When I’m not running I’m usually eating…

It’s amazing how quickly you can forget how hot it felt during the summer. Autumn has well and truly hit us with dark mornings, cold winds and hammering rain.

I live fairly near the sea so I often get woken up by fog horns going off. They’re not hugely loud or abrasive sounds, but I’m quite a light sleeper so will often hear them. But anyway, autumn is here and cooler running is happily happening! I’m four weeks away from the New York Marathon which at the moment feels quite surreal. I think it’s because I’m only going Friday to Monday so it doesn’t feel like a “proper” holiday (or at least not a proper long-haul one). My training is continuing to go well, and by that I mean I’m suffering from no injuries and I’m managing to get the long runs in that I’ve planned. Happy days. More on that in another post.

Work is also tootling along nicely and I’m still enjoying the numerous cakes and baking exploits inspired by the Great British Bake Off. I swear not a day goes by that I don’t have some sort of baked item to scoff. It’s very much happy times right now. I’ll be sad when this is over!

I’ve enjoyed banana cake…Cookies…
White chocolate brownies…Lemon and mojito drizzle cake…
And Malteaser brownies.I don’t know about you but I quite like having something sweet during the day to perk me up. Between my team (there are three of us) we have a snack box that we keep topped up with biscuits and chocolate. I’ve only recently discovered my new favourite obsession: M&M Caramel Crunch.From speaking to other people (understand that this is a high topic of conversation for me) you either CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF THEM, or you’re absolutely not fussed. There is no middle ground. It gives me slight anxieties to know that they’re “limited edition” and could disappear at ANY MOMENT. It’s taken all the will power in the world to not buy 17 packets in Tesco when they were on offer for £1. That said, I probably have bought that many over the past few weeks. It’s becoming a problem.

And after a month off, Kyle and I went back to Sprinkles. We recognised we were going too often and decided September would be a Sprinkles (and similarly Scoops) Free Month. Now we’re out the other side and decided to treat ourselves for our hard work. We popped in there on Saturday… still as filling, sickly and ultimately amazing as usual.I am well and truly a fan of waffles now.

And just further on the note of food (my favourite subject other than running)… I won a box of brownies on Instagram the other week! It was through my @AnnaTheCake88 account where I follow a million different restaurants and foodie accounts and someone was doing a giveaway of The Funky Brownie Co. and I got involved and somehow won.They very kindly posted me six different brownies for free!How good do they look? I haven’t yet tried them but they look to be a mix of blondies and brownies. They’re safely tucked away in the freezer for the right moment (i.e. a random Tuesday night…).

And I’ve realised that through Instagram you can pretty much buy any sort of baked good you want. Knowing Kyle liked fudge I bought some homemade fudge for a very reasonably price from a lady who lived literally 10 minutes from me. What a time to be alive eh! But please, someone take my cards away from me because knowing how easily this can be done I feel I’m in danger of going bankrupt very quickly…

I got him peanut butter fudge…And vanilla fudge, both from Vanilla Lace Cakes in Fareham.I’m actually not a huge fudge fan (surprisingly I know) but I did have a nibble. Very melt in your mouth sweet and smooth. Kyle loved them!

I do eat other food than cake of course, but this stuff is far more exciting, no? 😉

What’s your favourite fudge flavour?

Who’s your favourite on Bake Off?

What would be your signature bake?

Post-Goodwood Marathon – what next?

So after the marathon last week I felt strangely really good. OK straight after I felt dreadful but the day after I was good.

I say strangely only because I’m so used to something feeling off or not right. I’m convinced I’m an injury prone runner (it would take a lot to stop feeling that way I think) but I guess I’ve found a happy balance of running, gym and general health that has kept me (*tough wood*) injury-free for most of this year. I’ve had a few calf niggles but actually nothing that has stopped me running consistently. I’m obviously really pleased about this! I just need to remain sensible in my training.

