Friday catch-up and Valentine fail

It’s Fridaaaay! I think my absolute favourite time of the week is Friday evening just as I get in from work. It’s that glorious moment of ‘whew the week is done’.

This week has been pretty good in terms of key dates – Shrove Tuesday and Valentine’s Day. And also, my dad’s birthday (which is also 14th February). Happy birthday for yesterday, dad!

So Tuesday evening Ben and me celebrated Pancake Day with eating pancakes for dinner. Ben had the standard egg, milk and flour pancakes with sugar and lemon. I even managed to convince him to use wholemeal flour (OK, we didn’t have any regular flour so there wasn’t much choice). I’m not a big fan of the sugar and lemon variety, but luckily I was inspired earlier in the day from the lovely Ffion from ChocolateAndRaspberries blog.

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Definitely wanted to give them a go and such a simple recipe! So I microwaved some chopped sweet potato for around 5 minutes, let is cool and then whizzed it up with one egg with a hand blender and then fried a few batches in coconut oil. They didn’t quite work out as I hoped in terms of presentation – they fell apart. However, they tasted mighty delicious!!

IMG_3760I topped them off with some stewed plumbs (cooked in a bit of a water and sugar) and then added a good dollop of PB2. Really, really good. Thank you Ffion!

Thursday was obviously Valentine’s Day and my dad’s birthday and it was our work bake off and bake sale. I was planning on making lemon drizzle cake and some cheese scones but on Wednesday night I didn’t get back from work until fairly late…So I decided to just stick to cheese scones. I used THIS recipe and didn’t amend it at all.

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In true Anna fashion, something always goes wrong with me and baking. It’s usually because I don’t read recipes properly. It doesn’t matter so much in cooking but baking is more precise and so the problems arise for me. The recipe instructions said:

Lightly dust the surface with a little flour. roll out the dough no thinner than 2cm

I read that to be that I was to roll it out to be 2cm, no thicker. So I got very mini flat scones. And loads of them! They were more cheese biscuits than scones. They still tasted good though – and the recipe says they’re 130 calories per each one, but as I made twice as much they’re likely to be half that Smile

On Thursday morning I put my scones next to all the other bake goods that had been brought in and I felt mine didn’t quite living up to their peers. Ah well.

Bake off

There was a carrot cake, two banana breads, chocolate muffins, chocolate cupcakes, Mars Bar crispy cakes, ginger cake, lemon drizzle, my cheese scones/biscuits, more muffins, and a marble cake.

Well, we had to stand there and watch one of the managers try a small piece of each cake to make his mind up which was going to win. It was excruciating as I just wanted cake!! And watching him stuff his face was unbearable. At this point I couldn’t care less who won!

In the end one of the banana breads came third, the Mars Bar cake came second, and the marble cake came first.

Marble cake We later found out that it was actual the winner’s wife who made this cake, not him! Haha.

Anyway, though I wanted a bit of everything I went for two Mars Bar crispy cakes as honestly they were UNBELIVABLY good (I had one and just had to go back for a second), a small slice of carrot cake (very moist and yummy) and a small slice of lemon drizzle as this was my dad’s cake. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he’d baked. He never bakes. I have never known him to bake anything in my entire life.

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And it was very good!

I was hyped up and full of sugary goodness by 10.30am. Can’t complain.

We then sent them down to reception to sell for charity to the other companies in the building. I was really chuffed later as I saw a woman from another office walking along with two of my biscuits.

So it was Valentine’s Day. Ben and me had previously agreed to do nothing. I’m not that sentimental in that I need a card or chocolates to know Ben cares. Now I have nothing against other people celebrating it together and sending flowers – if that makes you happy, enjoy it! For Ben and me it was important at the beginning of our relationship when I was at university and he was at home, so sending flowers and cards was lovely as I didn’t get to see him that regularly. This year we just wanted to save some money and not bother.

BUT in the afternoon I was sat in a meeting when someone came in and told me there was a huge bunch of flowers in reception for me. I couldn’t stop the huge grin on my face and feebly saying “we said we weren’t doing Valentine’s Day this year…”. I skipped off down to the reception and found a box of flowers waiting for me to unwrap. The receptionist helped me and we giggled together about how lovely it was. I opened it to find twelve beautiful roses.

