Rants and Raves #23

Hello! It’s the middle of the week, hurrah! I’m working from home tomorrow so it kind of feels like Friday, but only in that I get a bit of a lie-in tomorrow rather than 5am for the gym. Woop! I’m seeing my Physio again tomorrow so I hope to have another post about my injury (oh the long-standing saga that it is, I’m sorry) another day. But for now, I’m ranting but mostly raving.

Rave: Workout clothes. I can’t stop buying them. It’s becoming an issue. To be fair though, other than food, I really don’t spend my money on much else. Forever21 is my go-to place for good quality and inexpensive gym clothes. Though I do like treating myself to Fabletics some months.

I bought the below ‘muscle tee’ from Forever21 which fits amazingly. It’s perfect for my strength workouts as my arms are nice and free and the side slits help keep me cool. It says ‘No Days Off’. Not true, but still cool.

Forever21

I bought another muscle tee, a crop-top, a crop-top sports bra and two pairs of Nike Pro shorts (not from Forever21 but Zalando). ENOUGH NOW, ANNA.

Rant: Planning my weekends is so tricky at the moment. I still haven’t moved. My solicitors said it could be this week but then who knows. It depends on some enquiries… This is annoying as I’m meant to be seeing my uni friends in Cardiff this Saturday but now I don’t know if I can or not. In fact, we’ve had to rearrange the whole thing because I was going to give one of my friends a lift back and can’t guarantee it anymore. *Sighs*

I’m also just living out of boxes and reluctant to buy any sort of extra condiments or bulk purchases (which I like to do to with items I use regularly to save a bit of money).

Boxes

I’m not using my downstairs toilet anymore because it’s a great place to put boxes (especially food items and crockery) so Alfie can’t get to them. As you can see, my Hello Fresh boxes are very handy!

And I have nowhere to work when I work from home as I sold pretty much all my furniture (I live life on a bean bag with a £5 Ikea side table). I’ve had to use my kitchen to work in. For my standing desk obsession it works quite nicely.Standing desk

Rave: Speaking of Hello Fresh (yes, I know, I’m obsessed)… I finally received the hallowed Recipe Journal. My parents, who also still get Hello Fresh, have two! I introduced them to it first! Anyway, I have one now and it’s already almost full up.Hello Fresh recipe folder

It makes me really proud how may recipes I’ve done (I’ve had 23 boxes – each box contains three recipes). I love it! I eat so many different foods each week and it makes life so much easier cooking a meal and then having another portion of it for the next night.

A few weeks ago I had a lovely warming Mexican broth…Hello Fresh Mecican Broth

With a good dollop of soured cream. Yum.

If you fancy £25 off your first box I have a referral code ZVUM4A (which would also give me £12 off my next box). I’m not affiliated with Hello Fresh, I just love them.

Rave: I’ve recently bought some BCAA formula, AminoX, to help with me at the gym. It isn’t a stimulant but rather it’s designed to support my strength workouts and recovery. It contains essential amino acids, L-Alanine, Taurine and L-Citrulline.AminoX

You just mix one scoop with water and give it a mix. Don’t do what I do and shake it in a bottle vigorously as when you then go to open the lid, it explodes like a foamy volcano. Gentle stirring is required! I got the green apple flavour and it’s really yummy, though luminous green. I can’t say I feel a huge difference but I am lifting heavier weights than ever before – though considering how often I go to the gym and focus on this, that’s not surprising really.

Rant: Alfie’s Halloween costume came last week. Obviously too late for Halloween…and actually too small. For a fiver though I’m not upset.

Dog halloween costume

I’m wondering if I can cut the sides a bit and see if he could fit. He may never forgive me though.

Rave: This ice cream.

Oppo ice cream

It’s called Oppo and has the fabulous tagline of “Eat like a whale, look like a mermaid”. I got the salted caramel flavour. The ingredients are far better looking than Ben and Jerry’s and so are the nutritional stats for 100ml:

  • Energy (Kcal): 77.3
  • Fat: 3.8g (saturates: 2.8g)
  • Carbohydrate: 7.6g (sugars: 6.7g)
  • Protein: 3.2g
  • Sodium: 0.1

I’m a volume person when it comes to eating (more food = better) and will happily admit I ate the entire tub in one sitting, which was around 400 calories in total. That’s comparable to a slice of cake. Though cake always wins in my eyes, this was such a nice treat for a Friday night.