I didn’t go to the gym or run Monday and enjoyed a solid 9+ hours night sleep (having gone to bed so early and probably fallen asleep before nine o’clock). I was worried the god awful headache might have persisted but thankfully the awful pounding had disappeared. Had it not, I’d have taken the day off of work because there was no way I could have focused on a computer screen let alone concentrate on anything.Another irksome outcome of the marathon was that my right ankle was quite swollen. When I took my trainer and compression sock off after getting home it was a ridiculous size. I poked, prodded and moved about on it and it felt fine. I definitely hadn’t gone over on it during the race. I then remembered I had a bite on it the other day. The swelling was all around that. My mum mentioned that it might be due to the fact that I’d been wearing my compression sock all day and that probably hadn’t helped the bite situation. It looked terrible! Thankfully after a couple of days the swelling went down and I’m just left with a little bite mark now. But how weird, wouldn’t have had a clue that that could have happened. During the race itself I hadn’t noticed a thing.I was strangely glad to be going into work the next day it must be said. We had our sweepstakes Bake Off happening so I knew they’d definitely be cake. Happily the baker had brought in some crazy good rocky road (literally one of my favourite ‘cake’ things).

I also knew that another team were doing their own Bake Off competition and I’d already managed to muscle my way into trying their bakes too. In fact, when I got to my desk in the morning I was over the moon to find a brownie wrapped up and put under my mouse ready for me!So by 11 o ‘clock I had a chunk of rocky road, a brownie and a good slice of a five tiered chocolate cake to tide me over. Not to mention one of my colleagues had brought back Hershey’s chocolates from the States after his visit. I was well and truly making up for my calorie deficit from the day before 😉I don’t really believe in eating stupidly after a big race – at this point after 15 marathons my body is pretty used to running. But I do believe in enjoying yourself a little bit. I mean, to be fair, I hardly ever need an excuse to eat cake but I did feel like it was just that little bit less difficult in terms of sweet tolerance! I had a good appetite going on – the runger was STRONG.I was back running Tuesday. Nice and gentle I did 10k at lunch. I felt a bit tired but in general my legs felt fine. No niggles. Whoop whoop!So now with about six weeks until New York I’m not going to go ham on the training just yet. I’m enjoying running and it’s feeling good so I’m going to (hopefully) stay around 30-40 miles a week, though closer to 30 for the moment. I’m also loving the gym and doing regular circuit classes. It feels like my whole time working hard at the gym on my own for years has been training to then smash these circuit classes and see what I can do.I really do enjoy the classes. It helps to not have to think about what I’m going to do, and it’s nice to feel a bit competitive and try and work hard in a class. And they are HARD. I mean, to be fair, you get what you put in them so I always try to push myself on the weights I use, the number of reps I can get in and how hard I can push. And it’s nice have an instructor there to help with technique and form.

So yeah, things are going well. Lots of running, gym and of course cake!

Do you enjoy classes at the gym?

Have you been watching Bake Off?

What’s your favourite cake/baked item?

Things I’m loving lately – September

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while! I will recap my latest marathon soon, but for now here are some things I’ve been loving recently.

Baking: You know it’s the end of summer in the UK when The Great British Bake Off starts. I love this programme but honestly it’s such a hard time for me. I spend the entire Tuesday evening just wanting cake. Happily though at work we’re doing a Bake Off Sweepstake (a Bakestake if you like). A group of us have gotten together and we’ve been assigned a baker each. When that baker gets kicked off the person assigned has to bring in baked goods before the next episode. I had Imelda so I had to bake first.Now you may or may not know (if you’ve read this blog a long time you will know) that I’m an appalling baker having had many baking fails. So I needed to find a simple fool-proof (Anna/idiot-proof) recipe. I also wanted something that was a tiny bit more exciting than my usual go-to of brownies or simple cookies.

I did a bit of Googling and found an amazing looking creation… Jammie Dodger Blondies! Though I’m not a huge biscuit fan, I do love Jammie Dodgers and I love white chocolate, both key ingredients to this. And amazingly the recipe sounded so simple (the recipe I used is THIS one).

Jammie Dodger Blondies!