Ben’s never sent me roses before (other flowers, yes, but not roses) so I was surprised and initially thought it was a little bit of a cliché but these thoughts were quickly swept away with happy thoughts of how romantic Ben was in a very classic way.

As I headed upstairs I opened the little card that comes with it:

“Love you lots, love Rob xxx”

Who the hell is Rob?? They must have confused the cards! That’s all I could think. As I headed back to the office one of my colleagues saw the flowers and commented how lovely. I told him about the card and said how strange it was. He burst out laughing and said “Rob is the other Anna’s partner”.

Oh. My. God. Reception rang the WRONG Anna (there are two Anna’s in our office) and gave me her flowers. So I walked back into the office, sheepishly gave the other Anna her flowers and apologised for opening them. How embarrassing is that? The whole office thought it was hilarious. I did find it quite amusing (after my cheeks had faded from the beetroot colour). I mean, you have to laugh, right? I told Ben and he felt really bad.

As he should Winking smile

So that’s my week. I’ll do a recap on my running at the weekend – it’s been a hard week! And I have a 10 mile run planned for tomorrow morning so finger’s crossed it goes well.

Did you celebrate Pancake Tuesday? What kind of pancake did you have?

Did you enjoy Valentine’s Day? Any surprises?

What would you make for a bake off?

Christmas and Boxing Day

Well, doesn’t Christmas just zoom by? It’s sad how quickly it’s flies by. But I had such a lovely time! I feel so much better than I did thankfully. I still have a cough but my body no longer hates me!

Christmas morning I woke up early, got my running stuff on and went for a run. Hurrah! It had been far too long. And it definitely felt that way – it was really tough, like I hadn’t been running for months! How depressing. Also Christmas day was absolutely tipping it down so I only ran 2 miles – and definitely not a fast 2 miles! I started to get worried I was going to make myself ill again because I was soaked through. Luckily though I was fine.

Then I had a steaming hot shower and got dressed ready to face the day! Because I am quite boring and predictable, I just had my usual porridge for breakfast (sorry re-used photo).

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The only sad thing is that I haven’t been eating my usual amount as I my stomach isn’t quite back to normal yet in terms of quantity food in the morning. So I had a smaller bowl, which I guess is a good thing considering there would be a lot of food later!

Then Ben’s mum came over to spend the day and my parents dropped by to give us some gifts. I got some brilliant presents. From my parents:

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I am so pleased about the waffle maker!! I can’t wait to make some yummy fluffy waffles. And the Game of Thrones book is amazing. So many beautiful photos and behind the scenes information from the series. I am 75% of the way through the fifth book. It is EPIC. I need to read something lighter afterwards I think, it’s quite intense.

Then when my parents left I got into the kitchen and got things going. I put the two turkey joints that we were having in the oven, peeled carrots, washed parsnips, prepared the stuffing…and then when everything was in the oven I prepared our starter. I didn’t take a photo but we had little bite-sized cream cheeses wrapped in smoked salmon.

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Because I had a fair amount to do I bought them ready made – don’t kill me!

Then the main event. My favourite meal of the year. I was so worried when I was ill that  wouldn’t fancy it or have an appetite for it, but there was no issue hehe.

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Absolute heaven! I roasted the parsnips and carrots in a little oil, salt and pepper and a tiny bit of treacle to make them sticky. Devine!

Because we were all stuffed and Alfie was antsy, it seemed liked a perfect time for a post-Christmas meal walk! OK, maybe I was the only one excited about this. I just love being nosey and seeing through people’s windows and what they’re up to [OK, to clarify, I don’t actually go up to the windows and peer through like a stalker!!].

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Ben wasn’t too keen on leaving his new Xbox games for a walk, but what can I say? We’re married and he is scared of loves his wife.

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Then we came back and had some pudding. I had my standard apples as I’m not a fan of Christmas pudding. Listen to this, Ben had brandy butter, brandy cream and Courvoisier cream with his. He said he felt quite sick afterwards haha.

However, later I did treat myself to my most favourite cake in the world.

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Christmas cake!! And a corner piece of course (most icing and marzipan! Ben and I fight over these pieces).