Rave: I saw this picture on Jamie Oliver’s Instagram…him with Orlando Bloom.Jamie and Orlando

Be still my beating heart. I have such a crush on Jamie Oliver it’s ridiculous. I just think he’s so lovely. And I used to be obsessed with Orlando Bloom during his LOTR days. It’s like a dream come true to have them side by side in a photo… *sighs*.

Who’s your celebrity crush? Who did you fancy when you were younger?

What’s your favourite ice cream and ice cream flavour?

Do you cook from scratch every evening?

What I’m loving lately…

Today I have a bit of a random post with some bits and pieces that I’m loving lately.

(FYI none of the products mentioned below were sent to be reviewed or that I got anything in return for – I’m just giving general opinions on things I’m loving!)

Hello Fresh: I know I keep harping on about it, but I’m still going strong with Hello Fresh. Only cooking for one now (start the violins…) means I can plate up two meals and not worry the next day. I try and plan it so I always have that spare meal when I’m going running or know I’m going to be late home for some reason. Very handy to then just get in and microwave my already prepared dinner.

A really tasty meal I had recently was a risotto with prawns and asparagus. SO good.Prawn and asparagus risotto

I never normally buy prawns as they’re quite expensive and I never think to make risottos so this was quite the fancy meal for me! I also like how it uses seasonal ingredients.

Another noteworthy meal was a chickpea and butternut squash curry made with coconut milk.

Chickpea and butternut squash curry

The portion was massive but perfect for my hungry appetite! What was good about this meal was I could easily freeze the second meal so didn’t need to panic about eating the other portion in a certain amount of time.

Birthday present to me: As it’s my birthday in a couple of weeks my parents asked what I would like…so I said money towards a DNA test. Yes, you read that right. My parents were a little shocked…But keep reading, it’s not like that! 😉

DNAFit (1)

I first heard about it in the RunnersWorld magazine and my interest was instantly peaked. It’s basically a DNA test which tells you your fitness genetic profile: DNAFit.

DNAFit (2) My swab that I sent away

Yes, yes I know, sounds a load of hogwash but it’s a genuine thing. I went for the slightly less expensive test which would tell me:

  • Power and endurance potential
  • Post-exercise recovery speed
  • Injury risk profile
  • Recovery nutrition needs

I’m not expecting any real eye-opening discoveries here because, let’s be honest, I know my own body pretty well. But I’m intrigued as to what my genes really say about me. I’m pretty much expecting a high injury risk result and more of an aptitude towards endurance than power…but we shall see I guess. What it will give me is an idea of really how best I should train and how many recovery days I really need. Or at least confirm what I already know. Perhaps a waste of money but frankly there was nothing else I wanted for my birthday. I’ll share my results when I get them through.

New foam rollers: Check out these bad boys!!

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No these are not props from Fifty Shades of Grey as someone in my running club said 😉 They are foam rollers! The ball is about the size of a tennis ball so the cylindrical one in comparison is also very small. Handy travel sized. I’m a big fan of foam rolling and I’m sort of deflating my usual tennis ball by using it too much (and this makes Alfie sad…) so I thought I would splash out for something a bit more exciting and, er, aggressive. I’m using with caution though. They’re great for my calves and bum.

Bargain fitness gear: Fitness clothes from Tesco (UK supermarket)! These leggings were a bargain (£8!) and fit SO well.Teco sport leggings They are very comfortable and I think quite flattering. I’m all over cheap and good quality gym/running gear!

Random 5: And on the subject of running gear…I won a competition at the Hackney Half Marathon! In the race village Brook’s had a chalk board which was about why you’re thankful for running and the most inspiring ones (or interesting) would win some Brook’s goodies. Always keen to win free stuff I put my message on there…and, amongst a few others, won!