Ingredients

  • 200g Butter
  • 300g Golden caster sugar
  • 150g White chocolate chips/chunks
  • 3 med. eggs
  • 1tsp Vanilla extract
  • 225g Plain flour
  • A pack of mini Jammie Dodger biscuits (I found these worked really nicely for smaller pieces)
  • 6tbsp Strawberry Jam

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter with the sugar over a low heat in a saucepan until melted, then remove from heat.
  2. Add the white chocolate and stir so it melts. Leave to cool for 5 minutes (IMPORTANT).
  3. Add the eggs to the mixture and whisk as you go so you don’t cook the eggs into scrambled egg!
  4. Add the vanilla extract, flour and then mix thoroughly.
  5. Pour into 12″ x 9″ tray baking tin.
  6. Place Jammie Dodgies on top of the mixture and swirl spoonfuls of jam around them (I microwaved the jam for 10 seconds to soften it up a bit).
  7. Bake for 30 minutes at 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.

Nothing went wrong. I followed the recipe. I was successful! Hurrah! Hallelujah! Praise be! And even more amazingly, people actually seemed to enjoy them and they were all gone by the end of the day. Awesome.

I can now watch Bake Off in peace without worrying about having to bake anything… while enjoying a different bake each week from someone else.Table tennis: We have a table tennis table in our office (yes I do work in a very cool place) and we have a few leagues going on so we’ve been playing a fair bit. I’m terrible. Truly terrible but I really enjoy playing it. So much so I even managed to persuade Kyle to go to a restaurant (The Southsea Village) that had a table tennis table so we could play after eating (to be fair it didn’t take much persuading, he’s as much an addict as I am though significantly more skilled).It’s so much fun to play at lunch. I mean, I should probably play more to get better but I enjoy playing regardless of my skill level so that’s something. It creates good moral and lightheartedness in the office which I think can only be a good thing.

Lush shampoo bar: I wouldn’t say I’m an eco-warrior by any stretch of the imagination but I do try and be mindful of the products I buy, the waste I create and recycle as much as possible. With that in mind, I saw that you could buy shampoo BARS rather than shampoo in bottles. Obviously I have quite long hair and do a lot of running and gym so washing my hair is something I do quite regularly (annoyingly regularly). I found that these shampoo bars not only last a lot longer than shampoo in the bottle (like 80 washes apparently) but obviously don’t require a plastic bottle.

I decided to give it a go. It was less than a tenner and my hair isn’t that sensitive (if that’s the right word) to certain products so I couldn’t see it being a total disaster.  I went for the Montalbano one, which is lemony with rosemary. It smells DIVINE. It doesn’t take much to get a lather going. I put it under the shower then rub it in my hands and then rub a bit on the ends of my hair and then carry on lathering it in without the bar. It works absolutely fine and my hair is super soft and shiny after. I’d fully recommend. Saving money and the environment. Happy days! I have a sandwich bag that I keep it in (I know I can buy a little tub but £££) and then pop it in my make-up bag for the gym. It works really well.

What products have you been enjoying recently?

Do you play any other sports?

Have you been inspired to bake because of Bake Off?

Locked in a Room, ribs for days, a bloody long run and Mother’s Day

Whew, check that out for a title! This weekend was pretty damn awesome, if I do say so myself. On Friday I worked from home so when I was finished I popped Alfie in the car and drove to Bristol to meet up with my university friends. We stayed with Kate and her husband, who I went on holiday with last year to the US, as it was her birthday the other week.

Kate is a little obsessed with pugs and has her own pug, Doug, who’s adorable. For her birthday I bought her PugOpoly (a pug themed Monopoly) – how cool!?

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One of my other friends bought her a pug welcome mat.IMG_8978

Hehe, I think she was pleased! Alfie, though he didn’t enjoy the drive up (he’s a bit of a car wuss) did appreciate me taking his bed with us so he could chill out a bit when he got there.IMG_8953

Kate and Jamie had made us fajitas which were very tasty and we chatted and chilled before picking up another friend from the station. Then we were all there and ready to go with our usual tradition of making brownies…

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I’ve blogged about the epic brownie tradition previously, but basically we just make a huge brownie and then eat with spoons (we kind of cook it so it’s still quite gooey in the middle – a bit pudding-like). It’s a ridiculously indulgent tradition but we love it.

