Things I’ve Been Loving Lately – October/November

So we’ve almost survived Lockdown 2.0, hurrah!

Christmas is just around the corner and I’m feeling positive for 2021. Here’s what I’ve been enjoying recently.

MINI Runner’s Gift Box

The lovely people from Adventusaur sent me one of their personalised running letterbox hampers which I think is just the sweetest and fun idea.

Basically it’s a little box full of handy running essentials. It’s such a great gift to send someone before a big race they’re about to do. It contains things like Vaseline (we’ve all been there…), a gel, Haribo (of course), a protein bar (handy for post-race recovery), amongst other items.

They’re a small up and coming business so I really hope people go for this sort of thing. During these COVID times it’s nice to be able to send someone something like this if you can’t actually see them. I guess it doesn’t even have to be for a race – but someone new to running as like a starter pack for them.

Free Train

I’m a big fan of taking my phone out with me on a run – whether for listening to music or a podcast or for the standard mid-run selfie/photo.

This is a very secure way to carry your phone and what’s handy is that you can fish it out very easily on the move, or if you want to stop.

I do love a running belt and the Koala Clip I have that attaches  to my sports bra, but it’s tricky to get my phone out easily if I want to quickly change a song or whatever. It feels super secure, doesn’t bounce and didn’t rub. It’s a great idea!

Floreseca Dried Flowers

I saw this on Instagram and just fell in love with their dried flowers. I’ve become a big fan of flowers in general but they never last long (obviously). However dried flowers obviously last a lot longer. And I knew they were about to launch their Christmas collection. They’re a small business so sell out quickly so I set my alarm for when they were launching and managed to snag myself a one of their Winter arrangements.

Ahhh they’re so beautiful! Love our sparkly and Christmassy they are, but not overly in your face Christmasssy, you know? I could potentially leave them up after Christmas – so very much worth their money!

Care packages

My amazingly talented baker (and runner) friend Emma sent me the sweetest care package recently.

It contained one of her freshly baked sourdough loaves, brownies and a GIANT 1kg bag of peanut M&M’s.

This was such a lovely thoughtful gift! I will have to show great restraint not to eat too many M&M’s in one sitting though haha.

Hello Fresh

So I’m back on the Hello Fresh train again. I really do love it. Previously I’d find myself scouring the Internet for recipes and wondering what to cook every week night for Kyle and I. I wanted healthy, filling and tasty but I was finding we were just falling into boring routines and bad habits. And takeaways, while I do love them so, were becoming easier to just fall back to if we’d had a particularly tough day.

Now we have three guaranteed week night meals of healthy, exciting and very tasty meals. I thoroughly enjoy cooking and this is just perfect. I love listening to a podcast while I prepare dinner. And then Kyle and I will sit down to something new and see what we think.

Most of the time we love the meals, occassionally (though it’s rare) we’re a bit “meh” (there was a Mexican tostada meal that didn’t float our boat for example) but we always enjoy trying them regardless and always feel full and happy. There nice and balanced too. It’s made my week far less stressful now! I also like that the company is very eco-focused too.

If you’d like to get £20 your first week you can use my link HERE (I get money off as well then too FYI).

Bare Grill’s Smokehouse and Mrs Potts

A few weeks ago I saw two of my close uni friends and we went out for an epic lunch at Bare Grills in Bristol. It was GIANT and exactly the type of meal I love. BBQ ribs, pulled pork, smoked sausage, chicken wings and brisket with a mountain of deliciously seasoned chips. It was epic!

How we then had room to go to Mrs Potts for dessert I have no idea. It was a good job that we had to queue for a 10-15 mins to get a seat though. It’s a very popular café in Bristol and serves so much chocolate-related items, like hot chocolate made from melted chocolate, brownies, cookies, cake… it’s incredible.

I went for a brownie hot chocolate and took away a slice of cake (with a pot of melted chocolate to drizzle over), a stuffed cookie and a white chocolate rocky road.

Kyle and I shared and the cake and cookie later that evening after I’d gotten home (and made space!). They were absolutely divine. The cookie was definitely the best out of the bunch but the cake with the chocolate over it was incredible too.