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Mine says “Thank you running for all the cake”…seemed fitting, you know? 😉 My friend, Karen, from the running club also won (hers said that running helps her “escape from the nappies” as she’s a mum of two youngsters).

The prizes arrived this week. I didn’t really know what I’d won beforehand but we had to give our clothing and shoe size so I hoped for the best. In the package there were a pair of trainers, capris and a T-shirt. Not too shabby, eh!

Ravenna Trainers:imageInfiniti capris:

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Short-sleeved running top:

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The top is a little big on me though which is annoying but the capris are WONDERFUL. The trainers are also very cool looking. I love the colours!

Standing desk: And my standing desk is still going strong. I’m on a new project so had to switch to a different office but my set-up is still pretty good.

Standing desk (2)

It’s nice because I can look out of the windows easily as they’re quite high if you’re sat down. My chair comes in handy as a shopping bag holder as well (and so no one pinches it as I sit down for lunch!).

And that’s all for now! For tomorrow’s post I hope to do a sort of summary of my marathon training, what I’ve learnt and the good and bad things. I guess I won’t know really how well my training has gone until the Big Day though…

Do you foam roll?

Where do you usually buy your fitness gear from?

Would you take a DNA test to find out more about yourself?

Yoga, food and a buff review

The day after the Hackney Half Marathon my legs felt surprisingly OK. I had a strong sense of tiredness and runger which followed me through the day but it was no different really than how I’ve felt any Monday morning after doing a long run on the Sunday.

This is good news! I still took Monday off as a complete rest day though. Let’s not risk anything. I gave Alfie a lovely walk in our local field in the morning before work and in the evening too.

IMG_0360 It’s lovely to see him racing around while I can just walk around the field and listen to the radio (I feel old because I now listen to BBC5 Live in the morning – I like keeping up to date with the news and opinions). There’re always the regular dog walkers which is nice as well.

That evening I had a really tasty Hello Fresh meal of quinoa, lentils, feta and chorizo. It did take a while to make (about 30 mins) and created a lot of washing up but the results were fantastic.

Quinoa, feta and chorizo

Basically it involved cooking the quinoa separately in vegetable stock while frying onions, chorizo and diced peppers and tomatoes. Add pre-cooked lentils (from a tin) and the quinoa with chopped coriander and crumbled feta. Done! It’s the prep that’s the laborious part really.

The next morning I got up at 5am for my usual strength training at the gym. All, except the press-ups, I use weights for these moves:

I go twice a week now and it’s far more manageable (my second session is more plyometric-based – box jumps, lunge jumps, etc.). I still think it’s important I keep maintaining my strength. To be honest I find it so hard to motivate myself to go (it’s not running is it!) but the fear of injury gets me up in the morning. And strength I’ve found is like most things, you have to consistently do otherwise you’ll lose it.

Tuesday evening I went for an easy run with the running club. I haven’t been to training in ages and it felt good to be back. Though I’m still cautious about it as I want to stick to my (vague) training plan. Otherwise I know I’d happily run silly miles at a silly pace if I went every week and I need to be sensible. After the marathon I’ll be back regularly!

I ran with Mike and Mark and a few others who didn’t want to do the planned hill session that the other guys were doing (hills were not going to happen for me!) and it was lovely. We chatted the whole time and just took things slow – though probably not as slow as we should have but my HR was low and the effort was easy so I was happy. In the end we got 5.5 miles in and I barely felt out of breath.

My running club have started running-focused yoga and Pilates sessions so a few weeks ago I booked myself in for a yoga session after the run as I thought after Hackney it would be ideal. I quickly changed into leggings and got my mat and was good to go. I’ve done yoga before so it was very familiar to me and I felt (for once!) one of the most experience yogis in the room as the majority were all beginners.

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In my other yoga classes I’ve been to I was always one of the newbies so this was a nice change for the books! It felt blissful after running as well.

