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?

Never grow up

I honestly think I’m most happy when I’m training for a marathon. There’s just something about being in good enough shape to run a long way that makes me very happy. Pre-fuelling and refuelling is obviously a great part of the equation too…

Friday was another Wiggle Run day which is always good fun. I’d signed up for the 8.5 mile run with a few other guys and it flew by. It was nice to run with some new people and people who I don’t get to chat too much to during work-time. It was also nice to run with a guy who had done the same gym class as me that morning – so we were both feeling the jump squats and burpees!We ran down Hillsea Lines and then onto Farlington Marshes, which is always quite a scenic run, before heading back again. We followed part of the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon route which felt nice and familiar. I’ve signed up for that race again this year because I enjoyed it so much last year.The brand Lab Series were in as well so we got to try lots of their products (and sweets).I got myself a facial after the run! I did apologise profusely to the guy doing it about how sweaty my face was but he politely said it was fine.
And to end Friday nicely we went for a nice meal to the Meat and Barrel in Southsea for a work friend’s leaving do.I had half a chicken and stupid amounts of frickles and halloumi fries for my main.
Halloumi fries are honestly the business. The person who invented them need some sort of award. And frickles…god I love frickles.I followed this with a doughnut burger. It was good but a little disappointing. It was basically just a glazed doughnut split in two with a blob of ice cream and some strawberries, raspberry sauce, cream and sprinkling of chocolate flakes. It was just okay.I guess I have quite high (greedy) standards for puddings.The next day Kyle and I headed to Netley parkrun again. We were SO close to being late. It’s not like I haven’t been to Netley parkrun over 100 times to know how long it takes to get there. Jeeze I was stressed. But we managed to arrive literally within minutes of the start.

I ran with Kyle again (to be honest, I wouldn’t have run any faster on my own as my legs were feeling fairly heavy) and we tried to keep the pace slower but ehhh we really didn’t do well. We both got carried away and pushed the pace a bit more than we probably should have.I continually prove to myself that I’m rubbish at trying to run an easy pace – well, especially during shorter runs. It’s something I need to work at. I finished 21:37. I peeled off a little from Kyle towards the end but he sprinted back to finish just behind me at the end.We then helped clear up and went for a coffee with the gang. It had been one of our friend’s birthday the week before so the lovely Carol made a deliciously tasty Dorset apple cake. I had two slices. No one was surprised.Then Kyle and I headed back for a quick shower and then we headed to the Hamble Food Festival for a mosey round. I love a food festival.I rarely ever go to Hamble. It’s a lovely quaint part of Southampton. I’ve run around it a few times but never spent that long there. It was a lovely place and very scenic next to the water. We wandered around the different stalls in the sunshine loving life. There were food stalls cooking local sausages, a Jerk chicken stand, cheeses, quiches, bread, meat, Prosecco, gin…and of course cake.I won’t lie. I was most excited about the face painting. Yes the cakes looked amazing but we were planning on going elsewhere for lunch and I had had two slices of cake for breakfast… I tried to hold myself back a bit!

I’m basically a big child at heart and love face painting and I will unashamedly say that we waited for a solid 15 minutes so I could get my face done. It did give me good thinking time though because I was umm’ing and arr’ing between getting a dinosaur or a glitter design. Glitter won out as I thought that might look better at lunch later…I told the lady I didn’t want pink though. I have some standards 😉It was quite a cool design next to one eye of basically lots of glitter and sparkles. It was hard though trying to remember it was on my face and not keep knocking it and dropping glitter all over myself!

We also spotted the gold post box commemorating Dani King for wining the cycling track women’s team pursuit in the 2012 Olympics.Very cool indeed.

