Easy in Covent Garden and enjoyed even more excess of food. BBQ ribs, smoked sausage, BBQ chicken, pulled pork, chips, cornbread, coleslaw and beans.

It was fantastic and we left very full! The staff are very attentive and brought out more of what we asked and we enjoyed ourselves a lot, but we were now dunzo’ed on food haha.

So a whole lot of eating and a little bit of running!

Do you like all you can eat experiences?

Are you a doughnut fan?

Do you like social media? Do you use it a lot?

What I’ve been up to lately

I feel like I haven’t had a proper catch-up post in ages!

I’m still not running but that’s a post for another day as I have a fair amount of uncertainty – which could be cleared up soon (potentially). But anyway, I’ve been busy eating lots of good food and doing fun things so let’s talk about that, eh?

A few weeks ago I went to visit my lovely friend, Charlotte, in Liverpool. Amazingly my plane took off from Southampton and landed in Manchester – which is one step more than I managed the last time I tried to get there!

Weird banana thing in the train station – there were loads of these all over the city in different styles

I got the train from Manchester to Liverpool and arrived safe and sound at her house. Charlotte used to live in Brighton which, from Portsmouth, is a whole lot easier (and cheaper) to get to but it’s nice to go somewhere new and spend time with her, so it was worth it.

I sadly was not able to do the local parkrun but instead enjoyed a rather wonderful lie-in instead (well, after 8am which for me is long). We then headed into town to mosey about.

We went into the largest LUSH in the world (actually the world). It was four stories!

It had its own spa it was that fancy. Charlotte and I actually had a guided tour round the spa and honestly if the lady had said she had availability there and then we would have signed up I think. It sounded divine!

We even had some vegan cakes on the top floor from the pop-up bakery, Nakery. Very tasty, but most definitely more healthy than indulgent. Lovely bit of cashew frosting on the top.

We shared this selection

What I also loved is there efforts for zero packaging at the Nakery.

For lunch we had an incredible meal in Almost Famous Burger. It was literally on the recommendation from a friend off of Instagram and the fact that it was chucking it down that we made the snap choice to head there. And what a good choice it was!

For lunch we had an incredible meal in Almost Famous Burger. It was literally on the recommendation from a friend off of Instagram and the fact that it was chucking it down that we made the snap choice to head there. And what a good choice it was!

I had the Halloween special which was a double bacon cheeseburger with a fried chicken burger on top and on top of that a corndog dipped in candied bacon. I mean, what even is life?

I’ve never had a corndog and it really was very tasty! It’s a shame it’s not really a British thing. The burger itself was very good. Charlotte and I also shared waffle fries with bacon dust and nacho cheese. Why have I also never tried waffle fries?! These were incredible.

Charlotte had a vegan burger and it looked equally impressive. She said it was good. What a win!

On the subject of vegan food, I also recently saw my friend Michelle for a vegan brunch at the absolutely wonderful Off Beet restaurant in the New Forest. I’ve been to Off Beet a few times and it’s never disappointed. Entirely plant-based and with such inventive menu, it’s such a treat to go there. They change the menu regularly according to the season and the food always looks so beautiful. The chefs are so good!

I had the No Eggy Omelette. It was filled with a cashew cream (there it is again!) and a fake smoked salmon made from marinated carrot. Honestly I wondered how they’d get away with that but it was SO fricking tasty. I really enjoyed this!

We also walked around the farm shop next door. Love that they sell ecofriendly detergents in a way that you don’t have to keep buying plastic bottles.

As always it was lovely to catch up with Michelle – someone who also struggles a lot with injuries. We had a good old moan 🙂

And then recently Kyle and I went up to Bristol to see more friends and enjoy a rather epic roast dinner. Having been on the carvery train for a bit, I was ready to have something a bit more posh. Quality over quantity I guess (though there is DEFINITELY a place for quantity when it comes to food in my eyes as you well know!). We went to a steakhouse called Pasture and it was INCREDIBLE.

Topped with parnsip crisp curls

I had pork and beef and it was delicious.

Served with it was creamed leeks and the most fluffy, crispy potatoes. I’m not usually a potato fan (very boring and bland in my opinion) but these were something special.

We were stuffed! But of course you do always have a separate stomach for pudding…

Chocolate brownie with a molten chocolate sauce, honeycomb ice cream and honeycomb pieces. I mean, anything served with molten chocolate sauce is a winner in my book. This was incredible.

So despite the lack of running, I’ve still been enjoying all the good food and fun times as I would normally. I’m of course desperate to get back to running but I’m being patient for now.

Have you been to Liverpool before?

What’s your favourite roast dinner?

What’s your favourite kind of burger?