But it did mean that it was past 9pm when I got home and I hadn’t had dinner yet – no chance of that before running when I get home at 6pm, have to walk Alfie and be ready to run at 6.45pm. I inhaled my dinner and wasn’t in bed until 11pm. This is a seriously late night for me considering I’m normally asleep by 10pm!! Luckily dinner was already cooked as I had made two portions of the quinoa meal the day before. It was just a case of reheating and shovelling in.

I must say that as good as I felt after yoga and my run on Tuesday night, I woke up Wednesday with really aching glutes and hamstrings. I’m pretty certain this is from my gym session and not the run! But luckily I’d planned another rest day and some foam rolling in the evening. Then intervals in the morning (which were tough I must say!).

On to a little review…I was kindly sent two buffs from the kind people at Kitshack.com. One buff for me and one buff for Alfie, my dog. Alfie felt very chuffed to be included in a review for once 😉

High UV Protection BUFF® (find HERE)

KitShack UV BuffMy buff was from the High UV Protection range that they have. It’s interesting because my first thoughts about wearing buffs are that they are just for winter and to keep you warm. But these buffs are more to protect you from the sun, which is fantastic.

It’s made with a wicking fabric which helps suck the moisture away from your skin quickly. It can be worn as a neckerchief, headband, wristband, mask, hair-band, balaclava, scarf, scrunchie, saharaine, pirate cap, beanie or bandana…personally I like the sound of the pirate cap 😉 It’s also treated with Polygiene so will remain fresh as the silver ions prevent the build up of bacteria in the fabric. There are also no seams or hems to irritate your skin. And it has the UV protection obviously.

KitShack Buff

Thoughts? I love the colour! They have a whole range of different patterns and colours which is great if you like matching things, like me. Initially I was confused what to do with it and how to wear it but it was fun to experiment. The video HERE’s is definitely worth a watch as honestly I wouldn’t have had a clue otherwise and there are so many different ways to wear it – it’s very multi-functional. For example…

  • Cycling – use over your mouth if it’s cold or there’s lots of pollution, or under your helmet.
  • Running – use it like a scarf it’s cold or as a sweat band.
  • Long walks – protects my scalp from burning.

It’s very soft and comfy to wear and I quite like wearing it as a headband to keep my hair out of my eyes. I’d probably wear it more often in the winter for running and more as a headband when walking or going to the gym.

IMG_0601Terrible photo but it was the best angle I could do I’m afraid! 

Don’t wear it like this though unless you’re hiding from someone:

IMG_0602 Having fun while trying the different ways to wear it

Dog BUFF® (find HERE)

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I’m sorry but this just tickled me that Alfie could wear one of these too – how cute. They have a range of coloured patterns and are available in two sizes: standard (which fits most medium to larger breeds) and small (for terriers and smaller dogs like Alfie).

Dog buffIt has a handy Scotchlight reflective strip which offers retro-reflective visibility from a distance of 150 metres and is made from the same stretchy material as the, er, human buffs.

Dog Buff As happy as Alfie was to be part of this review, he’s not very good at staying still for a photo!!

Thoughts? Alfie thought he looked cool in it 😉 I quite like that it has the reflective bit so in dark evenings or mornings he’d be easier to spot – and to be honest the colour makes him easier to spot as well when he’s off his lead. I’m not sure how comfortable he’d be with it over his head though like in the picture below.

Dog Buff (2)

All in all I am a fan of the buffs! They look cool, they’re multi-functional and Alfie and me can match 😉

Have you ever worn a buff to run/walk/cycle in?

Do you do yoga or Pilates?

How much effort do you spend on your evening meal? 

**Full Disclosure: I was sent the buffs for free to review. All opinions are Alfie’s and my own.**

Two Chicks Review

I haven’t really done a blog post about my recent eats for a while now. Mainly because it used to be exceptionally dull. I’d eat the same rota of meals week in and week out.

Since getting Hello Fresh (a delivery box system sending out ingredients and recipes – check out my review if you’re interested) things are a lot more exciting. I’m cooking for just me now (no pity please) so having Hello Fresh every two weeks, which is six meals, works out really nicely for me at the moment. It also means that there are quite a few meals that I just have to microwave as I cooked the entire meal the day before.