Then, as the two cakes wore off (and Kyle’s fudge brownie that he’d had at one of the stalls), hunger started calling, we headed into Southampton a bit further to go to Baffi Pizzeria for lunch (though it was past 2pm now…).I’ve been following Baffi Pizza on Instagram for a bit now (thank you @AnnaTheCake88) and Saturday seemed the perfect day to test it out. The pizzas are exactly how I prefer them: thin and crispy. I’m not a huge deep pan fan (though to be fair, I’d still eat it if it was there). These were Neapolitan-style and cooked in a fire wood oven.It was really hard to choose a flavour of the menu! The waitress was lovely and gave us some good recommendations and in the end we decided we’d each order one and half it so we could both try both flavours. Handily the waitress told the chef this and he halved it for us, which lessened my anxiety about sharing food A LOT 😉
We went for No. 3 (prosciutto crudo, ricotta, rocket, mozarella and parmesan) and No. 5 (prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, artichokes, olives and Parmesan). They were both SO good. We were both really happy with the choices.

And because it was so close by… we went to Sprinkles for pudding.Now I never used to be a big waffle fan but Kyle has turned me around on this. Damn him. It also helps that I’ve had the dessert in the jar from Sprinkles FAR too many times. This was delicious. It was a waffle with brownie chunks and melted chocolate with vanilla gelato. It was also supposed to come with banana and nuts but I subbed that for M&M’s. Can’t have it looking vaguely healthy after all… Afterwards we both felt the wrong side of full. Too much… I think I pretty much ate a sharing bag of M&M’s with that pudding!

Eating copious amounts of sugar and getting my face painted… well I’d say that was a good couple of days! I’ll recap my long run in another post…

Do you like getting your face painted?

Are you a sweet or savoury person?

Have you ever had a facial?

Rants and Raves #41

I’m back with some more rants and raves. Enjoy!

Rant: Everyday a new wonder product or superfood appears in the media that is going to prolong your life, make you younger, make you happy, keep you going…blah blah. So it’s really no surprise that a cafe in East London is selling “charcoal activated vegan croissants”.OK surely it’s just a piece of charcoal shaped as a croissant? I mean, come on now. Just buy a regular croissant and eat your five a day. Stop with this nonsense. Hilariously, BuzzFeed wrote an article on how it tasted: “It’s squidgier than I expected, and doesn’t have the burnt notes I thought there would be.” [Source] Crucially, they didn’t say delicious. If I eat a croissant, that’s kind of what I’m looking for.

Rave: And on an entirely unrelated note on superfoods and their magical properties… I’ve been trying out the Manuka Doctor Facial Oils. As you probably know if you’re a long-term reader (or you know me in person), I’m not a big make-up wearer or skin care advocate in general. I mean, I will moisturise when I remember but in general I don’t do anything. I’m very lucky in that I have fairly OK skin and dark features which helps on this front. However I could probably look tons better if I put the effort in, but ehhh.So I was intrigued when I was sent the Replenishing Facial Oil. Oil for the skin? Really? But it sounded good: “anti-ageing” and “rich in powerful plant extracts designed to revitalise and restore radiance”. Well, we could all do with some of that surely! Nearing 30 and I ain’t getting any younger. The idea behind it is that it helps regain elasticity and smooth out fine lines.

It was also the Winner of a Beauty Advisor Award in the 2016 LOOK Beauty Awards, and the ingredients don’t sound hella scary:

Manuka Oil, Rose Hip Oil, Argan Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, Cranberry Seed Oil, Grape Seed Oil, Hazelnut Seed Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Wheat Germ Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Borage Seed Oil, Plum Seed Oil, Peach Kernal Oil, Blackcurrant Seed Oil, Raspberry Seed Oil & Carrot Seed and Root Oil.

How did I find it? Actually I really liked this. You use a dropper thing (like a pipette?) and then smooth it onto your face. It is oily (obviously…) but it didn’t leave my face oily if that makes sense. I actually thought my face looked a lot brighter quite quickly, weirdly enough. I did really think it made a difference and will happily continue to use it. My only niggle with it is that I don’t really like the smell. It’s not an unpleasant smell – it’s slightly floral? But I’m just not a fan. It doesn’t linger though so that’s something.