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It’s soo rich and delicious. That was supper!

Throughout the day we opened presents of course. I got some amazing gifts. Lots of running gear from Ben’s mum which I’m so pleased about as I never buy running stuff and it’s nice to have some brand new clothes!

I got a beautiful necklace stand, a couple of scarves and necklaces, some Next vouchers (amazing), DVDs and Jamie Oliver’s new cook book…and more!

Presents

I really am very lucky and very grateful. One of the best presents? ONESIES!!!

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And then we played some cards and just chilled. It was perfect! Time well spent with the family.

Oh and Alfie for a few presents too Smile

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Boxing day was a bit more mad. I had invited everyone over to ours for a Boxing Day buffet. I had set myself the task of making lots of bits and pieces for people to eat. So I spent the morning cooking and preparing for everyone (Ben’s mum, my parents, my granddad, my sister, brother-in-law, niece and obviously Ben & Ben’s dad who were already over).

I made hummus, tomato salsa, smoked mackerel pate, chopped some veg for crudités, sticky chicken bites, broad bean and courgette salad, normal salad, garlic bread, prawns with lemon mayo dip, and then some bits we bought like ham and sausage rolls. Ben was Mr Drinks when everyone arrived – which he does so well, bless him. So attentive! I just ran around like a headless chicken getting food together.

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Nick, my brother-in-law, kindly made his very tasty pulled pork as well!

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Then everyone got stuck in.IMG_3380

I was starving by the time we began eating. I guess cooking for like 5 hours does that to you!!

And obviously there was pudding. My parents brought over several things, bless them.Pudding

We obviously had the Christmas cake to share and I had made stollen on Christmas eve (the right photo).

And then we watched Ellie, my niece, open all her presents from my parents, Ben and I.

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And obviously brought out the big kid in us all…

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It was madness with so many people in our tiny house but it was such a lovely day. And I think everyone liked the food, which was such a relief as I was so worried.

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And then after everyone had left, we washed up and hoovered, and then flopped on the couch.

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Shattered! But a brilliant couple of days. And now we’re living off leftovers – which I personally think is the best thing ever.

How was your Christmas?

What did you eat?

Did you have a fun family-filled time?

Christmas cake (finally!), new trainers and Total Greek Yogurt review

Howdy all! Hope you’ve been having a nice weekend. On a random side-note, I have literally just painted my nails and am typing like a right idiot trying not to smudge them. I hate painting my nails as they never last that long with me as I always chip them. And the waiting around while they dry drives me mad. I’m not a person who can sit still and do nothing…so here I am typing like an idiot.

This weekend has been jam-packed and I feel shattered! But I only have a three day week next week (can I get a woohoo!) as I’m off from Thursday. It’s our work Christmas do Friday and Saturday and we’re off to Bruges! And partners are allowed to come as well! So excited. But from what I’ve heard about the Christmas parties (as I wasn’t here last year), they are quite wild. So watch this space…

Today I finally made the Christmas cake. Yes, yes most people have made theirs by now…but this weekend was the only time we could really do it. It’s quite a lengthy process. We used Ben’s mum very old (from 1949!) cook book for the recipe.Xmas cake recipe

It’s become a lovely tradition to make this cake. Before we had moved out, we watched Ben’s mum make it and then one year we helped her make it. And last year we made it on our own for the first time. And everyone will be able to enjoy it at Christmas. Basically we’re carrying on the tradition!

So this morning I got cracking. For once nothing went wrong (though saying that, it is currently still in the oven so…touch wood).

Xmas cake

[Check me out being all Christmassy with PicMonkey]

Christmas Cake

  • 350g (3/4lb.) butter 
  • 350g (3/4lb.) brown sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 500g (1lb.) flour
  • 500g (1lb.) sultanas
  • 500g (1lb.) currants
  • 100g (1/4lb.) raisins
  • 150g (6 oz.) candied peel
  • 50g (2 oz.) cherries, chopped
  • 100g (1/4lb.) chopped almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. mixed spice
  • 2 tbs. dark treacle
  • 1 small glass of brandy

– Preheat oven to 140C.

– Using a very large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until well combined.