I think the biggest benefit is that it encourages me to eat more balanced meals. I have been known to overeat vegetables and go a bit salad crazy…this isn’t always a good thing, especially when marathon training. The below meal is a meal I often have for lunch at the weekend. It’s just a mix of stir-fry veg with cream cheese (such a good easy sauce!) with either fish, chickpeas or some other protein.

IMG_0295I would never normally buy potatoes as I find them quite dull (sweet potatoes are different, I could just eat them plain) but often the Hello Fresh recipes call for mash potatoes, roasted wedges or new potatoes and I’m actually really enjoying them. And even RICE [immediately makes me think of running injuries when capitalised…]. I’m not a rice fan, but when the recipe was jambalaya you can’t do much substitution on that front. I hadn’t swapped the meals in time and I’m not about to waste it!

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It was very tasty and very filling. It contained prawns and chorizo and was just heavenly. I’m still not going to leap to Tesco and buy a kilogram of rice but it was a nice change.

Basically I’m eating more carbs. I’m not a fan of low-carb diets or anything like that, I just genuinely prefer to have more meat on my plate than things like bread, potatoes, rice or pasta. But I’m a realist and know I need to fuel appropriately for my mileage! It’s just to me meat (and protein in general) is more tasty and exciting.

And this segues nicely to a new snack I’ve been having lately. The cool people at Two Chicks sent me some of their new snacks to review, called Chirps. You might know Two Chicks from their liquid egg whites (I’ve had this before and really liked the concept of bulking out omelettes or what-have-you with more protein. I’d never forgo the yolk as hello that’s the best part but to beef out an egg meal it’s brilliant – or I guess if you need egg whites for baking).

TC_Chirps_SRP_CorrectCutter_UpdatedVisualsSo what are Chirps then? They’re basically high protein ‘crisps’ made from egg whites (“egg white bites”). They’re low in carbohydrates and fat and come in three flavours: Sour Cream & Onion, Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper and Smokey Jalapeno. Also:

  • They contain no GMO
  • Have 15% off your daily protein intake per bag (e.g. one pack contains approx 9g of protein)
  • Are low in sugar
  • Contain 50% less fat than standard crisps
  • Contain 30% less calories than other crisps

My thoughts: Now I’m a big fan of Snack a Jacks (especially the Sour Cream flavoured ones) so I was already liking the sound of these snacks, and I liked that they contained more protein and less sugar so would be more of a filling snack (Snack a Jacks aren’t filling at all, I just like how they taste).

I really, really liked these. I loved the Sour Cream & Onion flavour the most. It was very moreish. What’s also great is there seems to be a lot in a packet as the ‘crisp’ pieces are quite small. There’s LOADS of flavour to them as well. No they don’t taste like crisps or rice snacks, you can tell there’s something different to them, but it’s not unpleasant at all. Just different.

IMG_0393Smokey Jalapeno Chirps – loads of flavour

I’ll warn you though, the Smokey Jalapeno Chirps are quite hot! But for me it was a pleasant heat, but more sensitive palates might want to avoid this flavour.

I mentioned these snacks at work and I got a lot of interest. I gave a few packets out to colleagues so they could try them too and the feedback was very, very positive. They all really enjoyed them and were fascinated by them.

The Chirps not gluten free or suitable for vegans (obviously) and the ingredients list doesn’t look horrific but it’s not as ‘clean’ as it could be. Annoyingly they’re also only sold in selected stores and online at the moment (see available places HERE), so I hope they pick up popularity and become more mainstream as they could easily replace my Snack a Jack love. Big thumbs up from me!

Do you enjoy snacking on crisp or rice crackers?

What do you look for in a snack: high protein, low sugar, filling, taste, etc.?

Do you like to vary your meals in the week or do you have a set rota?

***Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Chirps snacks for free to review. All opinions are my own honest ones.***

Hello tasty food – Hello Fresh Review

This post has been a long time coming.

[I have not been compensated for this review. I just fancied doing it.]

I mentioned a while ago that I caved into the pressure of a door-to-door salesman touting a Hello Fresh subscription discount. I was that sucker. What’s the one thing they say? Never buy or sign up to someone knocking at your door.