Caithness Paperweight

My grandad who lives in Stoke-On-Trent sent Kyle and I such a lovely present. He called it a “glass dump” which just doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the gift. I guess it’s a kind of paperweight, but it’s basically a unique hand-crafted glass ornament.

It’s such a gorgeous gift and will sit proudly in our house. I do worry about my grandad living alone in Stoke in this horrible time but I ring him regularly. He does so much volunteering which had to stop during the lockdowns so I worry he’s a bit out of sorts, but he seems in good spirits. He has such a positive and happy outlook to life.

So here’s to just as happy a December 🙂

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the Free Train and Adventusaur for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Refreshing Your Wardrobe this Autumn

Working from home for me has meant a lot of my work wardrobe has been left a bit sad and unloved… I’ve lived a lot in leggings and hoodies!

But I’m trying to be more conscious of not getting into bad habits and sprucing myself up from time to time to make myself feel good. With autumn here it’s now all about big jumpers, thick tights and skirts. Still comfortable but a bit smarter and fancier than just leggings!

Here’s an article on autumn fashion you might enjoy to give you some inspiration 🙂

Image – CC0 Licence

As much as we love to cling on to summer for as long as possible, it’s probably time to admit that autumn is here. The afternoons are getting darker, the trees are starting to become bare, and the temperature is falling. It’s time to fish out those chunky knits, find your winter hat and gloves and pack away your summer shorts and swimwear. 

If you’ve spent the last few months enjoying summery prints, bright colours and loose, comfortable clothes, the idea of restrictive jeans and jumpers, dull colours and practical outfits might be a little upsetting. But, don’t worry, there are plenty of ways to refresh your autumn wardrobe so that you love it just as much as those summer dresses. 

Image – CC0 Licence 

Look at What You’ve Got

Before you rush out and buy a whole new wardrobe, take a look at what you’ve got. Buying new coats, boots and winter accessories can be fun. But, it can also be expensive, and money is tighter than usual for many of us this year. So, first, take a look at what you’ve already got. Look at what you can work with, what needs replacing and what you can fix. Then, consider shopping second hand on eBay and in charity stores for anything that you do need. 

Layer Up

Layers are crucial in autumn. The weather is changeable, and while you may need to wrap up first thing in the morning, the afternoons can be much warmer. Make sure you’ve got plenty of light layers, that work well with other items of clothing, and don’t underestimate how effective a simple vest can be when it comes to keeping warm.

Keep Your Summer Favourites 

Layers also give you the chance to wear your much-loved summer clothes for longer. Add thick tights under skirts, dresses and even shorts. Put a long-sleeved t-shirt under a summer dress or shirt and add jumpers and long-line cardigans for extra warmth without losing style. 

Add Some Colour

In autumn and winter, many of us are guilty of sticking to dark colours and avoiding patterns. But, autumn is filled with colour. Plum, navy, dark green and mustard are always popular at this time of the year. But, don’t be scared to add some summer brights to your look, especially with your jewellery and accessories. 

Invest in Good Quality

Fast fashion is cheap, fun and easy. But, it doesn’t last, it won’t keep you warm, and it’s unlikely to be waterproof. It’s also bad for the environment and creates a false economy. It can be better value to buy second hand, high-quality goods. At least invest in good quality boots and a coat which will keep you warm and dry. 

Shop for Your Lifestyle

If you do need to buy new clothes and shoes this season, keep your lifestyle in mind. It’s no good buying things that you’ll never wear. Think about how much time you are likely to spend outdoors, what you do in your spare time, and what you really need to enjoy the lifestyle that you are used to. 

Have Fun with Waterproofs

We wear our waterproofs on wet, grey days—the days when we need cheering up the most. So, have some fun with prints, patterns and colours. Find items that make you smile, and you’ll probably cheer other people up too. 

Add Some Glamour

Autumn and winter don’t have to be boring or just practical. You can still wear glamorous clothing and enjoy more stylish pieces. If you are looking for something for an occasion this autumn, jumpsuits are in fashion and always look great, even if you have to layer them up for extra warmth. 

Be Bold with Hair and Makeup

Your clothes aren’t the only way to refresh your look this autumn. Add some colour to your makeup with bold lipsticks and smoky eyes. You might also want to consider a new hair colour and style if it’s been the same all year. 