– Beat in eggs one at a time until combined.

– Stir in the sifted flour, fruit, almonds, spice treacle and brandy. Mix well.

– Transfer to a tin well lined with baking paper. Bake for 6 hours and 20 mins.

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Mixing all the ingredients together is like an arm workout. Seriously it’s so thick by the end. And our bowl was almost too small to contain it all!

The cake is still in the oven and the smell is deeeelicious. But when it comes out we’ll need to cut the top bit off it as this will be very crispy and might even be burnt. Then we’ll get a lovely square cake which we’ll let cool and then wrap up for at least a week until we then marzipan and ice it.

As there’s always too much mixture for the tin, we tend to do a mini loaf. Though this year I wanted to make something a bit different…

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Mini Christmas cakes! Christmas cake muffins if you like. They themselves took an hour to cook! That’s how beasty and dense the cake batter is.

And this weekend I also went for a solo off-road run in my brand, new, amazing off-road trainers. I can’t stress just how much I adore these shoes.

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Check out those amazing treads!! Technically they’re a Christmas present from my sister…but I was allowed them early. So I ran a nice and easy (read: I didn’t go fast) 6 mile this morning to test them out.

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And my trainers rocked.

Run mud

[Before and after]

Not looking quite as shiny as before now but who really buys trainers to keep clean??

And a while ago now I was sent some Greek yogurts to try out: Total Greek Yogurt split pots (honey, blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry with pomegranate).

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I’m not a massive fan of snacking on Greek yogurt, or yogurt in general I must say. I prefer to add them into things to thicken up sauces etc. I’m not too keen on the taste of Greek yogurt on it’s own. That being said…the idea of adding something sweet and fruity to the yogurt appealed to me.

Greek yogs

The yogurt was very thick and creamy and adding in the fruit/honey compote made them much more exciting I found. The sugar content is quite high for each yogurt (around 11g per 100g and they’re 170g pots) but they were very tasty. And very filling (8g protein)!

A lovely afternoon treat I’d say Smile

Right I’m off to make dinner – baked chicken with plums! Nom nom nom.

What have you been up to this weekend?

Are you making/have you made a Christmas cake this year?

Do you like to run on roads or off-roads?

WIAW Wedding Special

Hello! Well, I definitely feel a bit more human and recovered now. Still tired and not at all happy to be back at work, but such is life! It’s not that bad actually, I love my job. It’s just, seriously, I fee like I need another holiday to recover!

I thought in the spirit of WIAW, I would do a post about my wedding day. (Thank you Jenn for hosting WIAW once again). So let’s get started.

 

The Wedding Day: I was so worried I wasn’t going to sleep the night before the wedding, but it wasn’t too bad actually. Which was a relief as it was such a long day! Now, I know this sounds mental, but I set my alarm for 6am and went for a run in the morning. My whole family thought I was mad doing it but it was something special to me that I wanted to do. I knew the whole day would be crazy and I wouldn’t get a minute alone (quite rightly) so I thought if I went for a run then I’d get some piece of mind and just some time for me – does that make sense? It was such a good run. I felt so excited the whole time and my tummy was filled with butterflies. I hadn’t set myself any targets or speed to hit, I just told myself I wanted to get to the beach and just enjoy the run. I got to the beach just as the sun began to rise.

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It was perfect. I just felt so light and care-free and happy. In the end I ran 5.5miles at a pretty good pace and just felt exhilarated

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Then the getting ready process began. After showering, my mum, my sister and Ellie (her daughter) headed to the hairdressers.

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We spent a fair amount of time there! My veil was so long I had to put it in a bag to take it back home as it was nestled securely in my hair and couldn’t be removed and we didn’t want it to drag on the floor.

Then we got back and I had breakfast: porridge. Nothing fancy. Nothing different. Just something I love to keep my energy up for a very hectic day.

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I had a mini panic at home when I was doing my make-up. I managed to get foundation on my veil! Honestly, only I could do this. Then ensued my mum and sister repeatedly trying to reassure me that they couldn’t see it. I wasn’t convinced. Then I got into my dress. Such a simple sentence. Let me tell you, not an easy thing. What with my make-up on, my veil and my hair it was a nightmare. My sister suggested I step into the dress. Failure. Next attempt was me going up through the dress. Failure. My arm got stuck and I stood there in my heels and underwear half in the dress with one arm in the air with my sister laughing at me. I’m sure it was hilarious to see… Finally we managed to get me into it (with the help of a few other family members to tie and tighten the corset). Whew.