Rave: Last week was a solid week of eating. I went to Casa Brasil with running friends, Mike and Rebecca. Neither had met each other but had briefly spoken on Twitter. Rebecca is a core team member at Lee on Solent parkrun and Mike is a core team member at Netley, both love running, parkrun and meat so I was pretty sure everyone would get on. They did, happy days. (Also check out Rebecca’s blog!)Casa Brasil never disappoints but I always eat far too much. I just get carried away and the strong FOMO effect takes over… is that the Parmesan pork I see? Damn I need to get some of that too! Chicken wings? Load me up! Chorizo sausages? Yes please! I’m my own worst enemy. But I did enjoy it, even if I needed about four pints of water during the night because of how salty the food is. Worth it.Rant: Recently I seem to have been doing an excessive number of presentations at work. OK, just three but it’s felt a lot. The first one went terribly. I mean, my content was OK (well, so I was told) but the technical elements of getting my laptop to hook up to the big screen and then having to use someone else’s laptop who didn’t have all the logins I need…gahh it was so awkward. Lots of filling time and awkward laughter. I got lots of pity praise afterwards… “It wasn’t that bad…” and “Ah don’t worry Anna, it was fiiiiiine”. Uh huh.

Then the next presentation was in front of my BIG boss. It was a less formal affair but he would interrupt and ask lots of hard questions… tough. But that went far better (I learnt from my mistakes. never demonstrate anything live in a presentation – always use screenshots).

Then the third was probably the worst as it was standing up in front of the whole office and presenting (in front of around 60 people). My voice was shaking. My hands were shaking. But thankfully that too went OK. WHEW.

I do feel proud of myself though. I know this is a bit of blowing my own trumpet but I’ve come a long way since starting and I do still love my job and what I do. And you do need to step outside your comfort zone to grow, so I’ll stop complaining.

Rant: And before I get ahead of myself on growing and being a better person… I still do stupid shizz. Like forget my hairbrush when I go to the gym in the morning and only realise after I’ve washed my hair. Now as a girl with long hair, this is somewhat of a tricky situation. Trying to de-tangle it all with my fingers was not a winning solution but the only solution I had. I couldn’t really blow-dry it as that would tangle it further so I just had to scrape it as best as I could into two plaits. Oh, this was on the day I wanted to look somewhat reasonable because I was doing the aforementioned big presentation. What a knob.

Have you done anything stupid recently?

Do you use any facial oils?

Do you get won over by any crazy sounding superfoods?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the facial oil for free in exchange for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Things I’m Loving – December

I’m quite excited about heading into the new year. 2017 has been a solidly good year for me. Full of happiness, good running, delicious food and lovely memories. I hope 2018 will continue these themes! Also I’m quite looking forward to being in an “even numbered” year again – is that odd? Anyway, on to some cool stuff I’m loving lately.

Clinique Sonic System Purifying Cleansing Brush

My skincare regime used to be cold water. Literally nothing else. But times are a-changing! After having my first ever facial last month I’ve given my face a bit more thought. Let’s be honest, I’m certainly not getting any younger and, well, I’m still single sooo…IMG_2263On that note I’ve made a couple of investments to my “beauty regime”. My mother is a terrible influence on me. She recently bought the Clarins version of the cleansing brush and let me try it out (yes we shared brushes, no I don’t care. She’s my mother). It felt amazing and left my face really fresh and clean. Then the next day we ended up in Boots and somehow I’d purchased the Clinique cleaning brush. Almost £100. I actually felt a bit sick when I got home. To be fair, it came with three other products, though I mean for that cost it better have!! (It came with a toner product as well not shown in the photo).

After having used it for a number of weeks I can say I don’t regret buying it. My skin indeed looks clearer and happier. I’m not one for getting spots or have “problem skin” but it definitely looks fresher. Plus it’s fun to use.

The Ordinary Resveratrol 3% + Ferulic Acid 3% Formula

I don’t actually know what to call this product. I heard about it after listening to the Don’t Salt My Game podcast where they debunked lots of skincare myths. It was one of the products that was recommended to actually work at keeping the skin looking good. It’s also very cheap (£5.50) and didn’t have all the guff and nonsense that other skincare products seem to have.IMG_2264It has a very high concentration of two powerful antioxidants: Resveratrol and Ferulic Acid, which are apparently great antioxidants for the skin.