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The key is to crumble up some Milky bar and Mint Aero and mix through the mixture just before it goes into the oven. You won’t regret it Winking smile

The next morning I got up early and headed to the very nearby Little Stoke parkrun to quickly get in a parkrun (I’m now on 92! So close to 100!). IMG_8970

It looks rather wet and grey but it didn’t rain thankfully and actually wasn’t that cold. I did a lap warm-up and then headed to the start. It was a different start and finish to when I’ve previously done it. I’m presuming this was because it was briefly on the grass which was very wet so they sensibly kept it all on the path: three and a bit loops of the field on the pavement, nice and flat and barely any wind. I didn’t go crazy as I was conscious of doing a long run the next day (18-20 miles in the plan) but I still wanted to see what I could do. I know I wasn’t in the same shape I was in when I was last there where I got 20 something minutes but I wanted 21 something.

I was pleased to find out there was a pacing event on but disappointed when they only had 20 minutes and then 24 minutes and above. Hmm. So I kept a way behind 20 minutes but in front of 24 roughly.

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As I got to the final lap I saw a woman in the distance and planned to try and overtake her. Part of me wanted to sprint to do it straight away but I knew that would be stupid so I just patiently increased my pace slightly and caught her up. The advantage of overtaking is that they’re unaware of it happening until it happens. The over-taker has all the control. I finished in 21:35 and third lady so I was happy with that!IMG_8971

Then I rushed off to meet my friends at the very nearby Starbucks (her house is so well situated) as they’d gone to walk the dogs. I grabbed a quick coffee with them (outside with the dogs) and then dashed back to get showered and breakfasted so I wouldn’t be holding anyone up.

We left late morning to go to Kate’s main birthday event. It’s called Locked in a Room and basically you get locked in a room for an hour and have to solve a load of clues in order to get out. It was so much fun! Honestly, I fully recommend it.IMG_8983

There’s a whole backstory and theme and inside the room is full of different objects and boxes with locks on and combinations so you have to work out what the codes are to find more clues. There are other teams in other identical rooms doing the exact same thing so it’s a big race against the clock and against them. There’s also CCTV cameras watching you and if you start to get super stuck they give you more clues via a screen (otherwise I guess it would be rather rubbish to spend a huge chunk of time having no idea what to do).

It’s very frantic and you have to think carefully but you’re obviously keen to get it done quickly so to get out in time. You’re racing around the room looking at different objects, reading a clue you’ve got and trying to make sense of it. Really good fun. And we won! We escaped with seven minutes to go and before any of the other teams.IMG_8992

You come out into another holding room where you can then watch on the televisions the other teams trying to solve their clues. Quite amusing.

We then walked through Bristol to get to our restaurant of choice. We saw a couple of Banksy’s and we walked through the area that had been the race village for the Bristol half marathon (that I did a number of years ago).

Bristol

We then arrived at Spitfire for lunch.

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Spitfire is a restaurant that pretty much calls to my heart. My friend Kate is very much on the same page as me with food and meat so she had suggested this BBQ/meat smoking restaurant. IMG_9015

Bless my vegetarian friend, Charlotte. She took one for the team as there really wasn’t a huge veggie choice for her, but she did enjoy her halloumi burger she said!

Oh my god, the menu. Jamie’s husband (a huge rib and meat fan like myself) recommended the spare ribs so I was set on that. I’m quite glad for the recommendation as honestly I wouldn’t have known what to have gone for! So many tasty sounding things. For starters Kate, Shell and I shared some pork rashers to start.IMG_9017

And then we all (apart from Charlotte) had the spare ribs.IMG_9023

Good lord they were good. Literally heavenly. They came with a cranberry and apple glaze and were just so tasty. I had sweet potato fries with them (a superfluous item to be honest that probably wasn’t necessary… though of course I did have some of).Spitfire spare ribs

For my shame I was the only one who finished theirs (let’s be honest, I’ve had a fair bit of practice). I left some room for pudding of course though Winking smile (hence not finishing the sweet potato fries – pick you battles!)