Then we were almost good to go.

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The journey to the church was so nerve-wracking. My dad was nervous, I was nervous. But we got there on time and then my legs starting shaking. Actually shaking. Walking down the aisle was surreal. I just wanted to look at everyone and then right at the end looked at Ben and he just had this huge grin. I got to the alter and he could see how nervous I was and grabbed my hand to reassure me. Then my legs stopped shaking.

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Then all I remember are lots of photos. Lots of congratulations. Lots of hugging. A lot of love basically. Then we were rushed off to the reception venue.

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Then what seemed like two minutes later we had the receiving line where you literally have 30 seconds to speak to everyone individually. Then after everyone had taken their seat we were called into the room as Mr Smith and Mrs Smith-James!

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This is the view from the top table of the room.

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Then a sneaky one of the two of us in the mirror behind the table. The speeches were brilliant. Hideously embarrassing one from my dad (as expected I suppose) but very heart-felt as well. He even arranged for an apple to be brought out to me as it’s fairly common knowledge of my love for apples…

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Ben’s speech was very touching and lovely. I got all tearful! And then the best man…well it was legendary. Absolutely hilarious. He started the speech by telling Ben to put his hand on mine. And then finished by saying “And Ben, that’s the last time you’ll ever have the upper hand now”.

Lunch: it was 5pm by the time lunch (dinner? Wedding breakfast?) was served. I hadn’t even realised how hungry I was at this point! It was crazy.

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The starter was melon with a kiwi dressing. This was lovely but complete awoke my hunger.

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Dinner was garlic jus chicken with roasted vegetables and roast potatoes. It was yummy and very filling.

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Dessert was apple meringue. And it was SO GOOD. I could eat this every day. We chose that dessert because I love apples (obviously) and Ben’s a meringue monster so it seemed fitting.

And obviously there was cake later.

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The bottom layer was lemon sponge, the middle was vanilla and the top was fruit. We chose this cake because I am literally the most clumsy person in the world and it just seemed perfect. We kept it a surprise from everyone so it was brilliant to see their faces.

We had way too much cake though (is that an issue…?) so the day after the wedding we sliced and diced the left-overs of the lemon and vanilla layers and put them in the freezer.

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Just a little bit left over… We still have the top tier for us to keep as well which will last for years. So pretty much cake all year round, woohoo!

And let’s not forget the sweet buffet! I was paranoid that the venue wouldn’t put everything out right. When we dropped the stuff off to them the day before they just took it and said they didn’t need instructions but I massively panicked that it would look awful. So I sent them an email with a photo of how it should be arranged etc. When we got to the venue on the wedding day my dad hurried over to my and said “Anna, don’t worry. It’s all set up perfectly. They even had your picture printed!” I like to think that was my one and only bridezilla moment…

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Sorry for the poor photo! By the end of the night it was pretty much all gone! And everyone said how much they loved it. Oh I was so pleased Smile

And then we partied the night away! We had a band who were excellent and I’d made a playlist for after and it was brilliant. Honestly, I’ve never had so much fun. Everyone I knew and loved was there and it was just perfect. Everyone looked like they were having a great time and we just didn’t want it to end (well my feet did!). Ben and I managed to disappear from it all for a bit just to catch up with each other and catch our breath. I got some random photos of us as well.

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There was a buffet later for our evening guests but I was so stuffed from the meal and, er, maybe the 3 bits of cake I’d eaten (and let’s not talk about my visits to the sweet buffet) that I didn’t have any and forgot to take a photo of it!

After dancing late into the evening, we decided to call it a night. A lot of my family were staying in the hotel as well which was nice. So we got to see a lot of people in the morning. Everyone was feeling a bit tender and it was absolutely chucking it down with rain. We were so lucky with our weather!

Anyway, sorry to have rambled. In a nutshell? Best. Day. Ever.

Happy WIAW!