Get Creative

One of the best ways to create a unique autumn wardrobe is by getting creative. Make your own clothes, buy from charity shops and upcycle outfits into something new and interesting. Even small touches, like adding a patch or brooches, can give new life to an old outfit. 

Autumn is here, winter is coming. Wrapping up warm can help you to stay comfortable and healthy, and even give you the chance to enjoy the season. So, embrace it. Have fun with autumn fashions, and enjoy some glorious autumnal walks with your family and friends.

Do you enjoy dressing up?

Is your wardrobe dictating by the seasons?

Would you say you’re fashionable?

The highs and lows

Christmas is close upon us, as is the delightfully aesthetic new year, 2020.

So I decided to do a little look back at the year – a review if you will. I want to keep it mostly positive because lord knows we need some positivity around here what with the election, Brexit and my own personal knee strife. But I’ll start with running, which will inevitably tumble down into a bit of negativity but then I’ll move on quickly to more happy affairs.

For running, 2019 has been a tale of two stories for me. The first half of the year I felt like my running was going really well. I ran a really strong Portsmouth Coastal Marathon at the end of 2018, then headed into 2019 and hit Barcelona Marathon (3:31:45) and Manchester Marathon (3:23:04) fairly close together with similar good results.

Good results for me basically means feeling strong in my running and finishing happy. I did both of those things for both of those marathons. Barcelona was quite hot and Manchester was quite boring, but asides from that they went really well.

I also managed to score a new PB for my 10k at the Manchester 10k (41:40). Considering I detest 10ks this hadn’t been a particular focus of mine but a happy outcome of some consistent strong running.

Then came the Hamstring Saga which stretched on far too long but eventually I was able to overcome this issue with a lot of rehab, support and whining. So much whining. I saw the end in sight as I hurtled towards the Chicago Marathon. The week before saw my knee blow up and I ran cautiously through the marathon (thank goodness painlessly) and here I stand over nine weeks later and my knee is still not right.

Regardless of the second half of the year stuttering to a rather sad running-less end, I’m proud of what I’ve achieved. Three marathons – two very strong ones and one “victory lap” marathon. I got my Six Star Finisher medal. Of course I’m proud of that and happy I achieved it this year when so many times throughout the year the threat of my hamstring (and then knee) made me doubt myself.

But running aside… There have been so many good things this year.

Favourite food: Ah jeeze this year was bloody amazing for the food I ate. So many new restaurants tried and I even managed to go out of my usual habit of ordering chicken wings all the time (shock).

The top contenders are the incredible Jayne Salad from The Parade Tearooms as this speaks to my soul in a big way – I love salads but I HATE tiny portions. This is the perfect salad for me and my greedy personality.

The meal we had after I finished the Chicago Marathon was incredible. I mean, everything tastes incredible post marathon but this was really tasty. It had everything I craved: wings, rib bites and loaded nachos. Heavenly.

A recent addition was the meal we had in Brighton at MEATLiquor. The wings of course were awesome but it was the hot dog that I keep thinking about. It was amazing and opened my mind to ordering something different. I wasn’t sure if I liked it but not I just want to eat hot dogs all the time.

And top of the list must be the INCREDIBLE roast dinner we had in Bristol at Pasture. It was INSANELY good.

The meat, the vegetables, the gigantic Yorkshire pudding and of course the oh so tasty side dish of creamed leaks. It rocked my world and back.

Favourite books: I’ve read a number of books this year and a few highlights have been Ready Player One which I read in like two and a half days, I just loved it. It was so gripping! Way better than the film.

I also loved Big Little Lies – how I’d managed to avoid all spoilers is incredible because that twist at the end was really enjoyable! My favourite book though was the Cows by Dawn O’Porter.

I loved the feminist issues it brought up and it really made me think. As a side note, I’m currently reading Crazy Rich Asians and I’m loving how batshit it is.

Favourite films: Well Kyle and I have seen 40 films (so far) this year. Next week we’ll be adding probably four more before the end of the year. With our Unlimited Cards it has been AMAZING.