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More brownie! It was very tasty but to be honest it wasn’t anything special. It wasn’t all that hot and not really that gooey but it was tasty nonetheless. I’d probably just been spoilt the night before…

Then I rolled myself out of the restaurant. Standing up I sudden’’ly felt extremely full (what a surprise eh). The problem was my friend needed to get to her train rather sharpish so I was required to walk slightly more quickly than the snail’s pace I wanted to. Ooooof that’ll teach me for being so greedy (but will it?? I never learn!).

Luckily she got to her train on time and it was time to part ways. It was lovely, as always, seeing my friends and I had a great time. I drove back to Southampton listening to the audiobook version of Room. Oh god that book. It is incredible – so good but also very unnerving.

Surprisingly I didn’t need dinner that evening… I woke up the next morning fairly early to meet my friend, Shantha, for another long run. I didn’t have anything before the run because I was pretty sure I had enough inside me to keep me going!

We had a lovely run around her area (Hamble and Netley) which was great. It’s nice to go somewhere different from the usual routes I always do on my long runs. It was quite cold but the sunshine was bright and I was warm fairly quickly. We chatted away about this and that and the miles flew by. I hadn’t been that worried about this run because I knew I’d get at least 10 with Shantha and that would break it up so it wasn’t such a huge mileage on my own.

Our pace was nicely matched (though I always do worry I’m slowing her down as she is quite speedy) and it was nice to leave the route-planning to her. I’m awful though as I have no sense of direction so she did have to keep guiding me as I’d randomly turn off or miss hear her directions! But I was grateful for a lovely route Smile

As Shantha had to get back for her Mother’s Day service fairly promptly we only ran 10 miles together before parting. My plan was to run 18-20 miles but I’d decided to run 18 unless I really felt the urge to go further or if my route ended up that way. I had a vague idea of where to go. I put my headphones on and listened to more of Room. It was actually quite stressful at points listening to it while running because the story got quite dramatic and I was so absorbed. But it did help the miles fly by.

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I didn’t feel like the run was that tough in terms of speed or pace but I could feel a tiny glimmer of my foot niggling so I stopped at 18 miles to be super safe. Happily my route also ended up back near the car then anyway and I only had to do a small run out and back from it to get up to 18 miles in total.

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I had a small casualty of a bramble attack during the run which had caused my leg to bleed. It looks worse than it is. I did have a few people give me worrying looks and one man tried to stop me and point to my leg. I patiently explained I was aware and it was OK thank you.

I quickly got back, had breakfast, got presentable then headed to my parent’s to celebrate Mother’s Day with them. My dad cooked steak (rib eye for me, rump for them), sweet potato wedges, roasted veg and salad. image

We were meant to have a baked camembert to start but my dad had put it in the oven but only turned the light on, whoops…so we had that after the steak. Still good though!

No pudding as my mum and dad are trying to eat sensibly and, let’s be honest, I didn’t need anymore pudding either. The whole meal was delicious. And I actually felt pretty good for the rest of the day in terms of tiredness and hunger. My body seems to be adjusting to the miles Smile

So a huge happy Mother’s Day to my lovely mum. She’s always there for me and she’s pretty damn special. And so the weekend was finished off nicely!

How did you spend Mother’s Day (for those celebrating it!)?

Can you eat more than your friends? Embarrassingly I just have the hugest appetite out of most people I know…

Would you enjoy the Locked in a Room game?

Happy things…when I’m still waiting

I still haven’t moved. I wouldn’t mind but it’s hard to really plan ahead for weekends if I don’t know when I’m going to be moving… meaning I’m kind of in limbo. I know a lot of people have been in this situation so I’ll stop moaning. It’s just the negatives of moving house!

This weekend started really well with a Friday night movie and take-away evening with my friend Louise and her husband, Tom. They have a small person called Jacob and I got to witness the whole ‘evening routine’ with him which was quite enlightening. He’s around 17 months (I think??) old so is walking and babbling, very sweet.