But it did sound very good to me (I hear your thoughts: of course it would). I signed up to the three meals for two people. My discount took £20 off for two boxes and then I could cancel my subscription or continue on at £39 per box. Note how I say per box not per week. You can decide how often you want the box delivered – whether that’s once a week or once a month or whatever.

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But what actually is it? Well, it’s a food and recipe delivery service. In each box I receive the ingredients for three meals and the three recipes to go with it.Hello Fresh February The only thing you need to have is oil/butter, salt and pepper. If the recipe calls for a tablespoon of cornflour then Hello Fresh have made sure to give you a tiny container with exactly that amount. Even teeny tiny bottles of soy sauce or sesame oil. Everything is provided for in the exact amount you need.

The meat is ethically reared, the vegetables are seasonal and fresh and the fish is coastal fresh, line-caught and free from any artificial preservatives. And so far all the ingredients have been in great condition and delicious.

Also, all the packaging and the box are recyclable and you can send back (for free) the cooling wool lining (used to wrap the meats and fridge products) back to Hello Fresh so they can recycle it there.

The meals are well balanced and the portions are brilliant – and considering this is me we’re talking about (the girl with a tiny T-rex inside her) this is something.

Every meal we’ve had so far I’ve enjoyed. There was one meal, a prawn and Serrano ham linguine, that I changed slightly for me (but kept the same for Ben) as I really don’t enjoy pasta. So I served it up with roasted sweet potato fries instead and it worked perfectly.

These aren’t super fast meals though. It takes me roughly 30-40 minutes to have it cooked and on the table (though the recipes are very clear and easy to follow).

IMG_9977 Pork loin with leek mash and onion gravy

And the meals often require more pans than I’m used to, meaning lots more washing up. However, I love cooking. I find it a great way to de-stress from work and my long commute. I make sure I read the recipe at work so I know what I’m going to do and then when I get home I just get going. I know I already have everything at hand for the meal.

Pork loin with onion gravy and leek mash Pork loin with leek mash and onion gravy

I’m also learning how to cook better. I’ve never made onion gravy from scratch before or cooked certain cuts of meat so I feel like my culinary skills are broadening and my cooking CV expanding.

IMG_9986 Things like the above photo: I’ve never beat down a chicken breast before to make it thinner and quicker to cook (we have since bought a rolling pin rather than using a tin of chickpeas…).

IMG_9987 Pan-fried chicken and tarragon sauce

All the meals come with their nutritional information and are around 400-800 calories per meal. They’re very balanced in protein, carbs and fat and I’m always left satisfied.

Hello Fresh cooking Fish Pan-fried tilapia with chorizo roasted potatoes

At the end of the week Hello Fresh ask for feedback for the meal and you can say whether you would want it again or not. So if you didn’t enjoy a meal for whatever reason you don’t have to have it again. You can give feedback as well if there was something about the meal you didn’t like or didn’t work for you. You can also see the meals coming up for the next week and you’re able to swap a meal with two other options (I’ve now do this with pasta meals).

Hello Fresh TilapiaPan-fried tilapia with chorizo roasted potatoes

As you can see above, I sometimes add some more veggies (broccoli in this case) to some of the meals as I can’t help myself. Not because the meals aren’t filling (as Ben never needs anything more) but because I just love my veg!

Hello Fresh Chicken mal Chicken Shawarma

All in all, we’re big fans. It makes life so much easier to just know what you’re going to have for three meals in the week. You know they’re going to be filling, nutritious and tasty. It’s definitely something we’re going to continue on.

There are several options of boxes to choose from at Hello Fresh: bigger family boxes, vegetarian ones and the classic one that we have. I think it’s a good value for money for quality, delicious food.

If you’re interested, you can use this code ZVUM4A to get £20 off your first two boxes too. It’s my own referral code (I would then get £12 off my own subscription – just so you’re aware).

Do you have any questions?

Do you subscribe to any weekly or monthly boxes?

Do you enjoy cooking meals from scratch?