My favourite was Knives Out, followed closely by Green Book, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Long Shot, Beautiful Boy (that film destroyed me) and Us. On my dud list was Hellboy (horrifically awful), Detective Pikachu (I fell asleep) and Alita: Battle Angels (too much uncanny valley).

We also worked out we’ve spent about £180 on Subways (we always get a footlong to take with us to eat in the adverts) – that’s 480 inches of subway. The mind boggles.

Favourite song: I’m still as obsessed with Billie Eillish as ever. I’ve been listening to her music for years and was a fan before she sort of exploded this year. I’m so happy she’s so successful of course but part of me is a little bitter that now I have to share her 😉 She’s so talented (with her brother of course) and her voice is INCREDIBLE. Yes she’s a bit weird and quirky, but I love it.

So 2019 was a pretty solid year. I have made so many amazing memories, with both friends, family and of course Kyle. I’m a happy Anna right now, despite my sad knee.

What’s been your favourite movie of the year?

What food have you really loved this year?

What’s been your favourite race?

How’s my running going

My blogging has definitely become less frequent than it used to, and I’m fine with that. Life is happening and life is good.

(I’m quite active, for my shame, on Instagram @AnnaTheAppleBlog and Twitter @AnnaTheApple88, if you’re interested in more regular updates!)

That said, I do feel the urge to do a post on my running. It’s been a little mental. I don’t feel like I’ve stopped marathon training since last summer. I did Goodwood in September, New York in November, Portsmouth Coastal in December, Barcelona in March and then Manchester in April.

The Goodwood Marathon

Don’t get me wrong, I love marathons and I feel SO thankful that I’ve been able to run so many with barely any injury issues. However, I do feel like it’s probably right to have a bit of a break from the super long stuff.

I’ve got the Southampton Half Marathon in a couple of weeks which will be a nice change. And I think I’ll maybe push the pace a little. This scares me greatly. I much prefer to be using a half marathon as a long run for a marathon build-up – maybe add a few extra miles onto it and plod it out. But racing it? This gives me a lot of anxiety. But that said, I do need to push myself occasionally. Now is the time.

And on the subject of pushing myself: speedwork. Yes I need to get back into it. It’s no surprise to anyone that I quit Southampton Athletics because it really wasn’t for me. They’re lovely people and it was a fantastic experience to train properly on the track but realistic the effort to get there and the focus on shorter distances wasn’t for me.

However, I AM going to try and do speedwork moire frequently, either on my own or with Hedge End Running Club (my first claim club and a club I thoroughly love being a member of). In fact, I did my first (solo) speed session for a few months on Tuesday.

I did a mile warm-up followed by 10 x 1 minute sprints, with 1 minute rest (light jogging) in between. My pace for the sprints was between 5:38-6 min/miles, which I’m quite happy with. I do have a way to go though as last year I was running a lot faster for these sorts of intervals. But it’s a marker in the sand.

It was tough and I had that horrible burning lungs, can’t breathe kind of feelings. The ones I never get during a marathon… but I felt so alive at the end and so accomplished.

I’m quite excited actually to be focusing on things like this. It’s a change for me (though just while I have some “down time” from marathon training). I still have a (trail) marathon booked for July and Chicago in October (I AM SO EXCITED) of course, but for now this is a nice change up.

If I don’t get any PB’s as a result, that’s OK too. I’m not really in this for that. It doesn’t help that I’m really happy with my current PB’s and the desire to beat them doesn’t feel worth the changes I’d have to make. I’m very much, enjoy life first and work hard second.

For me to get to smashing PB’s I’d have to change the way I run. Running would become Serious Business. Whereas I just love going out for a run and seeing what happens, seeing how I feel, rather than being dictated by my watch or a training guide. That’s not for me.

Running is very important to me but it’s not everything. My self-worth does not depend on my running. My happiness does not depend on the outcome of my running. Running makes me happy, of course, and it’s so good for my mental and physical health, but PB’s do not define me, PB’s do not show how good my running is. But that’s just me 😉

So a bit more speed to be added, no marathons for a few months… but still the usual waffle!

Do you enjoy speed training?

What is your favourite thing about running?

What’s your next race?