The movie of choice for the evening (after Jake was safely in bed) was Silence of the Lambs. It came up in conversation a week ago that I’d never seen it so we arranged the movie evening. It’s an iconic must-see movie so I knew I needed to watch it, I’d just had a mental block on it as when I was little my parent’s had a VHS copy of it and the cover alone used to give me nightmares (I was a sensitive child…).

It actually wasn’t that scary or gory at all (the fact that it had a very 80-90s feel helped). I felt like I needed to watch it as I’m still so obsessed with the Hannible series and the film comes after the series in the time-frames. Anthony Hopkins does Hannible really well but I still prefer Mads Mikkelsen.

Lou is an amazing baker and she’d made a carrot and walnut cake for the evening as well. Look at that beast!

Carrot cake

Despite eating an Indian take-away I still had room for a slice (*cough* or two) of the cake. Superb!! She even cut me a huge chunk off to take home with me.

The next day I went to parkrun to volunteer again. My leg still isn’t better… a post for another time. I took Alfie again and headed down to set-up. Alfie absolute loves it as he races around off his lead while we set up. It’ll be a bit of a shame not being able to bring him when I do get back to running. I can’t run with him as he hasn’t run that far before and, no offence Alfie, but I’m not keen to go on one mile runs to build up his mileage. I’m not sure he’s suited to running anyway – he stops and sniffs far too often. I can’t leave him tied to a bench while I run either as he’ll get anxious and probably start barking. It’s not very fair.

It was my friend Mike’s 50th parkrun and he made chocolate tray-bake biscuit things (one Toberlone-style and one Malteser-style). I enjoyed a Malteser one while having a hot drink sat outside the cafe afterwards with a few of the running club guys (another pitfall of having Alfie with me means we need to sit outside).

Malteser tray bake

So tasty! I even got to take a few home with me! People just love to give me cake it seems hehe 😉

Then I headed to go shopping with my parents to pick up my new phone (iPhone 6s). I needed moral support as (and this is embarrassing to admit) but I haven’t really dealt with getting a new phone on my own in quite a few years. Ben had always dealt with the phone side of things. I pride myself on being an independent woman… but seems I need to get myself sorted in certain areas!!

And while passing through John Lewis I couldn’t help but look at the beautiful bags, in particular the Michael Kors ones. I am very much a saver. I rarely make large purchases (apart from holidays) unless they’re absolutely essential. Yes I have a weakness for workout clothes and good food but other than that I’d rather put money into savings, just in case.

That said, I saw a gorgeous handbag that just seemed to call to me. I was feeling down about not being able to run and not having moved yet and just thought “sod it, I’m going to treat myself”.

Michael Kors rose handbag

I have zero regrets. It’s beautiful and I love it. I do have a weakness for handbags but I’m very lucky that my mum does too. She often gives me her ‘off castes’ and I’ve been lucky to have some very nice second-hand handbags from her. But to buy my own and for it to be brand new… well it was just exactly what I needed to make me feel happier. Yes material things are a shallow way to gain happiness, but I can be sad now with a pretty handbag 😉

I’d love to say I had a jam-packed Sunday but the reality is… I didn’t. I packed, I cleaned, I walked Alfie and I rested my leg while watching TV. It was a lazy and dull Sunday, but I felt the better for it.

And my little niece, Ellie, got a Junior parkrun PB!

Junior parkrun

Look at that running form – what a pro!

Her mum (my sister) and dad are split up so she did the Junior parkrun nearest to her dad which is some distance away annoyingly. I hope at some point I can take her to my local Junior parkrun. I saw my sister on the Saturday and Ellie was telling me all about how she wants to be just like me and do lots of running. I have never felt so proud! I won’t lie, I do struggle with young children and knowing what to say or do but it’s lovely to have something in common and something I can hopefully help her with. I feel useful!

How do you make yourself happy? 

Have you ever been to Junior parkrun?

What iconic movies do you love and recommend?