I just put a couple of drops on my face after using my face buffer and then smooth it in. It’s quite oily but doesn’t leave my skin oily if that makes sense. I really like this product. Together with the buffer my face has really improved. And for someone who quickly gives up with skincare products after I don’t see the point of them, these are things I’ve maintained for a good number of weeks now and really like to use.

eGloves

I was recently sent another pair of eGloves to try out after I bumped into the guy behind the business at a parkrun and he mentioned that my current eGloves looked to be a bit too big for me (they’re a small). He very kindly offered to send me a new pair in extra small in the new range. It was also extremely good timing because I was finding my hands were getting really cold when I ran. The eGloves I originally had were more lightweight gloves which were good when it was chilly but not so much for when the temperatures were really low.IMG_1887When I first popped the new gloves on I knew they were the real deal. These bad boys are seriously warm. They’re also not big and bulky – as some winter gloves are – and still have the cool finger bits that allow you to still be able to use the touch screens of smart phones (so annoying when you have to remove your gloves to do this!). IMG_1983I wore the gloves during the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and they were perfect. The material is very breathable so even when my hands got hot it didn’t feel like they were sweaty inside. Fully recommend these if you’re looking for some warm running gloves!

Oryx Desert Salt

I was also recently sent a set of salts to use for cooking. Oryx Desert Salt is an unrefined, sun-dried salt, free from additives and preservatives. It contains natural and essential minerals and comes all the way from the Kalahari Desert, where it is ethically and sustainably harvested. And, what I most love, is with every purchase they donate a percentage to the Khomani San and Mier communities who own !xaus Lodge in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.IMG_1917The pack I received is a fab gift box set of three grinders containing coarse salt, smoked salt and wine salt and a cotton refill bag. I also received an apron (see below photo: my dad loves the apron).IMG_2173Yes too much salt can certainly be a bad thing for your health, but used in moderation and sensibly, these salts really add a lovely taste to my dinner. Salt is also good for reducing the dreaded cramp and is important if you sweat a lot (hi all runners). IMG_2175I feel rather posh using them I must say! I personally loved the smoked one as it adds such a subtle tasty edge.IMG_2180

You can buy them in Sainsbury’s.

Next month I hope to talk about my vibrating massage ball (always sounds so wrong…) and my new running watch… 😉

Do you use a lot of salt when cooking?

What is your skincare regime like?

Are there any new products you’ve been loving this month?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent both the gloves and the salt pack for free in return for a review on my blog. All opinons are my own honest ones.**

Runner’s Christmas Wishlist

I know every blogger is doing a similar post but I personally quite like them as they give me ideas of stuff to buy for (runner) friends or stuff I want to ask for for Christmas. None of this is sponsored and yes some of it is from Wiggle, where I work, but I’m not being asked to write about and, no, I don’t get commission (damnit).Runner wishlist

Hyperice Hypersphere Vibrating Massage Ball

This is what I’ve asked for from my parents for Christmas. As it’s from Wiggle I get a discount which helps as I’ll admit, it’s quite pricey. But (and I’m now fairly certain you’re sick and tired of me saying this) as I’m an injury prone runner I’m always on the look out for gadgets and witchcraft to keep me running 😉hyperice-hypersphere-massage-ball-sideVibrating foam rollers are *apparently* better than regular ones (random study I found starting to explore this area, I will preface this with I’m no scientist) and as I really get on well with using a tennis ball I thought this would be the ideal upgrade. I’ve read a lot of very positive reviews and I do find regularly foam rolling helps keep me less tight and niggle-free. I will do a review of it once I’ve given it a few goes.

T-Rex Medal hanger

Weirdly, I’m a big fan of dinosaurs. I actually wanted to be a paleontologist when I was growing up after finally getting over my extreme fear of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park when I first watch the film (side note: I’m really proud of myself for spelling paleontologist correct first time round. Other side note: I genuinely had a big fear of dinosaurs growing up. To the point that I couldn’t sleep on my own for a few weeks and my sister had to make up a bed in my room, not that she could have saved us if indeed they did attack. I was a sensitive child with a very active imagination). ANYWAY, so the dinosaur-themed medal hanger really appeals to me.