Don’t be a d***head

I’m feeling very behind with my blogging. So let’s catch up.

I got back from Barcelona last week (I’m mid-writing my recap of that) late Tuesday night. I woke up after a solid night’s sleep and then went out for a run Wednesday morning. The run felt fine in terms of my legs. Whew! Nothing broken or injured post marathon, always a good sign.

However not long after I suddenly went downhill. I wasn’t well. I suppose this makes a lot of sense considering I’d just run a marathon and then had a couple of days of non-stop sight-seeing and walking (over 30,000 steps per day!). Then getting on a plane… yeah my body wasn’t having any of it.

I took Thursday and Friday off of work. It was genuinely the case that getting out of bed was an effort. I had to have little to-do lists like have a shower, make breakfast… everything was so hard. And I spent pretty much my entire time on the sofa falling down a black hole of YouTube watching mindless make-up vlogging (I don’t even wear make-up but find these so fascinating and quite cathartic to watch) or napping.

I was actually really gutted to not be going into work Friday as we had one of our Wiggle Run Outs and this time it was going to have SIS visiting – so lots of freebies and cool info. Charlotte Purdue was supposed to be joining the run as well. I was genuinely so sad to miss running with such a running legend and inspiration. However, it turned out in the end that because she’d won the Big Half the weekend before she had to go and do an interview elsewhere so she couldn’t come in. I was somewhat mollified by this!

And now my rant shall beginth.

I had lots in my plan that I was going to get done. I had gym visits, runs and I was RARING to go to get back into my training ready for the Manchester Marathon – at the time about three weeks or so away. Did I feel a bit rubbish not being able to get out because I was ill? Of course I did. Mentally I wanted to get back out there. Did I feel guilty sitting on the sofa all day doing less than 5,000 steps a day? A little bit as it’s not my default.

I spent a lot of time hanging out with this guy

But I knew this was exactly what my body needed. It was tired. I felt exhausted. I felt unwell. Did I miss meals or modify what I was eating to account for the fact that my movement was pretty much zero? Nope. Nutrition (CALORIES) is even more important at times like this. Did I worry I was suddenly going to lose all my fitness, put on a stone and become a blob? Not at all. Don’t be daft. Even if I had to take a month off – yes I would absolutely be getting itchy feet and narked off but if that’s what your body needs, YOU HAVE TO DO IT.

A roast dinner with all the trimmings and pudding to help me get better

Don’t go and test the waters despite STILL FEELING ILL. Go out for a run when you know you’re 100% better, rather than using biometric feedback from your watch (your easy pace isn’t feeling easy, your HR is all over the place). I’m sorry no. You know when you’re not well. We don’t need gadgets to justify us getting outside – look, look, I’m well my data tells me so! No. HOW DO YOU FEEL?

There should be no guilt or worry associated with missing training because you’re not well. Looking after yourself and self-care should be your main priority. What kind of training are you really going to achieve with pushing your body to do things when all it wants is to get better?

very much the sloth existence while being looked after

I’m just glad that I waited until I felt better before I tried running again. I’m back to health, my running is fine, I have no carry on effects. I got over my illness quickly because I prioritised my health not my fitness.

Onto something a bit more cool. I was recently sent some socks from MP Magic Socks.

They began as a crowdfunding venture and due to really positive feedback they took off (even mentioned in places like USA Today, The Times, Mashable, Mirror, etc.

I love that they have the “left” and “right” labels too

They’re unique in that they’re made from fabric that uses three metals: silver, copper and zinc, which gives greater antibacterial protection than any single metal alone. Smelly socks obviously are no one’s cup of tea so these are super handy.

For someone who does a fair bit of travelling I’m a BIG fan. ESPECIALLY on planes. I hate wearing shoes when I’m on a flight but there’s always the fear that you take your shoes off and your feet aren’t smelling of roses. I actually wore these on the way back from Barcelona on the flight. They’re super soft and my feet smelt absolutely fine – despite it being quite toasty in the airport and plane. Hurrah!

Do you cope well with being ill?

How do you get better when you’re ill?

Do you take your shoes off on planes?

**Full Disclosure: I was sent the socks free in return for a review on my blog. All opinions are my own.**