I don’t actually hang up my medals at the moment. They’re in a box. I wouldn’t want to hang up all my medals, just a few prized ones. Or maybe rotate them. I don’t know. But it would be nice to have them up.

Garmin Fenix 5 (with HR monitor inbuilt)

I almost, almost bought this watch when I started at Wiggle. I currently wear a Fitbit Surge as my ‘step counting’ daily watch and then wear my Garmin 225 on with this when I run (double watch lovin’). I love my Surge, don’t get me wrong. It looks less like a convict’s tag than some of the other fitness trackers and more like a proper watch and it tracks all the stuff that I like geeking out over (sleep, steps and heart rate). But it does bug me having to put on another watch to track my runs. Yes I could track my runs using the Fitbit but it really wipes the battery and the Garmin is ultimately better at tracking runs in my opinion. The Garmin Fenix however does everything so I wouldn’t need to wear two watches. Yet it’s over £300. And after I crashed my car and all the other stupid stuff that cost me money because of my stupidity a few months ago I can’t justify the cost. But it’s still on my wishlist if I win the lottery.

Aftershokz Titanium

OK technically I have these already. But I’ve been meaning to talk about these a bit more on my blog because I love them. If mine broke tomorrow I’d buy a new pair pronto. I know some runners can be a bit sniffy about using headphones when you run (and God forbid you use them during a race…) but I actually love listening to podcasts and music when I run. Obviously not when I run with other people, but certainly when I’m on my own or when I’m running a race where I either need to run fast and need the motivation or where I need to zone out a bit (like the middle section of a marathon) I really find it helps.Aftershokz-Trekz-Titanium-Wireless-Headphones-Slate-GreyWhat I really like about these headphones is that they don’t go inside or over your ears but rather behind your ears. The sound travels through your bones by vibrations so you can still hear external sounds from around you as well. So they’re a lot safer; you can hear traffic, cyclists and people. It’s also great in a race because you can still hear marshals and the crowds and feel the atmosphere. They’re also partnered with England Athletics and are OK’ed by the UK Athletics to be allowed to be used at races.  Yes the sound quality is somewhat compromised but that’s to be expected and a sacrifice I’m happy to make.

parkrun Plastic Barcodes

After my idiotic barcode mix-up it was certainly wise of me to upgrade my current situation. I did used to have a plastic ‘credit card’ barcode but I lost it and then stuck to the printed out paper version (and there began my mix-up). So I recently re-purchased the plastic card again. I keep a couple of paper ones around the place (in my purse and in my car).

The plastic card is far better as it’s obviously more weather-proof than paper (and sweat-proof). It’s a worthwhile investment if you’re a parkrun nut like I am 😉 The key fobs are great too.

Bardou Immaculate Spray Dry Shampoo

As someone who works out quite a lot and has long hair, washing my hair has become the bane of my life. Specifically blow-drying my hair. So I invested in some very nice dry shampoo. Yes Bastiste is good (as is Boots own brand FYI) but I really hate how it can leave little streaks of white in my hair. Yes I know you’re supposed to brush them out but it doesn’t seem that easy – and also, continually brushing through my hair is just going to make it more greasy!BARDOU_Immaculate_Spray_Dry_ShampooThe Bardou one is a lot better and smells amazing. For those brunettes out there, it is perfect (Yes I know Batiste do a brunette one but if I get it on my forehead I look bruised).

Nathan The Hipster Running Belt

I love my running belt. It sits flush to your body and doesn’t bounce. OK you can’t get a huge amount in but it fits at least three gels and an iPhone all at once (generally what I take for a marathon). Sometimes it might ride up but otherwise it’s perfect..Nathan-Nathan-Hipster-Running-Belt-Belts-And-Wallets-Black-NA-91516-1

Adidas Supernova Sequence BoostCaptureAfter recently switching to ASICS Gel Exalts as my Boosts went over 400 miles I’ve realised how much I truly love the Boosts. The ASICS don’t feel right at all. Not as bouncy… so I’ve re-bought the Boosts to go back to that ‘running on the clouds’ type feeling. I love them.

What’s on your Christmas list this year?

Do you use dry shampoo?

Do you foam roll?